By Bryden Arthur
Illustration Alex Latimer
Photograph supplied by Full Cycle
Want to know the best way to recycle your leftovers? What to do with stale bread, vegetable and fruit peelings, even egg shells, tea bags and old cereal boxes? Start a wormery
They are quite possibly one the most repulsive creatures on earth but do not be fooled by the slithery, slimy appearance of earthworms. With today’s emphasis on preserving the environment vermiculture(the farming of worms) is the new in thing. And having a wormery at home is not only an effective and environmentally friendly means of disposing of your organic waste but can be used to create the best garden compost you will ever lay your hands on.
Vermicompost produced in wormeries is high in nutrients and plant consumable matter and will be of immense benefit to your garden, saving you money and using no power or electricity.
A number of local hotels and restaurants are now making use of large-scale wormeries to convert excess kitchen waste into useful compost to maintain their gardens. The units are extremely compact, neat and practically odour free which makes them suitable for homes too. The worms are capable of consuming up to their own body mass every day and can be fed on almost any kitchen waste—such as stale bread, vegetable and fruit leftovers, egg shells, tea bags and even old cereal or other cardboard boxes.
Why not give it a try? There are a number of ways to make your own wormery, or you could just buy a ready-made unit. Here are your options.
OPTION 1: Where to Buy a Home Kit
Full wormery kits, with all you need to get started, are widely available. They are very easy to maintain, clean and can be kept indoors for easy access. A leading home kit is the ‘Can-o-Worms’, which has various layers to make harvesting your compost easy and a tap for draining the valuable worm-tea (the liquid worm castings, which are a natural pest repellent and organic fertilizer). This, and the worms, can be obtained from Full Cycle, visit www.fullcycle.co.za.
For other options take a look at these websites:
OPTION 2: Make Your Own Bin
If however you fancy a little DIY, there are a number of ways you can construct your own wormery with little cost and providing all the benefits of an industrially produced product.
The most common method is to simply use a large plastic or rubber container, fill the bottom withgravel to allow drainage for the worm tea and cover with a mixture of moistened shredded newspaper and some already composted organic matter. Add the worms (about a 1 000 depending on the size of your vessel) and slowly begin feeding them on your kitchen scraps. The worms take a while to adapt to the environment and will only start working at full productivity in a few weeks but from anywhere between 3 to 6 months you will be able to harvest the compost. The problem with this method however is that to get to the worm castings, you need to upset the entire system.
OPTION 3: Make Your Own Tyre Stack
A more effective method is to use old car tyres stacked on top of each other. You will need:
- 4 old car tyres (puncture free)
- A round plastic tub to fit into a tyre flush with the sides
- Piece of perforated Perspex
- Equal parts shredded newspaper and organic compost
- A small amount of kitchen waste
- A lid—a piece of Perspex with two bricks to hold it down will do
Place the plastic tub into a tyre. This will be the base and the worm tea will be captured in the container. The perforated Perspex is next on the stack; this will keep the worms and compost from falling through into the tub below, while still allowing drainage of the liquid. Put a piece of solid newspaper on top and then stack on another tyre. Fill this with the compost and shredded newspaper but do not press it down to compact it as it needs to be aerated for the worms to survive. Sprinkle a little water on to dampen the mix and add your worms. Stack on the other two tyres and add the kitchen waste for their first meal, a little at a time to start things going. Secure the lid and allow nature to take its course.
As the worms feed, they will move upward into the tyre above and leave behind the nutritious compost in the tire below. To harvest the castings you need to secure the content of the top two tyres by gently inserting the Perspex lid between the two tyres in the centre and then lay them down carefully, empty the compost for use and then reassemble the tyres with the emptied one on top. And so the cycle continues. Remember to constantly check and collect the worm tea from below.
Once You’ve Got It Going
Once you are set up and the worms are settled, the system is extremely easy to maintain. Worms can survive for weeks without food, so when you are on holiday there is no need to stress about the well being of your new found friends. There are a couple of waste products that need to be avoided: meat, dairy, garlic, potato skins, citrus and fatty foods. The wormery will stay healthy as long as the acidic balance of the soil is maintained and the temperature stays moderate. A smelly bin means that there is a problem and the waste is not being broken down properly. Problems are few and if they do occur, there are a number of professionals and loads of information on the web to help identify them.
About the Compost
The vermicompost produced in wormeries is high in nutrients that have been converted into plant consumable matter and will be of immense benefit to your garden, saving you money and using no power or electricity. Wormeries are one of the most energy efficient waste disposal systems available to any householder. At a time where we need to look for and embrace environment-friendly practices, having your own wormery can be a small but rewarding step into reducing your carbon footprint.