Winter Wormers

Now that winter is well and truly here, it might be worth thinking about taking a few steps to protect your worms from the worst of the cold weather.
One of the most beneficial steps to take is to make sure there is plenty of bedding in your worm box. If the bedding is deep, then the worms have somewhere to retreat to, escaping the frost. Plenty of loose bedding traps air which acts as an insulator keeping the worms warm enough to stay active. Good bedding is:- torn or shredded corrugated cardboard, partially rotted garden compost or well rotted horse manure. Aim to have the box at least three quarters full and make sure the bedding has been well soaked and allowed to drain.
Another useful addition is layers on top of the bedding. An old piece of carpet and/or whole pieces of corrugated cardboard, fitted snuggly against the walls of the box, will help to trap any warmth inside and maintain conditions which keep the worms active. The worms will gradually consume the paper and cardboard used as insulation, like all bedding, and turn it into compost which is why bedding needs to be topped up occaisionally.
Two quick and easy steps to ensure your worms remain happy throughout any cold spells. One more extreme (and time consuming) measure would be to insulate the walls of the box with scrunched up sheets of newspaper. Rake back the bedding and push the paper balls down in between the bedding and the walls of the box, replace the bedding and the worms have a totally insulated home to see them through the winter.

This diagram shows the inside of a well insulated worm box ready to protect the worms

Winter Worm Box

Winter Worm Box

through the coldest spells of winter weather. The processed food waste and bedding material become mixed to form the rich dark compost found at the bottom. Fresh bedding is layered on top of this with the food waste buried inside to make it easily accessible for the worms. Full sheets of corrugated cardboard are on top of the bedding and carpet on top of this. Scrunched up balls of newspaper are placed around the walls to trap as much air as possible to keep any heat inside the box.

 

Winter Food

As the worms slow down over the winter, it is worth remembering that they may consume less food. Keep an eye on the quantity of food waste you put into the box as you may be providing them with more than they can consume within a reasonable period of time. So, if you notice a lot of food is still present from the last feeding, hold back a little to give them time to finish off their last course.Always pay attention to the moisture levels in your worm box. If you notice the edges of the bedding starting to dry out then you need to sprinkle some water to bring the moisture levels back up. Not too much as to make them think they are going to drown! A little on a regular basis is good.

Good Practice

Remember to keep the area around your worm box free from leftover food. Whenever you add food to your worms, try to do it in a way that does not leave food waste lying around on the ground or dripping down the outside of the box. Having an organised routine should mean that you get all the food where it should be (in the worm box) and are left with a clean and empty container with which to collect more food waste. Leaving food lying around outside, especially at this time of year, is a sure way to attract vermin.

This article can be found in the Newsletter  January 2013, here on the WormsWork site.

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Early Bird Worm Tour

This long awaited tour for novice worm-keepers got off to a prompt (10.00) start at Coastguard Cottage (Sue) with excellent coffee & scones from the bakery. The 8-bike convoy and 2 lab dogs then made two stops at long gardens on either side of the High Street (Philip’s and Gail’s) before two further calls in Bayswell Park (Steve/Alison) and Clarissa) where more tea and bikkies were enjoyed.

Quite apart from visiting five very interesting and quite different working gardens all worm boxes and their healthy colonies received nods of approval from those in the know, with the two longest established colonies revealing the most amazing healthy compost and masses of very happy looking worms. Sue explained how she mixes a scoop of compost with a bucket of water to watering her vegetables, with excellent results that she likened to  ‘Miracle Grow’.   All wormeries were showing happy and productive societies, despite differing care strategies adopted by the novice worm-keepers. By 12.30 people split to attend to more usual Saturday tasks. The three children -Holly, Sam & Emily who came along are looking to secure worm expertise for the future.

It all amounted to an enjoyable morning with lots of sharing, a highly recommended experience for novices. There are now 40 or so worm colonies within Dunbar and whilst it would be impossible to mount a comprehensive all inclusive tour, more smaller meet-ups as above should prove valuable and inspirational.

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Arrival of the Joracomposter JK 125

Trials have begun using the Joracomposter JK 125 to assess the effects of pre-composting food waste before being fed to the worms. The company claims that the unit will produce compost in “approximately 6-8 weeks time. The high temperature makes the Joracomposter especially suited to kitchen waste, both cooked and uncooked, including meat and fish scraps.” Of course, we don’t want to produce finished compost with it, we just want to use it to initially help break down the waste so that the worms can process it even faster.

The JK 125 is suitable for a family of 4-6 or 10-12 l/week. Distributed by Smartsoil Ltd and made in Sweden. (So, it does of course come flat packed!).

Assembly is pretty straight forward and it does feel well made and robust enough to do the job. The two chambers are insulated to retain heat produced by the natural process of decomposition which is the key to producing good compost in this way.

When material is added to the chamber, a quantity of sawdust is included to balance the carbon to nitrogen ratio aswell as soaking up any excess moisture. After the lid is securely closed, the whole unit is rotated a couple of times to mix everything up and to make sure there is plenty of air getting to all the material.

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New Zealand Flatworm

It would appear that, unless other evidence comes to light, the New Zealand Flatworms have made a tasty meal of our beloved native Dendrobaena compost worms, right in front of our noses in the recently installed WormsWork wormery at Stenton Primary School. There must be some very satisfied flatworms out there because they have almost completely removed every last one of the compost worms.

The school got in touch when they noticed the numbers dwindling and thought something was obviously not quite right. A small furry creature in the shape of a shrew had been spotted which may have also taken it’s toll on the numbers but he was obviously not working alone… Closer investigation revealed a sizeable New Zealand Flatworm curled up right underneath the wormery! Where there is one, there will be more. An immedeate search of the area was fruitless and all other culprits had escaped.

New Zealand Flat worm

The New Zealand Flatworm has been in the UK since 1960’s, travelling as a stow-away in soil in pot plants etc. and has found a very agreeable habitat in Scotland where it is now found widely and in some areas has devastated native earthworm populations. They are very, very, very sticky, which is how they hold on to their prey. They wrap their body round an unsuspecting worm and secrete digestive juices. Yum, Yum. A mouth opens to suck up the wormey soup. They are easy to recognise because unlike earthworms, their body is smooth and not segmented, when resting in a curled up position, their body is flat but can also stretch out into a very long thin shape. They can escape through the tiniest gap in any container you place it in, so beware they don’t escape if you catch one. Their underbelly is a mottled brown colour with a lighter fringe around the edges.

So what now? Firstly, this is not a disaster. The flatworms have been here for years and some studies have suggested that they don’t completely wipe out the native population but can live alongside them. They will be almost impossible to eradicate as they don’t need a partner to breed(!) but numbers can be controlled by trapping, collecting and exterminating. A number of roof slates have been placed on the soil around the wormery area and it is hoped that these will create an attractive place to hide during the day for the flatworms where they can be collected and despatched. Some people jump on them from a great height, some put them in salt or hot water.

Up until this setback, the wormery at Stenton Primary had been working very well. There is evidence that the worms had been happily consuming the food waste that had been placed in the bedding and covered up. The moisture levels were good and no bad smells detected. The way forward will be to continue to trap the flatworms and remove them. Move the wormery to an area of hardstanding(tarmac?) where it is not on the soil and replenish the compost worm numbers then continue as normal.

If you have any questions regarding the flatworms or compost worms or would like to make a stand against this marauding invader and give a WormsWork wormery a home, then please send me an e-mail. andrew@sustainingdunbar.org

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Stenton Primary Wormery

This short film shows the setting up of Stenton Primary School’s wormery last month.

The school has enthusiastically embraced the opportunities that the WormsWork project brings to deliver many aspects of the Curriculum for Excellence.

The children will be responsible for looking after the wormery and feeding the worms with compostable waste collected in the school.

In due course, the intention is that the children will run workshops for their parents to train their families in how to make highly nutritious worm compost at home.

Worms Work from Sustaining Dunbar on Vimeo.

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Stenton Primary Wormery

This short film shows the setting up of Stenton Primary School’s wormery last month.
The school has enthusiastically embraced the opportunities that the WormsWork project brings to deliver many aspects of the Curriculum for Excellence.
The children will be responsible for looking after the wormery and feeding the worms with compostable waste collected in the school.
In due course, the intention is that the children will run workshops for their parents to train their families in how to make highly nutritious worm compost as home.

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Get In Touch With Your Wastestream

form textThe Waste Monitoring Form 1 is now available on line. Ideally, just before you start using your worm box, you can print out the form to record the weight and description of the food waste that your household produces. The form should be returned to your school when complete along with your contact details if you would like a Worm Box.

This information is important to your school and Eco Committee as it helps to retain your Green Flag which has to be earned every year. After your Worm Box has become established and is working well and the worms are consuming and converting your food waste into rich compost, you will be asked to repeat the process to gauge the amout of food diverted from the wastestream.

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Worms Work at East Linton Primary

Worms Work at ELPSThe Worms Work composting project was revealed to the public at the school Spring Fair on Saturday 14th May. On display were the new compact worm boxes for families with limited space, samples of shredded paper bedding, compost and of course, stars of the show, the worms themselves. Although it was a very blustery day, the display board with all it’s information and photos, remained intact.

It was decided by the Eco Committee meeting on Thursday 12th May that Worms WorkEco Schools logo should share a table with the Eco Committee to form a strong link between the project and the school. There was a steady level of interest throughout the event with some wanting to get stuck in straight away and take a box home with them!

Starter information will hopefully be getting sent home with children next week (begining 23rd May) which consisits of some background information, a request to complete the household foodwaste form and a contact information slip to give a worm box a home.

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Larch ascending!

The first delivery of Larch boards was made today! They will be made into the first batch of worm boxes for the Worms Work project. The boards are about 4m long and 200mm by 25mm thick. Larch is a naturally durable wood outside so should last a long time, homegrown, locally sourced and will produce lots of lovely compost over the years.

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