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Update from the worm farm May 11 2016

Just a little update on the worms as I haven't posted on I Got Worms for ages. 

They're doing great, we've been using the worm tea that comes out of the tap to feed the fruit trees. It's very easy, just dilute 1 part worm tea to 10 parts water and use as a liquid fertiliser. The worms have made one and a half layers of compost already and are chomping their way through loads more food leftovers and coffee grinds. They're the best. 

Here is a snap that my friend took of me gazing at them fondly. I love these dudes so much. 

can o worms

Anyway, some other important news that I wanted to share with you is that if you live in Brighton & Hove you can order a discounted worm farm via the council as they're trying to encourage residents to reduce waste. It's the can-o-worms which is my favourite type as it's so easy to use and you can show other people really easily how it's working. 

You. Are. Welcome. 

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How to stop your wormery tap clogging up September 11 2015

Since starting to learn about worms I've also learnt how grim it is when things go wrong with the wormery. Sometimes the tap can get clogged up with bits of gunk and this means that the water can't escape. If it doesn't get addressed quickly it means the worms can drown so this must be avoided at all costs. 

A can-o-worms tap (like the one we have at The Garden House) is easy to access and unblock but if you have one of the big stand-up bin type wormeries the only real way to unclog it is to empty the whole thing out which is a laborious and disgusting job. You have to empty it out every year or so anyway to get to the good compost at the bottom but you don't want to have to do it too often. It smells disgusting. 

So the tip is not to let your tap get clogged up in the first place. 

The wormery already comes with a plastic layer that fits between where the worms live and the tap area but this needs an extra level of protection. This is what the plastic layer looks like:

How to stop your wormery tap clogging up

The secret is to put the toe of an old pair of nylon tights over the back of the tap and secure with an elastic band to prevent anything from clogging it up. 

Here is a close up of the inside of our tap:

How to stop your wormery tap clogging up

When we were setting up the ONCA wormery, we were feeling a bit anxious about the worms drowning so decided to set up an extra safety layer. Gary, one of the ONCA volunteers, came up with the genius idea of putting the rest of the tights over the plastic tray. Because they're nylon, the tights won't biodegrade or be chomped through by the worms and they will prevent any large bits of debris from falling through to the bottom, whilst letting the moisture seep through to the tap section. Amazing way to not waste the remainder of the tights we cut up for the tap. 

Here are Gary and Lauren, the ONCA Gallery manager, showing off the idea in action. It's ace when you meet people who are just as enthusiastic about worms as you are. When I emailed Lauren to tell her the wormery had arrived her actual reply was that this was "fantastically exciting news".  

How to stop your wormery tap clogging up

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Worms in the big wide world September 02 2015

It's been a while since I've written about worms. 

The worms are moving to a new home! I Got Worms by What You Sow

In fact, it's been a while since I've written about anything. Despite the enjoyment you gain from it, the problem with gardening is that there is so much of it to do, especially in the Spring and Summer. 

I'm glad that Autumn has arrived and it's time to do all my favourite gardening jobs, ie, picking flowers and harvesting vegetables. And generally trying to sit around and enjoy the outside space. 

The worms have been going great guns since I last reported on them. They're living a happy existence in the can-o-worms, munching through our food waste, cardboard and coffee grinds and having a gay old time. It's amazing the amount of worm tea they have been producing, which we've been diluting 1 part worm tea to 10 parts water and using to nourish the fruit bushes. Every day I turn the tap and at least a bit of worm tea comes out, leave it for a couple of days and you can fill up a watering can!

They are also multiplying like crazy, and are busy building up the next generation of their worm dynasty. So when the chance came along for some of them to move on and work in a new wormery, I was happy to offer them this opportunity for career progression. 

We recently helped the ONCA Centre procure a wormery and this is what the worms were required for. ONCA is situated in the North Laine in Brighton and stands for One Network for Conservation and the Arts. ONCA is formed of a gallery on the ground floor, then desk spaces, offices and meeting rooms on the upper levels. It's ace, and this Summer it became the new home of What You Sow. We really love the new office space and we're getting to know lots of other creative people who are running their small businesses and projects from here. There's a communal garden at the back and we're looking forward to planting lots of things in it but our first contribution was the wormery which we moved in a few weeks ago from The Garden House Garden. 

So it's all set up now and is positioned on a little step to allow easy access for the watering can underneath.

The worms are moving to a new home! I Got Worms by What You Sow

And yesterday we moved the worms in. 

This is a jar of worms (you can't see many because they hate daylight so are hiding on the compost): 

The worms are moving to a new home! I Got Worms by What You Sow

Next week, we'll tell you all about how to stop your wormery clogging up including a novel solution to try out. Stay tuned.  

 

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I Got Worms - what to feed your worms February 27 2015

The worms are settling in nicely to their new home. This week at Wednesday Gardening Group we had a lovely clamber in the compost heap and retrieved a few forkfuls of compost to help improve the worms’ home. A few compost heap worms made the journey into the wormery with it so I’m hoping there will be some best practice sharing between them on how to turn food into fertiliser. A cultural exchange is always a good thing in my eyes.

New worms in the worm farm. What You Sow.

So today I wanted to talk about what worms like to eat.  

They need a good mix of food waste and dry stuff. So as well as eating all your leftovers peelings and cooked food, they love some pretty crazy things. Hoover dust for starters, and tumble dryer dust. And hair too! Loads of good stuff that would normally go to landfill can now be turned into food for worms! Add to this cardboard, eggshells, teabags and stale bread, which is fab as the chickens don’t like it. And we’re feeding them plenty of coffee grinds, convinced that this will make them work harder. Everyone knows that Brighton has the highest per capita coffee consumption in the country, and that’s why the digital industry is thriving here. So as their line manager I am hoping that feeding plenty of coffee to my team of worms will make them keep their output high.

Tumble Dryer dust for the worm farm. What You Sow

I know that I am personifying these worms a bit (a lot). When Amy brought them over and described them as being in a friendship huddle, I didn’t bat an eyelid. And since then I have been feeling a lot of responsibility for them. I haven’t named them yet, but am considering some sort of worm adoption scheme where you get a certificate and updates every 3 months. My mum adopts me an animal every year for Christmas which I love, although I did get a letter a couple of years ago saying that Zhu zhong, my adopted panda, had disappeared. They said that she may have gone to explore the world outside or she may have met a mate and run away with him. But probably what happened is that she died. I felt quite sad, especially as I never did get to meet her. But her updates brought me a lot of joy nonetheless.

I digress. Back to what worms don’t so much like to eat… Stay away from citrus which is too acidic for them and onions/ garlic are too smelly. In fact, they’re not too keen on any seasoned food, so cooked food is okay, but nothing with a particularly strong flavour. Meat and fats should stay out of the worm farm as it can attract pests such as rats and foxes and the worms aren’t that into sugary foods. I’ve been looking for an infographic detailing this but haven’t found one I like yet. If anyone would like to draw one, drop me a line.

 

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I Got Worms update - We Got Worms! February 20 2015

What You Sow  - Worm Farm worms at The Garden House, Brighton.

They've arrived! By special delivery this week from Super + Super's Miss Amy Phipps. When they got here they were in a lovely friendship huddle so we popped them into the wormery with a couple of scoops of compost, buried them with some food and then placed our cotton jumper over them to help keep it dark/ regulate moisture and temperature.

That was on Tuesday and I'm going to check in on them next week at gardening group so that's given them a week of peace to settle in to their new home.   

This was by far the most exciting thing that happened to me this week. 

What You Sow - Worm farm worms at The Garden House, Brighton

What You Sow - Worm farm worms at The Garden House, Brighton

 

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I Got Worms February 06 2015

Welcome to “I Got Worms” a series of blog posts all about What You Sow’s adventures with wormeries.

I’ve been desperate to start a wormery ever since we had an allotment a few years ago. Alice and I hosted a disproportionately high number of worms on our plot which did a cracking job of helping us keep our soil healthy. We used to collect buckets of coffee grinds from the canteen at work which we were convinced led to the large volume of worms, and gave them a caffeine-high which made them work harder. I’m not sure if this is even possible, but it seemed to do the trick and that is what we shall believe forevermore. It gave me a real fondness for worms.

So when Bridge at The Garden House told me that she needed someone to help her manage the wormeries I jumped at the chance. They take a bit of looking after….setting the wormery up, collecting the right sorts of kitchen and household waste, making sure the worms are warm and have the right moisture levels and making sure the compost and worm juice is harvested. Bridge was after someone who could dedicate a bit of time every week.

So from now on I’m going to blog about wormeries each week, sharing what I’ve learned, top tips for getting the most out of a wormery and guest posts with insights from people who keep worms.

Here’s a bit of an intro and how we are got on with the wormery at Wednesday Gardening Group:

There are two wormeries at The Garden House.

One huge one:

Wormery at The Garden House, Brighton. Photo by What You Sow.

and a Can-O-Worms:

Can o worms at The Garden House, Brighton. Photo by What You Sow.

The plan is to start off just getting the Can-O-Worms established and move on to the larger wormery at a later date.

I couldn’t find any good illustrations online showing how the Can O Worms works so I had to draw one. It’s a little bit school handout, so please excuse how it looks.

How a can o worms works. At The Garden House, Brighton. Photo by What You Sow.

Essentially a wormery consists of a collecting tray for gathering the liquid, then three working trays which the worms live and work in. When starting a wormery up, you use the bottom tray first, into which you place a layer of compost, add the worms, put some kitchen waste and dry fibre on top(e.g. loo rolls and egg boxes – should be about 30% of the content) then cover with a jumper made of natural fibres (e.g. wool, or cotton). This helps keep the worms warm, helps retain moisture and helps maintain the darkness that the worms enjoy.

Once the bottom working tray is full, you start filling the second tray and the worms will start to move up to that tray, likewise when that is full you start using the top working tray and eventually all the bottom tray will be just worm castings and all the worms will have migrated into the middle tray. So you can remove the bottom tray, use the worm castings on your garden and put this tray back on top and start again. In the meantime, the moisture from all the trays will drip down into the collecting tray and can be harvested by turning the tap on and then used as organic fertiliser on the garden. The fertiliser is also know as worm juice or worm tea sometimes, it's this sort of colour:

Worm tea  at The Garden House, Brighton. Photo by What You Sow.

I think that’s how it works.  

It’s sort of complicated. In fact when I started writing this I didn’t really understand it, it’s only after having written it out I think I get it. There’s a bit more information on the Can O Worms on the Abundant Earth website.

So in this week’s Wednesday Gardening Group, one of our tasks was to set the Can-O-Worms up, so without having much of a clue about what we were doing, Barbara, Ro and I got to work. Bridge had been given the wormery by a friend and it was a bit broken and grubby so our first task was to clean it up, including evicting a family (and then some) of snails who had moved in. We also had to relocate it to a spot where it was easily accessible, both for putting in the food waste and for harvesting the worm juice from the tap when it was ready.  

Can o worms worm farm at The Garden House, Brighton. Photo by What You Sow.

We've got all the gear sorted, look at this lovely tin to collect up the kitchen waste (minus onions and citrus because worms hate them):

Food for a worm farm at The Garden House, Brighton. Photo by What You Sow.

And here is Barbara proudly pouring the first food waste into the wormery:

Filling a worm farm at The Garden House, Brighton. Photo by What You Sow.  

We didn’t really understand how to set it up as per the above (I only read up on it afterwards) so we got it a bit wrong, putting the food waste into the top level and not having any sort of compost in there for the worms to live in while they are digesting the food. So I’ll nip down at the weekend and sort it out ready for the arrival of the worms next week.

Anyway, that’s where we are for now, next week on I Got Worms we introduce some worms to the wormery. Fun!

 

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