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|Composting can either be done by making a traditional
compost heap, or by using a worm bin. There are numerous containers
now on the market for making a compost heap, although perfectly
satisfactory ones can be constructed from scrap timber, old tyres,
bricks or wire mesh. Advice on making a compost heap is widely available
through gardening books and magazines, or from sources listed under
contacts and further information.
The natural composting process
Leaves/other organic matter breakdown by organisms humus mixing
of humus and soil with the aid of the organisms natural soil improvement
Compost forms as a result of the natural breakdown of organic material
derived from living animals and plants. The "breaking down"
is aerobic i.e. an oxygen using process performed by the bacteria,
fungi, insects and animals, which inhabit soil. In a compost heap
these organisms generate heat as they decompose organic matter and
break it into fine particles. Composting is nature's own and oldest
method of waste disposal and soil fertilisation.
Traditionally, gardeners have created their own compost using leaves,
grass, shrub clippings and other useful organic materials found
in the garden. Applying compost to soils provides an excellent conditioner
and mulch, which fertilises and provides soil structure, retains
moisture and can restrict weed growth. Man-made compost is an alternative
to the peat-based compost extracted from important natural wildlife
In recent years there has been interest in the creation of garden
compost from organic household waste, as a result of the growing
awareness of the environmental problems created by the traditional
disposal methods. In the UK around 30 million tonnes of domestic
refuse is produced each year, which contains on average about
38% organic content, such as vegetable peelings, tea bags and
Adapted from the
|Leaf mould can be made by placing leaves in
a large black bag or in an open topped wire cage. After one year
they will form a mulch, and after two years a fine textured potting
compost will be produced.
Garotta Compost Maker
Gem Compost Maker
|A worm bin is a container housing a colony of
special types of worms, known as brandlings, tiger worms or redworms.
Worm bins can be kept indoors (with careful management) or out,
and are ideal for households with no garden, as they produce only
a small quantity of compost and a liquid, which forms a concentrated
plant food. There are a variety of worm bins available for sale,
complete with "worm starter kits". However it is possible
to make your own, and suitable worms can be obtained from fishing
How to make a worm compostertop of page
Worm composting is a fantastic and natural way of recycling all
those vegetable scraps, banana skins and tea bags from your kitchen.
And it's easy to make one! Just follow these simple steps but remember
to get an adult to help you.
WHAT YOU NEED...
400 Compost worms (often called tiger or brandling worms). Available
from most fishing shops or farmers' muck heaps!
A plastic dustbin.
A plastic tap.
Some sand or gravel.
Some small pieces of wood.
Some bedding material (for the worms!)
How to make your worm composter...
Drill some breathing holes into the lid of the bin.
Place 3 inches of sand or gravel at the bottom of the bin for
Place wooden slats on top of the sand or gravel, to separate the
drainage material from the compost you are going to produce.
On top of the wooden slats, put down 4 inches of damp bedding
material. An old growbag is ideal, or you could use shredded newspaper
Drill a tap into the bin just above the gravel / sand, where the
wooden slats are placed. You can buy taps from most hardware or
Once you have built your wormery, dig a small hollow in the bedding
material and place the worms inside. Then you can start adding
your food scraps. Always make sure the scraps are chopped up well.
There are two main ways of feeding the worms:
Place the food scraps on the surface of the bedding in a layer
(up to 2" deep), but never cover the whole surface as the
worms need a small area to escape if conditions get unpleasant.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Alternatively you can bury small batches of food scraps in the
bedding, around the bin. Some people prefer this way as they feel
the waste is covered up and is out of the way of the flies.
With both methods you need to keep a thick sheet of wet newspapers
over the surface to keep the light out and moisture in. Only add
more food when the worms have finished their last lot. The speed
the food is processed will depend on the number of worms, the
time of year and the type of food added.
Never overfeed the wormery. The food will just rot, upsetting
the worms and making nasty smells!
You can keep your worm bin outside but in winter, the worms will
be warmer (and hungrier) if you keep them inside a garage or shed.
After a few weeks you should be able to collect some liquid through
the tap which you can use as a liquid feed for your plants. After
a few months you can empty the bin, put the worms back and start
again! And of course you'll have some excellent compost which
the worms will have left behind to help everything grow better
in the garden.
Q: I have lots of
tiny flies in my worm bin - is this a health risk?
A: No. These are probably
fruit flies, which commonly occur on rotting fruit and vegetables.
A tight fitting lid will help to exclude them. Also, if you bury
the vegetable waste as you add it, or keep it covered with damp
newspaper, they are less likely to be a problem. Flies do not harm
the compost, although they can be irritating and offensive to some
Q: I have masses of
tiny white worms in my worm compost - are they a problem?
A:These are probably
pot worms (enchytraeids). They do a similar job to brandling worms
and are nothing to worry about; you find them in most worm bins.
They are very tolerant of waterlogged/acid conditions so if you
find them proliferating, and your worms are getting fewer, improve
the drainage. Mixing in some shredded newspaper will help. You can
also add a sprinkling of calcified seaweed or rock limestone (dolomite)
to correct the acidity.
Newly hatched brandling worms are also whitish and only half an
inch long. You can distinguish them from pot worms by their blood
vessel which gives a pinkish
Q: I opened my worm bin to find hundreds of worms
around the lid - why?
A: Either they have
run out of food or the conditions in the bin have become unsuitable
for them. Worms hate waterlogged, acidic compost. Piling in a thick
layer of kitchen waste so that it begins to putrefy and exclude
the air will cause this sort of problem. Adding fresh green materials
that heat up as they decompose will also kill worms or drive them
Plastic worm bins do not always allow enough drainage from the compost;
make sure that liquids are not collecting in the bottom of the bin
to flood the compost.
Q: I am going on holiday
- will my worms die if not fed?
A: An established
worm bin can be left for up to four weeks with no adverse effects
if you feed the worms well before you leave. Left for longer periods
the worm population would slowly decline.
Q: The contents of
my worm bin are mouldy - am I doing something wrong?
A: No. This can happen as vegetable
waste starts to decompose. It will not harm the worms and should
soon disappear. Turning the waste into the bedding with a small
fork can help.
|Information adapted from the
||information sheet. - See also
I hope you find these information sheets helpful as a basic guide.
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West Carlston Garden Centre & Tea
Room, Campsie Road, Torrance, Glasgow, G64 4EZ
Tel: 01360 620248 -:- e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org