Worm holes

I can’t think of much else but building worm towers.

I can’t think of much else but building worm towers.

I began by listening to Audible’s The Earth Moved by Amy Stewart. It’s an appreciation of earth and composting worms, and explains the huge impact they have on our lives. Like bees, who pollinate our food, we can’t live with out worms, who condition our soil. Evidence of their importance includes the interest of  Charles Darwin who chose them as one of his major subjects of study, other than Natural Selection.

We have a raised bed where the earth has no life at all so I have been trying to bring it back to life. It needs organic matter, minerals and compost. To make the finest compost, I was going to ask for a Wormery for my birthday, like the one Amy Stewart has on her veranda. A wormery  kit can cost about £70.00.

I also saw a clever planting system at Firle Garden show, a structure like a giant strawberry pot, with a vertical pipe running down the centre. In this pipe live the compost worms, and, as you feed them your kitchen scraps, they fertilise the soil around and the plants grow from this rich soil through the holes in the pot.

I often find myself thinking – I can make that! And it could be an inexpensive option.

A permaculture video, with Geoff Lawton, showed me how to build my own worm tower using a drain pipe. I dug as far as I could in to the soil, hitting a hard layer of chalk, using a post hole digger. B. cut the drain pipe (left over from a guttering project) and drilled holes in the lower half. Once it was in the ground, I stocked it up with food that worms ‘like’- damp shredded newspaper, manure, egg shells, damp cardboard and plant scraps from the kitchen. But they are not keen on wet grass clippings, garlic and onion.

B. could not find many compost worms in the compost heap – not such a nice job! We were looking for red wrigglers or tiger worms. Not having the 50 worms recommended by the video tutorial, I ordered two types from Yorkshire Worms on Humberside, Tiger worms and Dendrobaena. The arrived in the post, via Royal Mail, and looked fine in their small bags of compost. B. shared them out between the two worm towers (by now I had made two) and we covered the top with a upside down plant saucer.

Two plastic bags containing live worms  compost worms in a hand

I have kept the towers cool and damp. The worms seem to be moving around in the kitchen scraps. I am learning how much to feed them and how much they can eat in a week.

One website suggested ‘you can overthink what food you give to worms’. On my art piece for Empty Space’s art project, Common Sense publication called Love and Hate, I had made a reference to WORM TREATS.

Now when I see an old newspaper, tea bags, coffee grains, egg shells and leafy scraps, I think ‘good worm food.’ This is one element of permaculture that amazes me; turning waste into nourishment, of one kind or another.