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.

Love / Hate

Digital print.
Part of Common Sense limited edition publication by Empty Space



Gardening is a new subject for me. It seems that part of this activity is to nurture some species and discourage others.  The garden centre offers delights to be loved and cherished,  as well as methods of killing, hence the pages in the Common Sense book, described by Empty Space’s Tim Copsey as a Night of the Hunter mash up (from the 1955 film). The Love-Hate hands are from the warped character of the preacher in the film who dishes out his terrifying and fabricated sense of justice.






Andromeda Strain (1971)

Aesthetics of sci-fi science stations and micro organisms.

I’ve been reading about power of microbes, in the Gut (by Giulia Enders ) and in the Soil (Teaming with Life). The 1970s sci-fi film The Andromeda Strain, based on a novel by Jurassic-Park-author Michael Crichton, was an appropriate choice of viewing.

Top scientists are sent to uncover the nature of the deadly strain of bug transported from outer space by a US probe. The sci-fi lab is secreted below the a working farm, an agriculture research centre, where soil testing is taking place.  The experts are sent from the wooden building,  down to a streamline metal environment,  through different levels, further underground and through different colours ways. On route, they systematically have bacteria and fungus eradicated from every surface of their bodies.

Here are some stills showing the fictional crystalline micro organism, that doesn’t like too much of either acid or alkali, as seen in the top secret underground lab in red, yellow, silver and beige.


andromeda red 02

andromeda - yellow

andromeda yellow

andromeda beige   ANDROMEDA03








Cotton grass

This cotton grass is growing wild on the South Yorkshire moors.

This cotton grass is growing wild on the South Yorkshire moors. It’s habitat is acid bogs and it thrives in the Arctic tundra. The cotton strands are too short to weave into fabric but the tussocks, the fluffy heads, have been used as candle wicks or as a filling. Records show that it was used to stuff pillows in Suffolk.


Cotton in landscape