Worm farmers of the world unite!

Nov 4, 2018

A couple of weeks ago I went along to a worm composting workshop provided by Anna de la Vega at The Urban Worm farm here in Nottingham. That’s me on the right hand side of the photo with my fellow trainee worm farmers.

The Urban Worm workshop

I went because I wanted to learn how to compost using the power of worms but I actually came away with a lot more. First of all, it was great to connect with like minded folk who are worried about the environment, what is happening to our soil and the destruction to wildlife and food security caused by polluting corporations. We had a really good chat, sharing ideas and information. Isn’t it the people that always make these things so much more enjoyable?

The Worm Farmer's Collective workshop by The Urban Worm

Secondly, I was fascinated to learn how other countries are miles ahead of us here in the UK in using worm compost on a large scale as a clean, effective fertilizer with so much potential. We are not doing that here so we need to spread the word. Worm farmers of the world unite and take over!

Anna de la Vega at the Worm Farmer's Collective workshop

If you get a chance to go to one of Anna’s Worm Farmer’s Collective workshops then do it. They are free to attend, you just need to book. You can find them at The Urban Worm Facebook page.

The benefits of worm composting

So, why use worms to make compost? Well, so many reasons actually. Here are a few:

Worm compost is an amazing plant food!
It is absolutely full of nutrients that our plants require and whilst being super concentrated it is the only manure that doesn’t scorch when applied fresh and can be used for seedlings too.

You don’t need a big garden to have a worm farm
You don’t even need a garden at all. As long as you have a suitable container, bedding and food then your worms will make lovely, healthy compost for your plants

Worms are very efficient composters
They can eat their own body weight of food waste a day and that will be converted into clean, nutritious compost (worm poo).

Tackling the food waste problem and fighting climate change
And it is a BIG problem. According to Fareshare, 1.9 million tonnes of food is wasted by the food industry each year in the UK. Even more shocking than that, WRAP reported that UK households threw away 7.3 million tonnes in 2015 alone! It isn’t just the waste itself that’s the problem, it’s the greenhouse gasses that are given off when this vast amount of food rots in landfill. Of course, ideally the food would be eaten instead but when it isn’t, the waste and pollution can be avoided by composting via wonderful worms. 

Reducing pollution and the use of synthetic fertilizers
OK, we’re not naive here, we know that there’s more at play when it comes to the use of synthetic fertilizers because they are making some people very rich whilst they pollute our soil, air and water. But we small scale gardeners and farmers don’t have to use that stuff and we can lead by example. If it can be used on an industrial scale too, then it would make such a massive difference to our planet. Anna told us of some great work happening in the United States with vermiculture being used by prisons, schools and farms.

It’s great for saving water
This applies on two levels, both in your garden and on a wider scale. Worm compost retains 50% moisture which means that less watering is needed and in times of drought. With the hot summer we just had and possibly more to come, that is essential.

It can help save our dying soils and make sure we have food for the future
This is really bad news – experts are telling us that we have less than 60 years worth of healthy soil left globally. By healthy soil they mean productive soil on which food can be grown. That’s less than 60 harvests, less than a lifetime. Anyone else find that thought terrifying? Our soil has been depleted by overuse of agrochemicals, heavy tilling and multiple harvests and it just can’t continue that way. Here’s the good news – worm compost can contribute to re-building the structure and nourishment of the soil and secure our food for future generations.

There are many more reasons why worm compost is so beneficial. Visit theurbanworm.co.uk for lots more information.

Making my worm farm

There are a few different ways to set up your worm farm, from using a small tub to a huge wheelie bin. I have used a drawer method which you can see in Anna’s video below. When setting up your worm farm, here are a few things to remember:

Setting up my worm farm

You can’t use just any worms
Earthworms that live underground and you might see when digging are not suitable for your compost community. You only want the right worms in your wiggly utopia so that they breed and eat and make lots of healthy compost for you. As a general rule only red worms are suitable and tiger worms are particular superstars. I have started off with a few red worms from my garden but I will be visiting Anna again to buy some more.

They will eat most things
But not anything. Don’t give your worms too much citrus, onion, chilli or anything too oily and make sure that food is chopped / ripped up a little to make it easier for them to eat.

Provide drainage
Worms breathe through their skin and so should not live in a too wet environment (although it does need to be moist). Rain and leachate (worm wee) can collect in your container if you don’t create drainage and your poor worms will drown.

Keep it dark
Your composting worms do not like the light. I know my container in the photo is see-through but I will be lining the drawers with compost bags to keep the environment dark.

Be kind
These worms are living creatures and deserve kindness and respect. Make sure you learn how to look after them and keep them healthy. Visit theurbanworm.co.uk to find out more.

Red composting worms

Useful resources

OK, that’s enough from me. I will update on how my little worm farm is doing although I don’t expect too much through the winter as the worms slow down in colder temperatures. Don’t we all?!

Here’s the type of compost set up I have made after being inspired by Anna’s video

There is so much interesting information around this topic that I couldn’t write it all here. Check out The Urban Worm for guides and articles and search online to see what is happening worldwide.