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Setting up your Can-o-Worms or Worm Cafe stacking tray wormery

We get many enquiries regarding tray system wormeries, stacking system wormeries they are all pretty much the same, some may have 2, 3 or even 4 working trays, what is obvious is that the instructions leave many people understandably confused! Please read this in conjunction with the information found here: We know it is a lot to read but it could save a lot of disappointment!

The main components of a stacking wormery are the sump tray with a drainage tap and to which the legs are attached, then you have 2 or 3 “working” trays, these can be identified by having holes drilled across the base and finally, a lid.

Stage 1
Once the tap and legs have been assembled, a working tray is next put in place, a couple of sheets of newspaper or similer should be cut to cover the holes in the bottom, this is simply to stop the bedding dropping through into the sump area, when the paper is in place you will need to add the bedding and worms

Stage 2
You may have received just worms with no bedding and it is expected you supply this, you may have received just worms and a coir block or the wormery may have been supplied with no worms or bedding depending on what you have ordered and the supplier.
If the wormery has been ordered from Worms Direct along with worms and bedding this will be supplied as a complete kit, the complete kit is added to the first working tray, this will almost fill this first tray and has been designed to do so, it is most important that the worms have a sufficient depth of bedding to establish themselves.

Stage 3
We now have our worms all set up and it’s time to give them their first meal, do this asap after installation, use a large MUG to measure the first meal, spread it on the surface in the middle then cover the whole bedding surface area with a piece of cardboard (the shipping box is good!)newspaper or even a piece of plastic cut to fit, this is to encourage the worms to the surface to feed, you do not need to purchase “worm rugs” or “worm mats” unless you really want to.
The worms will then start to feed on your waste, it may take them days or even weeks to get stuck in, do not be tempted to keep adding more and more food, once you see the worms really active in this layer then add another, slightly larger mug full, only add more when you see the food disappearing, continue this until the whole tray surface is covered don’t feed to a depth of more than a couple of inches or 5cm. as the worms reduce the food keep adding a bit more at a time, ignore any advice that tells you worms will consume twice their own weight or 2kg or 10kg per day or whatever.
When the tray is full right to the brim add a new tray, the bottom of this new tray must be in contact with the surface of the full tray below, this now becomes the feeding tray and you just continue putting your waste into this tray. The worms will now move up and down from the first tray into the second tray but they can only do this if there is not a gap between the two so it may be necessary to continue topping up the first tray as the compost settles, once you are happy that the majority of the worms are living in the second tray the first one can be removed and emptied, you will always find some worms still living in there, you can pick them out or put them onto the garden with the compost, the second tray will now become the only working tray, this cycle continues.

Problems you may encounter on the way.
The first problem may be you find on a new set up is the worms crawling up the sides and out under the lid, if you have used our worm and bedding kit this will stop most of this but it can still happen, if you use coir, just newspaper/cardboard as often recommended or any unsuitable bedding such as garden centre potting compost it will almost certainly happen, it can happen when the weather is wet and forecasting rain and the pressure is low, the fact that the worms have been harvested, packed and transported can also cause this, they are just agitated!
Migration usually occurs at night and you find them all over the floor in the morning, after initially setting up the wormery it is a good idea to stand it on wet newspaper/cardboard, cloth or sacking, this way any escapees can be retrieved in the morning before they have dried out, if the problem persists for more than a couple of nights which can happen when there is a few days of wet or stormy weather then it would be best to place the wormery, with the lid off, under a low level light at night, the problem should settle after a night or two.

Overfeeding can cause all sorts of problems, decaying food is covered in mould, bacteria and fungii this is what the worms actually feed on but when it turns stagnant it becomes a different thing altogether and worms will be driven away so always keep the food layer to under 2″ or 5cm this may mean that you do not add any more for several days or even weeks it all depends on the time of year and the size of the worm population in the wormery, feed a little at a time and watch what the worms have done with the last feed, winter is a quiet time for worms.

Feeding the wrong waste
things to avoid – onions and members of the onion family, the skin of raw citrus fruit, cooked they are ok, you will often see “advice” that this is because it turns the wormery acidic, it is not, if you really want to know read up about a substance called d-limonene and why it is in citrus fruit skin.
Fat, meat and oils are to be avoided, some that are “recommended” but we do not advise are tea bags, the tea is fine but the bag is usually man made and will not decay, another one often “recommended” the contents of the vacuum cleaner! don’t worms do not eat hair and bits of plastic etc that have gone up the spout.

Myths and almost Myths!
A lot of absolute rubbish is written and repeated about worm composting, equally there is also information that many people involved in the industry are not so sure about, after 23 years in the worm game, preceeded by 15 years in the nursery trade, preceeded by 10 years in the “Topsoil” game I am happy to stand by my own views however much they contradict others, so……….

The liquid produced by water and condensation running down through the wormery makes an excellent plant feed, it is no more than that, it MIGHT have collected a few bugs and a tiny amount of nutrient but the time you have diluted by the “20:1 ratio” recommended every where you might as well just water the plants! even worse if it smells! – myth.

You need to add eggshells, worms will graze the inside of eggshells but it is the lining they are after, crushing them to a fine powder increases the chance that some may be used by the worms to aid digestion, as a powder the rest will just be mixed in with the compost, whole eggshells, even if broken up will remain just that, in fact, they can be a pain when left in the compost! – almost a myth.

Add the contents of your vacuum cleaner, no, worms will not eat the hair and very little of the other junk that’s in there, they may consume the dead skin but why bother when there is a better choice elsewher all you end up with is hair mixed in with your finished compost. – myth

You need to keep the pH at neutral, worms are tolerant of a wide range of acid/alkaline conditions you do not need “conditioner” – myth.

Worm feed and treats, why? they are perfectly happy with proper food in the form of your waste so why spend money on treats? – myth

I will add more as they come to me.

I have written this for the benefit of customers, not so other websites can copy and use on their own websites.
The above information is subject to copyright protection.

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Why you should use “Worm Worked Soil Conditioner.

Part 1
“Modern” soils are now very often depleted in many of the natural micro organisms that flourish when nature is allowed to work as intended, the most obvious damaged areas are the huge tracts of agricultural land, subject to intensive cultivation, drowned in constant applications of pesticides, herbicides and nutrients, once this method of “management” begins it is a downward spiral needing more and more interference to be able to continue producing a crop AND this has been taking place for many many decades!
This practice has also been applied to many domestic gardens from the day the soil was scraped clean by the developers to owners and gardeners attempting to rectify the situation by using the same methods as in agricultural. Many old established gardens have also gone through periods of this same treatment but many are now realising this as a mistake and are rectifying the situation by looking at how nature can reinstate a balanced soil.

Part 2
We now know what has happened to our soil so why should we change? we could continue using the artificial means to make our gardens grow but it costs money! it is extremely detrimental to soil life which happens to be part of the natural food chain even if low down, this in turn will affect creatures further up the chain, larger organisms, insects, worms which in turn will affect the local population of birds – you get the picture!
When the soil dwelling creatures are depleted the soil itself becomes a problem, losing structure, poor drainage, poor oxygenation, lack of nutrients which in turn means plants will also be affected causing poor growth, greater bug and disease attack traditionally this has been “rectified” by modern management methods and so the cycle continues, surely it makes sense to let nature do the work.

Part 3
So how is this product used? first, in restoring an impoverished soil we have to have the right basis to start, it needs to be friable, if necessary by breaking it up, then we can add our Worm Worked Soil Conditioner, this will introduce the micro organisms, bacteria and fungii that is so essential, adding worms at this stage will also ensure the continued improvement of the soil and reversal of the problems as in Part 2.
This remedial action can of course be applied to every square inch of soil in the garden but if the budget doesn’t stretch that far then it can be applied in specific areas of planting or even to specific plants particularly if planting substantial shrubs and/or trees
It is highly recommended that a regime of annual mulching is undertaken.

To be continued…..

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Ressurecting an old wormery.

This is a question that often comes up, sometimes the wormery has a few worms and some compost still in it or just old compost, providing the wormery is complete and in reasonable condition then it should be put back to good use. If there are any worms present then it may be useful to try and use them, they will need to be picked out of the compost they are in, generally it is not a good idea to use any compost left, it is usually too old or even stagnant best just to start again.

Worms can be purchased from us either loose ( or in a complete worm and bedding kit ( or using the Boxa worms ( if you purchase the worms on their own you will need bedding material, this can be suitable material you have to hand, this is dealt with here ( )or you can purchase just bedding ( the easiest way is to use one of our worm and bedding kits. Having aquired all the necessary components then you can set it all up, advice on how to do this can be found here:

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My garden is waterlogged – will worms help?

This is a query that often comes up during the winter months! gardens often become saturated during periods of persistent long periods of rain, providing the water drains away in a reasonable time, maybe a couple of days or so once it has stopped raining then there is no cause for concern, the problem is when this does not happen and the garden or areas of the garden continue to be water logged, if this situation continues for very long periods of time it can be detrimental to the health of the garden and plants in it. When the air in the soil is forced out by water Oxygen is depleted and the soil will become anaerobic, that is, stagnant, the most obvious sign is it will smell bad!

Sorting this out is not an easy task, clearly the water needs to be drained away and the most effective way to do this is to install some sort of drainage, this may be a bigger task than expected so other, quicker, remedies are considered, often customers have read or been told that adding worms will sort out the problem, this is rarely the case, sometimes if it is a localised soggy area then worms can help. If you suffer from a truly waterlooged garden then adding worms will, at best, result in the worms moving away or at worst, the worms dying off, the only sure way is to put in some sort of drainage system then add the worms , they will then provide the conditions in the soil to allow the drainage system to work properly.

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Introducing Worms to an Established Garden

Cultivated soils, particularly in old gardens frequently suffer from compaction, bad drainage, broken and fragmented structure and devoid of organic matter, usually through bad management in the past, these conditions are incapable of supporting a population of worms, therefore before worms are introduced, these conditions must be remedied. Once this has been achieved, a population of worms can be introduced.

There are two species of soil dwelling worm currently available, these are Lumbricus terrestris and Eisenia hortensis.

Lumbricus terrestris is the large worm that most people are familiar with, it is a slow breeding worm that likes to live in deep undisturbed soils, it also throws worm casts onto the surface and can be seen on grass, particularly after warm rain at night, giving it one of its common names of “Dew worm”
This worm should only be introduced into areas where it will not be disturbed on a regular basis and where the casts on the surface will not cause a problem, many of these worms are deliberately killed because of the “problem” of casts on the lawn.

Eisenia hortensis in contrast, is a comparatively rapid breeder, lives in the top 12 inches of soil and does not throw casts to the surface, making it a good choice for lawn areas, areas likely to be disturbed and areas where the soil is not very deep.
Both species will need ongoing feed in the form of organic matter either as a mulch or not collecting the grass clippings once in a while.

Both worms are a good source of food for wildlife and can be most beneficial in this way.

Once the worms have been introduced, the use of herbicides and pesticides should not be carried out for at least 12 months and preferably not at all.

“Planting worms”

Any worms purchased to be introduced into the soil should never be just scattered on the surface in the belief they will burrow down – they won’t! If left on the surface they are likely to be picked off by the local bird population or even killed off by the sun and ultra violet light.

With both species they should be “planted” dig trowel depth holes, a couple every square metre, water the hole, put in a little natural compost, NOT potting compost, add a few worms and break up the removed soil and put back on top.
In new areas used for shrubs etc, this should be done before any mulch is spread and in lawn areas, before turf or seed are laid, if worms are being introduced to an established garden then there is no choice but to dig the holes through the mulch or grass. The quantity of worms per hole is really down to the customer but as a guide, 2 or 3 Lumbricus terrestris and with Eisenia hortensis, a very small handful or a very large pinch!

What quantity should be planted?

The quantity of worms required is not an exact science, as a rough guide you should be aiming for the following:

Eisenia hortensis – up to 20 worms per square metre, this can be increased or decreased according to budget but not by more than +50% or -50%.

Lumbricus terrestris – this would be around 5 worms per square metre minimum but again the same rule applies as above.

The quantities are governed by surface area NOT depth.

I hope this has been useful, please feel free to copy and download for your own private use. Strictly no commercial use or reproduction without our express, written permission.

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Why Dried Mealworms Make a Poor Feed

We are often asked if we supply dried mealworms in our bricks and mortar shop, sorry but we don’t, there are very good reasons for this, dried mealworms make a poor feed.
Despite all the claims made about being as nutritionally equal to live mealworms, put simply, they are not.
A very important factor is the moisture content, live mealworms naturally do not have high levels of moisture compared to, say, earthorms (80%). When they are dried (and killed)they have no moisture at all, this is particularly dangerous during the breeding season in wild birds, when fed by the parent birds to chicks this can actually cause dehydration as the dried mealworms absorb the moisture from the chick.
This is the opinion of zoo’s that specialise in bird care.