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How many??

Posted in Feb 2009, afcbpaul asks about the number of worms in a wormery.

“OK I am very new to this, but I am a grass care professional and I would like vermicompost to make compost tea.

I have access to large amounts of horse manure, and I know that will make good worm feed once it has completed the first hot composting.

But what I would like to know is:
1.Is it better to have fewer large worms in my wormery or many more smaller ones?”

The more worms you have the quicker the waste will be composted, also if you have a mix of sizes, you will have worms of breeding size that will be busy laying eggs, increasing the population and there will also be juveniles and babies that like all creatures will be feeding and growing. Have a look at our advice sheet,  “Establishing Your Wormery


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Reusing Old Bin Contents

Previously posted on our forum the following post form March 2009 asks is there any use for old composting bin contents.


I have two worm bins, one of which is fine and healthy, but the other unfortunately needs to be started afresh. It’s about two thirds full, the contents are dark brown but not smelly, but very wet – well, sodden really. I didn’t drain it often enough, I didn’t put in enough paper and the whole thing became wet and therefore anaerobic and that’s why my old worms died. The fault and associated guilt are all mine, and I promise not to let it happen again! My question is, can I reuse the contents? It’s surely full of microorganisms which I can’t quite bring myself to just get rid of, and I also don’t have a garden to just tip it out onto to start again. I don’t propose, obviously, to just chuck it all into a new worm environment – I thought I could drain it, then mix in paper/cardboard until it’s dry enough to store in an old compost bag or bucket, then start the bin anew and just add the old stuff a little at a time over a long period. I’m also wondering whether it could be of use to feed or mulch very hungry plants that need a lot of moisture like courgettes or potatoes (more of a gardening question I know, but if you don’t ask you don’t get), or whether I should treat it as poisonous and find some discreet place to get rid of it. I’d very much appreciate any ideas or advice.

Many thanks,

From the details it does sound as if the “compost” was heading towards being anaerobic, if it was fully anaerobic it would have an unpleasant smell about it, heading to being anaerobic could well have killed off the worms particularly if your wormery is of a design with a clamp down lid designed to prevent worms from leaving whatever the conditions! if not then it is more likely the deteriorating conditions would have caused the worms to leave, end result is no worms and dubious compost.
If the compost is truly anaerobic the micro-organisms (and gasses) will be harmful to worms and would do your plants no favours either, best disposed of the best way you can. If it does not smell then treating it as you suggest and feeding back to a new worm system should cause them no problems, use your nose for a decision!
See our advice sheet about Liquid Feed From a Wormery for more about aerobic and anaerobic conditions.

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Composting worms a danger to UK’s indigenous species?

A question posed by  customer has lead me to clarify an issue which may be of concern to many people.

Posted by Doggymix in March 2010, and still relevant today, the question was regarding the introduction of foreign species;

“A friend recently told me that Tiger worms and other composting worms can cause problems for the UK’s indigenous common garden species. Is that correct? I see you clarify exactly what a Tiger worm is but are the worms you guys advise indigenous to the UK? I’m just about to set up my wormery and could do with being able to tackle such questions at the allotment!”

You may think that the following post is what you would expect from the company selling the worms but I assure you this is correct!

I was surprised to read about your friends comments, all the worms sold by Worms Direct and all other companies in the UK (that I am aware of) are all indiginous species and have lived together since time began! Tiger worms are indiginous, Dendrobaena are indiginous, Lumbricus terrestris are indiginous and all can be found living together all over the northern hemisphere! I suspect that your friends identification of worms has got muddled somewhere along the way or the information she/he has is incorrect, this does highlight the dangers of repeating incorrect information, anyhow – no problems.
If you or your friend need further clarification, please come back but preferably with latin names of the worms in question as it is usually using common names that causes confusion. I hope this has answered your question and put your mind at rest,

Regards, Nigel.

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Soil and Plant Health

Soil and plant health

Most of us realize that the humble worm plays an important part in our gardens but how important is this part?

Cleopatra considered worms “Royal”, Aristotle called them “the intestines of the earth” and Charles Darwin believed they were the most important creatures on the planet. Worms have many significant effects on the soil they live in, this in turn has a major bearing on the health of plants growing in that soil.

The physical activity of the worms in the soil, ie burrowing backwards and forwards, up and down not only breaks up the soil but allows water and air to enter, important, not only for the plants root system but also for other life from tiny bacteria and fungi to woodlice and beetles, all of which have a part to play. The organic matter that falls to the surface of the soil, bits of dead plant, leaves, even dead animals and birds all start to decay and the worms will come to the surface and feed on this material, all these things have nutrients contained within them, when the worm has digested this matter it is expelled back into the soil, known as “casts” sometimes on top sometimes below (often seen as the small mounds of “curly” soil, particularly on the lawn!) all these nutrients are then ready for the plants to use. Research has shown that not only do worms free these nutrients but they also cause the soil to become more neutral and if that is not enough they are known to remove certain contaminating chemicals and heavy metals!

Having spent years in digging and cultivating our land, adding large quantities of fertilizers and spraying huge quantities of chemicals onto plants, we are now realizing that had we not done this, worms and all the micro life in the soil would have kept it in pretty good shape, so now we are putting worms back into the soil!.

A lot of people wonder how professional landscapers and gardeners are able to come up with such beautiful works of arts in the gardens they create. Sure they may have been gifted with a greener thumb and they’ve been doing what they’re doing for so long that they already know the tricks of the trade. However, there’s one technique most professionals use that can easily be applied by beginner and advanced gardening enthusiasts alike. The secret lies in a compost material that is aptly nicknamed “black gold.” Read on below to see what the all the fuss is about.

Black Gold – what Is It?

Black gold is basically a type of compost that comes from earthworm excrement that has loads of benefits for both the plants and the soil. Unlike other fertilizers of the same nature, this compost is not accompanied with a foul smell. In fact, rubbing them between one’s fingers makes black gold feel like a fine type of soil. Because of its soil-benefiting properties such as increasing retention capacity, porosity, drainage, structure, and aeration, the use of black gold eliminates the need for those overpriced water retaining gels. Black gold is a well kept gardening secret used by professionals that help them get near miraculous results.

How Does It Affect Plant Growth?

In terms of benefits for the plants, black gold also packs in a lot of nutritional properties that help the vegetation reach optimum growth levels. They have been known to increase plants’ diameter, height, and stem, as well as enhancing root growth and dry weight. Black gold is also scientifically proven to facilitate in the production of more flowers per plant as compared to normal compost.

The beneficial properties of black gold are also applicable for vegetables. This compost is especially effective for those who do organic gardening in small spaces as black gold is known to increase the yield of veggies to as much as 30% in certain cases.

Procurement and Use

Because of the previously discussed amazing properties of black gold, it is easy for one to think that procurement might pose as a potential problem. Some might even believe that this product is so hard to find that one would be better off searching in the black markets. There’s no need to fret as black gold is actually available in local Wormeries. Black gold is already being produced commercially today and one could easily get more than enough for his garden without needing to conduct secret underground meets. The problem however is that this item is quite expensive.

This is why it is a better idea to build one from home. There are loads of sources online that will provide information on how to build and properly care for personal Wormeries. There’s no need to worry as feeding and breeding worms are not as difficult as it may seem; best of all is that they are easy to maintain and they don’t smell.

The use of black gold is also quite simple. One would need around 15 pounds for every 80 square feet of garden. Half of this compost should be used as top dressing for the soil while the rest can be distributed to hanging baskets and containers.
Written by: Benedict Yossarian
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With thanks.