Time to focus on garden friends and to check in with my allies, the worms.

"Virtually all of the world's fertile land has passed many times through the gut of earthworms"

Worm Towers

I installed the worms a couple of months ago in a diy attempt at a tray-system wormery – the construction of which I described here. The plan was for the worms to deal with the bulk of my kitchen waste, so I could leave the bokashi bins for the otherwise uncompostable (such as cooked waste, bones, dairy etc) and the (small) compost bin for garden waste. After enthusiastically over-feeding them when first installed, I’ve been trying to leave be and let the system settle.

Last night, it was time for an inspection, and all seems to be well. They don’t really seem to have increased in number but I guess that’s probably to be expected for a small system, and those that are there are fat – and fast as they whip away from the light.

From carrot tops and teabags to glorious mud

From carrot tops and teabags to glorious mud

That was good news, but more importantly, the bottom tray is already full of rich fertile ooze. I suppose the picture to the right might not be to everyone’s taste, but to my mind it’s a minor work of art crafted by some of the most useful creatures on earth, and it’s enormously satisfying to see food scraps converted into something that will go on to complete the cycle: producing next year’s food – and next year’s food scraps.

“Without the work of this humble creature, who knows nothing of the benefits he confers upon mankind, agriculture, as we know it, would be very difficult, if not wholly impossible”

“Without the work of this humble creature, who knows nothing of the benefits he confers upon mankind, agriculture, as we know it, would be very difficult, if not wholly impossible”

The first picture shows a fairly finished tray; the second one is a tray still in progress. It also shows as much of a worm as I could get in shot: they move so darned quick. You can also see a little of the bedding of torn up newspaper. (They’re lefty guardian readers; I’m still trying to teach them how to do the cryptic crossword). Anyway, this progress doesn’t seem bad at all for less than three months work, especially considering there’s always so much to do when one moves into a new place. I’m told that worms take a while to settle and get into the swing of it.

The tower system is also working really well. If you don’t look at the pictures above with the same relish that I do a tray system is the sort you need. Now the worms have finished in the bottom tray they’ve made their way up to the tray above where the fresh food is being added. I can simply remove the processed tray and empty it wherever I want to use it, whereas many of the systems with just one box need some reasonably time consuming and hands-on work to extract the good stuff, separate the worms and return them to the system.

My system needed to be fairly temporary as we’re renting, so I couldn’t dig up the garden even if there were enough room to do so. I also wanted to have it near the kitchen door. There are all sorts of materials that could be used to build this sort of thing, but I was keen to recycle what I already had. This constrained the design somewhat, but I was very satisfied to see this model costs £94.45 compared to my £0. It’s a bit prettier, but not £94.45 prettier. My roof garden was basically free too – filled with leftover plants and self-seeded nasturtiums I relocated. I’ve harvested a good stock of chamomile tea and lots of flowery salads from this roof and watering the plants occasionally helps keep the worms damp. And from what I’ve read many people with some of the well-known models have had problems with worms drowning (if they forget to open the tap regularly) or being lost (when they do open the tap and the worms all wash out). Try a coffee filter over a hole – works a treat.

Smug? Yes, a little. But really just pleased to know that homemade can do the job too.

Those without glasshouses can throw stones

Those without glasshouses can throw stones

Here’s an in-progress shot of the mini-greenhouse I’m trying to fashion out of repurposed materials.

It’s an old set of shelves (8 yrs of use, working out at approximately £1.25 a year), that I don’t need any more and so has been in pieces for the last three months. And just the right depth for seed trays!

I removed the middle shelf and most of the slats on the top-shelf (the middle one in the picture is removable). I then found some nails of an inappropriate length in the bottom of my tool-box, and bodged a few of the spare pieces together to create a roof-frame. Somehow managed to do this at just the wrong time for my neighbour’s piano practise.

My craftsman brother is not allowed to examine this, or he will have bad dreams.

So far, I’ve tacked some bubble-wrap along the back, which is against a wall. The next step is to reclaim some clear plastic for the other sides, though I might need to expand the skeleton to give whatever I find some more support.

The plan is that this will allow me to propagate a lot more seedlings at one time – and will be a more satisfactory arrangement than taking over the kitchen with pots of mud – a kitchen which really doesn’t get quite enough light anyway. And maybe it will allow me to get away with some rather late sowing too.

That is, assuming I ever get any further with it…  Anyone throwing away clear plastic in West London? I shall ask freecycle.