The Ventilator

Incorporating The Ranger's Blog

Notes from a Wildlife Garden

Diet of Worms

By Ruth D’Alessandro, The Wildlife Gardener The Wildlife Gardener leads an exciting life. Last month, the pleasures of bagging up leaves to make leafmould, and now, the highlight of the year, emptying the worm bin! I rate this job as being almost as thrilling as digging up the first root of new potatoes in the summer. All year I have been slinging kitchen vegetable waste into my green council Compostabin. All year my industrious little red compost worms have been turning it into vermicompost – black gold.

Worms in compost

I am very fond of my worms. I didn’t have to buy them; they just turned up in the compost bin. When we left London they were hibernating in the bin, in a solid, pale knot of Annelida, so I bagged them all up together with their compost and took them with us. My streetwise little south London invertebrates seem to be enjoying the rural life as they have multiplied and consumed vast buckets of leftovers. I’ve given them a really hard time this year too. Despite my didacticism on the correct way to make compost, I’ve just slung everything in on top of them. At one point, after rather a lot of lawn clippings and consequent heat, I was convinced I’d boiled them to death. They had merely retreated to the cooler layers of compost. Following a health binge I threw in a bucket of peel from juiced oranges (apparently you’re not supposed to give them anything too acidic). They ate the lot. They chomped through shredded bank statements, pineapple stalks, avocado skins and pondweed. Tough little cookies. You can take the worms out of south London, but you can’t take south London out of the worms. And they have done me proud:

Compost bin

On the left, you can see the sludgy, half-rotted recent kitchen waste. This is teeming with worms. The ‘disc’ in the middle is pretty well rotted down, but still contains a few worms. The black disc on the right hand side is, though, What It’s All About. Perfect, crumbly, worm-free, sweet-as-a-nut-luv vermicompost. I filled four rubble sacks with this treasure and left them in my compost bin zone to finish maturing. And what about the worms? I hear you ask. 90% of them were in the sludgy top stuff. I simply scooped that and the worms up and carefully placed them in the bottom of the empty Compostabin with some leek tops as a kind of housewarming present. Time for a Wildlife Gardener Interesting Fact:

Getting Your Worms In A Muddle Compost worms (Eisenia foetida) are not earthworms. If you were to dig up earthworms (Lumbricus sp.) and put them in a compost bin, they would die. Similarly, if you put compost worms into the veg patch, they die too. Compost worms do their duty on one layer of scraps, then move up into the next layer. Gradually, they leave behind black gold for you to spread on your garden with no Eisenia fatalities, for the delectation of Lumbricus.

Where would we be without our worms?

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