It is time to revisit the wormary. I am more than pleased with how things are going, ever since I got hold of an old plastic dustbin lid to put on the top (and so to keep the rain out) everything inside has started to run really well. For the worms this means no more sudden downpours and a deadly bath when they venture into the sump. For the compost it has given it a good time to dry out and start to work properly instead of constantly fighting the incoming water.
This must be about the 9th year we have had the Can-O-Worms. I had a bit of a gap for some years when time didn’t allow doing anything in the garden, but I restocked it with new worms the other year and we are now up to the top layer. I now have a fly-less and nice smelling composter which is something I believe to be quite cheerfull about. Within the next months I believe it will be time for me to empty the bottom layer of the vermicompost and put it back at the top empty and ready to receive rubbish.
The whole idea of composting with worms makes a lot of sense as it is the worms that help condition our soil and keep it managed. In this contained environment you are getting the worms to speed up the natural decay of organic waste so such a degree that in theory they eat the organic waste before it attracts flys and starts to smell. Ideal then for a small garden or if you are really brave there are stories of people who have wormaries in their house living with them! It takes time even for an army of worms to chomp away at everything and a number of wormary friends tell me their stories of flys and smells and a soggy mess that has put them off. I have had this too in the past and it has really been down to mismanagement of the composter than the poor worms who are just trying to do their best.
The idea is that worms like it where it is warm and dark and there is food. The wormary I use (Can-O-Worms) has three layers. You start on the bottom one, adding your worms and waste and as the waste passes through the worms it becomes the dark moist vermicompost. The worms pop up and grab the waste and then dig it down in the existing vermicompost in order to digest it. They keep on doing that until no more food, and as they do the amount of vermicompost builds up until you have filled a layer and you are ready for the next (each layer has holes to allow easy movement of worms). The worms like the dark, but they like food too, so by the time you have filled up the three layers, the bottom layer should be mostly empty of worms, allowing you to empty it and use on your garden with the knowing that you will not lose many if any worms.
Worms do not like old manky moldy food, and that is where a lot of people go wrong. If you put too much into your wormary then the worms will not be able to eat it quick enough (plus also they tend to be a lot less active in the colder winter) and they will not take kindly to moldy food and just leave it to mold even more. That is where the flies and the smell come into it. There is nothing worse than opening the lid to be hit by millions of flies and a bad smell. The best thing here is to remove some of the rotting food and to keep the lid off for a little while (if you believe it will not rain).
The wormary is fantastic for our small garden, taking a mixture of kitchen waste, a little tiny bit of garden waste, and quite a lot of our junk mail and conditional waste all shredded up. The result being very good vermicompost that normally just put on the surface of beds and allow the garden worms to do the rest, and a large quantity of liquid feed that is tapped off at the bottom which makes great plant food is diluted.