Other hard workers in the garden, are worms and thankfully I have lots of them, working just like the busy little bees, doing what they do best. I am always happy to see worms in any of the pots and planters, besides helping to recycle the decaying plant material, their worm casts must be enriching the soil. These are the free-range worms, the little workers who risk their little lives daily without a great deal of protection from the birds.
I do have a wormery where captive worms are amply fed and seem to live a fairly happy life within the confines of a box although I suppose it’s no better than caged chickens. These are the pedigree Tiger worms (Eisenia fetida), delivered unnaturally in a plastic pouch so I thought they needed a little care and got them some coir bedding for their comfort.
Tiger worms are quite pretty, pinkish and stripey but in spite of that they are quite butch. My original home-made wormery had Dendrobaena worms – little red wrigglers because they are so active and wriggly, they are favourite with anglers. My home made wormery did fine but I didn’t have a tap fitted to it so there was no escape if any of it’s residents were trapped in the sump.
I bought a commercial wormery second-hand and it came with it’s own residents – Tiger worms. The two species seemed to get on OK and lived together, providing me with excellent very rich compost until we had a long, long spell of heavy rain and it would seem they all had suicidal tendencies. Instead of heading upwards, they went to basement level in the sump and drowned. One of them had got stuck in the tap and there was nothing any of them could do to help. My daughter, who had inherited the home-made wormery had the same problem, the worms headed for the water.
Worms are environmentally friendly, they tuck into anything that has lived and died, vegetable scraps – cooked or raw, pet hair, dust, grass cuttings, paper, cardboard, crushed eggshells. The latter needs to be crushed finely, they do need a certain amount of grit for digestion so besides eggs shells, they will be happy to have some coffee grounds to accompany them. In return for you feeding them your scraps, they provide you with first class compost.The free-range worms in the meantime will be working, breaking up clay, increasing soil fertility to benefit the structure of the soil and in general will aid drainage. Because my wormery is small, I need to cut the food up small to encourage it to decompose quicker. The soft gooey mush is like a banquet to them, especially when they have no teeth, everything needs to be soft for their little mouths.
Besides birds, another enemy they have are slugs, some of them tend to be a bit carnivorous and will happily dispose of a worm. In the photo of the wormery below, there is a slug in the top right corner of the tray. It is likely to be feeding from the worm’s dining tray but may have some added protein by tucking into the smaller worms.
They are very good at controlling their reproduction levels and apparently will only breed to the level of availability of food, a lesson humans could be learning from them! They are neither male nor female sexes in the worm kingdom however they do have both male sperm cells and female egg cells and will only breed if conditions are right for them. Humans take note!
Perhaps if you’ve never appreciated worms before, you will see them in a different light. I remember a little ditty from years ago “Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I think I’ll go and eat worms”. Please don’t, if you do in fact have an unloved feeling perhaps you could enjoy these more A Bowl of Worms
Click on the link above for the instructions of how to make these.
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