A regular column on Treading Lightly Upon The Earth

Decomposition is the name of the game.

You may only be operating a system of compost heaps to provide mulch and nutrients for the garden, but complement them with a wormery and your garden’s productivity will be boundless.

A little bit of vermiculture at the back door, or in the utility room, could be just the boost that your garden needs.

Keep your wormery in a convenient spot so that it requires very little effort to lift the lid and drop in leftovers, vegetable tops, cooked meat or fish, and, hey presto, you will be able to harvest liquid fertiliser for your garden.

The usual time needed for your worms to produce usable fertilizer is between eight and 12 weeks.  Clean, safe, hygienic, efficient, and effective, the product of a wormery, or worm farm, is all good.  All you have to do is turn the tap at the base and you can remove the liquid when it is ready.  Stocked usually with tiger worms, the wormery will soon pay dividends.

Thanks to the efforts of these special wrigglers, which process every item of food waste that you care to chuck in, from egg shells to apple cores, from paper to soft cardboard, you do not even have to be tempted by chemical fertilisers and other products of the chemical companies, with their questionable side-effects and known damage to our delicate environment.

The contents of those great heavy sacks of commercial fertilisers have no place on our organic vegetable patch.

Tiger worms, by the way, are not striped, and they don’t have claws or fangs to worry about.  It’s just that they work a little more quickly than your average earthworm.  And they are surprisingly hard-working, consuming half their own weight in a day.

By using a purpose-designed plastic tub, complete with lid and side clips, there is no smell, and, with the aid of the strainer at the base, the liquid can be drawn off easily and safely.

Research continues into commercial worm farming and its potential large-scale uses.  The more it can be employed, the less waste will have to be dumped in landfill sites, and the better it will be for the environment.

Important data on the best temperature in which to keep worms, and the most efficient size of unit for commercial vermicomposting, is gradually being released.

Along with your modest wormery, you could also try experimenting with a beetle bank, which is simply a ridge of earth about half a metre high and a metre and a half long.  Unlike the wormery, it does not have to be artificially stocked with beetles, because they will colonise it of their own accord.  Using the beetle bank as their home, they venture out to prey upon pests that they like to eat but which damage our crops.

Harness the beetle and the worm and see what a difference you can make, doing your bit to minimise the quantities of food waste dumped in landfill.