Series 2 – Gardening Projects

Series 2 – Gardening Projects – 2021
Project Willow Courtyard

This is an update to the wormeries here in Willow. There will be a more detailed post on this in Earthly Comforts in due course, which will be a photo-heavy mini-series. However, this will be a single entry post and a much briefer coverage of the content for this blog’s social gardening’ side. Following the last episode – Series 2 – Gardening Projects November 7th, there have been some distinct changes to how l had my wormeries originally set out.

Above image displays how the wormeries looked on November 7th.
Below image displays how the wormeries are as of today December 5th
The two main breeding wormeries are now 6 layers high instead of the previous 4 layers high. 

My new designs are now structured to work like a typical tiered worm farm – of sorts. The top space [the soil surface] – a whole feeding area. The soil substrate and bedding are then layered like a lasagne below the full room down to the bottom level. The worms work their way to the feeding areas and then journey back into the soils. 

Their waste products are left at the top. I can then, over time, should l wish to harvest off once every two months the top level or once every six months the first four levels.

Health matters aside. I have had a busy period since my last episode. I had an idea regarding the layout of the worm farms here and then acted upon it. It was developed over nearly four weeks and involved changing the overall design of the harvesting functionality in the garden here and increasing and improving efficiency and productivity.

I recently read Worm Bins: The Experts’ Guide To Upcycling Your Food Scraps & Revitalising Your Garden by Geoff Evans, which inspired me greatly. While reading this book, l then had an epiphany on how to revitalise my own system to make it work for me and improve my overall experience with this project.

Although there are many worm farms around – both professional and domestic setups – many of the designs tend to lean toward a ‘layered structure’ like the example below.

The design above incorporates tiers, air space at the top and a drain [with tap] at the bottom, allowing a form of worm tea or liquid fertiliser to be drained off as well as a raised base. Worms migrate upwards to the feeding areas and process the scraps and food wastes. As the food is consumed, liquid wastes seep down the drainage area.

Tiered units work on a different system. In the initial layout, a worm farm will comprise the raised base, the drainage area, one feeding zone and the top air space, and gradually, a new feeding zone is added over time. Eventually, the worm farm will be several tiers high.

Many years ago, l used to have a similar structure but found l couldn’t work with it, and l saw the design as too fiddly, cumbersome, and stressful. It was stressful because the worms l had ordered didn’t like how l had set it up and always escaped. In January 2018, when l discussed my first ever attempt at worm farming, l ended up relocating the worms to my compost heap, where they bred extremely well.

In fact, of all the worms l have today, many are descendants from those initial 80 odd worms that were put into the composter.

I feel you should see a slight resemblance between the worm farm above and my own setups above that. I have opted to create a layered worm farm operation instead of a one in all box system. Some of you may say, “What’s the difference apart from a bit of extra height then?”

Yes, the units are now higher – however, l have made several changes over the last month. Some are instantly visible, others not so.

Introduced Changes
Worm farms increased to 6 levels from previous 4. The height before was 80cm, whilst the actual height now is 120cm. Each sleeve is 20cm high.
Worm farms raised off ground by 12cm. Units now stand upon breeze blocks. Overall farm height now 132cm or 51″. This height makes for an improved working condition with minimal extension and overreach.
Base of worm farms now sit on independent and removable raised floor with inbuilt channel.
The channels in the bases are designed so as to allow worm juices’ to leachate through the bottom to a seperate collecting tray. This was added so as to ensure a non-sludgy bottom to each farm.
Each level of the worm farm is designed to aid the worm’s natural feeding, foraging and tunnelling habits.The main breeding worm species l have is dendrobaena who have a love of space and are a tougher species and can work in damp and cooler conditions unlike some other species.

Most of the worms l have are usually found in the top six inches of the soil, but other species can be found much, much deeper in the soils.
I decreased the number of the worm farms down from three active units to two improved productive units.
The introduction of a 100% finely sieved compost holding bay.
Increased working space between compost units at the bottom of the courtyard.
The compost working space in November was cluttered. It comprised of – 1] on the left one large worm farm and 2] on the right twin side by side compost units and 3] a whole army of bins!
The compost working space in December is no longer cluttered. 1] The left hand bin is now a compost holding bay, 2] the right hand side is still twin side by side compost units and 3] is now a clearer pathway. The black bins can now be sold as all compost is held in one large holding bay now. So surplus bins are no longer needed. We can now get to the gate with more ease.

I originally had three central breeding units and opted to reduce that down to two. I realised l needed a functional finished/sieved compost bay. I have two side by side compost units producing quality homegrown compost [Brown Gold] for the worm farms as their primary soil substrate. The worm farms also produce a beautifully rich Black Gold [vermicast] which l also mix with the compost l produce. This is then used as the primary growing medium in the Willow garden.

During the harvesting of the smaller units, l discovered that the very last tier on the old structure was mainly sludge. The liquids had seeped down through the substrates and gathered in the bottom layer. Whilst no damage was done or worms harmed, it made me think that l needed a better system. I needed to allow the liquid to drain off in some way, considering that my units were flat bottomed to the concrete path and had no ability for a tap to be inserted, this proved to be awkward. But l did find a solution in the end as the galleries below display..

I decided to make two framed base units that would sit under the stacked levels of the worm farms, but also be raised off the ground by breeze blocks. The levels would fit snugly into the framed bases.
The base unit channels were meshed using a very fine wire gauge that was stapled into place, and then a muslin cloth was cut to fit and pinned into position. This meant that the liquid would seep through, but the worms would not escape. The completed base was then sited on the breeze blocks and the first level slotted in.
In the image below you can see the tray just sticking out beneath the stack. The tray is pushed completely in and sits directly under the full length of the channel itself.

Once the new worm farm bases were created and sited into location, l could then start the process of layering up the levels themselves. I didn’t generate both worm farms in the same time frame. The first unit was created with the materials l had already, whilst the second unit was entirely finished over the last few days leading to the weekend.

The trellis is now also in location. It sits between the two completed worm farms.
I bricked in the area beneath the bird feeding station. i have also ordered a wooden bird table which l will use to replace the metal pole station, and the table will be sited beside this area. The seed will then fall onto the paved area and will be easier to clean, unlike here where the seed falls into the bark and l am having to continually weed it.

I was able to locally purchase the wood needed for the building of the base units; l ordered the fine gauge mesh and the muslin cloth online. I bought garden materials like the breeze blocks and other needed items from a local hardware supplier, like the trellis between the two worm farms and bricks for beneath the bird feeding station. I didn’t have enough tiers available to make two farms right off the bat.

The units that make the worm farms are, in fact, raised beds. I only had 8 sleeves to begin with, so l ordered four raised beds from a different hardware store, which then awarded me the missing pieces so l could complete the second farm.

I now only have two available worm farms. Still, they are more productive and better structured than the original setups l had in place. But l also now have a completed working space between the twin compost unit and the compost holding bay. I no longer have to worry about having breeding stocks in three separate locations.

The ‘lasagne process’ is the method l have used to layer up the tiers in the worm farm itself. Each layer comprises shredded paper, hay, egg cartons, finely sieved compost [with worms] and food. The images above are from the first unit constructed. 

The second unit was roughly the same, although l also included organic coconut coir as an additional bedding material. Coffee grounds were sprinkled between the layers also.

The reason l included hay and shredded papers was for bedding materials. They can act as a substrate for food like shredded leaves, the latter of which l didn’t have.
The lasagne layering is present in five out of the six tiers only. The very top layer is left free of substrate to allow for a main feeding and foraging area. Although on the last layer shredded straw is added and a muslin cloth to act as a blanket to keep warmth in the ground especially given that we are now in the winter months. in the summer seasons, this same cloth can be dampened down to act as a moisture regulator.

I only feed shredded foods so it now resembles a product that looks like baby food. this aids the worm’s feeding habits.

The lasagne process l utilised to create the internal worm farms themselves l based upon my first ever composting method, which was a layered system of ‘green, brown, green and brown waste management. My farms are fixed and much heavier than any commercially purchased farms. They also use a much heavier substrate with the finely sieved compost soils. Each layer or level of the tiered system is fundamentally more weighty than a traditional unit purchased by a home owner.

I will not be working on a monthly harvest either. I will be feeding once every ten days, or so and then my main focus will be on the production of worms to sell-off. I will also be producing vast quantities every three to six months of vermicasts that, sadly, l cannot sell directly to the public. I can sell the worms, but not their castings, as they also fall under the UK’s regulatory rulings.

If the backyard venture of worm farming is highly profitable. In that case, l will be looking at the properties of developing a vermicast business in more detail. For me, the business side is to be twofold: 1] an online presence through Earthly Comforts, the business blog, and 2] the backyard brick and mortar money-making hobby and hands-on learning curve and experience of the vermiculture business.

Ten days on from completing Worm Farm 1.

The gallery above displays how things are in WF1 or Worm Farm 1. The hay as a top-level substrate complete with the muslin cloth shows that the occupants are very content with the new setup. In the first image, with the top material rolled back, we can see that the feeding and foraging area is clear. However, when you start to peel back the hay with a hand fork, you can see the worms themselves, and they are very healthy looking. Had l dug deeper into the soil, the main body of worms was present. I could tell that the worms had indeed migrated from the bottom tray of the farm to feed and forage.

I placed a fresh feeding in a ten-day bulk, and l will return to this farm on December 12th to check again. Aside from the feeding and just keeping watch, l have no need to continually disturb the residents now. Plus, l read that worms can become annoyed if you do so … fancy that!

However, what this displays to me as a setup is that it currently appears to be working. If the worms are happy and content, it’ll mean they breed and become an efficient harvest unit and that means profit.

I appreciate that not everyone will be into this post as much as l am, but should anyone wish to read the mini-series on the business blog, that will be available from next year. In the meantime, thanks for reading. Catch you next time.

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19 thoughts on “Series 2 – Gardening Projects

  1. 🙂 Rory, you should start looking for customers for your worms, my friend. From the looks of things, you are going to have a lot of worms in your possession.

    1. Hey Renard, soon enough. It needs to be a functional breeding unit and be able to wash rinse and repeat that duty all year. Once l am happy that is happening, the marketing can begin.

      I have photos that show exactly how many worms l have at present, but they have been saved for the business blog only. The breeding regime is looking good though.

      Once l have gotten through the winter months and enter the spring cycle then l can truly see how the unit functions and then it’ll be time for the sale – yay 🙂

  2. How interesting, Rory! I enjoy seeing your progress and all the thought and planning that goes into it very much. Thank you for sharing. And, of course, I wish you every success. 🙂

  3. I can learn a lot from you. Worms are very important in gardening. There we’re large, green tomato worms in our garden when growing. I didn’t know how important worms were. Thanks to your share I have a better understanding to help with our homeless gardening.

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