A wormery at home will recycle your food waste, make a fantastic fertiliser and produce healthy, living soil for your container based plants. They take up very little space, don’t smell and can produce compost much faster than a conventional compost heap. You don’t even need a garden- our first wormery lived in the kitchen for 5 years and was extremely productive all year round, whereas outdoor wormeries will become dormant in cold weather.
Before making your wormery, please read our worm info page – Keeping worms is no different to keeping pets or livestock- you are wholly responsible for their health and welfare.
Making your wormery
This style of wormery is intended to stack and can be extended vertically once your worms are settled, feeding and breeding enthusiastically.
The basic design of this wormery is shown in the diagram below:
- 2 – 5 stackable boxes (depending on how many layers you want to your wormery to have- I’d suggest 2 is sufficient to start with). Boxes can be plastic or wooden (see below for more on choice of materials)
- A water tight bucket or pot
- A piece of wood, plastic or outdoor hardboard which is slightly larger than the top of your boxes
- An electric drill or hand brace and a 6mm drill bit
- A piece of open weave material ( such as hessian sacking or the side of a hemp re-usable shopping bag sold by many supermarkets)
- bricks, blocks or logs to act as legs and elevate your wormery off the floor
1. Choosing your materials
Select your boxes carefully- you want relatively shallow boxes (ideally 6-8 inches), as your worms will only inhabit the surface layer where there is plenty of air and organic material to munch. The larger the surface area of your boxes, the more worms your wormery will support. Plastic, wood or outdoor/marine grade plyboard are all suitable. If making an outdoor plastic wormery, try to source UV resistant plastic as this will last longer. If using wood or ply boxes be aware that your worms will gradually eat their home as they can not tell the difference between organic material for food and housing. Make sure the materials used have not been treated with preservatives which could be toxic to wildlife (including your worms).
2. Making the bedding box
Turn the box upside down and place your chosen drainage bucket in the centre. Draw round the top of the bucket so that you can clearly see its outline on the box.
Drill 6mm holes within the marked area. This will enable excess liquid to drain out of your bedding box and into your drainage bucket.
Then drill holes around the top rim of the box; these holes ensure there is enough air circulating within the box to keep your worms healthy.
Take your piece of open weave material and place it over the marked and drilled area inside the box. This will stop worms from falling into your drainage bucket and drowning.
Half fill your bedding box with compost. This can be taken from the bottom tray of an existing wormery or from within a well rotted compost pile. You can also use coconut coir or leaf mulch. Make sure your worm bedding is damp but not wet (not so wet that it drips when squeezed). If it’s too wet- add ripped up newspaper or cardboard to absorb the extra moisture). Don’t squash the bedding down in the box- it needs to have plenty of air gaps so that your worms can move about easily and absorb air.
Try not to use shop bought compost as this is often heat treated and therefore essentially dead, it may also contain chemical nutrient additives which could harm your worms. Your colony will much prefer a living, organic compost full of micro organisms so ask your friends and neighbours or contact us for a starter bag of worm bedding.
3. Making the feeding box (you can make 1 or several of these to increase the capacity of your wormery)
Turn the box upside down on a stable surface. Drill 6mm holes over the whole base. These holes allow your worms to travel freely through the different layers of your wormery.
Then drill holes around the top rim of the box (as you did for the bedding box) to allow air flow.
Now cut your roof board so that it is slightly larger than the top of your box. This will keep light out of your wormery (composting worms hate light) and will also ensure that your worms don’t get rained on (which may drown them).
3. Assembling your wormery
Choose a shady site for your wormery. Worms can overheat in direct sunlight and temperatures above 40 degrees C will kill them swiftly. Under a tree or a spot sheltered by bushes is ideal.
Place the legs of your wormery in your chosen location, making sure there is enough space for the drainage bucket to sit between them.
Now place your bedding box on top of the legs so that is level and stable. Slide the drainage bucket underneath making sure it is directly under the drainage holes that you drilled earlier.
Next place your feeding box and lid on top of the bedding box. You can add more feeding boxes to increase capacity once your wormery is established and your worms have begun to breed and multiply.
Plug up any large gaps between the boxes with newspaper (you’ll need to replace this regularly as it will get wet and will also be eaten by your worms). The plugs will help prevent light and unwanted visitors (such as lizards and shrews) from sneaking in and bothering your worms.
4. Adding worms to your wormery
Suitable worms can be collected from the top layer of an existing compost heap or bin (they will only be located in the top few inches so there is no need to dig deep). If you know someone who already has a wormery they can provide you with a starter colony. Ideally you want to start with several hundred worms so that they breed rapidly.
Don’t worry about other invertebrates which are likely to be mixed in with your worms- they will help create a healthy ecosystem within your wormery. Further information on sourcing suitable worms as well as their ecology, food and welfare can be found on our worm info page: Here
5. Feeding your worms
Once you’ve set up your wormery you need to add a thin layer of food (about 1 inch deep) to the feeding box. You can also add a similar layer on top of the bedding box as this will provide an immediate meal for our worms that they won’t have to travel for.
Suitable foods include tea bags, banana skins, fruit & vegetable peelings, egg shells and coffee grounds, . It helps to dice it up, the worms will be able to process it faster. You can also add processed and cooked food to a wormery – but avoid adding in any quantity, particularly until your wormery is well established. You should avoid adding onion skins, citrus and very spicy or oily foods- worms don’t like these.
As well as food waste, you need to add about the same mass of carbon rich material such as ripped up paper, cardboard or wood chip. So to keep it simple- for every handful of green waste make sure you add another handful of brown waste. Their food layer should remain damp but not so wet that you can squeeze liquid from it. If its too dry- sprinkle with water, if too wet- add more newspaper.
Always place a sheet of newspaper on top of the food layer so that your worms do not feel exposed when they are feeding.
Your wormery is now ready to go. Feed them gradually at first- their capacity to consume waste will increase as they breed and expand their population. You may find a few worms escape in the first few days- they will settle down once conditions stabilize in the wormery.