This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Sunday, 25 November 2012


I’ve been keeping earthworms as a hobby for the last ten years in my own compost pit, and I think it might interest anyone who wants to know how to dispose of recyclable biodegradable rubbish in a safe hygienic way.
First: You will need a spot where your compost and earthworms can stay undisturbed. This might be a pit, or a container (with a lid). I would prefer a container because
  1. It is easier to maintain and monitor than a pit
  2. It is easier to keep the contents safe from the elements
  3. It is infinitely easier to keep your worms from wandering away and to keep local wildlife like moles and shrews from eating your worms.
  4. It takes up less space.
The best form of container for this would be an old discarded oil drum. If the bottom is not rusted away, break it or at least knock a few holes in it. Remove the top in case it’s not already gone. Dig the bottom of the drum into the soil for a short distance. What you have now is an open cylinder set into the soil.
Now, line the bottom of the drum with pebbles so you keep a draining layer between the soil and your compost. If you can find cowdung, this is a good layer to put down on top of the pebbles along with a layer of straw. Now add your compost. Compost would be anything that can decompose – vegetable and animal waste (the latter includes meat/fish scraps, pet hair, old bedding for pets), flowers, grass clippings, sacks, and cardboard soaked in water (worms love the glue). Water the whole thingthoroughly and cover with a layer of soil. You will need to leave it for at least 10 to 14 days for it to rot and cool down enough to accept worms.
Warning: Worms prefer slightly alkaline conditions, but decomposing garbage tends to become acid. So avoid putting material like onion rinds and lemon peel in the compost. You might invest in a Ph meter (available at agriculture stores) to measure Ph. If it gets very acidic add a small quantity of calcium hydroxide ("slaked lime") until you get neutrality. Too much lime and the worms will die.
After about two weeks the garbage (depending on your atmospheric temperature) should be decayed and cooled down.
Worms: The brown garden earthworms (mostly pheretimoids in this country) do not survive very well in the high organic content of a compost heap. The specialist worms are Eisenia foetida ("tiger worm" because of its red and yellow bands) andLumbricus rubellus ("red worm").
It is possible to buy them both from dealers but I don’t know any L
Alternatively, you can find them for yourself. They inhabit sludge, old piles of leaves, under old sacks left out in gardens. Wherever you find decaying organic matter, there you find these worms. I found my starter stock in an old chicken coop!
Release the worms into your compost and wait. Unfortunately, this is a slow business. You will need to wait until the worms begin breeding, so the more worms you begin with, the better.

You will soon find other animals: small black beetles, tiny orange arachnids like pill bugs, maggots. And if it gets too acidic you’ll find a small whitish nematode looking like a small segmented earthworm (but those are pseudo-segments).
Compost: Completed compost is like slightly moist, light soil, dark brown to black in colour. The bottom layers will be converted first. You will notice that as the compost forms the quantity of material in the pit/container shrinks. This is because the worms eat and excrete the material to make compost. The worms need moisture but be careful not to overwater. Almost all necessary water will come from the decaying garbage. It just needs to stay moist enough so if a handful is squeezed some drops of water come out. Too wet and the worms will migrate. If they can’t they will drown.
Compost is to be stirred up at intervals to oxygenate it and prevent packing. Always use gloves while handling it. And when you harvest it, remove the worms and add to fresh rotten garbage. The best way of doing this is to spread the compost on a sheet of cloth or paper and remove layer after layer from the top, allowing the photophobic worms to migrate to the bottom of the heap. Ultimately you have a layer of worms.
Compost is an excellent fertiliser and also the worms are saleable, so you can turn your garbage to gold!
Additional information here.
Do you like touching worms, incidentally? If you don't, this is not an activity for you.

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