Saturday, August 14, 2021

Over-wintering Mason Bees

Permaculture magazine, issue 109 Autumn 2021The following post has been published in the Autumn 2021 copy of, the quite brilliant, Permaculture magazine, which is available to buy from  https://shop.permaculture.co.uk/permaculture-magazine-issue109.html

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Feeding The SubPod Wormery

It's a couple of months now since I received my SubPod wormery from Wiggly Wigglers and blogged about how I set it up - https://blog.sherlock.co.uk/2021/05/unboxing-and-setting-up-subpod-wormery.html

It's an absolute doddle to look after - so easy in fact that you can forget you have it, especially when you have other more standard tray wormeries to look after.  With tray wormeries every time it rains (it's summer in the UK so that's a fair bit) you have to check the sump as the last thing you want is your worms drowning due to excess liquid building up - that and the fact said liquid is an amazing plant feed for tomatoes, bedding plants and hanging baskets etc so should absolutely NOT be wasted!

Anyway, here's a (very quick and quite poorly filmed) video of me checking the SubPod and adding some new food.


And finally, I added that layer of shredded paper I mentioned at the end of the video.


How Am I Finding It?

Except for the precious space it is taking up in my (very small) raised vegetable patch I am loving it, and I will most likely expand the vegetable patch anyway to gain more room to grow more.  

It really is the most hassle free wormery I currently own as there's no need to worry about liquid collecting in the sump as it seeps into the ground around it, feeding the soil and, therefore, the plants.

Remember, you don't really need to feed plants, but do need to feed the soil - improving the health of your soil automatically improves that of your plants, making them stronger, more resistant to pests and better able to deal with the weather (both wet and dry).

And, whereas in a tray system (such as the Can-o-worms, Worm Cafe, Urbalive and Worm City etc) the worms are stuck in a container and therefore susceptible to changes in pH and liquid levels, the SubPod makes life very much easier for them as they can just travel through the holes in the part buried in the soil and come back when they are ready.  Some people may fear that they all escape and not come back, but there's no need to worry about that at all - if you keep the level of food waste up then they will come from far and wide for a good feed, and likely brings friends from elsewhere as well.

So, it is going well so far and the worms are working the waste nicely.  It's still too soon to find how easy (or not) emptying it will be but if the theory of stopping feeding one side and start on the other until all the worms have moved across is true (no reason for it not to be) then it shouldn't be any harder than a tray system, and likely quite a bit easier. 

Bokashi

I often see people in composting groups asking about adding Bokashi to wormeries.  I have done this in the past but you really have to be careful of how much and how often you add Bokashi waste because it can change the pH and cause issues within the bin.  I once lost a 10 year old established wormery to protein poisoning as a result of over-feeding and it is not a pleasnt experience (and smells like you wouldn't believe).

However, in the SubPod you could try adding normal waste on one side and Bokashi waste on the other, safe in the knowledge that the worms can travel freely (out of the bin if necessary) and come back when the pH has leveled off and the waste is in an easier state for them to consume.

I have yet to put this theory into practise as I mostly Bokashi during the Winter months these days, or in my HotBin, but I do hope to do some experimenting later in the year to see if this theory works OK.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Unboxing And Setting Up The Subpod Wormery

Wiggly Wigglers, the company who have been encouraging us to compost with worms as a means of recycling our food waste for decades now have recently started selling a completely different type of wormery, the Subpod, which they have kindly sent me to try out.

Previous wormeries, such as their Urbalive (stylish enough to be used inside) system, are tray based and can be positioned anywhere. However, the Subpod changes all that, as it is buried in the ground.  This means there is no need to worry about excess leachate/worm tea when it rains, or escaping worms - the leachate will feed the ground around it and the worms will come and go as they please through the holes in the sides (designed for free movement of both worms and compost).  This is great because the worms can escape to the surrounding soil during hot or cold weather, breed freely (they are limited in space in a standard wormery), as well as aerating the surrounding soil, helping it thrive and become the best growing area possible.  And then, when conditions are right/they get hungry, they will come back to feed on your waste, turning it into vermicompost (black gold) you can use elsewhere in your garden.  Once running smoothly you will find they rarely go anywhere as they know a good thing when they see it.

The Wiggly website describes this a lot better with:

    Being underground, Subpod creates a natural environment for compost worms. Having access to the soil means they can feed and breed as rapidly as they like, because there’s always room for their population to grow. Soil is an insulator, and in hot weather, compost worms will instinctively escape into soil to cool down. As the weather turns cold, it will keep your worms warm and active during winter (as long as the soil doesn’t freeze). Every time your worms leave Subpod, their movement aerates your garden soil and increases its nutrient content. 

Setting Up


I got the Subpod and starter kit that arrived in two boxes, one the wormery itself and one the added extra's to help you get started.


The starter kit includes 1kg composting worms, a 2kg bag of worm treat, 2kg lime mix for helping regulate pH, 500g of rock dust and a coir block for starting off the bedding.

Note: Before starting soak the coir block in a bucket of water as it can take a while to absorb the water and be ready to use as bedding. Leave for up to 24 hours to be sure though it can be ready a lot quicker.

The kit consists of the base, that can simply be unfolded and clipped together.  It can be quite stiff so a little bit of force may be required - make sure when you do that everything lines up nicely so you don't damage the moulded plastic, though it is quite sturdy to be fair and can take quite a hammering.


Once together remove the mats and prepare to fit the lid.  Now this can definitely be fiddly and was a lot harder (for me at least) than Subpod lead you to believe.  Line up the hinges very carefully and make sure they clip into place.  It may be better with an extra set of hands to help keep everything lined up when clipping the lid into place. I found this a bit of a pain on my own, but that could easily just be me!

Once the lid is clipped into place you can fit the middle section (again, I found this a bit fiddly) and then the hinge so the finished product looks like this:




Use your fingers to pull gently on the hinge so the lid can be closed

Siting the Subpod

And now the really fun bit - where to site this.  Ideally it will go in a raised vegetable bed but you can place it in a border, or pretty much wherever you want really.  Now it's quite big at 75cm long, 45cm wide and a height of 43cm (32cm of which will be buried underground) so you will be sacrificing some growing space.   However, the ease of access, improvements it will make to the soil and the fact it really does make a great garden seat all work in its favour. And I've been meaning to expand my growing area anyway to grow more veggies at home so...


Notice how the air holes are above ground to allow good ventilation within the wormery? These are all the way around to promote air movement and keep the wormery aerobic, thereby also promoting microbes that help with the composting process.  If regularly aerated as well with plenty of carbon material 
(shredded paper and/or cardboard) added along with your food waste this should keep smells to a minimum - a well run wormery should just smell like fresh earth.

So now in situ, the coir starter bedding can be added.  I placed a good few inches of shredded paper in the bottom before adding in the coir and mixing it all together, as this gives the worms that bit of extra bedding.  I should add my coir was quite wet so the paper was damp rather than dry when the worms were added.

Soaked coir block mixed with shredded paper

Worms added

Once the worms were added I put another layer of slightly dampened shredded paper in and then covered with the supplied mat which helps with both moisture levels, insulation and allowing them to work in the dark (which is how they work best!).  


So, there we have it.  The completed installation and new garden seat (OK that is just an added extra benefit).  I will now leave it a few days before slowly starting to add food waste so as not to over load them too quickly. Remember, just like a tray based wormery over-feeding is the worst thing you can do, so food waste should be added sparingly at the start.  Once they become established and things start to move you can increase the amount of waste given. 



And lastly, a clip is supplied to keep the lid shut (presumably in strong winds).  To be honest I'm not sure how long this will stay as, although it is easy enough to use, I am lazy and will soon get fed up with it I am sure.




Summary

I'm really looking forward to seeing how well this wormery works as it is completely different to my current tray based ones, and at least it's one less to worry about when it rains. The others require regular emptying of the sump to avoid the worms drowning and are all moved somewhere sheltered in the winter to avoid freezing temperatures.  With the Subpod, and plenty of bedding for insulation the cold, wet, winter months shouldn't be a bother at all.

Other advantages, taken from the Wiggly website, are:

  • Smell-free and pest-proof
  • Composts up to 15kg of food waste a week
  • Suitable for households of 1 - 6
  • Dual compost chambers
  • Effortless 5-minute-a-week maintenance

And finally, the packaging is cardboard and can be recycled, either shredded and used in the wormery or compost heaps/bins or via your household waste recycling.  Being the perfect size the box has been laid as a path to my compost bins to avoid muddy feet thanks to the lovely UK weather.

For further information and the options available please see the Wiggly Wigglers page at https://www.wigglywigglers.co.uk/collections/subpod-in-garden-compost-system