Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts


It might seem an odd topic for my greenhouse feature, but worms really are a gardener’s best friend. If you have a greenhouse border then the chances are that you’ve got worms in it and all around the garden worms do a vital job of processing and aerating the soil, composting and generally improving soil health.

I’ve always been a fan of worms, even as a child, in fact at one point, I am told, I used to talk to the worms in the garden. Nothing wrong with that I might add. I’m even reliably informed that worms make good eating if you are starving. I am told that they taste like bacon when roasted over a bonfire on a spade. Eugghhhhh. Don’t think I’ll be trying that anytime soon. But do report back if you have a go. My hens like to eat them and so do the garden birds, which flock to freshly turned soil when I’ve been outside in the garden.

But back to the point. I’ve just taken delivery of a very neat, stackable worm-composting bin. And while November is not the greatest month for composting, out in the garden the worms are still active deep in the soil and on warmer days can be found in the leaf litter and garden topsoil.

Worm composters are a great way to harness the concentrated goodness that worms produce when processing organic matter. The worms also get through a surprising amount of fibrous waste such as cardboard, paper and leaves every day, as well as general kitchen waste. The resulting rich crumbly compost  has been described as Black Gold and in gardening circles changes hands at high prices. It’s revered as a soil enhancer and fertiliser and is simply a by-product of worm composting. But there is also an exudate that is siphoned off that can be used as a liquid feed for plants. It’s part of the natural cycle and goes on around us pretty much all year through.

In nature the soil protects the worms from extremes of temperature. They are at their most active between 4C and 26C, with the most activity going on in the middle range. Outside, the colder it gets the deeper they burrow into the soil. In a worm composting system the little wrigglies are at the mercy of the cold. The material within the composter protects them to a degree but when the temperature plummets a worm bin can freeze completely.  Which is why my freshly installed colony of worms all enveloped in a rich array of shredded paper and cardboard with plenty of worm food such as peelings, teabags and fruit waste is now housed within my lovely greenhouse. It’s very unlikely to get too hot in there over the next few weeks or even months, but the greenhouse glass and walls will help keep these little workers warmer than they would be outside. In the greenhouse the rain won’t fall on the worm bin and if the temperature stays conducive to composting, my worms will be making fantastic worm castings inside my greenhouse and ready for my plants in the spring.

How to Cheat

If you want your own worm casts without the bother of keeping a worm bin then consider Black Gold from Green By Nature. It’s the vermicast (worm compost) ready made and bagged up ready to use. www.earth-essentials.co.uk.