Why I wrote “Composting with worms”

May 19, 2011

in Composting, Worm composting and worms

Why Waste Your Waste?

All my articles, videos and work are funded by my teaching and sales of award winning bumblebee nest boxessolitary bee boxes,  and wormeries.

I was asked the other day why I wrote my last book. “It’s such a bizarre topic to write a book about”. I suppose if you do n’t know the benefits of earthworms it is a bizarre topic! At that time quite a few books about composting were available, but there were very few about worm composting and none written for people here in the UK. It really surprised me that people spent a fortune on fertilisers and how we are charged via community charges, to dispose of our food waste. To me it did n’t make any sense. Even now, people still are not really aware of the truly useful service worms perform for the soil in which we grow our food and the service worms can perform in composting our food waste. And we are the benefactors!  Composting your food and cardboard and garden waste to produce a rich fertile and wholly natural soil conditioner, how useful is that ? ……I remembered this article which explained why…….here it is in full!!

grownupgreen has been waiting for George Pilkington to complete his latest book because we know that so many of you are interested in the subject matter. Why Waste Your Waste is a window to the world of worms and their role in working off your household’s food waste. We caught up with George for sneak preview.

George Pilkington on his latest contribution to sustainable living.

“Why Waste Your Waste?” is the question that author George Pilkington asks on the cover of his new book Composting with Worms and, while some of us may be familiar with traditionally composting our garden trimmings, vermicomposting, as George explains, is a different world.

gug: What led you to explore the world of worms and their credentials as competent composters?

George: I was first inspired by the potential of worms in about 1986 when I read a book called Gardening Without Chemicals by Jack Temple. He mentioned in just a few lines how he had turned domestic waste into plant food using worms housed in plastic dustbins. As a result, I made my first worm bin.

Copyright G. Pilkington

Some time later, an organic author and gardening friend of mine, Jim Hay, contacted me to say that he was writing an article about using worms to compost kitchen waste. He had been invited to Turning Worms, a worm composting company in Wales, and asked if I would like to accompany him. I did so and it inspired me. I made another wormery, this time from wood.

gug: Your involvement didn’t stop there did it? You felt compelled to spread the word.

George: No it didn’t and yes I did! I wrote several articles about worm composting and gave numerous talks to gardening and horticultural societies throughout the North West of England and Wales. Later, when I started teaching about organic and wildlife gardening for adult education establishments, I incorporated these talks into my teaching. I was amazed that even when giving talks to organic gardening groups, the vast majority of attendees did not operate a wormery to recycle their food waste. Garden waste was composted, but food waste was, in nearly every case, literally binned and sent to landfill. Some years ago, I weighed my family’s food waste generated between April to October. It came to 140 Kg. By composting that waste I saved it from going to landfill.

gug: So has the practice of using wormeries taken off in the UK?

I was acutely aware that here in the UK there was very little information and experience in making wormeries. There was virtually nothing on how to set them up and manage them, in fact precious little public awareness or education on the topic. In the nineties, plastic wormeries were appearing but they did require certain management techniques to be successful. In too many cases people purchased a wormery, found there was just too much bother involved in managing them efficiently, and quietly gave up. Hardly a recipe for a successful vermicomposting movement. Looking over the water at the USA, vermicomposting is a big business commercially and well established domestically.

The worms found a champion in Mary Appelhof. Her highly successful book, Worms Eat My Garbage, was for many years the ‘bible’ of vermicomposting.

Copyright G. PilkingtonWhat we needed here in Europe and the UK was education, inspiration and well-designed wormeries that worked. For these reasons, a colleague and I set about designing the Waste Buster series of wormeries, which I had manufactured. I’m hoping my book will inspire others and that they find keeping worms as satisfying as I do.

gug: Thanks George!

grownupgreen has had a sneak preview of Composting with Worms. We’ve picked out a couple of paragraphs to wet your appetite:

“At first glance an earthworm appears to be a very simple animal. It is apparently blind and deaf; without legs or feelers; it is difficult to distinguish front from back and top from bottom; it has no obvious strength in its body and little to protect it from the elements or predators. However, it is a hugely successful creature and, as you will see, there is more to it than meets the eye.”

“There are many worm breeders in Britain, many of whom advertise in the pages of angling magazines. There are reputable worm suppliers, but believe me, there are many worm breeders out there who do not know one end of a worm from another, nor which species is best suited for a given purpose.”

….and from the FAQ section:

*Q*. I am going on holiday, what should I do
about the worms?

*A*. The good news is that you won’t need to get a worm-sitter. Worms will happily re ingest their own faeces, as long as it contains organic matter teeming with busy microbes. I have been away on holiday for a full month and the worms survived. I did set them up for it before I left, adding soaked corrugated cardboard mixed in with their last feed to combat any potential anaerobic conditions. Adding soaked wood chips would also help.

*Q*. I have a new wormery. It seems to be taking a long time to produce vermicompost. Am I managing it badly? Why is it taking so long?

Copyright G. Pilkington and Susanna Kendall *A* I have given many seminars and talks on composting, and I usually ask the attendees how long they expect to leave compost in their heap before it is ready to use. Most people say about a year, and a few even say two years. Thus I am always amazed when people say that they have had a wormery for 3 months and wonder why they cannot harvest it yet. Most of the larger units I have had have needed at least a year before harvesting can begin. Why does it take so long? Imagine a packet of crisps, full to the brim. If you crushed the crisps to dust the volume would reduce dramatically and it would take many more packets of crisps reduced to dust to fill the original packet. This is what happens with your wormery. The microherds and worms reduce the volume and deposit it in a very fine form in thin layers, which gradually build up over a long period of time. Depending on the system you use, harvesting too soon can deprive the worms of their bedding retreat. So have patience – it will be well worth the

gug: Whether you are new to wormeries or an experienced composter, this book is 122 pages packed with facts, contacts and advice on how to get the best back from your waste. It has a comprehensive FAQ section and a review of currently available worm bins to ensure you get your worms wriggling as successfully as possible, as soon as possible.


Author – G. Pilkington
Published by eco-logic books we’re very proud of this complete guide to composting with worms. Full instructions on how to make a wormery, which worms to use, when good bins turn bad and much more.Buy direct from meClick here to view full book details on eco-logic books website


grownupgreen – 29/07/05

original article from….    http://www.grownupgreen.org.uk/library/?id=728

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