Make Your Own Desktop Wormery Introduction Wormeries and compost bins are a great way of dealing with organic waste. The compost worms living in them happily chomp their way through our waste and recycle it into fertile compost, ideal for adding to soil to give plants a real boost. Earthworms help improve soil quality with their constant tunnelling. They mix the soil, pull organic material down into it and improve the drainage. The problem when using a wormery in a school for educational purposes is that it can be very hard to see what is going on. If you want to see what the worms are up to you need a small tabletop wormery. You can buy them online or make your own. There are two types you can make yourself. The easiest is made from a large clear glass or plastic jar, but you can also have a go at a more complicated high visibility version. These wormeries wont help dispose of food waste, but will allow you to see what is going on. The wormery is filled with different layers and colours of medium e.g. soil, sand and shop bought compost. As the worms burrow through the different layers, their tunnels will be visible and you can see how long it takes them to mix the different layers, just as worms do in the ground. They might also drag some of the leaves down into their tunnels to eat in safety. Eventually, you will need to add more dead leaves for them to feed on. For these wormeries, earthworms rather than compost or tiger worms are best. Composting worms are not great diggers and will not do well in this type of wormery. You can collect earthworms from the surface of the soil on a wet morning or dig for them. You dont need many worms for these wormeries, four or five are enough in a jar wormery and twelve will be enough in the high visibility wormery. Whatever type of wormery you decide to make, once the worms are in they need to be left undisturbed for a few days to settle in and start burrowing. When you do look at them you need to be fast, for as soon as you bring them into the light they will retreat into their tunnels to hide. Jar Wormery Leaves Layer of Compost Worm Tunnels Layer of Sand Layer of Soil Layer of Compost Layer of SandThe picture above shows how to set up a jar wormery. The jar used needs to be a suitable size, e.g. a large coffee jar is about the smallest you could use. It doesnt matter if its plastic or glass, as long as its clear. It also needs to have a lid to prevent escapes. Start with a layer of sand in the bottom. On this pour a layer of shop bought compost and then a layer of soil. Repeat until the jar is nearly full. Cover the surface with a layer of dead leaves. Make sure everything is damp, adding a little water if necessary, but dont waterlog the layers. Worms dont like light, so you either need to keep your wormery in a dark place, like a cupboard, or make a cardboard collar to fit fairly tightly around the jar to keep out the light. Introduce the earthworms. They will quickly wriggle through the damp leaves and begin to burrow into the layers. Put on the lid, which needs to have a few air holes pierced in it, and either place in a cupboard or fit the cardboard collar. After a few days have a look to see if there are any tunnels. High Visibility Wormery Making this wormery takes a bit more skill and is more like the tabletop wormeries you can buy. Instead of a jar, you make a thin rectangular shaped wormery out of wood and clear plastic e.g. Perspex or glass. This type of wormery is better than a jar as it gives a much better view of the worms and what they have been doing. In the jar, they can burrow deep into the middle of the layers and stay out of sight. With a much larger surface over which to view them, this wormery offers a high visibility alternative to the jar wormery. Dead Leaves Wooden Frame Layer of Compost Layer of Sand Worm Tunnels Layer of Soil Clear Side Wall Layer of Sand Layer of Compost Start by making the wooden frame. A good size is length 30cm, height 20cm, width 5cm, the approx size of commercially available tabletop wormeries. The 30cm length is the base of the wormery with the 20cm lengths forming the end walls. Drill and screw the end walls onto the base to make a U shape as shown below. Use two screws for each end wall for extra security. Once the frame is finished, you need to make the sidewalls. Use the frame as a template to ensure you cut the sidewalls to the correct size. There needs to be overlap so you can secure the sides to the ends and base. How you secure the sidewalls depends on what you have made them from. If made from Perspex or another clear rigid plastic, they can be drilled, screwed and/or glued onto the wooden frame. If they are made from glass, you will need to glue them in place using a suitable adhesive. Sidewall Two Two Screws Screws Glue and/or small screws to fix both sidewalls to ends and base The finished wormery should have a gap of around 5cm between the two sidewalls. It is in this space that the worms will live. You will also need a lid for the wormery to keep in moisture and prevent escapes. You can make a lid from wood or Perspex, drilled with a few small air holes or stretch plastic or cling film over the top, pierce air holes and secure with an elastic band. Again, you need to either keep the wormery in a dark place or make a cardboard jacket to keep out the light. Fill the wormery with alternate layers of compost, sand and soil, as in the jar wormery, add some dead leaves, moisten if necessary and introduce the earthworms. Leave undisturbed for a few days before having a look to see if anything has happened. As it is unlikely that the wormery will be watertight, it is a good idea to keep it on a tray.