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Turn away now if you are squeamish!


Yesterday I turned the compost heap and was shocked at just how many worms there are in it (and how little of anything else), but at that stage they were fairly evenly spread throughout the compost.

Then this afternoon I went out to put some kitchen scraps on it and was rather amazed to see that the heap was covered with a writhing mass of worms perhaps a centimetre thick. What is going on?

Luckily google is my friend so after a bit of digging around I found an answer. Apparently my worms have either finished eating – which is certainly not the case – or they are waterlogged, acidic and generally feeling fed up and wanting to escape. That did seem more likely, so I have just been out in twilight to add some more bulky material – chiefly sawdust and crocosmia stems. Let’s see if that cheers them up.

The whole incident reminded me rather of what happened some years ago when a friend lived in a Victorian terrace in Brighton. She was much kinder to her worms than I am to mine and, when the weather got cold, in came her rather large wormery to her rather small kitchen (there’s dedication for you!). I think that her worms must have had a similar experience to the one I’ve just described because one night we saw them all preparing for a great escape, and the next day they were gone – squirming through the air holes towards a big adventure.

My friend’s house had fantastic original floor boards complete with plenty of ventilation (aka draughty holes), and no sooner had the worms escaped than they disappeared into the floor.

A year passed with only the odd occasional worm showing its head, but then disaster struck, so do turn away if you are squeamish, really, turn away right now……….

The main sewer which ran beneath the house collapsed and the entire street had to have their living rooms dug up to replace it. And yup it was just as bad as you have imagined it.

Now here is the rub. All of the other houses had been complaining of an almighty pong, but my friend just had this rather woody sweet smell which couldn’t be explained until they dug up the floor. There was the answer. All of her compost worms had very happily chewed their way through.. well.. I think we’ll skip over exactly what they were chewing through. That dear reader is for your imagination.

Before we leave the question of worms though, I should just mention that I have had problems with wormeries before. Last time one got water logged I sat it on its side to drain. After a couple of days I gave it a bit of a prod expecting to see happier worms but couldn’t spot any. Rather intrigued I turned it out with my hands to find out what had happened. There was not one single worm in it! However, in the bottom there was an extremely dirty, rather happy and humungously fat toad, who was far too stuffed even to waddle away!

Now I consider that a rather good end to a rather bad experiment, but I shall have another go in the new house, so I’ll let you know how it goes.

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That was so interesting ss, I hadn't realised just what complicated lives they live, although we have had compost bins for many years. I did once have escaping worms, but I just used to put them back all the time, poor things.
I had wondered what would happen when their job was done if no further food arrived in the bin.
I couldn't help laughing at the fat toad story, if only he had feasted on slugs.

6 Dec, 2009


Oh I wish! I once found a toad sitting amongst my hardy geraniums and tried to force feed him slugs. Needless to say he just looked disgusted (as you would be) and waddled off to take a dip in the pond.

6 Dec, 2009


Another brilliantly-written blog, Sarah....but..
...force feeding slugs to a toad.. ?

Perhaps the toad might have gobbled down those slugs.....

....if you'd put them on a plate with a knife and fork and a little mayonnaise :o)

6 Dec, 2009


Hmm I get the feeling you are a better cook than I tt as well as better gardener. Even I might try a slug with garlic mayonnaise and perhaps a little salad - after all its only a snail without its coat!

6 Dec, 2009


No.... not interested in cooking... but I do spend rather a lot of time trying to read the minds of animals...:o)
...the past 18 months of my life have not allowed me to do very much gardening, but in 2010, I'm hoping to be out in my gardens with my dogs much more often....
....oh, and I'm vegetarian, too...Lol..

6 Dec, 2009


That was interesting Sarah.So far ,not have had any problems with the litle red worms in my compost,but will keep a look out ,just in case. .I put all my shredded private papers in,so gives it a bit of bulk,and helps keep it a bit dryer.
I also,shredded an old Telephone book once,but it took forever,adding a few pages at once.I don't think I actually made it to Z.The drain problem must have been terrible for your friend,and her neighbours.It sounds like a bad horror film.:o((.

6 Dec, 2009


my compost has loads of critters in it but many are very small less than 2mm or so. worms by the ton too.
lovely blog sarah.

6 Dec, 2009


exciting isn't it? I did quite a bit of work for Defra last year and one of the enjoyments of the work is the number of people you meet who really love their compost!

6 Dec, 2009


Blimey that certainly does read like a horror movie until the end then I had a laugh, I always put my shredded paper in my bin, after reading this I`m oh so pleased....Lol......

6 Dec, 2009


I loved this blog I was gripping my seat as you do. Dont think I will go near my compost for a while though. I thought I liked worms not so sure now.

6 Dec, 2009


I enjoyed that. However I don't think I'll try a wormery. lol

6 Dec, 2009


Great blog SS.....It must have been awful when the sewers collapsed. But aren't those little worms amazing things?
Do you know, I have 5 compost bins in my garden and there is never a worm in any one of them. My earthworms only seem to like the usual clay soil and if I put them into the compost they leave straight away. Apparently, if I want to have worms in the compost here, I have to buy red wigglers to put in!!

7 Dec, 2009


I think Worms r amazing Creatures & if a Compost heap is full of them thats a Sign your Compost is Good Stuff :)

7 Dec, 2009


I enjoyed your blog - I've had a wormery for about 10 years and I leave the tap on all the time with a jug underneath for the "juice" because if you shut the tap off and forget to drain the juice everyweek the wormery will fill up with water! They normally can stand the cold to about 0 but anything less I will put it in the shed with lots of newspaper and food and leave all winter alone. Next spring they are ready to come out and start earning their keep again on the veggie patch!!

7 Dec, 2009

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