Charles Darwin studied worms for almost 40 years. At the end of his studies, he came to the conclusion that life as we know it would not be possible without them! Worms are an essential part of the environment and they do two incredible things most of us don’t even realise. They increase soil fertility and reduce huge quantities of plant waste. As they burrow deep into the soil they make tunnels. Just like ploughing, these tunnels help air and water get to the roots of plants. This helps plants to grow, you may have noticed that plants don’t grow well in soil that it too compacted. Anyone with green-fingers will tell you that worms are a gardener’s best friend!
What is a wormery?
A wormery is a temporary home for earthworms. More often than not, wormeries have clear sides for easy viewing. This is a fun activity for kids as they get to watch worms do their magic! Although you could purchase a wormery, it’s just as easy and inexpensive to make your own. You can use your wormery to naturally process kitchen waste. Give them all sorts of things you’d put in a compost heap – uncooked fruit and veg waste, tea leaves, coffee grounds… You can then use the compost made by your worms to help grow flowers and food in the garden!
How long will this take?
This will only take about 30 minutes to set up, then you can watch your compost develop over several weeks.
What you need
- a large, clean glass jar
- moist soil
- old leaves
- vegetable peelings, tea leaves, overripe grapes etc.
- some black or dark coloured paper and a cool, dark place to store
Making your own wormery is easy!
- Cover your work surface with newspaper to avoid too much mess.
- Help your child put a layer of sand about 1cm deep at the bottom of the jar.
- Add a thick layer of soil, then another thin layer of sand, then another thick layer of soil. You will need about 5cm space at the top of the jar.
- The most fun and messy part… go and find some worms from the garden! Take some time to investigate them – how do they know which end is which? How do worms move?
- Put the worms on top of the soil in the jar, and fill the top with the leaves and leftover raw veg.
- Put the lid on your jar (with a few holes poked in the top), wrap around it with black (or dark) paper, then store in a cool, dark place for a couple of weeks before checking how they’re getting on! What do the vegetable peelings and leaves look like now? Have the worms made patterns in the soil?
- Try not to be squeamish when helping your children collect worms from the garden – they are so important to any budding gardener! They improve the soil condition by breaking down plant waste and will produce high-quality compost.
- Make sure your children know that worms do not like to be in the dry or light for any length of time. Suggest to them that they hold them with wet hands, and only look at each one for a minute or so before putting it in the jar.
- Setup 2 different jars – one with earthworms and one with tiger worms (a brilliant way of teaching your children how to distinguish different species and characteristics). Earthworms will be in your garden, tiger worms will be in your compost – or you can buy them from a fishing shop. Don’t mix them up in the same jar as they behave differently!
- Ensure the contents of the jar are moist (not soaking, not dry), and kept in a cool but not cold place. Worms don’t like dry, cold or daylight!
- Reassure your children that worms do not bite or produce anything that irritates the skin.