London Worms

Sprayway UK: A lesson in Awesome Customer Service

OK, so this has nothing to do with worms, at least not directly but it is about the great outdoors and we walk on the soil in the great outdoors and worms live in the soil, so…. oh look I told you the link was tenuous… anyhow…. I need to respond to Sprayway UK and the thought of doing it in a series of 140 character tweets is making me cross-eyed, so here’s a blog post about the whole affair!

The Back Story:

This all started a few months ago on twitter when I made a jokey tweet to @sprayway_UK regarding my ancient 20/20 Line Sprayway Jacket. I’ve worn this jacket on an almost daily basis in hail, rain and shine, in addition to seeing me up hills and mountains in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, Austria, Bulgaria…. you get the idea .. for over TWENTY YEARS!!!!

This Sprayway Jacket has been called into service almost daily and in addition to the above, has kept me warm and dry on daily cycle and motorcycle commutes into work! (Worn OVER my protective equiptment I hasten to add … (grandad voice on) remember folks, if you ride a motorcycle ”all the gear, all the time” !!!) (grandad voice off)

Not once in all this time has it every let wind or rain through! Not once! Remember this is a daily use as well as extreme activity jacket and not once, ever, has it let me down.

That is some quality product by ANY measure you care to use!!!!

Sprayway 2020 Line

Now, the only problem that has emerged is on some spots on the jacket, the tape over the seams is starting to become detached. Only very small sections and not enough to bug me – yet – but having found Sprayway UK on twitter, I fired off a jokey tweet that I was disgusted that the jacket had only been good for some twenty odd years 🙂

I got a reply with an apology saying that particular jacket, which of course they no longer manufacture, should have lasted twenty five years at least.

LOLS all around 🙂

Then It Got Serious:

However, having made contact with @sprayway_UK on twitter, I decided to ask about getting the jacket repaired, roughly an idea of cost, and I was given the name of someone to contact and told they would get in touch with me.

Nothing…..

*tumbleweed*

So I contacted them again, a bit miffed, as I’m obviously going to send business their way (or so I thought!) and they couldn’t be bothered to respond to me. So I expressed my miftness! I was also a bit wary about trusting them with my beloved jacket if they couldn’t even get a customer response right!

It was then explained to me that there’s a bit of a disconnect between the twitter team and the managing/marketing team and the name I was given is of someone who is out and about a lot and not the ideal person to make contact with as a result and a different name was give, that of the Marketing Manager.

I emailed him and that’s when I found out Sprayway don’t actually do repairs but he recommened several companies who would and one in particular that enjoyed their confidence.

The Marketing Manager was extremely helpful and I was happy with that.

Perfectly happy.

However, the Marketing Manager went on to ask for my name and address to send me a ”little something” to make up for the confusion/lack of contact and to regain my confidence in the company as I had stated if they couldn’t get some basic info to me there’s no way I was going to trust them with my jacket, but that’s when I thought they actually did the repairs.

What a pro I thought. And I duly emailed my details.

Nothing …..

*tumbleweed*

And now I really really really was annoyed!!!!

I hadn’t asked for anything from them. Just some details for repairs which they supplied eventually.

THEY initiated the idea of sending me ”something” as a goodwill gesture. Great. I was expecting something like a promotional teeshirt or a cap or something similar… usual promo stuff…. but it just irked the hell out of me that they requested my details for this goodwill gesture and two months later … nothing!!!

So I took to twitter and lambasted them! Not because I didn’t get a free teeshirt, nothing like that, it was about what appeared to me to be diabolical customer service. It was about having an engaging and promotional twitter account that had nothing behind it in terms of customer support and service and what appeared to be yet another big company using twitter to beguile people.

Full Disclosure – I had also just woken up when I tweeted, after a series of really hectic and exhasuting nightshifts, and I wasn’t in the best of moods nor was I being particularly reasonable!

In essence I told @sprayway_UK to stick it and when it came to replacing mine, my wife’s and the kids technical clothing, Sprayway won’t see another penny of our hard earned money!

To my shame now, I also slagged off what this ”something” probably was – I think I might have referred to it as a tatty teeshirt and they’d be using me for free advertising!

I received a response saying they’d already posted out something and presumed I’d received it!!! More claptrap I thought. I didn’t believe them! I told them if I HAD received something I’d have photographed it, publicised it and bigged them up for great customer service, not ignore it!!!

And that, as far as I was concerned, was that.

Sprayway was dead to me.

And for what? I could never and would never deny the almost mythical quality of my 20/20 Line Jacket, and as a result we’ve always bought Sprayway gear which we’ve always been happy with.

Sprayway aren’t the only suppliers of great outdoor gear out there but because of the sour taste interacting with them in social media had left I’d decided I was going to look elsewhere when the time comes to add to or replace our gear. They seemed to me to be yet another company who portrays one image in social media, but dealing with them when you’re unsatisfied about something is an entirely different matter – much like my recent experience with O2 – but that’s another story!

Until Today

A big box arrived in the post.

I hadn’t ordered anything from anywhere so this was exciting and a little bit confusing 🙂

I opened the box to find a well worded, personal and sincere letter of apology from the Sprayway UK Marketing Manager and…. a Grendal insulated GORE-TEX Windstopper hybrid Mountain Jacket in the most awesome retro Blue and Green colour scheme, borrowed from Alison Hargreaves’ Sprayway high-altitude suit.

Alison Hargreaves

Speechless!!!!

This is going WAY above and beyond what was required and is nothing short of the most awesome customer service in the world!

Sprayway Grendal Limited Edition

Yes, I was annoyed at what seemed to me to be messing about, but I was also ranty and unreasonable. However, Sprayway didn’t take the view Oh, random irked customer and he got the info he wanted, sod him … nope, The Marketing Manager really did come through and I’m absolutely elated with the jacket, a gesture of good will that is quite extraordinary and more than generous.

Not only have they rectified the situation, they have ensured I and my family remain life long Sprayway customers 🙂

And of course, all family and friends are now aware of just how well Sprayway have dealt with my complaint, twitter has been duly notified and you, reading this blog 🙂

Spread the word – this is what awesome customer service looks like 🙂

Find them on twitter @sprayway_UK and give them a follow.

Check out their awesome range here http://www.sprayway.com/

For Quality and Technical Specification their gear speaks for itself but just as importantly for Incredible Customer Service they will not be beaten!

Londonworms

Postscript: A poignant story….

The photo of Alison Hargreaves is used with the kind permission of the photographer John Paul Photography of Inverness (John Paul Photography 01463221682 12 Diriebught Road, Inverness IV2 3QW)
While speaking to him this afternoon to get his permission to use this picture of Alison, he told me that he met her after she’d climbed Everest. His car at the time had a registration plate K2…… Alison noticed this and told John she would be climbing K2 next.
John said if she climbed it – he would give her the number plate…

…. Alison never returned from K2 ………

STOP WASTING FOOD: ADD £600 TO YOUR INCOME!

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2013

600 of our finest British Pounds – count them – £600, is the amount of money the average British household literally throws away, into the bin, every year.

You’d never walk past the kitchen bin, put your hand in your pocket, pull out a fiver and throw it in, would you?

Yet that, in effect, is what all too many of us do on a daily basis when we scrape our leftovers and dump our out of date and unused food from the fridge, into the bin!

Research shows we are wasting on average £50 a month on food we never eat.

Over 7 Million tons of food is thrown away by us annually. Just think about that for a moment! 7 million tons of food! And that’s just from households. It gets much much worse when you add in ALL the food waste we produce, from crops that aren’t harvested because they’re too wonky for the supermarkets to all the food stuffs dumped on an industrial scale by the hospitality industries.

That’s £12 Billion pounds worth to you and me!

Globally, it’s estimated half of all food produced never reaches it’s final destination:

Today, we produce about four billion metric tonnes of food per annum. Yet due to poor practices in harvesting, storage and transportation, as well as market and consumer wastage, it is estimated that 30–50% (or 1.2–2 billion tonnes) of all food produced never reaches a human stomach.

You can read the Institute of Mechanical Engineers Global Food Report Here.

And when we waste food, we waste water. Did you know it takes 822 litres of water to produce a single kilo of apples? Or that 255 litres of water are used to produce a single glass of milk? Or that the kilo of beef you enjoyed for the Sunday Roast took 15,415 litres of water to get there?

Over the past century, human appropriation of fresh water has historically expanded at more than twice the rate of population increase. An estimated 3.8 trillion m3 of water are now withdrawn for human use each year, equivalent to the contents of 1.5 billion Olympic-sized swimming pools. The bulk of this abstracted water, about 70%, is taken by the agricultural sector.

That’s a lot of precious water – and a lot of it used up unnecessarily when it’s put to use producing food we don’t eat!

Well, now that we have a bit of context on the national and global level, what are we going to do about it? What can we do about it?

Stop Wasting Food!

It’s that simple.

And there are a ton of resources available to help us. See my links page to connect with some great organisations like Love Food Hate Waste where you’ll find great tips and tricks for managing your food purchases, menu planning, portion control and some great receipes to use up those leftovers.

And you can put those tips and tricks to good use next week with a challenge 🙂

2nd to 8th September is Zero Waste Week.

Take the Challenge – log on to the website, sign up and commit to really thinking about your food waste and what you’re going to do about it next week.

Read some more around the issue of food waste, and think about the food we waste on one side and the growing number of people who are living in food poverty and the growth of food banks on the other.

Then let the good practices you explore and develop during next weeks Zero Waste Week Challenge bed in and become part of you.

Oh, and if you think one person on their own can’t make a difference, it’s worth remembering Zero Waste Week was started by Rae Strauss at her kitchen table!

You know what you have to do 🙂

From Dog Poo to Quality Vermicompost with the Turn of a Worm!

That's one guilty looking dog!

That’s one guilty looking dog!

Some stories being with ”Are you sitting comfortably?”. I think I should begin this post by asking ”Are you eating?” because if you are, or you just have, you might want to put that sanswich down or come back to this post a bit later!

Ok, we’ll begin.

Most owners of the UK’s 8 million dogs act responsibly and clean up after their canine pals but it’s the minority that don’t that create an almost unique public nuisance that is as dangerous and it is unpleasant.

The public menace that is dog poo!

The public menace that is dog poo!

Contact with dog faeces can lead to infections by not very nice bacteria, parasites and pathogens such as toxocariasis with some very unpleasant consequences, particularly for young children.

Recently Keep Britain Tidy ran a very successful campaign of raising awareness of the dog fouling issue.

Apart from anything else, it’s costing your local council a fortune to deal with this public nuiscance – money they could be spending on essential services.

Bag It and Bin It was the slogan of the Keep Britain Tidy Campaign – I think they should have said Bag It and Worm Bin It 🙂

That’s right! I collect the dog and fox poo our canine and Vulpes vulpes friends leave in the back garden and using worms, turn it into a rich vermicompost that feeds the non edible plants and bushes we have growing in the garden.

The bolded part above is very important, and I’ll come back to some basic precautions everyone should be aware of when handling and composting dog and fox poo.

But for now, put down that sandwich, and read on with awe to see how the humble worm can turn a digusting public menace into a valuable rich compost. 🙂

Locate and collect your dog (and in my case fox) poo.

Dog Poo

Hunting down the dog poo

Store your dog poo in a suitable container until it dries out. How long this takes will depend on the diet of your dog. We feed ours Iams and the amount of egesta is minimal. If you feed your dog a tinned diet and the poo is very loose it may need something mixed with it such as wood shavings to bulk it up and help dry it out more quickly.

Dog Poo Container

Dog Poo Container

When the poo is dried out, get out your Poo Crushing Stick of Doom!

The Poo Crushing Stick of Doom!

The Poo Crushing Stick of Doom!

On a large piece of cardboard, crush the poo into smaller crumbly pieces. It doesn’t have to be as fine as dust but the finer the poo can be crushed the better.

Weilding the Poo Crushing Stick of Doom

Weilding the Poo Crushing Stick of Doom

Crushing the Poo

Crushing the Poo

Crushing on a piece of cardboard makes it easier for all the small pieces to be loaded into the worm bin.

Crushed Poo

Crushed Poo

When the poo looks like the above it’s ready to be added to the worm bin.

A new poo worm bin

A new poo worm bin

Here’s a new poo bin I’ve just set up. The bedding for the worms is ripped cardboard, soaked for two days in the water barrel, with some crushed egg shells for grit and a handful of the finished vermicompost from the old poo bin to kick start the microbes in the new bin.

Dog poo in the new worm bin

Dog poo in the new worm bin

It’s very important to remember not to add anything else to the poo bin other than poo, and the occasional sprinkle of crushed egg shells.

New Poo Bin ready for action!

New Poo Bin ready for action!

Cover the poo with bedding and continue to feed as you would a normal bin, checking to make sure most if not all of the last feeding of poo has been processed before adding more poo. Feed in different areas of the bin each time and make sure the dried out powdered poo is well covered and then just leave the worms to get on with converting what started out as a public nuisance and health risk into a lovely, dark, rich vermicompost.

Here’s my old poo bin ready for harvesting.

Some considerations when processing dog and fox poo:

* Because of their diet dog and fox poo contains micro – organisms and pathogens not commonly found in the poo of herbivores, cows and horses for example, so extra care must be taken when handling these waste products.

* Exercise normal hygiene practices – wash your hands thoroughly, always wear gloves, avoid handling the dog poo directly even with gloves on, wear gloves at all times when harvesting the vermicompost and keep all gloves and tools used for the poo bin seperate to all your other gloves and tools.

* Hot composting, something like 70 degree C over 3 to 5 days, will kill most if not all pathogens in the dog poo but worm composting never gets that hot! (or it would cook your worms!) There is research out there that suggests the very nature of how the worms process the faeces renders the pathogens harmless, but this is not wholly agreed by all so it’s wise I think, when the dog poo vermicompost is harvested, to set it aside for 12 – 18 months before using it (any not very nice pathogens with a major PR problem will be long gone after a further 12 – 18 months of the compost maturing) and then only use the finished product on non edible plants, shrubs and bushes and away from your vegetable plots and flowers.

* Alternatively, if you do have an effective hot composting bin going, you could add the finished vermicompost to this so it’ll get exposed to the much higher temperatures and then just harvest and use with your normal compost.

* Don’t mix your food scraps in with the dog poo. Keep the dog poo bin exclusively for dog poo. This is because if you mix with other food scraps, these scraps can provide an environment for the nasty pathogens to flurish to such an extent that the worms simply can’t keep up with processing them through their gut and you will end up with a bin you might as well rename Salmonella City.
Feeding just dog poo and nothing else, the worms will adapt to their bedding and food source very quickly and process it without any difficulty.

* A word about worming tablets – every 3 months you’re going to be worming your dog, right? I’ve read in various places this can be a concern for people who worry about losing their worm herd due to the effects of the medication in the egesta. I’ve never found this to be a problem with the system I use of ~ collecting ~ storing ~ drying ~ then feeding. Perhaps the time elapsed ensures any medication that would be harmful to the worms is long rendered ineffective but it’s not something I’ve ever experienced any problems with. I have at times even thrown the poo directly into the bin with no ill effects. The same caution about worming is raised if you’re using horse manure as bedding in your worm bins, but again, I’ve never had a problem because I use well aged manure from the local stables.

* Keep the dog poo worm bin away from your other worm and compost bins and make sure it has a secure lid if there’s a possibility of other animals or young children getting into it!

Now all this might sound like a bit of a faff but it’s just good practice and common sense and in reality it adds no hardship to the composting process. Think about making a cup of tea. You just get up and do it, right. But if you broke it up into it’s constituent stages and wrote them down for someone to follow, they’d probably give up, prefering to put up with the thirst than wade through a 200 point process! (1. Decide you want a cup of tea. 2. Stand up. 3. Turn towards the room door. 4. Walk towards the door. 5. Place hand on door handle 6. Rotate door handle. 7. Pull door inwards such that it opens. 8. Walk out through the door …… and we haven’t even got near the kettle yet)!!!!

So don’t let that put you off.

Composting your dog waste is easy with worms and you will have the satisfaction of knowing not only are you now no longer contributing your pet waste in it’s bag to landfill, or an incinerator but you’re actually turning it into a very valuable rich compost that will benefit your non edible plants, bushes and trees.

Remember, worms have been composting the poo from the ancestors to the domestic dog for hundreds of thousands of years. They just did it out in the wild, not in a box!

This might seem like a new fangled idea to us, but to the worms, it’s just another day at the office, doing what they do best – taking waste and turning it into the best soil amendment and conditioner known to mankind.

Londonworms

Worms Vs The Daleks Update 2 weeks later

Otherwise known as Yes! We Have No Bananas.

Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun!

Two weeks ago we started with two banana skins of similar age, size and weight with the aim of seeing how two different composting systems compare: The typical garden composting ”Dalek” bin, and the worm bin.

For most of this week the temperature in the Dalek held at 40 degree C, but as you can see this dipped towards the end of the week to 33 degree C:

Termometer showing 33 degree C

Termometer showing 33 degree C

This means for most of the two weeks this experiment has been running, the Dalek held, and was breaking down the banana skin, at a very respectable 40 degree C and is only now starting to cool off a little.

The temperature in the worm bin has held a consistent 14 degree C all week.

So what have we got this week? Well, the banana skin at the top is from the Dalek, the skin at the bottom is from the worm bin.

Tray showing banana skin from the Dalek

Tray showing banana skin from the Dalek

Huh? You can’t see the skin at the bottom? Click on the pic to enlarge. Still can’t see it?

That’s because it’s not there!!!

That’s right, the worms have completely consumed the banana skin. So despite being somewhat distracted earlier on with the unauthorised addition of a juicy apple into the worm bin, they’ve not only eaten all of the apple but went back to finish off the banana! Leaving behind a nice little pile of vermicompost ready for use 🙂

Banana skin with vermicompost

Banana skin with vermicompost

So there we have it.

In the intergalactic war on turning food waste into compost the Daleks are a formidable contender but they’re no match for the humble worm 🙂

Two weeks to go from fresh banana skin to usable top quality vermicompost.

What’s not to like about worms 🙂

The remaining skin will go back into the compost Dalek and will in time break down completely with the help of all those microbes and compost bin critters to form fantastic quality compost which I’ll add to the veg plot.

While you could never call this a ”scientific” experiment, I hope you found it interesting to see how the two systems compared in this instance.

Let me know below if you have any thoughts, questions or comments.

Londonworms
(with pictures by Sorcha)

Worms Vs The Daleks Update 1 week later

So, as promised here’s the first of the weekly updates in this experiment.
To recap, here’s what we started out with:

Banana skins ready for the bins

Banana skins ready for the bins

The skin on the left as you’re looking at the picture – the one at the top – went into the Dalek compost bin, which was showing a reasonable 40 degree C temperature, and as you can see from below, it has held that temperature all week:

The temperature in the Dalek held a respectable 40 degree C all week

The temperature in the Dalek held a respectable 40 degree C all week

The temperature in the worm bin at the start of the experiment was 15 degree C and it fluctuated slightly between 14 and 18 degree C during the week.

Here’s what the banana skins look like one week later:

Here's the banana skins after one week in the compost bins

Here’s the banana skins after one week in the compost bins

Banana skins ready for the bins

Banana skins ready for the bins

Here's the banana skins after one week in the compost bins

Here’s the banana skins after one week in the compost bins

There’s been a dramatic reduction in volume in both skins, but the one that went into the Dalek is definately ahead at this stage!

However!!!

There has been an adverse incident which I suspect has affected the outcome at this early stage…. someone put some green leaf leftover and a badly bruised apple into the experimental worm bin during the week by mistake, instead of into the precomposting bucket I keep for these household leftovers.

Well, the worms were all over it like, well, like worms all over an apple!!!

They appear to have all but abandoned the banana skin in favour of the apple – who knew worms had favourite foods and could be as fussy as a three year old with a plate of broccoli???!!!???

Just take a look at this short video to see what I mean!

As you can see, the worms abandoned the middle of the bin where the banana skin was and made their way over to the edge of the bin where the apple was hiding!

So at this stage, the Dalek is in the lead – but we’ll see if that’s still the case a week from now.

My money is still on the worms 🙂

Londonworms
(Photography and video by Sorcha)

Send your worms and plants to work on an egg!

Those of us of a certain age *cough* will remember the Go to work on an Egg ads run by the British Egg Marketing Board.

Eggs are a natural source of protein, vitimins and minerals and can be a useful element of any healthy, balanced diet.

What these ads didn’t tell us though, was what to do with all those egg shells we generated, after we’d eaten our egg and gone to work.

One answer would be to put them to work too.

Egg shells are rich in calcium carbonate but also contain zinc, sodium, potassium, manganese, iron and copper. We all know humans and animals need calcium for healthy growth, but how many stop to think that plants also need calcium?

Plants need calcium for healthy bones and teeth….



…(just checking you were paying attention!).

No, plants use calcium for healthy cell development and growth. The stronger the cell, specifically the cell wall, the better the plant is able to resist disease. But it gets better! Calcium plays many other roles in the life of a healthy plant, including regulating the uptake and movement of nutrients into the root and throughout the cells within the plant. Who knew?

So let’s recap – egg shells are in the region of 95% calcium carbonate and have many other useful elements; plants need calcium – so we have no excuse to ever throw away an egg shell again, where it could end up in an anerobic stench trench in landfill.

What do we do from now on? We compost them or feed them to the worms, that’s what we do. And here’s how:

Feeding your egg shells to worms

Egg shells perform two functions, apart from being a source of calcium, in the worm bin. They help reduce acidity, something worms don’t like, since calcium carbonate is an alkaline, and finely crushed, the worms love them, since they ingest them and use them in their gizzard to crush food.

On a hot sunny day (yeah, right!) spread out your egg shells and let the sun dry them.

Using the sun to dry the egg shells

Using the sun to dry the egg shells

In the absense of any sun you can also just let them air dry on a towel, or bung them in the oven for 20 minutes at 60 degree C, but I’d personally only bother doing that if I was going to use the ground egg shells as a source of calcium for myself.

Crush by hand and drop them into the coffee grinder. Depending on your domestic situation you may have no problem doing this, or you many want to a) do this secretly when nobody’s in the house or b) get a cheap grinder for the purpose if you’re going to be doing this a lot. Freegle and Freecycle are great places to look for secondhand, free items people are giving away and it helps keep perfectly good items out of landfill.

Weird coffee beans??!!

Weird coffee beans??!!

My worms just love well ground egg shells so I tend to grind mine quite fine. If you want yours a bit more coarse just give the grinder a shorter burst.

Egg shells well ground up

Egg shells well ground up

Well ground up like this, sprinkle a ”pinch”, just a small amount to your worm bin, each time you feed or they can be sprinkled around your plants or added to the base of the pots for the roots as you plant out.

These shells were ground quite fine

These shells were ground quite fine

Find a couple of big jars and reuse them to store your excess calcium carbonate.

Jar of egg shell calcium treats for worms and plants

Jar of egg shell calcium treats for worms and plants

If you haven’t a grinder or don’t want to use one, no problem. Just put the shells into a bag and roll a rolling pin over them several times. Or bash them a couple of times with whatever’s to hand!

Feeding your egg shells to the compost pile

  • Wash the egg shells
  • Crush with hand
  • Drop them into your compost pile and mix in well

That’s it!

The egg shells will break down slowly over time. Don’t be surprised then to find some in the compost as you’re using it. This isn’t a problem and will add a valuable source of slow release calcium to your soil.

Londonworms
(photography by Sorcha)

Worms Vs The Daleks!!!

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a council supplied and heavily subsidised Dalek compost bin is an excellent little back yard composter.***

But is it as efficient and effective at composting as a worm bin?

Enquiring minds want to know!

Earlier today, I took two standard sized bananas:

The one on the left is for the Dalek - the one on the right for the worm bin

The one on the left is for the Dalek – the one on the right for the worm bin

And after eating the contents:

...and they were yummy

…and they were yummy

Proceeded to add one of the skins to the Dalek:

The hungry compost Dalek with additional air vent covered with a piece of old nylon

The hungry compost Dalek with additional air vent covered with a piece of old nylon

Which was showing a respectable 40 Degree C:

40 Degree C at the centre of the Dalek

40 Degree C at the centre of the Dalek

This skin was placed at the centre of the bin where it's hottest.

This skin was placed at the centre of the bin where it’s hottest.

And added the other banana skin to one of my home made Two Minute £5 worm bins:

Two minute £5 worm bin

Two minute £5 worm bin

Which was showing a comfortable (for the worms!) temperature of 15 Degree C: It looks like it’s reading 17 degree C but that’s due to the angle the photo was taken at.

Nice and snug for the worms

Nice and snug for the worms

I buried the banana skin about 12cm down in the bin:

Worm bin with banana skin added

Worm bin with banana skin added

And now we watch and wait!

I placed these banana skins in situ on a lovely sunny day on the 6th June 2013.

I’ll take a photograph of each skin every week and publish it here, documenting the progress of each bin – until a clear winner emerges.

Release the Microbes and let the games begin!!!!!!!

Londonworms
(with thank’s once again to the superdooper photographer Sorcha for her patience and skill in taking such great pics)

*** I received a Blackwall 220 litre composter from this company some years ago for the sum of … wait for it …. four, yes that’s four, of your finest British pounds!!! Four quid – can you Adam N’ Eve it!!!!
£4 because they are hooked up with my local council and provide heavily subsidised composters to residents of the borough.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, in any way, shape or form associated with this company nor do I know anybody who is. I am highlighting them here because of my experience with them which is very positive.

If you haven’t got the space, time or inclination to make a compost bin of your own – which I am all in favour of and would prefer – using recycled materials – then at least go to their website and simply enter your postcode and  find out if they’re partnering with your local council and grab yourself a bargin. With a price like that, you really have no excuse not to be doing some back yard composting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Two Minute £5 worm bin

Here’s a neat little worm bin that costs very little to set up and is extremely effective. No tools required! It will take all of two minutes to get it up and running!

I have 4 of these bins up and running and working with great success.

If you do set this type of bin up, please let me know how it worked out for you. If you have any questions, be sure to ask below. I would love to hear from you.

Ok, let’s get going!

You’ll need a plasterers bucket, some aged leaves, some old tbags, an aged banana skin, some egg shells and some worms.

Get a plasterer’s bucket from somewhere like BnQ. I paid £5.00 for the ones I have.

rubber bin

Add some old aged damp/moist leaves to the bin – a general rule of thump when setting up a new bin is the bedding should be roughly two thirds the depth of the bin:

bag of leaves

Some of my old leaves already had worms move in 🙂

worms on leaves

This is your damp carbon based bedding for the worms. I like using old leaves because their structure allows lots of air to circulate throughout the bedding and, well, it’s home from home for the worms – this is what they live on in the wild!

Next, get some old tbags, open, and add the tea-leaves to the bedding – this adds a little nitrogen to the mix: the tea leaves, since they’re old, will have lots of bacteria and microbes working on them, and mixed with the old, aged leaves means the worms are being added to a bin that is already flush with lots of micro-organisms – just what the worms need!

bin and tbags

opening tbag in bin

tbags in bin

Mix the leaves and tea leaves up well, and ensure the leaves are well seperated so lots of air can flow though.

mixing tbags with leaves

Next add a little crushed egg shells. This serves two functions – it stops the bin from becoming too acidic, and as worms don’t have teeth, it helps them break food down. The worms will take the crushed shell into their gizzard like structure and use it to mash up and grind the food. You can crush the shells by hand, but I like to run them through a coffee grinder. Sprinkle or crush the equivolent of about 2 eggshells into the bin – that’s plenty for a bin this size.

crushed eggshells

crushed eggshells added

Mix this well into the bedding, then add a banana skin 🙂 This is a nice little treat, but it will also help you note when you should start feeding the bin. It will take a few weeks for the worms to settle into their new home and start working. Once the banana is gone, or mostly gone, this is a good indication of when you can start regualrly feeding the bin. More below on feeding.

adding banana

banana and eggshells mixing it up

Next add your worms 🙂 Here, I’ve just taken a handfull of bedding and worms from one of my other bins. If you order worms online, a pound, or half a kilo, is plenty for this kind of bin setup. My worms are Dendrobaenas.

adding the worms

Once the worms have been added you’ll notice they’ll quickly dive just under the surface. This is because they don’t like light. You’re almost done. Just add an old pair of tights to the top, and the bin is finished 🙂
The tights on top allow the bin plenty of fresh air, and allow any gasses that might build up in the bedding to be released. It also stops the sides from getting moist, which can encourage the worms to go awandering and exploring. The tights also serve to stop any escapees (it’s not uncommon for worms when they’re settling into a new bed to go wandering about and for some to escape!) and they also help keep fruit flies out of the bin.
Come on – who knew an old pair of tights could have so many functions! 🙂

tights on top

And in true Blue Peter stylee, here’s one I prepared earlier 🙂

blue wormbin

The bin above has been working for a couple of weeks and already the leaves and food scraps are being turned into high quality vermicompost.

Some things to be aware of:

Worms need their home to be moist, dark, aerated and not too cold or hot. Dendros, from experience, I can tell you are happy with temperatures from anywhere between 4 degree C to 20 degree C. Remember when we talk about temperature, we’re talking about the temperature of their bedding, NOT the ambient temperature. When it was below zero here during the winter, one of my outdoor pits was holding a steady 12 degree C in the bedding and the worms were working away on the horse manure and food scraps.

Protect the bin from the elements – keep it somewhere like a shed or a sheltered area in the garden so it’s not exposed to direct sunlight or rain.

You can add holes to the bottom of the bin to aid drainage. I’ve never had to do this as I never let the bins get too wet. Worms can’t swim! So while they need their bedding moist at all times so they can move and breathe, if it gets too wet, they’ll drown 😦 Adding food scraps will add moisture, so if you notice your bin getting too wet, add more dry bedding – leaves, or shredded paper or cardbaord.
You’re aiming for the bedding to be the moistness of a wrung out sponge.

Feeding – only feed the bin when most of the previous food you’ve fed the worms is gone. You’ll read in the literature that worms can eat anywhere from half their weight, to their weight, in food per day. This means a pound of worms will eat a pound of food waste per day.
Yes, true. In ideal circumstances!
It’s best to simply monitor how fast your worms are processing the food scraps, and top up when most of it is gone. That way you will prevent problems with over feeding.

If you can, precompost the food they’re being fed, as they will process it much faster. By this I mean, have a small bin on the side for the scraps (make sure this is aerated to stop the contents going anerobic and smelling!) and feed the wormbin from there.
With potato skins, I freeze them for 24 hours, then let them thaw – this stops them sprouting. You can do this with all your scraps – just make sure they’re well thawed out before you feed them to the worms.
Freezing helps break down the cell structure and encourages the scraps to break down faster, making them more readily available to the worms to process.

With this type of bin, I would recommend burying the food a few inches down in the bedding and feed in different spots each time you feed. Only feed when most of the previous food has been eaten by the worms.

That’s pretty much it.

A cheap and cheerful worm bin that will cost you a fiver and take about two minutes to set up 🙂

Of course, you could use just about any container, like a large bucket, if you have one lying around so you don’t even need to spend a fiver 🙂

I’ll be writing more as this blog develops on the different types of worm bins I’ve set up for next to no cost, and please, be sure to share your ideas and experiences too.

Londonworms
(with thanks to my awesome daughter Sorcha for the super awesome pictures :))

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