Posts Tagged ‘gardening tips’

October Gardening Advice

October 1st, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Mr Fothergill's October Gardening Advice 2019

If you listen quietly to your pumpkin patch, you’ll hear the growing whispers of ripening pumpkins, eager to take centre stage on Halloween night. There’s a chill in the air. As nights draw in, and temperatures drop, we need to prepare our gardens and allotments for the cold months ahead. Whether it’s making warming soups from homegrown produce, or planting bulbs for the spring season ahead, this is a busy time. But it’s also a glorious time, as autumn’s palette is awash with rich golds, reds and oranges.

So, raise a cup of homemade soup, and celebrate the harvest season.

In the flower garden

Bedding

It’s fair to say that summer bedding plants have had their moment in the sun. Remove them from your pots, containers or borders and replace with polyanthus and pansies. Give them fresh multi-purpose compose and water in well. However, if you’re leaving your borders bare, then clear the area of weeds, cutback and remove any unwanted debris and mulch the area with a thick bedding of well-rotted manure, compost or bark chippings. This will not only suppress weeds, but add nutrients to your beds.

Hardy annuals

If you’re looking ahead to next spring, then now’s the time to sow hardy annuals. Cosmos, marigolds or cornflowers can either be sown directly into the soil or into seed trays with sieved seed compost. Place in water-filled tubs, and let the trays soak the water up, as watering overhead will disrupt the soil, and spoil the seed. Place carefully in a warmed greenhouse, and keep an eye on them throughout winter. You can also sow sweet peas in pots, and let them grow on in the greenhouse.

Tender plants Protect tender plants with fleece in the winter months

As temperatures begin to drop, you need to bring think about winter protection for your tender plants. Cannas are not made for colder weather, so find a spot in your greenhouse or shed, where it’s light and frost-free. Cut away dead flowers or leaves to help prevent rot. For further protection, wrap them in fleece. Check plants regularly.

Bulbs

Now’s the time to plant tulip, daffodil and crocus bulbs. Whether they’re going into pots, containers or the ground, the golden rule is plant them to the depth of three times their height. Ensure the soil is well drained, as sitting in water over winter will increase their chances of rotting, so consider adding grit for drainage.

If you’re planting in pots, you may want to think about using the ‘lasagne’ method. This is when you take different flower types and layer them one above the other. For example, first to flower would be snowdrops, so they would sit at the top of your ‘lasagne’. The next layer would be crocuses, and so on, until finally, tulips. It’s a great way to get the most from one pot or container, giving you continuous colour throughout the spring.

Dahlias

Unless you live in the south of the UK where winter temperatures are more forgiving, now’s the time to lift your dahlias as a harsh frost could put an end to any further blooms. Once lifted, foliage should be cut back to a few cms above the tuber, turned upside down and left to drain for a few days. Once dried, these can be placed somewhere cool, dark and frost free. Ideally, place them in paper, or straw, in a box, and check on them every so often to make sure they haven’t rotted.

Roses

Once your rambling and climbing roses have finished flowering, give them a prune. Then tie them in, to prevent any damage over the coming winter months. Remove all foliage from site, if your rose has had black spot, then it can fester in any foliage not collected, and re-appear next year.

Fallen leaves

A garden rake and a pile of fallen autumn leaves on a lawnAs the leaves begin to fall, it’s important you keep on top of them and rake them clear from your lawn. Any build-up can harbour pests, stop light getting to your lawn, and create a ‘browning off’ effect. It’s especially important to keep paths and patios leaf-free as with a layer of frost, it can be easy to slip and hurt yourself. If you’re not adding leaves to your compost heap, think about creating a wired pen. Leave them to rot down for six to twelve months and you’ll have free leaf mould which is great for mulching plants. If space is an issue, use bin liners which can be tucked away in small spaces. Make sure you create several small holes in the bags, however, or your leaves will quickly become a bag of badly-smelling slush.

Perennials

Leaving perennials untouched over winter not only adds structure to your garden, but it gives a well needed food supply to your garden wildlife. If you decide to cutback, then take it to the base of the plant. If they’re summer flowering perennials, consider dividing and re-planting, to increase next year’s summer blooms. Plant in well, water and give the plant a heavy mulch to protect it from the colder weather. Don’t cover the stems as this will cause the plant to rot.

On the veg patch

Pumpkins

Pumpkins and squashes should now be lifted. To ensure they last throughout the winter months, leave them in the sun for several days to harden their skins. After that, place somewhere cool.

Apples and Pears

This will be the final opportunity to harvest the last of your tree fruit, such as apples and pears. What isn’t going to be used straight away, can be stored. Ideally use slatted shelves or boxes, and place the fruit carefully on them. Check that each fruit is not bruised or damaged, and try not to let it rest on another fruit. Place in a frost-free, dark, but well-ventilated cool room. Check regularly, and remove any fruit that has spoiled.

Rhubarb

Now’s the time to lift and divide rhubarb crowns. Using a sharp spade, divide the crown, ensuring each section contains at least one growing point. Re-plant in well drained, fertile soil, ensuring each crown is well spaced.

Beans

With your bean plants spent, don’t be too keen to remove them from your bed. Instead, cut the plant to the base and remove the foliage. The roots produce nitrogen as they breakdown which will invigorate your bed for next season.

If you have a veg bed already ear-marked for next year’s beans, dig a trench. Over the coming months, layer it with kitchen waste or manure.

Garlic

A gloves hand planting garlic bulbs into some soilGarlic needs a good cold period to help develop its cloves. Don’t be tempted to use bulbs from a supermarket as they may harbour disease. Instead, buy them from a garden centre or online supplier.

In well-drained, fertile soil, place the individual cloves at 20cm apart, in rows 30cms apart. The cloves tips should be all you see of the garlic. You may want to cover over with either a fleece or netting, to stop birds from pulling them up.

Herbs

Herbs, such as basil, parsley and coriander are not frost hardy. Therefore, pot them up and bring them inside, keeping them on a well-lit windowsill.

Greenhouse

If you’re hoping to use your greenhouse over the colder months, but an electric heater is not an option, then consider insulating it with bubble wrap. As the days get colder, make sure doors and vents are kept closed and any damaged panels are quickly repaired.

Soil

If you’re leaving vegetable beds empty over winter, turn the soil. This will not only get air into the soil, but will expose hiding pests. You can also add a thick layer of well-rotted manure, or compost. Over winter, the worms and weather will help break it down, and integrate it into your bed.

Other Jobs

A selection of carved Halloween pumpkins on a table

  • If you’ve had houseplants outside, now’s the time to bring them back inside. Ideally, let them slowly acclimatise to the indoor heat, otherwise, the shock may damage them. Keep them away from direct heat sources, and place them in a draught free area which is cool but with good light.
  • Give nature a helping hand. Fill your bird feeders and hang fat balls. With cold days ahead, your garden birds will need all the help they can get.
  • If you have a pond, place a ball on the surface. This will keep the water moving, prevent ice forming and ensure any fish can still get oxygen.
  • As this is the month of Halloween, it’s time to carve your pumpkins! This is a great opportunity to get children involved with the allotment or growing patch. Not only will they have seen the pumpkin grow from seed, but they’ll get to harvest and enjoy it. Make sure you don’t waste the flesh; pumpkins make tasty autumn soups and risottos!

Growing Radishes from Sowing to Harvest

September 18th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Growing Radishes from Sowing to Harvest

What’s the most opportunistic crop you could possibly grow? For us it’s the humble, lowly radish – or rather the rousing, ravishing radish! Squeeze a sneaky row or two between larger vegetables. Sow them around crops that are about to finish. Grow them in pots, or squeeze in an extravagantly early or late harvest of these peppery roots. They’re super fast, super flexible – oh, and super yummy! So let’s crack on and sow some! Read on or watch the video to find out how.

Where to Grow Radishes

Because of their size and speed, radishes may be grown just about anywhere. Ready to enjoy in as little as four weeks and taking up minimal space, perhaps their best use is as a fill-in crop, either between or within rows of slow-to-germinate vegetables such as parsnip, or as a quick in-and-out crop right at the start or end of the growing season.

Radishes prefer full sun but grow well in part shade too and in hot climates will prefer full shade in the height of summer. Keep the soil moist and you’ll be rewarded with clusters of mildly peppery roots in next to no time.

Sowing Early Season Radishes

Seeds sown into a plug tray with modules filled with potting mixBegin sowing under cover from late winter, either direct into containers of potting soil or into greenhouse borders, or into plug trays of general purpose potting mix.

Fill plug trays with potting mix, firm down then sow a pinch of three to five seeds per module. Cover with a little more of the potting mix then water. If it’s especially cold, you’ll need to germinate them indoors then move them back into a greenhouse or cold frame as soon as the seedlings appear. After a couple of weeks of sheltered growth, and once the seedlings have filled out their modules, they’ll be ready to plant out under row covers or hoop houses.

Plant into soil earlier enriched with well-rotted compost or manure and raked to a fine tilth. Remove the clusters of seedlings from their modules then make a hole for each plug. Drop in the plug and firm it into position so each cluster is about 6in or 15cm apart in both directions. Cover the seedlings with row cover or horticultural fleece, secured at the edges, until the weather warms up.

Sowing Radishes Direct

Of course, sowing radishes directly where they are to grow is the easiest way to start them off. As cool-season crops, some radishes can germinate at temperatures as low as 41 Fahrenheit or 5 degrees Celsius. Sow from very early spring, initially under row covers or hoop houses, spacing rows about 8in or 20cm apart. Sow thinly along the row – ideally so seeds end up spaced around half an inch or one centimeter apart. Water if it’s dry then, about a week after germination, thin the seedlings to leave them an inch or 2cm apart within the row.

Sow a row or two every couple of weeks during the growing season to maintain a steady supply of roots, fitting them in wherever there’s space.

Grow Some Radishes for Winter

Close up of leafy white daikon mooli radishes in the groundMany hardy radishes can be sown towards the end of summer to give an autumn or early winter harvest of roots. Sowing regular red, round or white-tipped radishes into containers is a great way to extend the season – by simply bringing pots under cover when the weather turns cold.

Another option is to grow bigger winter or Asian varieties of radish, which naturally prefer cooler temperatures. Most popular is the daikon or Japanese mooli radish. Look out for Chinese and Korean varieties too – all with a mild flavour ideal for salads but also great in soups and stews. Then there’s the stunning watermelon radish, or the chunky, spicy Spanish Black radish whose peppery tang holds up well in stir-fries.

Winter radishes are leafier than their summer cousins. The spicy leaves may be used like spinach, wilted into hot dishes or even whizzed up in a pesto.

Sow winter radishes a little further apart, so rows are at least a foot or 30cm distant, then thin the seedlings to leave at least a couple of inches or 5cm between each plant.

Caring for Radishes

Keep on top of weeds because radishes don’t like competition. Thinning seedlings and harvesting the first A close up of two flea beetles on a leafroots are good opportunities to hoik out weeds at the same time. And make sure to water thoroughly once or twice a week in dry weather to stop the roots from becoming woody and unbearably peppery.

Radishes may attract flea beetles from spring to midsummer. You’ll probably not see the flea beetles themselves but you’ll know they are there by the numerous tiny holes pitted into the leaves. Avoid this damage by covering radishes with row covers or fine insect mesh, or by simply delay sowing till the second half of summer.

How to Harvest Radishes

Harvest roots as soon as they have reached their final size. Don’t delay, as they can go from crisp and crunchy to woody and excessively spicy within a matter or days. Lift the biggest roots each time you harvest, so the remainder can continue to swell.

Winter radishes take up to ten weeks to mature but once ready can be left where they are to lift as needed, so long as the ground doesn’t freeze solid. Or lift them, cut off the foliage then store in the refrigerator, where they should keep for up to a month.

If you’re looking for something both trouble-free and a genuine pleasure to grow, radishes should be right up your street. Root out your radish anecdotes – how do you fit them into your garden? Have you tried growing winter radishes? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page, we’d love to know.

September Gardening Advice

September 2nd, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Mr Fothergill's September Gardening Advice

There’s no doubt about it, September is summer’s swan song. Despite the pleasant temperatures, the days are getting shorter, bringing with them cooler, longer nights.

From rich, burnt oranges to fiery reds, September’s flowerbeds are full of vibrant blooms. Whilst on allotments, gardeners are enjoying bountiful harvests of beans, carrots and potatoes. And if you look beyond the foliage, Halloween pumpkins are making their growing presence felt, ready to take their turn in the spotlight.

So, whilst the sun is here, take the time to get outside and enjoy it. Because in a month’s time, as you dig out those heavy jumpers, the warm embrace of summer will be but a distant memory.

In the Flower Garden

Perennials

If perennials are past their best, dig them up, divide and re-plant. Not only are you invigorating the clump, but you’ll get more flowers next season. Ensure these plants are watered-in and mulched. For plants, such as dahlias, continue to deadhead and tie-in.

A close up focusing on some white and light pink fuschia flowers with green leavesAnother way to increase plant stock is to take cuttings. Tender perennials, such as penstemons, salvias and fuchsias are ideal for this. Once potted up, they’ll quickly establish a healthy root system. Ensure they’re placed in a sunny, frost-free protected area. Overwatering, or keeping them somewhere damp may lead to dampening off, so check on your cuttings regularly.

Of course, you can buy new perennials and plant them. As the ground’s still warm, they’ll have time to establish themselves before temperatures drop. Then, with the arrival of spring, they’ll emerge healthy and ready to grow.

Borders

Although summer is still hanging on, it’s time to look ahead to next spring. Give your borders a refresh and clear away fading summer bedding. If you’re not planting autumn flowers, such as chrysanthemums, clear weeds, add compost, and think about what to plant for the following spring. Biennial varieties such as wallflowers, foxgloves, as well as polyanthus, pansies and sweet williams can be planted.

Bulbs

Although it’s still too early to plant tulip and allium bulbs, amaryllis and hyacinth bulbs can be planted. By forcing their growth, you could be enjoying their colourful, scented blooms throughout the festive season.

If you’re thinking ahead to spring, daffodil, crocuses, bluebells and lily bulbs can be planted. Plant them straight into the ground, at a depth of three times their height, or pot them up in containers.

Hanging baskets

To keep your hanging baskets looking at their best for as long as possible, ensure you feed and water regularly. Deadheading is also essential. But there will come a time when plants will have given their all, so think about what to replace. Whether it’s polyanthus or pansies, bring colour to your autumn, by freshening the soil and re-potting your hanging baskets.

Pots

Two homemade 'pot feet' in the shapes of bears holding up a terracotta plant pot, raising it off the ground to help it drain waterIf you have pots that sit outside, it’s time to raise them off the ground. Using bricks or ‘pot feet’ protects your plants by keeping them off the ground to allow the rain to drain off easily. This will also help prevent winter frosts from cracking your pots.

You may want to plant up your pots for the autumn season. Consider heather, cyclemen and trailing ivy. Place them where they can be seen, as you’ll want to see as much life as possible in your garden over the wintry months.

Greenhouse

With greenhouse plants spent, now’s the time to give it a thorough clean. This also applies to your permanent cold frames. Dispose of old plants, and remove all pots and containers as they can be protecting pests. Ensure all glass is cleaned with warm soapy water. Also, clean the greenhouse floor, as potential pests and diseases could still be lurking. If you’re planning to grow anything in the next few months, then your greenhouse will need as much light and warmth as possible. Pack away any shading you put up during the summer months. Carry out any maintenance needed, clean leaves from guttering (including downpipes and water butts), and test greenhouse heaters.

Sowing

Seeds such as sweet peas, centaurea and poppies can now be sown into trays or modules. Don’t let them dry-out, and as temperatures start to drop, ensure preparations are made to see them through the colder months.

Lawn

After a dry summer, and constant use, lawns will now need your attention. Over the coming weeks, grass slows its growth, so you’ll be mowing less frequently. Re-lay any bare patches with new turf, or re-sow seeds directly into the soil. Scarify, aerate and apply a dressing to the lawn. Keep edging in check, and remove any fallen foliage, as this can encourage thatching.

On the Veg Patch

Harvest

A close up of two pumkpins ready to be harvested on an allotment patchSquashes and pumpkins will be plumping and colouring. Once their vines are cracked and withered, you can harvest them. Leave them somewhere dry and bright for a few days so their skins can harden off. Stored correctly, these could last well into next spring.

Lift any remaining onions now before the weather turns for the worse. Once lifted, shake off any loose soil and leave them to dry for a week or two. Either somewhere dry and bright outside, or in a greenhouse. These then can be hung and stored to use when you’re ready.

Fruit

Apples and pears are ready to be picked. If you’re planning to store them, ensure none are spoilt and place apart on dry sand in a paper-lined box.  Store them somewhere, dark and cool, and check every so often to make sure none have spoilt.

Autumn raspberries, on the other-hand, will keep producing right up until the first frost, but the key is to keep picking.

If you’re hoping to grow more strawberries next year, then now’s the time to plant. Whether they’re newly bought plants, or runners from your own plants, get them in the ground. With the ground still warm, and the temperatures mild, this will give them enough time to get established.

Winter vegetables

This month consider planting over-wintering onion sets. Spinach, pak choi and radishes can be directly sown into the ground. Keep a cloche close, as night temperatures will be on the decline.

Tomatoes

By now, your tomato plants will have done their job. With all tomatoes picked, remove and dispose of the spent plants. Place any remaining green tomatoes in a paper-lined shoebox with a ripened banana, and keep somewhere warm. Check regularly, and once reddened, remove. Failing that, green tomatoes make excellent chutney.

Once you’ve cleaned your greenhouse, consider sowing a crop of hardy lettuce or spinach for the colder months.

Green manure growing in a bedGreen manure

If you’re not planning to grow anything over winter, then consider growing green manure in your empty beds. Not only will this help suppress weeds, it can help break up heavy soil. Come March, cut it up and dig into the soil, as this will provide many of the soil’s required nutrients.

Pests

Keep vigilant this month, your harvest-ready vegetables and ripening fruit will be a calling card for various pests. One culprit is the wasp. It won’t take him long to damage and spoil your crop. Hang wasp traps in your trees and bushes.

However, as wasps are also beneficial for your garden (they eat aphids, caterpillars and other pests as well as being good pollinators), you may want to consider a more humane way to deter them. One option is to cover your crops with fine netting or mesh.

Other jobs

Bring in any indoor plants you rested outside over the summer months.

Net ponds to prevent autumn leaves and debris clogging them up.

Reduce the frequency of watering your houseplants.

If you haven’t done so already, order your allium and tulip bulbs for next spring.

While flowers such as dahlias are still blooming, take cut flowers for the home.

Growing Salad Onions from Sowing to Harvest

August 29th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Growing Salad Onions from Sowing to Harvest

They’re fresh, fast and fabulous in salads, stir-fries, quiches and savoury tarts. We’re talking about salad onions, also known as scallions, spring onions or green onions. Whatever you call them, they’re great for fitting in wherever there’s space and will give you a harvest of peppery stems in as little as eight weeks.

Salad onions are also one of those crops that can be sown in late summer to give one of the earliest harvests next spring. So let’s get on and grow some! Read on or watch the video to find out how.

Where to Grow Salad Onions

Like their bulb-forming cousins, salad onions prefer a sunny, open site and fertile, well-drained soil. For best results, grow them in soil that’s been improved with regular additions of well-rotted organic matter such as compost.

A close up of spring onions growing in a container on a windowsillThese tall, thin plants don’t take up much space, so they’re ideal for containers, or be opportunistic and grow them between rows of slower growing vegetables such as parsnips until they need the extra space. Another option is to grow them with carrots, where they may help to reduce problems with carrot fly.

When to Sow Salad Onions

Start sowing under cover from late winter, then continue outside from spring. Sow short rows every three to four weeks to give a steady supply of stems. Your last sowings, made at the very end of summer using a winter hardy variety, will be ready to harvest early next season.

How to Sow Salad Onions

Sow seeds directly where they are to grow or into containers of potting soil to transplant later on.

Direct sow seeds into finely-raked soil. Mark out a drill about half an inch (1cm) deep. Use a string line if you prefer neat, straight rows. Additional rows should be spaced about 4in (10cm) apart. If it’s hot and dry, water along the rows before sowing. This creates a cooler environment around the seeds, helping them to germinate.

Sow the seeds thinly along the rows then pinch the drill closed to cover the seeds. Alternatively, backfill the rows with potting soil. This is useful if your soil isn’t as fine and crumbly as you’d like at sowing time, and also helps rows to stand out clearly from the surrounding soil for the purposes of weeding. Once you’re done, label the rows and water thoroughly.

Sowing into containers helps to make the best use of your available space because you can start seedlings off while the ground is still occupied by a growing crop. By starting plants off under the protection of a greenhouse, tunnel or cold frame you’ll be able to start sowing up to six weeks sooner at the beginning of the growing season.

The easiest method is to use plug trays. Fill your plug trays with a general-purpose potting mix then firm the mix down into the modules with your fingertips. Sow a pinch of four to eight seeds per module then cover them with more potting mix. Water and keep the potting soil moist as the seedlings appear and grow on.

Planting Salad Onions

Transplant the clusters of seedlings as soon as they have filled their modules and you can see roots at the drainage holes. Carefully ease the plugs from the tray then plant them into prepared soil so each cluster is 2-4in (5-10cm) apart within the row, with rows spaced at least 4in (10cm) apart. Water the young plants to settle the soil around the rootball.

Caring for Salad Onions

A bunch of spring onions laid down on a wooden ledge, freshly harvested from an allotmentDirect sown salad onions shouldn’t need much thinning but if there are any overly thick clusters of seedlings, remove some of the excess to leave about half an inch (1cm) between plants.

Remove weeds as they appear to prevent them from overwhelming your plants. Salad onions are shallow-rooting, so water in dry weather to speed growth and minimise the risk of plants bolting, or flowering prematurely.

Salad onions are rarely bothered by pests but birds can sometimes peck at the emerging seedlings, particularly early on in the season. Cover sown areas and seedlings with row covers if this proves to be a problem.

How to Harvest Salad Onions

Salad onions are typically ready to enjoy 10 to 12 weeks after sowing, though at the height of the growing season it can be as soon as 8 weeks. Harvest the largest plants first so that those left can continue to grow. This way you can extend and maximise your harvest.

Store your salad onions in the refrigerator or slice them up to pack into freezer bags or containers to add to recipes whenever you need a boost of fresh flavour.

Salad onions are reliable, versatile and downright delicious – we wouldn’t be without them, that’s for sure! What about you? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Worm Composting: How to Make a Wormery

August 28th, 2019 | News | 1 Comment

Worm Composting: How to Make a Wormery

Wonderful, wondrous wiggling worms – they’re just magnificent, and the starting point to healthy soil and awesome compost. A healthy compost heap is full of them, but there is another way to turn kitchen scraps and weeds into nutrient-dense goodness: by using a wormery.

Intrigued? Then read on or watch the video. We’ll show you why worm composting rocks, as well as how to make a budget-friendly wormery of your own.

What is a Wormery?

Wormeries, or worm composters, use special composting worms to turn kitchen waste into nutrient-dense compost and liquid fertiliser. They don’t smell, take up very little space, and are a great way to introduce children to the wonders of worms. Use one as a standalone composting solution for courtyard or balcony gardens, or as a complement to a traditional compost heap or bin.

How a Wormery Works

A wormery is typically made up of at least two compartments. The bottom compartment collects the liquid, which can be drained off to use as liquid feed for your plants. The top compartment is where the worms live and where you’ll put your kitchen scraps to feed them. This is also where your compost, or worm castings, will be made. A close up of a worm amongst compost and kitchen scraps in a homemade wormeryA lid keeps everything from drying out or becoming flooded by rain showers.

Two compartments will work, but using a third compartment makes it easier to collect the worm compost.

Holes in the bottom of both the middle and top trays ensure that the liquid produced by the worms can percolate down into the collection tray at the bottom. Once a tray is full, the holes enable worms to migrate up into a new tray, so that compost from the vacated tray can then be harvested.

Making a Wormery

Choose trays or boxes to make your wormery with. We’re using plastic boxes about 16 x 20 inches (40 x 50 cm) and fairly shallow at just 8 inches (20cm) deep. You’ll also need a simple plastic faucet or water barrel tap, a drill and drill bits, and a lid for the top tray.

You’ll also need some worms of course, bur don’t be tempted to use earthworms from the garden – they’re great for tunnelling and improving your soil, but not so quick at composting. You can order composting worms online. We’re using a lively mix of European nightcrawlers and tigerworms capable of eating twice their bodyweight a day!

So, let’s assemble the wormery! First, the bottom tray:

  • Carefully cut out or drill a hole to snugly fit the thread of the faucet. Fit it as low as possible in the tray so that liquid isn’t left at the bottom when you drain it off. Screw it tightly into position then secure with the back nut. You can raise the wormery up on bricks to make it easier to drain off the liquid into a container.

Then, the top trays:

  • Drill 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) holes approximately every 2 inches (5cm), right across the bottom of your top tray(s).
  • Drill a single row of holes near the top of the top tray(s) at the same size and spacing. These holes will help to improve airflow, creating a healthier environment for your worms.

Now’s the fun part – time to add your worms!A close up of brandling or compost worms in soil

  • Start with a 3 inch (8cm) layer of bedding material. You can use good quality compost or coir fibre, dampened a little to make it nice and comfortable for your worms. They’ll soon bury themselves into that lovely bedding and get settled in.
  • Once you’ve added your worms, add a layer of kitchen scraps – no more than a couple of inches (5cm) to start with as you don’t want to overwhelm them.
  • Finally, you can also add a layer of burlap or hessian to keep them extra snug.
  • Wait a week before adding any more food to give the worms time to settle into their new home.

Siting the Wormery

Worms like moist, warm conditions, so keep your wormery somewhere shady and as close to room temperature as you can. They don’t like to be frozen, so move the wormery indoors for winter – into a garage, outbuilding or utility room is ideal.

Feeding the Worms

Add food a little at a time to the top of the compost. Avoid adding too much food at any one time, as this risks creating an odour that will attract flies.

The worms will digest any vegetable kitchen scraps, including coffee grounds, that you’d normally add to compost, but avoid meat or animal products such as cheese The inside of a homemade wormery full of kitchen scrapswhich can attract flies. Go easy on citrus peel and alliums like onion and garlic too, as large amounts will make conditions too acidic for your worms. You can also add small amounts of weeds and leaves, as well as shredded, non-glossy newspaper or torn-up cardboard.

Once the top tray’s full, swap it round with the empty middle tray and start filling that instead. The worms will migrate up through the holes to where the food is, leaving the full tray empty of worms and ready for collection. Repeat this process each time the active tray becomes full up.

Using Worm Compost and Worm Wee

The worm compost, or castings, make a great all-purpose soil conditioner, or add them to your own potting mixes to give them a nutritional boost.

Drain the liquid off from the bottom tray whenever it collects. This nutritional liquid, often known as worm tea or worm wee, is a super elixir for your plants. Stir one part of the liquid into ten parts water before using.

And there you have it – a superb, home-made wormery that will keep you in wonderful worm castings and lovely liquid. If you already have a wormery, tell us about it! What do you do with all that goodness and how have your worms benefitted your gardening? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.