Wormery Review & Networking Project

This is an on-going review of our wormery, which we bought from Wormery.co.uk. It is a design created by Original Organics.

Why Have A Wormery?

  • There is no where in our garden where we can really keep a full size composting bin, so the wormery allows us to compost and recycle waste, generating compost for the garden.
  • The wormery generates liquid plant feed for our plants.
  • As an education for the whole family.

Construction

The first part of the construction process involves bolting the stand to the base. The moisture tray is then inserted and the tap fitted to hold these parts together. Liquid plant food collects in this tray and it is important that this tray does not get too full.

Base

This first 'working' tray is then lined with a sheet of newspaper. This blocks the holes to stop the worms dropping through into the moisture tray. The supplied coir bedding is then mixed with water and shredded paper to form the base layer for the worms.

Base

The worms (supplied in two bags of soil) are then added to the working tray. We then added some initial waste food for the worms to digest.

This is the complete set of parts supplied, including a guide on construction and care. There is a bag of 'worm treats' which are compressed paper to help absorb excess moisture.

All the parts

This constructed wormery. The unused trays (we have 3 in total) can be stored on top of the working tray.

Constructed wormery

The Networked Wormery

We have decided to network our wormery using wireless Z-Wave technology. More details on the design and installation will appear very soon.

Why Are We Doing This?

There are two things we would like to know about our wormery, before they become a problem:

  1. The fluid level in the moisture tray so that it doesn't get flooded.
  2. The temperature inside the wormery so that it doesn't get too hot or too cold.

Networking our wormery allows our smart home to collect this data and generate alerts if the moisture tray becomes full or the temperature exceeds the upper and lower limits set. Typically, these alerts result in an SMS being sent to one or more mobile phones.

All of the electronics will be hidden out of sight under the moisture tray, in the base of our wormery.

Z-Wave

We are using Z-Wave wireless networking technology because it means we can move our wormery around. During the summer months it sits outside our back door. During winter months (to avoid frost) it will be kept inside our garden shed. Both locations are within range of our Z-Wave mesh network.

Fibaro Universal Sensor
To provide the required functionality we are using the Fibaro Universal Sensor. This Z-Wave module provides two digital inputs and a 1-Wire network for up to four temperature sensors.

We have previously used one of these devices in a project to monitor our airing cupboard & hot water tank.

Another reason for using this device is that it is powered using 12V dc. This makes it very easy to use and interface to the other parts of this project. This device therefore allows us to enable new objects as part of our home automation system:

Temperature Sensors

We are using two temperature sensors. One measures the external air temperature (Wormery External Temperature) and the other measures the temperature in the middle of the active tray (Wormery Internal Temperature). Both sensors have been waterproofed and the tray sensor is mounted inside some aluminium tubing and on a flexible lead, so that it can be inserted into the centre of the working tray.

Vera Android app
The temperatures can be viewed remotely using an Android or iOS app.

Temperature probe
This is the temperature probe and it houses a Dallas DS1820 temperature sensor.

Moisture Tray Level

We have developed a generic 12V moisture sensor and we are using this again for this project. This measures the Wormery Moisture Tray level.

Sensor bolts
We have mounted two 5mm stainless-steel bolts through the sloping part of the moisture tray and these act as probes to detect when the moisture level is too high.

The IN1 and IN2 input on the Fibaro universal sensor have two states, open or grounded. Our moisture sensor circuit pulls the IN1 input pin to ground on activation and our HCS code handles the state change. This means the Z-Wave devices normal state is activate (open).

Power

All of the above components use very little power. We have a waterproof power connecter that supports both the use of an external power supply. Initially, we are using a 12V lead-acid battery with a 12V solar cell to trickle charge it during the day.

We already have a self-contained 12V power generation and storage capability in our shed and will use this over the winter months.

In Use

The supplied guide is clear on what to feed the worms and how best to do it. We have located our wormery in a place where it is never in direct sunlight, to ensure it doesn't get too hot.

Early Days

For the first few weeks, just add a small amount of food waste into one corner of the working tray. The worms rely on the food decomposing naturally before they become interested, so some mould is expected.

What To Feed Your Worms

The Tiger worms will eat any dead or decaying organic matter such as peelings, bread, cooked and uncooked scraps, tea bags, egg shells and kitchen paper towels. We are avoiding meat waste as this attracts flies but they can handle this too.

The odd handful of leaves, grass and other garden waste can be used too but, it is best to avoid woody garden waste. Fallen leaves that have been collected seem to be be loved by our worms.

Onions, leeks, and citrus fruit tend to be too acidic. Citrus fruit contains a chemical substance (limonene) that is toxic to worms.

Bread can attract mites. We made the mistake of putting some bread in and the whole wormery became covered in small mites. We won't be doing it again.

We use coffee filter papers but too much ground coffee can make the environment too acidic.

Egg shells are good as they reduce acidity. They are best broken into pieces first.

Large quantities of grass clippings will generate a lot of heat and this can be harmful to the worms. We have added grass clippings to a separate tray above the main tray in use to see how well they like it. We specifically added grass clippings as the winter months approached to provide a bit of warmth for the worms. If they find it too warm, they can stay in the lower tray.

Ongoing Care

The odd handful of the provided lime mix will help keep the acidity down.

In colder weather, keep the wormery out of the frost. We plan to store ours in our shed over winter. This has the advantage of a permanent 12V (solar powered) power supply for the networked elements.

Tips

  • The unused trays can be stored on top of the working tray.
  • One of the key things to safeguard is that ants can't get into the wormery.
  • Heavy rain can let quite a lot of water into the moisture tray, so you must check this regularly to ensure it doesn't get full. This is why we have networked our wormery and monitor the moisture level. The alternative is to put a cover over it.

Updates

7th August 2014

We have installed and set up our wormery. It is hard to resist the urge to add lots of food and other waste to see the worms in action but, we have resisted. So far we have only added a few dead leaves picked up from our lawn. Some of the worms have crawled up onto the lid and they leave tell-take 'trails' behind and small specks of dirt.

8th August 2014

trails.jpg
The 'trails' left by the worms in the lid suggest a few have escaped over night (through a small gap where the lid meets the tray) but, the majority seem happy exploring the material in the tray.

25th August 2014

The wormery seems to have settled down really well now and looks really healthy. The composting process has well and truly taken hold. As well as some rain water, there is liquid fertiliser appearing in the moisture tray.

We check the moisture tray regularly and often find some soil and a few worms have fallen down through the grating. The number of worms seems to have increased significantly and so has the size of the worms! The main stuff being added to the tray at this time of year is the leaves that have fallen as autumn approaches. These seem to go down particularly well with the worms.

3rd October 2014

The tray with grass cuttings in it was not a good idea. We had placed some of the worms that had dropped through into the moisture tray on top of the grass and all of them appear to have died. We are pretty sure it is too warm for them. We have removed all of the grass clippings.

12th October 2014

Pretty much every day, we are rescuing worms that have climbed down into the moisture tray. To try and prevent this we are going to see if a piece of fine plastic mesh will stop them. It has lots of small holes in it to let moisture through but they are too small for the worms.

Fine plastic mesh

Mesh installed
The mesh is cut to sit inside the tray and will be weighed down by the contents of the tray.

18th December 2014

It has been quite a mild winter so far but temperatures have reached -2°C outside. In our shed it has been much warmer though, partly because it runs along the side of our house and some heat leaks through the external wall into the shed. What has surprised us though is how consistent the temperature within the wormery remains. The lowest it has reached is 5°C and the volume of matter in the wormery acts as a buffer to large temperature swings. Typically it is about 2°C above the ambient temperature but changes happen very slowly.

7th April 2014

The wormery has been moved back outside.

Twitter

This is a widget showing what was recently tweeted by our smart home and this now includes our wormery:

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