Setup: 4.5 / 5
Build Quality: 5 / 5
Looks: 5 / 5
Ease of use: 5 / 5
Over the years I have owned a number of wormeries that are all tray based systems, whereby you add waste to the top tray and, once full, add another on top until that is also full, at which point you add another. The idea is that the worms work upwards (as composting worms are generally surface eaters) so that by the time the third (top) tray is full then everything should be finished in the bottom tray and the now beautiful and finished vermicompost can be harvested and put to good use in your garden or greenhouse.
However, even though these tray systems produce amazing compost for little effort they do need some maintenance and come with their own set of challenges:
- Rain: when it rains (it does this a lot in the UK) water seeps through the layers into the sump. This is great to some extent as it makes for a fantastic liquid feed but it can soon fill up and drown the worms, especially during the colder months when the last thing you want to do is be going out in the cold and dark to drain off the liquid.
- Heat: Occasionally in the UK (obviously more often in some other parts of the world) we get hot sunny days, and the wormery can heat up making things uncomfortable for the worms and increasing the speed the waste starts to putrefy, which raises the pH and can can cause harm to the worms and even wipe out the whole bin if things get too far out of hand.
- Cold: In the winter months worms will slow down as the temperatures drop but they can also freeze if temperatures fall too far.
- Over-feeding: worms can chomp through a fair bit of waste but cannot perform miracles with a lot of food added all at once. This can cause similar issues to if the wormery gets too hot.
The online forums are full of people asking for advice for various issues around composting with worms and it is easy for experienced as well as new owners to get caught out and suffer mass worm death due to any of these, and other, issues (a distressing and very unpleasant smelling situation where you can lose every single worm in your bin).
But now there’s an easier way to use worms to compost your food scraps, the SubPod.
The SubPod is the new kid on the block and solves a lot of the above problems by being half buried where you actually need it, whether in a border or a corner of your vegetable patch.
Having holes below ground allows worms to escape the issues mentioned above if they do happen:
- Rain: the lid is solid so less rain gets in but the bin does have air holes in the side. Any excess moisture however will leave via the underground holes in the bin, so it should never get too wet and drown your worms.
- Heat: if the bin gets too hot on a particularly sunny day then the worms can escape via the underground holes and take refuge in the cooler soil (the advantage here is they will take bits of compost with them or at the very least excrete some as they go, thereby feeding and improving the soil around the SubPod without you needing to do a thing!
- Cold: if temperatures drop too far and the bin contents freeze then the worms can escape into the surrounding soil (as long as that doesn’t freeze too deep as well).
- Over-feeding: just as an increase in heat can make them move out of the bin so can too much waste causing the pH to rise. There’s no need to worry about losing your worms though as they will soon come back once conditions improve and the waste is fit to consume again. Plus, they will likely bring friends who won’t be able to resist such easy pickings (anybody who has found worms under garden pots or in their outside compost bins will know just how good worms are at finding an easy feed!).
Unpacking and Setting Up
I blogged about unpacking and setting up mine here https://blog.sherlock.co.uk/2021/05/unboxing-and-setting-up-subpod-wormery.html and was happy to find it quite straight-forward. The biggest shock is how much room it takes up in situ as that is prime veg growing room, but when you factor in how much healthier the surrounding soil will be it is more than worth it.
Other advantages are:
- Smell-free and pest-proof
- Composts up to 15kg of food waste a week
- Suitable for households of 1 - 6
- Dual compost chambers
- Effortless 5-minute-a-week maintenance
And finally, the packaging is cardboard and can be recycled, either shredded and used in the wormery or compost heaps/bins or via your household waste recycling. So basically, everything has been well thought out and as little goes to waste as possible.
Using the SubPod
It's an absolute doddle to look after - so easy in fact that you can forget you have it, especially when you have other more standard tray wormeries to look after.
I wrote another blog on how I was finding it after a few weeks, including a short video on it being “fed” - https://blog.sherlock.co.uk/2021/08/feeding-subpod-wormery.html
The idea is that once the first chamber is full you move over to the other so the worms go to the newer food, leaving the previous chamber able to be emptied.
Adding waste is very similar to how I add to a tray wormery, in that I add my kitchen scraps (paper based tea bags, tissues, toilet roll inners, vegetable and fruit peelings and, if only we drank it, coffee grounds) followed by a layer of shredded paper or torn up cardboard. Making sure your waste is completely covered lowers the risk of fruit flies getting in and multiplying because they cannot get to the waste to lay their eggs. The shredded paper and cardboard not only protects the waste from fruit flies but helps soak up moisture, gives the worms somewhere else a little more pH neutral and adds much needed carbon to your finished product.
Time will tell how easy, or necessary, emptying the SubPod will turn out to be but for now I LOVE it - It’s easy to use, looks great in your garden, is very low maintenance, stress free and the worms seem to work their way through what I’ve added very quickly.
And to top it all, SubPod themselves say you can use it as a garden seat! Unless you add indoor plant pots getting their summer outside like I have...