Finally, finally, peat is to be banned for use by gardeners in Scotland this year. This should have happened years ago and, shamefully, commercial growers can still use it. But we are where we are and most of the compost we buy is now fortunately peat-free.

Commercial compost always runs out of nutrient within 2-3 months and this applies equally to peat-free brands. Quality does vary but whether or not you’ve been unlucky and bought a duffer, as I sometimes have, it’s always safest to add some slow-release nutrient-rich material like wormcast to the mix. So if you don’t have a wormery, start one now.

Setting up a new wormery is easy. You’ll be supplied with a 500gm pack of red-striped brandling or tiger worms, Eisenia foetida, and the larger European night crawlers, Drobaena venata. These surface dwellers naturally process fallen leaves and decaying vegetation. So, unlike the usual earthworms, brandlings happily consume our raw fruit and veg scraps.

The Herald: A wormeryA wormery (Image: free)

Worms are hermaphrodites, with both male and female organs, and after mating they all produce egg capsules every 7-10 days. Between 2 and 4 baby worms hatch out after 2-3 weeks and reach maturity after 3 months. They’re tiny versions of their parents, not the small white nematode worms you often see in wormeries.

The worm population will gradually increase and as the population grows, you can, and should, increase the food available. It is as important not to overfeed as to underfeed them so be sure not to let a large pile of food build up as it could become smelly.

Choose a cool spot away from direct sunlight for a wormery as worms will overheat at temperatures above 20C. They go dormant when it’s colder than 10C. So if you want to keep them working provide a comfortable 15-20C. And never let them rest even if it means using the spare room in winter!

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Worms eat almost anything, but they prefer alkaline scraps such as banana skins, tattle and carrot peelings and any outer green leaves. Don’t add acidic orange and lemon peel to the menu and avoid onion skins and leeks.

Without teeth, gums and tongues, worms suck the edges of decaying waste, so chopped scraps are best. The population will gradually increase when you provide a goodly supply of waste for them.

Voracious worms quickly consume the spanking new duvet supplied with the unit, but damp newspaper or cardboard makes a welcome replacement. That too disappears and needs replacing periodically.

Good, usable wormcast should become available after 6-9 months. It is rich in nutrients so treat more like a fertiliser than a compost. As with all home-produced compost, you can never have enough of it.

The Herald: SnowdropSnowdrop (Image: free)

Plant of the week

Snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, are starting to cheer us with their delicate white flowers poking up through grass and leaf litter. The contrast between their fragile appearance and their hardiness that makes them so appealing.

They naturally flower over a long period and growing different varieties can extend the season even further, letting us look forward to weeks of the pleasure they give us.