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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Georgina Lawton

You be the judge: should my partner get rid of our lockdown wormery?

Wormery on the balcony

The prosecution: Leandra

I like nature, just not in my living room. The worms get everywhere – and the food scraps stink

During lockdown, my partner Cindy and I were stuck at home, bored like everyone else, so started developing new hobbies. Cindy thought it would be fun to get a wormery and keep it on the balcony of our flat.

Our council doesn’t take food waste, so it was going to be a good way to be more eco-friendly, passing our food scraps on to the worms. We had grand ideas of transforming the balcony, filling it with amazing plants and flowers. That didn’t happen, but we still have a large wormery, which has become a pain.

When the worms arrived, a couple escaped from the bag. I came home once, saw them on the floor, and said, “What the hell is this?” I like nature, but not in my living room. When we go away, I have this anxiety they might escape again. I’m also worried about them falling through cracks in our balcony.

The leftover food is also an issue. We keep it in boxes and it quickly turns rotten and mouldy. I convinced Cindy to keep the box on the balcony, so it wouldn’t stink indoors, but she’d find excuses not to take it out. If it was raining, she wouldn’t want to. Then she suggested putting our scraps through the blender – she said mixing the eggshells and vegetables together would actually be better for the worms. Cindy never even uses the blender to cook for herself, so I said no.

This summer lots of the worms died as it was so hot. Cindy was sad. I didn’t rejoice as they are living creatures, but did say: “Maybe the wormery isn’t a good idea?” I suggested contacting schools, parks and the council to see if they’d take it. Cindy hasn’t contacted anyone yet.

We spent the first year of lockdown growing things. Since then it’s been a question of: “Shall we do the balcony or go out with friends?” We’ve picked the latter. When I suggest moving the wormery, Cindy makes a really sad face and it breaks my heart. But if we keep the wormery, we should improve the whole balcony like we planned, as right now it’s the same old – only with a messy box of worms on it.

The defence: Cindy

The wormery is an eco-friendly slice of nature. And it doesn’t stink – it smells of the woods

The wormery is great. I love it. You put food waste in there and the worms help break it down. Yes, it’s a bit disgusting: it’s not what most people dream about, but it’s a slice of nature on your balcony. And it’s good for the environment.

We have always kept our food waste in plastic boxes. The food has to be quite rotten for the worms to eat, as they don’t have teeth, so when we kept the boxes inside, I’d wait for the food to become really mouldy before putting it in the wormery. In the summer, as we had the windows open, flies came in. So I started to put the food straight outside. I agreed to that change, but I don’t like to go on to the balcony when it rains. I do try to hide the mess so Leandra doesn’t get annoyed.

The worms have only broken free once, so it isn’t a huge deal, but I can’t guarantee that it won’t happen again. One time Leandra got annoyed as she was repotting a plant on the balcony and found some worms in the soil, but they are good for the plants.

Worms eat the leftover food, then poop it out as a free source of high-quality plant nutrients. The wormery doesn’t stink; it smells like the woods. I like the scent.

I notice when the worms are reproducing, and I like watching how they act together to break down the food. I look at the fluctuation in their activities, how they behave in different temperatures. I was very sad when loads of them died in the heatwave this summer. The colony almost became extinct.

I’ve already inspired one colleague to get a wormery. He gave me the idea for blending the scraps. It would increase the output of the colony if Leandra would let me do that, but I understand why she said no.

I think we both need to make an effort if we want a nicer balcony, but the wormery has made it better. Leandra would really like to get rid of it, but you never know when the next lockdown will be, so I think it’s important to keep it.

The jury of Guardian readers

Should the wormery stay or go?

Maintaining a messy hobby just in case there’s another lockdown is pretty unreasonable. Though it sounds like the rotting food is more of an issue than the worms themselves, and Cindy seems to be very nonchalant about that.
Laura, 30

The wormery is a nice idea in principle but it’s not really working on the balcony of their flat post-lockdown. It seems like it’s hard work – which Cindy is not wholly committed to.
Chris, 68

The wormery is Cindy’s hobby, and it seems it’s only a mild inconvenience to Leandra. The issue could be solved by getting a sealed outdoor compost bin for the food scraps. I think by working together to improve their balcony, and making the wormery a fun feature, they could both be happy.
Zoe, 35

Cindy is guilty of instigating the wormery and then failing to take responsibility for its conservancy. Nonetheless, with regard to Leandra’s anxiety about further escape attempts, worms are not known for their agility or ingenuity. It should be a fairly simple task to contain them.
Jon, 55

I think the wormery was a lockdown hobby that has outstayed its welcome. While I love the creativity of the idea, something as disruptive as this needs passion from both parties to sustain it. It sounds like it’s making Leandra anxious and resentful, and may have a negative impact on their relationship.
Rushda, 36

Now you be the judge

In our online poll below, tell us: should the wormery stay or go?

The poll closes on Thursday 3 November at 10 am GMT

Last week’s result

We asked if Niamh should listen to her friend Martha and make more of an effort to keep in touch.

19% of you said yes – Niamh is guilty
81% of you said no – Niamh is not guilty

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