GIY discovers how worms help Ummera

Posted on: 7th April, 2014

Category: Home & Garden

Contributor: West Cork People

by Justine Sweeney

Anthony Cresswell from Ummera Smoked Products in Timoleague was the guest speaker at the Grow It Yourself (GIY) meeting in February.

Nearly 40 years ago, Anthony’s father started smoking salmon, whilst Anthony was working in the wine business. Anthony started helping his father in 1984, eventually taking over the business in 1998. A new timber smoke house was built in 2000, smoking salmon, chicken, duck and bacon but the question arose as to how to dispose of waste in an eco-friendly way and this was the topic Anthony chose to discuss with GIY.

For fish heads and bones, Anthony looked into using worms to compost. Tiger worms  and Red Wiggler worms mature in 10 weeks, laying two to three cocoons a week, with two to five babies inside each. In five weeks they hatch, so within six to eight months you could have 1500 worms if conditions are right. Without the correct conditions worms stop breeding, so behind the smokehouse Anthony built a 32ft long by 4ft wide channel from a concrete base with a perforated land drain to let air in and a secure fitting plywood lid. This channel was filled with bedding for the worms made from paper, cardboard, wood, shavings saw dust and leaf mould. The waste is then added with a top layer of the same bedding.

It took the worms a while to get a taste for the fish bones. Worms can eat 250g per square foot per day, digesting microbes of decaying waste, with compost being all that is left. The waste gets quite hot after 10 to 12 days (up to 60 degrees celsius), which the worms don’t like, so they move down the channel. Bit by bit the waste is added and the worms keep moving along, leaving behind compost, which is used in the flower garden and on Anthony’s vegetable patch.

For his waste water, Anthony could have installed a holding tank, which the council would pump out and empty into the sea or a peat based unit but instead he chose a series of dug out ponds. Initially he had problems with the county council, as this method was so new they didn’t know much about it. All the washing and cleaning products used in the smoke house are organic so Anthony decided on a wet land system which he called “nature’s kidneys” – six ponds, each a foot deep. The first pond, which has no reeds is designed to allow aerobic conditions to develop in the wastewater.  Through the other five ponds, reeds absorb bacteria and purify the sewage. The end pond water is very clean – the Council test the water two to three times a year and it is cleaner than the Argideen River! An added benefit is that the ponds provide an ideal habitat for wildlife. A few years ago frog spawn was seen on December 27, the earliest reported sighting in the country.

For all his hard work Antony won a Sustainability Award in October 2013 during Cork rebel week. He recommends ‘Worms ate my garbage’ by Mary Applehol and for those interested in creating their own worm waste disposal system.

The next GIY meeting, which is free for all to attend, will be held in O’Donovans Hotel in Clonakilty on Monday, April 14 at 8pm. The guest speaker will be John Hosford from the Week-end Garden Centre answering all your gardening questions, so please bring your questions along on the night.


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