When the people at Wiggly Wigglers offered to send me a new model of wormery to try out, I couldn't resist giving it a try: I've become a bit of a wormery enthusiast - it's an excellent way to deal with kitchen waste, and my daughter loves looking at the worms. Up until now, the Can'O'Worms was my wormery of choice: superior to all-in-one models in that the "tray" system made for easy harvesting of worm compost. I've had my Can'O'Worms for a year and a half and haven't had many complaints, but it does have a few shortcomings, which I have already written about: the legs can get a bit unstable when it's really full, the ventilation holes on the lid also let in a lot of rainwater if it's left outside, and I also had a problem with the drainage tap (although I understand this was a faulty batch of taps).
Anyway, I've been using the Worm Cafe for a couple of weeks now, and so far the best thing about it is its shape: while the C'O'W is round (and therefore awkward to fit in the corner of sheds, taking up more room than it should) the Worm Cafe is rectangular. That means it's more stable and takes up less space. The other huge bonus is the hinged lid - also made possible by the rectangular shape. With the C'O'W I am always juggling with the lid in one hand and a crock of kitchen waste in the other: "feeding" the Worm Cafe is far easier, the lid can be lifted at either end, and then it's held in place by hinge while you check on the worms or give them a feed.
There's one other big advance: the ventilation holes on the Worm Cafe are on the side and not in the lid, so you can leave it outside without the contents becoming soaked by the rain. In the winter the worms will stop eating if it gets too cold, so it's advisable to cut down on the amount of food waste you're adding (trench composting will handle any excess) and either move it to a shed or garage, or wrap around an old woollen blanket as insulation, making sure not to block the ventilation holes.
Any downsides? Not so far (I'll let you know if that changes), but my main quibble with the Worm Cafe and most other wormeries come to that is the price: most companies, Wiggly Wigglers included, sell them for between £80 and £100 for a kit including worms, bedding etc, which is big outlay for a "non-essential" item for lot of families* (although there's a special offer to save £10 on Worm Cafes at Wiggly Wigglers right now). I am still not sure why wormeries are so expensive - perhaps it's the fact that they're not sold in high volumes so the margins aren't that great - or perhaps the plastic box is expensive to manufacture. With a little bit of ingenuity and time, though, you can build one yourself from some cheap plastic boxes and just buy in the worms and bedding. There are some decent instructions on WikiHow.
While we're on the subject of wormeries, I got a great tip from Kathy Roach regarding the problem of ants in the wormery which I've blogged about before: a sprinkling of cinnamon apparently drives the ants awat, according to this post of the Wiggly Wigglers blog (which also identifies some of the other things you might find in your wormery).
*On a related theme, I just noticed that Recycle Now is no longer offering subsidised compost bins in England. It's a shame, but their argument, I think, is they've reached most people they were going to reach, and cheap bins are widely available now, so they're focusing on giving advice. Hmm... not so sure that's true, but what do you think?