Let’s talk about worm towers in the garden. I love them. Currently, I have only a couple in my garden, but I’m planning on adding a whole lot more.
Worm towers are another wonderful and beneficial element in any garden bed because they increase the fertility of plants, improve the soil and are a fantastic way of processing (aka getting rid of) food scraps.
The benefits of having a worm tower in the garden bed.
A worm tower is a small-scale, in-situ worm farm that allows worms to work their magic right where it is needed most – the soil in your garden! Of course, when I say magic I mean worm poop! The tower consists of a vertical pipe with holes drilled in it and buried half-way in the soil. Just like in a common worm farm, I feed the worms in the tower regularly with food scraps, leaf litter or weeds. In return, the worms munch on it and convert the organic matter into rich worm castings and juice. This juice seeps out of the holes into the surrounding soil where it increases soil moisture, microbial activity and fertility. Worm towers are very low maintenance, they require little effort but once they are in place, they are very effective and bring lots of goodness to the soil and veggies.
The worms can venture out into the soil but will generally stay put and where their food source is. Compost worms are not like earthworms, they won’t compete for food but both will bring their individual benefits to the soil.
Because the pipe is half-way buried in the soil, the temperature inside the tower should be stable and the worms will keep cool because they don’t like direct sunlight and heat.
Worm tower maintenance
As I mentioned before, worm towers are very low maintenance. I check mine every week or so and add more food scraps as needed. I could check less frequently, but I’m genuinely interested in how the worms are doing. Lol, what’s wrong with me?
I haven’t cleaned out my worm towers yet but I will do that soon to harvest the fertile worm castings and use them on the garden bed.
Over time and with regular feeding, the worms will be breeding and you will end up with a whole lot more worms. Share them with friends or add them in new worm towers.
Worm towers are inexpensive and easy to make.
It’s really easy to make a worm tower and the best thing is that you don’t have to buy new materials. I found all the materials at my local junk yard for a few dollars. Currently, I have two in-situ worm towers in two garden beds. One is an actual tower that I built from an old pipe and the other one is a worm bucket. They both follow the same principle and building methods are the same. The only difference is that the bucket is almost fully buried in the garden bed.
I’m planning on building more worm towers for the remaining garden beds. For the new towers, I will use the pipes from the old biogas digester.
So what materials do you need?
Worm towers can come in different shapes and sizes. The most common building materials are pipes, buckets or big boxes (I haven’t tried the boxes yet.)
- Long plastic pipe with a largish diameter, around 150mm and more or an old bucket (20L) ideally with lid or something else to close it.
- Something to cover the end of the pipe. I use old plastic pots.
- A drill to make holes in the pipe/bucket
- A saw to cut the pipe to lengths
- Compost worms
- Carbon material like straw, hay, as well as mulch and newspaper. Newspaper is optional. I haven’t used for my worm tower but I used newspaper when I built my worm farm.
There are no stiff rules for building a worm tower, just a few guidelines to keep in mind for the best outcome.
- Determine the depth of your pipe. The pipe should be half-submerged with about 200mm sticking out of the bed. In my case, I buried the pipe about 300mm deep and about the same length sticks out. So my pipe is about 600mm long. However, a shorter pipe works too and some people prefer to show less pipe on the surface. This way, the worm tower is quite disguised amongst the veggies and flowers.
- Wash the pipe thoroughly, cut to length and drill holes in the part that will be underground. I used a 5mm drill bit and drilled a hole every 30mm or so. No need to be overly precise as no one will see it and the worm juice will find its way out.
- Choose a good spot in the garden or garden bed with easy access and where the worm goodness is most beneficial.
- Dig a hole that is a little bit deeper than the part of your pipe that’ll be underground, so a little bit deeper than 300mm.
- Place the pipe in the hole, fill in the space around it so it stands steadily. About 200mm of the pipe should be above the surface.
- Add a thick, 100mm layer of straw, hay (carbon material) on the bottom.
- Soak the newspaper in water, mix in some straw and place a 150mm layer in the pipe.
- Add the worms. I grabbed a handful of worms from my worm farm. If you’re starting from scratch and don’t have a worm farm, ask a friend to share some or your local garden centre might sell them too.
- Add another layer of wet newspaper on top of the worms and top it up with some mulch. I used sugar cane mulch.
- Place the pot on top of the pipe. The pot acts like a lid and will keep out critters and prevents over watering from rain.
- Give the worms some time to settle in before adding food scraps. I left mine for a few days.
- Once they’ve settled in, add a handful of organic material like food scraps.
- Check the worm tower every so often and add new food scraps or organic matter when the olds ones are gone.
There are a few steps involved but building a worm tower is actually quite straightforward and easy. Once you have all the materials, this project shouldn’t take longer than an hour. Building a worm tower can also be a fun project for older children. Just be careful with the drill and the saw. Another reason I like worm towers – apart from the obvious benefits for the soil and the fact that they are the best food disposal in the world – is that they are a great way of repurposing old stuff that would otherwise end up in landfill.
How to make a worm tower by Morag Gamble, https://youtu.be/ee3X8Sph0UE
How to make a worm tower by Milkwood Permaculture: https://www.milkwood.net/2010/10/12/how-to-make-a-worm-tower/