Building a worm tower is a simple, enjoyable, sustainable way to nurture your garden so that it can continue to nurture you.
Earth—the stuff on the ground, not the planet—is essential for life. Anyone who has a garden (or even a house plant!) has seen a microcosm of this in action. The soil isn’t just something we walk on or that plants anchor in. It’s something that nurtures us and every other form of life on the planet in some sense. Plants need rich, fertile, living soil to truly thrive.
Human beings learned long ago that constantly growing crops (especially the same crop) on the same plot of land would diminish the soil’s ability to nurture plants. Crop rotation can help, but it’s a method that’s simply not always practical or possible. Chemical fertilizers can also help, but why spend money on a chemical product when there’s a sustainable, efficient way to feed your garden? Especially when it’s also a great way to create and use compost and very little effort on your part? That’s where creating a worm tower comes in.
A worm tower is, essentially, a mini worm farm that you plant in your garden, that continually feeds your garden and provides you with a rich, ongoing source of fertilizer. They’re extremely low cost to get started, exceptionally simple to make, and nearly effortless to maintain. The only real question to ask yourself is Why don’t I already have one?
Well, here’s how you remedy that:
• A two to four foot PVC (food grade only) or concrete pipe, five or more inches in diameter
• A shovel
• A drill (optional)
• Compost worms (at least fifty)
• A bag of manure (any type)
• Organic material to compost—fruit and veggie scraps, yard clippings, etc.
• Something to cover the top of the tower—a flower pot works great for this
Your end result is going to look a little something like this:
1. If you chose a food grade PVC pipe and you have a drill, go ahead and drill a few holes in what will be the bottom half of your worm tower. While this isn’t strictly necessary, it can help to make sure your soil is getting a great dose of all the compost, wormy goodness from your tower.
2. You’ll need to bury the pipe, standing upright, deeply enough so that it’s completely stable (pack soil around the pipe, not in it at this point). Choose a spot that will be convenient for you to access, as you’ll want to pop by to add organic goodies frequently.
3. Add manure until your pipe is half full—the amount will vary depending on the size of the pipe, of course.
4. Add your worms. These should be compost worms, the little red super-squirmy guys.
5. Add your organic material.
6. Cover the tower with your flower pot or similar. That’s it!
Maintaining this elegant solution to sustainable fertilization is simple. Compost worms are content fellows that won’t wander off so long as they’ve got something to snack on, and their environment is moist enough. So, (at least) every few days, hook them up with some of your leftover veg, grass clippings, or even damp cardboard or shredded newspaper, and keep your worm tower slightly moist. Not only will they be feeding, they’ll be content enough to multiply, so you’ll soon have enough for another worm tower if you have need of one.
Your little buddies will be thrilled (well, as thrilled as worms get at least), to have such a safe home that’s always full of delicious munchies. They’ll thank you by producing worm juice and worm casings, both of which are wonderful for the soil and for your plants, and they’ll disperse into the soil naturally over time.
It only takes about half an hour to put together a respectable worm tower. Yours can be percolating away, nurturing your garden, in no time!
Can this same Idea be implemented around fruit bearing trees-Fig and Pecan? Would you do a triangle or square about 6 feet away or from the trunk and about 3 feet down?
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Yes. Would work out great.
Have you ever heard of a banana circle? It is a circular hole about 3’ deep and 6’ in diameter with soil that was removed from the hole mounded around the outside perimeter of the hole, forming a ridge. Banana trees, etc., are planted in the mounded ridge. The hole is filled with organic waste debris that is added to along and kept moist to enable decomposition. Grey water can be used for this. As the organic matter decomposed, it provided a nutrient source as well as a water source for the plants growing on the mounded ridge around the hole. The composting key hole garden is based somewhat on this idea.
What would be the range in feet that one tower can cover?
What do you do with the worms in winter?
How do l deal with mass amounts of ants in my worm tower/garden bed. We have lots around the house anyway,but obviously attracted to scraps. Everything seems ok so far, however the whole things is crawling with them, can’t even appreciate the growing crops.
when ever I get tired of ants or other insects, I sprinkle some cinnamon around. I bought restaurant size cinnamon. use it liberally.
I was flaming weeds yesterday when I came upon an ant hole. They were running everywhere, zillions of them, all around my newly erected greenhouse. Later, it just so happened that I was reading an email from Mother Earth News and they had an article about how to easily and cheaply get rid of ants. Grits! If you don’t have grits where you live, they are just ground corn. (Check Amazon for Aussies?) Mother Earth said just sprinkle the dry grits in the area, the ants will eat them, drink water (probably later) and then they EXPLODE. I am going to try it as soon as I get to the store. Happy gardening!
I use regular white vinegar you can pour it directly out of the bottle or put it in a spray bottle and spray your plants and surrounding area with it it’s not only helps me with ants but it also helps kill weeds never had a problem using vinegar or cinnamon in my garden
Ants usually do not like as moist of an environment as worms do so gradually increase the amount of water in the tower until you get to around 70% (like a wrung out sponge). Be careful not to soak the material since this could make it turn anaerobic. So ants are more drawn to protein sources so you may also want to try leaving out eggshells. The eggshells were the determining factor for my bin.
I didn’t want to use plastic tubes, so i digged a hole (several actually) and built some sort of structure with construction materials… of course, it hardly gets to be fully wet, so a ton of small ants are litterally digging for “baby worms” and carrying them all outside. I’m watering it a lot to keep it 80% wet. But soon I’ll have to find a better solution… I first thought of spreading coffee/cinamon around the tower, but I still think the ants would keep harvesting the worms underground, the structure has large openings they could use. I’m thinking in using clay to cover those openings but I’m afraid it will never dry itself enough to remain estable. Any other ideas? I refuse to use the PVC tubes, I truly have faith in different ways of doing this.
Bamboo maybe? Could be an alternative.
try cooking your eggshells, that may take care of any protein.
Looking in to using worm towers in my raised beds. But as scientist, I’m struggling to understand the concept. Earth worms travel about but don’t compost. Composting worms compost but don’t travel around much. Surely the nutrients would just be in the vacinity of the tower only.
Is there any data in how far they spread? What density of towers you’d need per sq m of soil. Help much appreciated.
I couldn’t find any certain data either. but it seems ok that other insects do move around. And (this is a guess) it seems fair to think that earth worms will come and go to the vicinity of the tower, they must feel attracted to rich matter (?)… and poop around, moist the soil…
your assumption about earthworms is incorrect. While they compost things slower, they do still compost. All worms compost. How do you think they grow otherwise? Composting rates have far more to do with reproductive rates and soil temperatures than anything else. The question on zone of influence is a good one that I have never seen an answer to.
Would it be okay to put chopped up weeds in the worm tower as well?
To Steve Morris
The nutrients are soluble and are carried away by water. If your beds are downhill from the worm tower you will get dispersal that way.
I couldn’t tell you how far, it will depend on whether you have channels to allow the free flow of water to some extent. Or gravel vs sand vs clay.