Clockwise from above left: Get your 150 mm polypipe or equivalent; Drill multiple holes around the bottom; Use a 10–15 mm drill bit and drill straight down; Place your worm tower in the garden and let the worms do their thing. Photos by Peta Burchell
A worm tower provides an easy way to have selffertilising stations throughout the garden. They’re a good option for people not wanting to get ‘down and dirty’ with their worms. Traditional worm farms require checking of temperatures, moisture, food uptake, etc., but with a worm tower, after it’s placed in the garden, you simply need to put some food in every few days, keep it moist and covered, and the worms do the rest.
Worm towers can are much smaller than traditional worm farms. They’re cheap, especially if you use recycled materials, and you can make one in under an hour! The traditional worm tower is a vertical pipe with holes drilled around the bottom half that gets dug into the garden. It becomes the house and feeding station for the compost worms. Your job is to feed the worms periodically with organic matter and the worms will transform it into worm castings and worm juice. This then leaches into the soil around the tower, increasing overall fertility and helping retain moisture.
The worms never stray too far from their ‘kitchen’, but if you go away or it gets too hot, they have the ability to migrate to a different place in the garden to survive. Every six months or so, pull up the worm tower and harvest the castings to use in the garden. Having multiple worm towers throughout the garden is a great idea, as they continuously help to replenish and maintain fertility, especially in areas with vegetables requiring lots of nitrogen. Multiple worm towers also ensure you won’t overfeed the one tower, as you can share your scraps, allowing munching time in between. Keep in mind, the smaller the food scraps, the easier they are for the worms to devour.
HOW TO BUILD A WORM TOWER
- A piece of wide plastic pipe . m long and approximately 150 mm wide (such as a stormwater pipe)
- A drill and 10–15 mm drill bit, to make large enough holes in the pipe
- A saw, to cut the pipe to your desired length (or you can buy cut lengths from a plumbing shop)
- Compost worms, a minimum of 50 (from a friend or an existing worm farm)
- Newspaper and water, dry straw or grass
- A terracotta pot, or reuse a plastic plant pot to fit over the end of the pipe
- Cut (or buy) the pipe to length, approximately 500 mm.
- Do your drilling over an old sheet or somewhere that is easy to clean up as there’ll be lots of little bits of plastic fallout (which won’t be very nice in the garden!).
- For safety, either drill on the ground or a bench. You’ll need to be able to securely hold the pipe, as the drill will want to twist as it drills into it. Laying the pip on a towel helps to keep it stable. Drill holes all around the base of the pipe, at least 1/3 – ½ length of the pipe. The more holes, the more doors there will be for the worms and the nutrients.
- Choose a spot in your garden that allows easy access for feeding, and dig a hole. The pipe should be a minimum of 20 cm above ground.
- Put the pipe in the ground and add in the dry organic matter. Then add a generous amount of soaked and torn newspaper (or similar) as a moist landing for the worms.
- Add your worms and some more soaked and torn newspaper, popping the pot on top. Give the worms a few days to settle in before you start to feed them.
- Keep an eye on the food content, as worms will process at various rates depending on the season, temperature, locality, etc. The other great thing is that if you forget for a few days or even a week, they’ll forgive you and return when fresh food is given to them again.
- Remember to place the pot on top each time after you’ve fed the worms. This creates shade, protection and also helps in case of a huge downpour, as worms are prone to drowning if they cannot get to drier places.
- Be creative and reuse and recycle what you can, as the worm tower concept is not limited to tubes of plastic.Any container that can be partially buried with sufficient drainage in the bottom and sides can be used—old buckets, old black worm boxes, even old terracotta pipes (you might not be able to drill holes in the sides, but there is the hole at the bottom). Have fun and may the worms be with you!
Go to the Pip website to see our ‘how-to’ video. www.pipmagazine.com.au/articles