Phil DudmanHow to make a worm tower

I love worms and all that they do… and I’m sure you do too. Earth worms are super, but I especially love composting worms… I mean, what is there not to love about these quiet achievers… every day, going about their business of converting all sorts of organic waste into the most beautifully rich soil conditioner. They don’t ask for much… just a little moistened cardboard or a fresh banana skin from time to time.

My completed worm tower

My completed worm tower

I kept a worm farm for years… just one of those simple ones you can make with polystyrene boxes from the green grocer… but I’ve got to be honest, being the lazy bones that I am, I got a little slack with the upkeep. I know it’s not much, tossing in a bit of food and water from time to time, draining off some liquid and scraping off the castings, but it’s just another fiddly process in my routine that I found difficult to keep up.

That’s why I was delighted when I discovered the concept of the ‘Worm Tower’. It literally cuts out the middle man, taking the worms and casting directly where they are needed, in the garden. No mess… no fuss! Just a simple structure that you install in a garden bed where you tip in your waste and let the worms work their magic. As they break down the waste, all of the goodness is released into the soil to benefit the surrounding plants.
Too easy. So how do you make one?

Worm tower components

Worm tower components

What you need is:
A piece of PVC pipe, about 150mm wide and 50cm long.
A drill and 5mm drill bit to make holes
A terracotta dish to act as a lid
Worm food like vegie scraps, newspaper, cardboard, and of course…
Compost worms… you can get these at your local garden centre, or have a dig through your compost bin… you’ll probably find a few clumps of red wrigglers in there.

Buying commercial compost worms

Buying commercial compost worms

Start by drilling lots of holes in the pipe. This creates airflow within the pipe. Then choose a spot in your garden bed … and dig a hole around a spade depth. Position your pipe in the hole… you should have roughly 15-20cm of pipe above the soil surface… then backfill around the outside with soil.

On the inside… add some bedding material for your worms… starting with compost … some finely chopped vegie scraps… lawn clippings and finally… some strips of wet newspaper. Then, in go your worms. Once that’s done, put your terracotta lid on to keep your babies warm and safe.

Compost worms

Compost worms

Those worms will chomp into that pretty quickly, so just check on it from time to time and add more bedding material as needed… and when you’re watering, have a look to see if they need a little splash to keep their working environment moist. Every six months or so, empty the whole lot out, take out some worms, fork the castings into the surrounding soil and set up your tower in another position.

Could this worm tower solve Phils dog poo dilemma?

Could this worm tower solve Phil’s dog poo dilemma?

It’s really fun and easy to do, and you can see how installing a few of these through a vegie patch or a flower bed would provide ongoing benefits for your soil and plants. I’m setting one up in my ornamental garden to help process the continuous flow of waste from my new dog ‘Ralphy’. There’s got to be some good to come from this unfortunate part of dog ownership!

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9 thoughts on “How to make a worm tower

  1. I wonder how this would cope having to deal with the deposits from 2 large American Staffordshire Terriers? I will give it a go…maybe make 2 of them? 😉

  2. What a whizz worm tower that is. Out to unpack my drill and get one underway here soonest.
    The challenge is always to have enough food scraps for it and the compost bin. I think we will have to start scavenging the neighbourhood for their rubbish.

    Thanks for the post, Phil.

  3. I think the wrigglers will live through the winter because a composter is inherently warm. The process of composting generates heat, and that should keep the worms alive. As for finding material enough for them; don’t you eat salad? drink coffee? tea? eat bread? They love all those scraps. Just don’t put any dairy or meat in there. They would probably eat the meat as well, but there are other problems, and meat would attract vermin.

  4. We’ve got one worm farm but have too much kitchen compost for them to get through – this sounds like a great idea! One question – we have cats, and they use a lot of cat litter, is it possible to use cat litter (the recycled paper sort as well as the ‘clay’ type) and poo in a worm farm? I know people use dog poo ..

    • Hi Robynne, (1) yes one tower is not enough if you plan to use all your vegie waste. You could use a conventional compost system for your excess, or bury it in your vegie patch 20-30cm deep. (2) It should be OK to use your recycled paper and clay cat litters in a worm farm system, but please be aware, cat and dog waste has the potential to pass on nasty pathogens which affect human health so it’s not safe to dispose of it in your vegie patch, general compost or anywhere you are likely to be digging and coming into contact with the material. Best to set up your pet worm tower amongst shrubs or in other areas where you are unlikely to be digging around.

  5. I really want one of these, but won’t the worms eat your garden veggies? How do they differentiate between scrap food and roots of veggies or growing tubers, etc.?

    • That’s a good question… but the good news is, composting worms are more interested in eating the dead things you put in your tower, so you’re safe to install as many towers as you please! all the best, Phil

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