In this post, Raising Worms For Castings – Part 2, we discuss how Eddie and I got passed the first worm disaster, and instead, opted for building and installing a worm tower in the garden. If you are interested in considering the bin method too, see: Raising Worms For Castings – Part 1.
To continue the story ….
While weighing the pros & cons of different methods for raising worms for castings, we came across this thing called a worm tower. I found it on Midwest Permaculture’s website. They explain to place a 2-3 foot long PVC pipe (with numerous holes drilled in it) and bury it deep (and vertically) into the middle of your garden with only the top 6 inches or so left above ground. For complete, downloadable instructions, go to this link at Midwest Permaculture, and tell them I sent you. (Pretty cool website, by the way. If you go there, explore a bit.) We read that post and thought, “This should solve all the issues — at least, in theory.” It had more pros than cons. Yes, of course, there ARE other solutions out there to consider as well. But this was the one we settled on because it seemed like a good fit for us.
Here Is How It Works
A worm tower is a permanent fixture in the middle of your garden, yet takes up less than a square foot. You deposit your kitchen scraps into the top of the pipe, along with a few hundred red wigglers (which you can get at a bait store or order online). Don’t worry, they will make plenty of babies. Then cover the top to keep out any vermin. Once in place, here is what happens.
- Come and go through the holes you drilled (and up through the bottom of the pipe)
- Eat the kitchen scraps you keep dumping into the top of the pipe
- Leave to run around the garden and poop which fertilizes your plants
- Aerate the soil while they are at it (also good for your plants)
- And, if it gets too cold for them, they can just go below the frost line
Midwest Permaculture says they remain active in the tower even in the cold, although I have not seen that for myself (yet). Now all this struck me as much simpler than a plastic bin because:
- The worms are in their natural environment so you don’t need to worry about freezing them or housing them indoors during winter
- You don’t need to bother adding bedding or cycling out poop and spreading it yourself because the worms excuse themselves from the table to go take care of business themselves right at the roots of your veggies (so the worms are doing the work, not you)
What more could you ask for? You just feed ’em and forget ’em. I am all over this … anything to simplify and not have to handle poop.
How To Build & Install a Worm Tower
Now, with a decision made and a plan in place, Eddie & I took on the project. Here is how it turned out. Come spring, we bought the PVC pipe, and Eddie it turned into a big vertical sieve with his drill bit. This is what that process looked like:
What EVER Happened to The Worms We Thought We Froze …?
As Paul Harvey used to say …. “Now for the rest of the story.”
The day after we installed the worm tower, it was 50 degrees, sunny (so it felt more like 60), a slight breeze and great day to get some early spring work done outside. Eddie decided to tackle the back porch next. That is where we keep most of our garden supplies, my potting table, firewood, etc. And you know what ELSE is on that porch? Yes, three bins full of what we thought were dead worms from last fall that we never did bring inside. (If you are confused, then perhaps you are reading Part 2 first? Check out Raising Worms for Castings – Part 1).
Anyway, we had already written them off. I had even stopped feeding them and went back to using the compost tumbler exclusively. Still, if we wanted those bins back (which we did) then Eddie had to deal with them one way or another. So he dug a huge hole in which to bury them, carried the first bin out to dump it and from there he would till it in and call it a failure … er, a day. Just chalk it up. Dumped the first bin … yep, all dead. Then the second one. All dead. But on the third one, much to our delight, low and behold … we found we had not just living worms — we had big, fat, juicy, healthy, bright red wrigglers by the hundreds! THEY LIVED! Blessings for us!
We have no idea how they survived out on the porch all winter and not getting fed. It is a mystery. We honestly spent the whole winter thinking we had failed miserably at worm farming and were delighted to see we had succeeded in spite of ourselves – quite by accident, or luck, or blessing or all of the above. Certainly not by anything that we did right.
So, what do you think of these two approaches (bins and towers)? Obviously, bins work, although I am sure it works MUCH better if you do it Stephanie’s way! But SINCE THAT DAY … we have fed the worm tower at least twice a week and the scraps just keep disappearing! The worms do indeed come to dinner every day. And there is nowhere in our garden you can dig and NOT find a couple dozen worms. And all we have to do is keep them fed and watered. No poop management required (my favorite part).
What approaches have you tried and what was your experience? Are there other better ways to feed your worms and your garden at the same time? WITHOUT the associated poop duty?