How To Build a Worm Tower

We’ve gotten a lot of traffic for our worm towers so we thought we’d feature them on this page by themselves. Worm towers are one of many techniques that permaculturists might use but knowing when and where it is really appropriate requires a broader understanding that permaculture, it’s ethics, and principles provide.

If you’re looking for the picture summary for our Hands-on Permaculture training you can find it here.

Last year during our Hands-on Permaculture training we built worm towers with the class and installed one in Bill and  Becky’s front yard. Once it’s installed all you have to do is add composting worms (red wigglers) and then occasionally add some table scraps. The worms feed on the food waste and in turn, fertilize the garden bed.  No muss or fuss with kitchen scraps anymore, it is so incredibly easy to use.  The only maintenance that’s needed is to clean out worm castings once a year to make room for more compost.

View inside the installed Worm Tower before it’s filled with worms, food, and bedding.


If you’d like to make your own we’ve made an instruction sheet to help you out.

Worm Tower Instructions
How to make a worm tower in 3 simple steps.

You can download the instruction sheet by clicking on the picture or the link above.

When we checked in on it during the first winter (a very mild winter for our region) the top was frozen but beneath that the worms were slow yet still active and going about their business. There were even fresh baby worms…!!!  We’ll let you know how the worms fare through this next winter, which we expect to be colder. 

Kept it full through the winter for food and insulation.


And… once spring arrives, it practically disappears in our garden bed. What is not to like?

What we like most about the worm tower is how easy it was to make and use.   This is a simple and clean way to dispose of kitchen scraps while feeding our gardens at the same time.

Here is the video that got us started with our own worm towers. It’s only 2 minutes and it has some good graphics.


And by the way, is there any reason that drilling a bunch of holes in an old 5-gallon bucket and sinking that into the ground would not work as well?  We think not.  The lid would have to be  bigger but a terracotta tray would probably work well. Then we could put a nice potted plant on top of that for looks!

Have fun!!!

47 Responses to How To Build a Worm Tower

  1. I love worm towers! we are constructing a large kitchen garden in front of our house and we will SURELY incorporate several worm towers. THANK YOU for these easy-to-follow instructions!

  2. Great article! One spelling error…( food waste and in tern, fertilize the garden bed. )tern should be turn.

    Thank you for sharing!

  3. Great idea. Raised red worms in my basement for ten years and ate all my ” waste” from the kitchen during that time. Got to be to much trouble and then had to remodel basement for more room so gave the farms to my neighbor and they have kept them going for the last three years. My question is how do you remove the castings from your sunken pipe once a year as recommended in the article?
    I think I will try this and get some worms back from my neighbor to get it going.

    • It’s pretty easy to just reach your arm in and pull the castings out. I’ve myself had a project where I’ve buried my rubbermaid worm bin in the ground for the winter, and then pull it out in the spring. It operates like a normal worm bin when it’s warmer and goes dormant when it’s cold.

  4. I bought an above ground worm tower … pricey, but worth it. I have been extracting loads of vermicompost to use in my garden. It’s been wonderful.

    After reading this post though I can see the incredible value, especially during the cold months when digging through frozen dirt would be an issue or while your plants are growing … what a wonderful idea!

    Definitely sharing this.

  5. Just wondering if this would in Canada where the winters are 5-6 months long and temps. can be as cold as -20F and colder?

    • Some variation on this might work. I would make sure that it is at least down to the frost line and/or very well insulated. With the insulation you could also add compost that heats up (which you usually don’t want to add). Perhaps have it be a double tube with straw on the outside and the compost in the middle? You’d still need holes so that the worms can get into the soil.

  6. I am new to composting with wigglers.. So far so good with my Rubbermaid buckets.
    My question is in the towers, the worms move out of the tower thru the holes and then back in to feed?

    So I could put these in my garden and then wouldn’t need to deal with the buckets on the back porch? That would be nice!

    • I built one before winter with a 60 gallon plastic barrel. I have been adding kitchen waste to it all winter and it isn’t full yet.

      I’m hoping that in the spring time it he level drops substantially and at that time I can add worms if necessary.

      How has yours been? Have you had to empty it? Have you added worms?

      Right now I am just hoping it works good because if not I will have a 60 gallon barrel that will really stink if nothing happens with it!

  7. How will this composting idea work in Texas? Do you have any data on its use in the N. Tx area? I love the idea but sometimes what works in other areas does not translate to our heat prone areas. I would like feedback from any gardeners in my area who have had success with this method. Thank you, MH

    • We don’t have any information about how this might work in TX. I would be most worried about them drying out but being in the ground provides a great deal of protection from heat or cold. Why not try one out and let us know?

  8. I kept a worm box made out of wood sunk into the ground 2 feet made it to fit a bale of straw and threw food scraps by lifting a section of straw. It held the moisture pretty good, but I like this tower idea because the cold in Wisconsin gets bad enough to sink lower than two feet. This winter was brutal. I think I’ll try a small drum if I can locate one. Thanks for this info. I hope to visit some time this summer.

  9. I’ve got one in my garden here in the desert southwest of southern Arizona. I just need to find some worms to put in it. I

    • Vermilion Womery has them for sale in Oracle. Pet Smart sells Red Worms about 150 count for 4.00. 5 years ago we started out with two containers and now have over 10,000 worms in our worm bins.

  10. I am an avid indoor vermicomposter and use red wigglers (Eisenia fetida) in my multiple bins. I have been considering creating an outdoor set up but I have also red that the wigglers are non native invasives. From most of the research I have done it seems they only have a damaging effect on hardwood forests. Do you have any evidence that they would make a damaging effect in a garden?

  11. I love this idea. But I wonder if anyone has thoughts about materials other than PVC. I would prefer not to buy any PVC unless absolutely necessary. And wouldn’t it leach?

    • If PVC gets hot (and it will when composting stuff, especially in the summer) it can release Chloride, So please look for HDPE (or other food graded plastic.) You can buy HDPE pipes at construction stores. They are used for drinkingwater systems (where PVC is banned, at least over here in Holland). For this reason we use only HDPE tubes and barrels for our gardentowers / groenteraketten.

      Otherwise: great idea, the simpler the better I say!

    • Hi Jan…
      The pipe we used is 28-30 inches long. So far our worms have made it through every winter so I am assuming that they go to the very bottom. Be sure your tube in deep enough for that. Then regarding how much they will hold it totally depends upon how many kitchen scraps you generate, so you may get by with one or maybe you will need three of them. Ours is always full and as the worms eat it down, we add more to it. If we have extra material (which we do with a family of 4) we have other compost bins we use it in.
      Hope this helps….Bill Wilson

  12. Would it work to build a much larger version of it with a 45 gallon drum so that all kitchen waste, grass clippings, garden waste, and even paper could go in it?

  13. Would the material break down/be eaten by the worms fast enough that 45 gallons would be big enough? My goal is to reduce waste that I have to place on the curb so I want to let the worms do as much as possible. I’m not really interested in harvesting any compost, just getting rid of the organic material which will reduce my total garbage significantly. Thanks for the first answer!

    • You have to add worms, they are a special kind. Worms from the ground won’t work the same way. Red wigglers are what you need…

      • Why do you think native worms won’t work? I’d rather let nature take its course, in case there are times I can’t be keeping the tower ‘fed’. In this case, I’d like native worms to come back when I’d start back up. And it would be 1 less thing to manage. I’m ok with the process being slower.

  14. I built my extra large worm tower with a 60 gallon barrel. I drilled 3/8″ holes in the bottom and the sides about 1/3 up the sides. I buried it so that only 10″ are sticking out of the ground. I got a cement ring to go around the top part and on top of that is stacked 2 rows of fire pit bricks so it looks like a fire pit in the corner of the yard. I have a steel lid that keeps it shut tight and makes it easy to add scraps to it. I built it pretty late in the year so I didn’t add worms before winter. I have been adding kitchen scraps and also the cardboard tubes from toilet paper. The bin should be big enough to handle a winters worth of waste and in the summer I can add worms if necessary.

    • Sounds great! I’ve had success (admittedly in some mild winters) by digging a pit, putting my bin there and covering it with straw bales. I’m also managing a farm where they installed a 4′ x 6′ worm bin that goes down 4′ into the ground. We’ll see this spring how well it’s worked!

  15. Nice thing about this is that by the time we get our yard done the worm population should be established and the soil will be nice for planting.

  16. I’m new to composting of any kind and just hoping that my oversized 60 gallon worm tower will work as planned. As said right now it is almost full and is a frozen lump. When it thaws will the level drop quite a bit?

    • Once it thaws the level will drop. You’ll need to keep feeding them throughout the growing season. If you don’t continue to feed them they will eventually stop making deposits.

  17. I will continue to throw in kitchen scraps all year long. Just hoping the worms will chomp them down as fast as I throw them in.

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