Update by Bill Wilson – May 2015
Worm towers are just one of many techniques that permaculture designers might use in an overall plan for a home, farmstead or larger piece of property. Permaculture is an amazing study into creating living systems that don’t pollute, utilize wastes, create multiple yields, minimize work and leave a place in much better condition for future generations. Join us sometime for a deep and inspiring look into Permaculture.
How to Use
Above is the empty worm tower as it was installed into the ground at Midwest Permaculture in Stelle, IL. We then put in some wet straw for bedding, a handful of composting worms (red wigglers) and a days worth of kitchen scraps. For the next couple of weeks we added our daily kitchen scraps until it was full. Thereafter, the contents would slowing sink down as the worms enjoyed their feast, turning scraps into pure worm castings. About once a week there would be enough room to add another days worth of kitchen scraps. If someone had 7 towers they could top-off one per day.
The beauty of the system? No muss…no fuss…no smell…no slimy buckets…no flys… no compost juice to drain. Just insert kitchen scraps and walk away. The plants growing around the worm tower love the nutrients. The worms love their new home. We harvest the worm castings once a year is the spring. The only maintenance is to be sure the area stays moist in dry times (can’t let the worms dry out).
If you’d like to make your own tower here are some instructions.
Feel free to print and share with others.
We’ve used the worm tower for several years in our Northern Illinois climate and during the winter everything slows down including our worms. But our little guys have made it through each winter by burrowing down below the frost line which is why the tower should be long (deep) and be kept full over the winter months. We also keep the area around and on top of the tower covered with leaves or straw to minimize freezing depth.
Harvesting the Castings
We pull out the castings from the bottom each spring by removing the top 1/3’rd of the contents of the tube which is where the worms have now migrated to get their fresh food. The bottom 2/3’s holds the previous year castings. Because small roots have moved in from the surrounding perennial plants we use a trowel around the edges to loosen things up and then remove the castings with our hands. We now have a small bucket of worm castings to spread on to the surface of any gardening bed for added fertility or we may use the castings in planting trays for our starters.
What we like about the worm tower is how easy it is 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? One would just want to be sure it is mulched heavily over winter to prevent freezing the worms. And the lid is bigger (a bit more unsightly?) but one could put a nice potted plant on top for looks!