Nothing quite compares to rich, fertile garden soil. When you can easily push a shovel into the ground and turn up dark brown earth crawling with worms you know you’re in good shape for growing whatever it is your heart desires. Wise gardeners value the presence (and abundance) of the humble worm traveling throughout their gardens. Without them, your dream garden is likely to struggle. These quick easy worm towers for better garden soil will help.
Worms play a vital role in breaking down organic matter and building up workable, fertile soil. I consider them to be one of my garden’s best friends. But, what if you dig and dig and dig and can’t find a single worm? How can you encourage worms to frequent your garden without spending a fortune?
Throwing together a few worm towers is an easy, effective, and inexpensive way to grow the worm population in your garden. Not to worry, if you’ve never seen or heard of worm towers before. They are one of the simplest additions a gardener can make to compost and improve the composition of their garden’s soil. Let me show you how!
Worms belong in the garden because…
Worms feed plants. Worm’s leave behind castings (or poop) that is filled with nutrients (such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium). This makes for a very fertile growing environment for fruits and vegetables. By placing your family’s food scraps in a worm tower, you are encouraging worms to visit your garden, eat your food waste, and leave behind a natural fertilizer which will help you grow a strong, healthy, and abundant garden. The same stuff can be used as indoor plant food, your indoor green friends will love you that much more.
Worms aerate the soil. Encouraging worms to travel through your garden does many wonderful things for your soil. By scattering several worm towers throughout your garden, the worms will move from one to the next to find food. They form tunnels that break up the soil and leave space for air, water, and nutrients to move freely. The roots of your garden plants will have a much easier time finding these resources. And when they do, they will thank you for welcoming the worms by providing a bountiful and delicious harvest.
What Does and Does Not Go in a Worm Tower?
Worm towers are a wonderful place to put food scraps. But what does and does not belong in a worm tower? As a general rule of thumb, any plant waste can be placed in the worm towers. Worms (like most of us) love the sweet stuff. Banana peels, apple cores, cantaloupe rinds—you get the general idea. Anything from a plant that you would otherwise throw out can be placed in the worm tower. Coffee grounds (plus the filter), tea bags, and egg shells are also acceptable. When it is excessively dry out, I like to pour leftover tea or a little rainwater directly in the tower to keep things moist.
You want to avoid throwing salty foods in the worm tower. For example, stale potato chips or pretzels. The salt is thought to harm the worms’ skin. You also don’t want to add any meat to the tower. The waste products of herbivores (rabbits, chickens, goats, etc.) are perfectly fine to add though. Black and white newspaper can be placed in the worm towers, but avoid putting advertisements on waxy paper in with your compost.
Building your Worm Tower
Now that it’s clear why worms are so important to have around, I’ll share with you how to build the worm towers that will draw them back to your garden again and again. Basically, these towers provide you with a way to put your food scraps and dead plant material directly into the earth. Worms will find it and spread it around as they travel throughout your garden. Let’s get to it!
1. PVC Pipe (measurements)
2. Saw (for cutting the pipe)
3. Drill with Auger Tip Blade
4. Caps for the Pipe or Terra Cotta Pots
5. Tape Measure
7. Post Hole Digger
1. Gather your materials. You might be able to find everything you need at home already. But if you can’t, ask around before buying the materials. Someone you know might have some extra PVC pipe you can use. We had different sizes of PVC pipe, so I made these worm towers with 6-inch and 4-inch openings. You want it to be big enough that your compost and scraps will fit in the pipe easily.
2. Cut your pipes. Measure the pipes to be about 2 feet long. It doesn’t need to be an exact measurement. A foot of the pipe should stick out of the ground, and about 15 inches in the earth. Worms are surface dwellers. Sticking the pipe too deep into the ground will only lead to more work by having to dig a deeper hole. Mark off 2-foot sections of pipe, and using the saw cut the pipes.
3. Mark the holes where the worms will come in. Now that you have your pipes ready, you will want to mark which end you will be putting in the ground. Measure 15 inches up from the bottom. Next, mark where the holes will be. Again, this doesn’t need to be exact. I decided to have 5 rows of holes roughly 3 inches apart. You could draw a circle all the way around the pipe to show where the rows will be, or you can just wing it. I added 6 holes per row.
4. Drill the holes. Using an auger tip, drill the holes in each row.
5. Dig a hole in the ground for your worm tower. Using a post hole digger, dig a hole deep enough to cover all the holes in your pipe. This is quite a workout when it hasn’t rained for a while.
6. Put the pipe in the ground. Place the “holey” end of your pipe in the ground and fill the outside of the pipe in with dirt. It should be pretty stable. You will want to cover the end of the pipe sticking out of the ground to keep critters from getting in and eating your food scraps. My dad fashioned these caps with handles for easy access. But, you could also use a terra cotta plate or pot.
You are ready to add your food scraps and compost! My chickens were kind enough to work up some rich coffee-ground compost for me. I added this right away to the worm towers. Now, I can sit back and wait for the worms to find the feast I’ve laid out for them. This is such an easy, inexpensive project to encourage worms to get to work in the garden with little effort on my part. It won’t be long, and those worms will be working their magic—turning my garden soil into a fertile bed for all of my plants.
So gardeners, are you ready to create quick and easy worm towers for better garden soil?
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This post is courtesy of Samantha Gildehaus of the WholeHearted Homestead. Samantha lives off-grid on 22-acres of Missouri woodland with her fiancé, three dogs, and a handful of chickens. Loving to write, garden, study, and craft with medicinal herbs, Samantha combined these hobbies to create WholeHearted Homestead. Here she shares ideas and stories to encourage others to live gratefully in harmony with nature.