Worm Tower

worm tower installed in raised bed

worm tower installed in raised bed











Would you like to eliminate several steps in composting? Take a look at this easy project for your yarden.

Today I finally installed the worm towers and the total project time was about 2 hours. A Worm Tower is basically a length of pipe buried halfway in the ground with holes drilled in the buried part for worms to get in and out. Food scraps are added directly to the tower instead of your composting bin, and are eaten by worms already living in the target part of your yard. You can add Worm Towers to your full blown vermiculture / vermicomposting regime or just use them by themselves.

I like this for the same reason I like precycling; several steps and lots of time can be eliminated for some of your composting by just delivering food waste directly to the worms, directly to the garden.

What you need:

  • Length of PVC, I think mine was about 3 1/2″ wide but in the videos they use bigger
  • Something to cap the tube with. I bought some caps but there are other suggestions in the videos like a flipped over plastic pot with some screen to keep out the flies
  • A saw that can cut through PVC
  • Drill with large drill bit. I used 1 1/8″ but in the videos looks like they use 1/2″
  • Shovel

I had a 9′ length of PVC already, but I did go buy 3 caps to seal off the top from flies and critters.  Before starting this project I was reading about squirrels (yes squirrels) because several of them like digging in my garden.  I was concerned that putting the compost into the garden might be an attraction, and it might, but I did learn that they can only smell about 6-8″ under the surface of the ground.  I took this into consideration when measuring out my pipe hole placement and my notes reflect that.  Your results may vary.

  1. Cut the pipe into roughly 3′ sections
  2. Drill holes in the bottom 12″ of the pipe – drill lots of holes
  3. Bury the pipe in the garden about 22″, which leaves a 10″ smell barrier for the squirrels and about 14″ exposed
  4. I primed mine with a shovel full of worms from our big wormaculture bin
  5. Add compost

It’s very simple, but the video gives you some step-by-step instructions if you’re a visual learner.

A couple of side notes, I’m only adding compost to the towers that will easily break down, no twigs, eggshells, etc.  I’d like the worms to be able to completely digest the muck I put in and I’ll leave the heavier stuff for the compost bin.  One of the vids recommends an occasional deep watering which should wash away the goo and deep water your plants.  I spent about 30 minutes trying to take apart an old air filter for the filter material for the fly barrier but this was a complete waste of time.  The filter material is glued to the cardboard and interwoven with screen – just a mess.  That’s why I bought some proper caps.  It reminded me though that I should save some of the (very) raggety clothes we’ve throw away to use for filter material.

There are lots of Worm Tower videos on YouTube, but the initial inspiration for me came from this video below.


Happy vermiculturing!




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  1. doesn’t pvc emit dioxin? wouldn’t bamboo be better?

    • Hmm. Great question.

      So my initial disclaimer is that we’re perma-neophytes (per our earlier blog) and learning what we can from other sites and sharing what we learn, like the video linked in the article. This project is actually repeated in a lot of places and I hadn’t seen that come up and hadn’t considered it myself.

      As I look through my yarden looks like my other large compost bins, vermiculture bin and sprinkler piping are all PVC as well. I just googled ‘compost bin’ and the first page of results all looks the same – all PVC.

      The goal of this project was to reuse a piece of PVC we had from an irrigation project to enhance our composting. I’m definitely open to bamboo but I’ve never used it — does it come in larger diameters?

      • The concern over things leaching from PVC is heavily over blow. You are breating more toxins in 15 minutes that PVC can put into your food in 15 years used this way. Additionally the bamboo idea while it sounds cool will not last long. The bamboo will rot inside a year, the part under the wet ground in contact with active compost of course is what I mean, and the worms will soon start eating it. This PVC system will last decades.

  2. Hi Brad!

    I followed you over from Ana’s Traffic Generation Cafe. This blog is right up my alley! I’ve been wanting to start vermiculture for an herb garden.

    We live in an apartment, so unfortunately no yard. This project does look fantastic, though. I love its simplicity!

    Take care,

    • Hey Delena (great name!) the vermiculture thing worked quite well for us when we lived in a townhouse with no yard. We did container gardening and focused on herbs. If I had it to do all over again I would have added a hops vine for homebrewing – amazing what you can do with a small space.

      Thanks for stopping by, and I’m also reading and enjoying your blog while I write this.



    • If it’s of any help, I’m a rubbish grdaener and pretty pants at composting too, even though I’ve been doing it for the last 15 years and grew up regularly feeding the compost heap at my grandparent’s house. However, my compost has never let me down. I am always in awe how it degrades down and even if it is a bit sludgy, it still disappears into the soil with a quick dig around with no problem. Week 5 will include more advice on composting, so hopefully that will help too.

  3. Here’s my question. As far as I understand, composting worms, red wriggler worms, don’t really like to live underground. They prefer to live at or near the surface of the soil, properly speaking, but under decomposing stuff. And gray earthworms aren’t really good composting worms, since they prefer to stay deeper underground. So which worms get used in this system, and how are they kept where they’ll be happiest?

    • Hi Kate – great question and I don’t know the answer! When I first researched this project I saw quite a bit of debate on this topic on permaculture sites from people who have a lot more background in vermaculture. The debate was between using this system to feed your local worms or bringing in compost worms.

      I can tell you what we did, and will post some pics later this week on twitpic. Basically we started an accidental vermaculture bin last year when our compost bin was full. We had an old plastic trash bin on wheels that was going to be a temporary storage space. We filled this with yard waste and then added house scraps, along with some shovels full of dirt from our raised bed planters. I also drilled some holes along the side for ventilation, and bottom for drainage.

      This year it’s a worm mosh pit. We never added any worms, so I believe these are the same worms from the raised bed planters, OR they came into the bin through the drainage holes near the ground. The tube is buried about 1.5′ into the ground, which may answer your question about the depth the worms prefer to live. I also primed these worm towers with worms and compost from the vermaculture bin.

      I can post some more pics later if that will help.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • Hi – ok I read a lot about worms and came across this great resource:


      You are correct on both counts about the grey and red worms. Looks like raised bed is an exception – like a hybrid environment. There are also some articles on how they do the worm tower in their regular beds. We must have had the red’s already in our raised beds from plants from the garden store (?) since that’s where the starter dirt came from in our accidental vermiculture bin. Also some interesting notes on this site that the regular worms will live in an outdoor worm bin, often coming up from the ground into the bin but they stay on the edge aware from the rotting material. Cool stuff.

      • Thanks for the responses, Brad. It’s always cool when stuff just serendipitously works. Sometimes when we overthink stuff and worry about what we know and don’t know, it doesn’t work out as well as just going for it. Very interesting results you got.

      • The types of composting you refer to are quite difnereft.Good compost is essentially speeding up the natural process of decomposition in order to get a good soil amendment with a mix of nutrients that are in form that is easy for plants to ingest.In the wild, worms are an integral part of this process. Worm composting systems leave you with worm castings, which is a great organic fertilizer and nitrogen supplement, but won’t have the add benefits of improving drainage,soil structure,and micro nutrient absorption. I would recommend just buying some worms and tossing them into a regular composter. That way the worms will speed up the composting process, thereby elimating potential odor problems, as well as improving your soil quality and structure when you begin planting. Make sure to throw a handful or two of your old compost in your new batch in order to transfer the the microbes and worms, which are responsible for the entire composting process.Good luck and take care!

    • I initially thought this was a great idea, but red wrigglers don’t normally live in ordinary soil, so where is the real advantage? You are creating a good environment for compost worms that would be protected from the worst weather in winter, but apart from drainage, I don’t see the point of the holes. The red wrigglers aren’t going to distribute the compost into the soil, that is what ordinary earth worms do. Or maybe I am wrong and in some way they do this?

  4. Hi, I think this idea is genius! I’m curious about the fact that you’re just adding food scraps to the tower. You don’t need to mind the standard compost carbon/nitrogen ratios with this system?

  5. Nice video!
    I think if we install the worm tower in the brown part then the worm can definitely growing in the right way.Anyway keep it up these interesting blogs.


  1. […] Personified, in which she briefly mentioned HighlyUncivilized (@SoUncivilized), via last weeks Worm Tower […]

  2. […] In one of my long treks on the train from the city I found this page http://usdirectnet.com/2011/01/22/worm-tower/ […]

  3. […] my 4′x4′ planter should be perfect. Incidentally, this is one of the same beds from the worm tower article. I started by removing all the dirt from the planter, and went down about another foot below ground […]

  4. […] Worm Tower | Highly UncivilizedJan 22, 2011 … Would you like to eliminate several steps in composting? Take a look at this easy project for your yard and garden (yarden?). Today I finall… […]

  5. […] my 4′x4′ planter should be perfect. Incidentally, this is one of the same beds from the worm tower article. I started by removing all the dirt from the planter, and went down about another foot below ground […]

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