How to Build a Worm Tower for Your Apartment
If you live in an apartment, it’s likely you have limited space to dedicate to composting your kitchen scraps. But it is possible to compost on a small scale.
This blog provides a step-by-step guide for integrating a worm tower into potted plants. There are multiple benefits to composting this way: it doesn’t take up additional room, it’s not unsightly and you can still reduce your organic waste despite limited space.
What is a Worm Tower?
A worm tower is simply a worm farm dug directly into your garden. This allows your farm to leach its nutritious goodness directly into your garden. It also allows your worm population to coexist with the surrounding garden (noting that it is in their nature to return to the food source).
I am a big fan of worm towers. Not only do they nourish gardens directly, but they are neatly hidden among your veggies and you don’t really have to get your hands dirty if you don’t want to – just throw in the scraps and leave it to work its magic. Because worm towers are imbedded in the soil, they are also better insulated from extreme temperatures so I find worm populations don’t tend to fluctuate as much through the hottest and coldest months.
I have a worm tower built into the raised bed on my deck, but earlier this year I decided to experiment a little further with worm towers and I built towers into a couple of my potted plants. Part of the reason behind this was because I was worried that my worm population would decline in the summer heat and I wanted the option to transfer the worms indoors. A potted plant meant I could move the tower indoors and it could exist discreetly in my foyer without anyone really noticing.
Controversial? Actually, if you have a healthy worm farm, your worms should not be an issue inside at all. As composting becomes more popular in urban areas, vermicomposting indoors and on verandahs is becoming more common. It does involve a commitment, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not difficult plus you are doing the environment a good deed. (If you do have problems, check out our troubleshooting guide).
What you need
Plastic plumbers pipe with two end caps if possible (preferably recycled)
A hand saw
Shredded damp newspaper
A handful of composting worms
A pot large enough to accommodate your plumbers pipe plus a plant
How to Build a Worm Tower into your potted plant
1. Cut your pipe to about the height of your pot with a hand saw.
2. Drill 5mm holes in the pipe. Be generous – holes aerate your farm, which is vital for the health of the farm. Holes at about 5cm intervals work well.
3. If you have two end caps, secure a cap to one end of your pipe. Drill a hole or two into the cap. This will form the bottom of your tower so the holes will allow for excess moisture to drain through. Your tower doesn’t need a bottom – it is fine to leave it open, but it will make things easier if you ever want to remove the tower to harvest castings.
4. Put your pipe into your pot. If you have a round pot, angle your pipe so that it sits close to the perimeter. This will give your plant maximum room.
5. Fill the pot with soil and your chosen plant. The pipe should emerge a few centimetres above the soil so that it’s easily accessible.
6. Add a thick layer of shredded damp newspaper to the bottom of your pipe. Be generous – around 10 cm in height. You can also use other bedding materials like coconut coir, straw, grass clippings, shredded cardboard, aged manure for this step.
7. Add your worms to the tower.
8. Add a second layer of damp newspaper to cover your worms.
9. Place the second end cap on the top of the farm. This should be easily removed so that you can feed your worms. While you don’t need a lid for the bottom of your farm, you do need a lid to cover the opening – it will ensure the tower doesn’t attract bugs and flies.
10. Wait 3-4 days. It is important for your worms to settle into their new environment before you start feeding them.
11. After 3-4 days, start feeding your worms your organic kitchen scraps. Be careful to closely monitor the level of consumption so that you don’t overfeed your worms. This will be particularly important if you are keeping your worms indoors – overfeeding will lead to bad odours and will attract flies.
A Note on Urban Worm Towers:
Your worm tower will be smaller than a conventional worm farm. This means your worms will consume less and the risk of overfeeding is a little higher. Be conservative with your feeding until you get a good grasp of how much your worms can handle. And if have excess organic waste and are eager to further reduce your environmental footprint, there’s no reason why you can’t build multiple worm towers into your potted plants! It will mean more potted plants and less waste in your household.