While researching hot composting this morning, I became a little side-tracked when I saw some pictures of in-ground worm farms, or ‘worm tunnels’. I had seen these on the Milkwood Permaculture site ages ago, but had not had a chance to give them a go.
Worm farms are a great system to use in organic gardening. If you have 1kg worms they can process 1kg kitchen scraps, vacuum cleaner dust, hair and stuff that gets caught in the sink strainer every day. In turn, they produce invaluable worm castings and ‘worm wee’ that will help the garden to thrive. We use our worm farm mainly to get rid of waste that the chickens won’t eat.
Already our worm farm has provided valuable ‘worm wee’ for the garden, but it makes sense to have the worms right where the nutrients need to go. That may sound lazy, but I’m all for making things easier and simplifying systems.
Garden Drum outline some other good reasons for having an in-ground worm farm:
- “Unlike above ground worm farms the body of the worm farm is insulated from temperature and moisture fluctuations leading to a more stable environment for the worms that can save them from extreme heat and cold.
- Unlike above ground worm farms and most alternative composting methods the nutrients and humus created goes straight into the ground either by washing into the soil below or by the worms carrying it out through the holes in the worm farm that are below soil level.
- As the worms move in and out of the worm farm they cultivate and aerate your soil, largely alleviating the need to cultivate.
- An in ground worm farm never needs cleaning out because if it ever reaches capacity you simply extract it from the soil and move it to a new position. Any uncomposted material left behind will continue to break down without any further intervention. It is a good idea to transfer some of the worm rich material under the surface (that will also likely contain worm eggs) to the re-installed worm farm in its new position.
- Apart from adding the food they are virtually maintenance free as the worms can carry most of the organic matter out into the soil around them thereby creating a ‘self-cleaning’ system”
I loosely followed the instructions in the Milkwood article “How to Make a Worm Tower” as they were pretty straightforward, however instead of using PVC pipe that I would have had to buy, I upcycled a large bucket that was lying around. If you use a tall bucket, make sure you drill the holes before cutting the bottom off – I did it the other way which weakened the bucket and made it more difficult to drill the 19mm holes with the spade bit.
From start to finish the worm tower only took me about 30 mins. It was so quick and much cheaper than buying a worm farm from the hardware. If you don’t have a bucket or PVC pipe at home, other designs I’ve seen use black recycling tubs, PVC pipe or large plastic pots.
I am already considering making some more worm towers. I have another bucket ready to be re-purposed and many more garden beds that need some nutrients.
If you’re in the Blue Mountains area and are wondering where to buy worms, we bought ours from Hartley Harvest. They were great value and they even deliver to your door.
Below are some of the sites I checked out while working out which style to do: