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Vermicomposting - In Place Composting via Worm Tower

Posts: 33
Location: Jacksonville Beach, FL Zone 8b/9a
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Hi again fellow permies.

I've been wondering about composting in place with a worm tower.  I'm sure you've seen them, they're usually a 4" pvc tube (+/-) with holes drilled in them at various depths and diameters.  You bury one end a foot or two deep, place food scraps and a little dirt in it, then throw in a handful (or not) of worms, cover it and let the magic happen.  Well this sounds all good and well but I was wondering about a few things:

- Critters.  Which critters are likely to disturb this?  I hear moles can be a problem.  I've had only one in my garden and it was for a very short time a few years ago.  The thing just went away before causing any damage.  What do I need to look out for?  How do I (can I) critter proof this?  All the websites I have read just show you how to do it or set it up.  Not a single one talks about the potential nightmare scenarios that might occur.

- Creepies:  Am I gonna have a hard time with roaches or other things that I do not want in abundance in my yard?  I'll cover my food scraps well but something tells me this could be a problem in some way.  The neighbors have always had problems with racoons in their in ground pool.  And I've seen them around as well as armadillos.

- Water.  I added some good dirt go my garden so I have some soil depth and nice, lose, very well draining soil.  But here on the North Florida coast, when we get rain we can get up to 2" at a time!  Won't the worms that inhabit the tower drown?  Can they get to higher ground fast enough to not die off?

- Unknown adverse thingies:  Since I've never done this before I do not know what other things might happen that will be undesirable.  I just cannot foresee anything since I've never done it before.

- I'm concerned with burying anything that's not organic.  Using PVC in my garden (there's been no chemicals or any petroleum product in my garden since I bought my place in 2010) and I am hesitant to introduce that.  I do not have a source for clay pipes either.  I can't find a single supplier anywhere near here.  Is this anything to worry about?

I have crappy native soil (I'm 5 blocks from the ocean) and absolutely no connections for quality manure.  The reds are about my only option for compost.  But I want to go about this the right way.  And I would **LOVE** not not use any petroleum products in doing this.  An IN YOUR FACE to the very industry that's killing what I'm trying to rebuild.

Please feel free to offer up as much experience and advice as you wish.  I am - as always, most grateful.



Posts: 525
Location: Northern Germany (Zone 8a)
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hey logan...

nice to read what you re up to. best luck.

critters: what about wire mesh as bottom of the pipe?

creepy things: keep the fresh worm food covered in any form. a lid. leaves, grass etc.

other materials: what about steel pipes, if you can get used ones? or build a pit and line it with bricks, blocks, whatever. or simply build a cage from wire mesh and bury it. or you could use wooden logs to line a pit.

what i do, i just bury most of the food-sraps in the garden. just where i find a convenient space.

for your soil: have you thought about cover-crops? or high-biomass crops (like corn). could you get woodchips? like in this video:

the video description will link to a site where you can watch the film for free
Posts: 459
Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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As long as you're putting nice organic matter out in nature for it to break down, be eaten, etc. I don't think you can really do it wrong, though some methods are quicker than others.

Since you're concerned about the  PVC, why not just plain compost in place? I'm thinking dig the hole, fill it with kitchen waste, and bury it when done. NEXT! If a hole will collapse, just make a pit and turn it into a compost heap and shift after a period of time. As long as you have a place that consistently has proper moisture and food available, worms will stick around. They'll also promptly leave if the moisture or food aren't right.

And being that you're proposing something for outside, I wonder if concern about non-worm invertebrate participants is warranted, as long as they're eating the compost material (and not your veggies). Worms are friends, of course. But other bugs are there, they eat the compost material and poop and die, too. I see tons of different creatures in the compost heap and in the garden during the summer. I take it as a sign of a healthy and varied little ecosystem. (It's really really extra awesome when a tree frog shows up to join in, too.)

I've been doing vermiculture for years now and use just big bins. I put a handful of worms and bedding from an established bin in the bottom of an empty, then add kitchen scraps and other stuff I want to feed them along with high-carbon bedding (usually paper). When a bin gets full, I let it sit for a while for the worms to work through everything, then I dump the whole thing out on the garden. That jump starts the worm population, and as long as there is organic matter on top and it's not too cold or too dry, the place is seething with worms. It wasn't like that when we got here. My wife was concerned about smell and general disgustingness from the worm bins but she's come around because the results are so good.
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Well the first tower I ever saw was a wooden one over at the Instructibles site.
You could also make one from a flower pot,galvanized pipe or even cinder block,anything you can still holes in.
In my experience the are not a draw for roaches or even flies.
There should be a lid and the pipe or container should have no penetrations from 5 or 6 inches below grade to the top of the tube.
I found some of my towers never seemed to draw worms,but they all drew soil life.
The volume of my compostables turned out to be  too much for me to use worm towers.
When I used them only for dog poop I get good results(we've only the one dog you see 😤).

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