Using worm towers to compost food scraps in your raised beds

I originally came across the idea of a worm tower while reading through the Permies forums. The concept is really interesting. You take a 4″ piece of PVC, drill lots of holes in it, bury it in your raised bed and fill it with kitchen waste. The scraps will draw worms in to eat and they will exit the tower spreading vermicompost throughout your garden. While I’m skeptical that anything will get spread, I do see this as a great way to boost your worm populations.

Since PVC is cheap (10′ for $12) I decided to add a worm tower to each of my raised beds:

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After drilling the holes and anchoring the tower I covered it with a hunk of Tulle. I threw a black seedling container on top of that, and hopefully this set up will keep the flies out and help mask the white PVC pipe protruding from each bed. I’m starting to think that I should have put the tower on the back side of the bed so it doesn’t shade small seedling behind it. Once the worms finish feasting on the initial batch of scraps I’ll will bust out the post hole digger and move it. Cool idea!

Measuring your compost piles internal temperature

This past weekend I started a fresh batch of compost. I filled my compost tumbler with kitchen scraps, cardboard, crushed egg shells, fully decomposed wood chips, a bunch of green scraps from the garden and some blood meal and water. My last venture into composting didn’t go well and I ended up feeding the sludge I created to the worms in my worm bin. I’m not sure if my issues was a result of the compost tumbler, the material ratios I used or if there was lack of moisture. This time I plan to monitor the bin much more closely.

To assist me with this, I picked up a heavy duty compost thermometer. This will help me keep an eye on the temperature and ensure that the mixture doesn’t go anaerobic. The thermometer works really well, and has indicators to show if the pile is steady, active or hot:

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In addition to monitoring the internal temperature (which has increased 20 degrees in just 4-days) I’m taking notes each time I check the pile. I also made sure the contents of the tumbler are properly aerated, so I’m hoping this time I get some amazing compost for my raised beds. Can’t wait to see how this hot mess turns out!

Vermicomposting in a cedar worm bin

It seems like just yesterday that I ordered my first worm bin and started vermicomposting. In reality that was actually a year and a half ago, and I’ve learned a TON in that period of time. In addition to my worm bin gotchas, I’ve also learned that you really can’t have enough worm castings for your garden. This past summer I decided to significantly expand my vermicompsting operation by building a large bin of of cedar wood. I had read that worms don’t like cedar, but as you can see from the following picture they don’t mind it at all (this is a handful of worms I grabbed that are dining on food scraps and rotted wood):

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I built my bin out of 2×6 cedar lumber, stainless steel hinges and galvanized screws. The lid was made from a piece of pressure treated lumber I had sitting around, and I attached 1/4″ hardware cloth to the bottom to provide drainage and to prevent moles from burrowing into the bin. The front entry door was also made from 2×6 cedar lumber, and allows me to throw my scraps in the top and harvest my castings out of the bottom. Here is a picture of the bin:

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I’m starting to think that I need to put a separator in the middle so I can have a working area on one side and a harvestable area on the other. I’ll probably add this feature this summer once I’ve harvested my first big batch of castings. It’s kinda cool having 1000s of little worm friends in the back 40. 🙂