Taking care of worms in a garden tower


A garden tower with an integrated vermicomposting column down the middle is a great way to grow food in a living soil medium. The wormies move in and out of the tower and the surrounding soil, but will mostly stay inside the tower where there is food for them. To set up the worm tower, follow these simple steps - 

1. Prepare the bedding

Bedding is the habitat for the wormies and consists of carbon rich material like leaves, paper (ink is ok), cardboard and egg cartons. You want to rip your bedding into small 1 inch chunks (smaller the better) so that the wormies can eat it easily. It's a great weekly activity to do with your class. 

Bedding should be soaked in water and given a squeeze to remove excess moisture. It needs to be moist because the wormies breathe through their skin and require a moist habitat to survive. 

You'll need about 6-12 inches of bedding in the column, which roughly translates to half a 5 gallon bucket of bedding. 

2. Add the wormies and some food 

Composting earthworms feed on rotting organic matter, aka kitchen scraps, as well as bedding. The prefer eating unprocessed fruit and vegetable peels. Anything that was recently living can go back into the worm farm to become soil, but we recommend avoiding meat and dairy as they can smell, and avoiding citrus as it can make the ecosystem too acidic for the wormies. 

We recommend chopping up food scraps into small pieces and freezing them if possible before adding it to the worm farm. Freezing kills fruit fly eggs and prevents them from hatching in the farm and causing a menace.

3. What to feed and how much to feed

Start out feeding one cup a week. The wormies will keep on multiplying and eating more and more, and then consult the manufacturers recommend feeding guidelines for how to feed at the max. You don't want to overfeed the worms as they won't be able to eat all of it and the rotting food will attract flies and may cause smells. 

We recommend feeding the wormies fruit and vegetable peels (no citrus), coffee grounds and tea leaves, dead plant matter, paper napkins, and other naturally derived ingredients. Their favourite foods are watermelon rinds, strawberry tops and coffee grounds!

4. Making a lasagna

Think of feeding your worm farm as you would build a lasagna - 2-3 inch layers of food followed by bedding. Always remember to add bedding after you feed to bury the food scraps and keep it out of reach of flies. 



1. Ensure that you are always keeping the worm tower moist - the wormies will survive without food for long periods of time as long as their habitat doesn't dry out

2. Incase of flies, pause feeding for a few days, add 2-3 inches of dry bedding into the worm tower, identify the type of flies you are experiencing and then create non-toxic traps for them. It's ok to have a couple of flies but not okay if you have a swarm!


Keeping worms alive in the summer break

The wormies will stay alive as long as their ecosystem doesn't dry out. You don't need to feed or add bedding in the summer if you don't wish to. Simply water the central column and surrounding soil every 2-3 weeks. 


The Box Of Life is a vermicomposting social enterprise in Ottawa and we design systems and processes to help people compost. We make plastic-free classroom sized worm farms that can be used as a learning tool. We also offer hands-on classroom workshops to introduce your students to the wonderful world of composting wormies. 

Commonly Asked Questions

Does it smell?

A worm farm surprisingly does not smell!

Be sure to follow our instructions included with your parenting guide and join our support channels for troubleshooting!

Where should I put my Box Of Life?

We recommend keeping it indoors in a temperature controlled environment, somewhere easy to access and visible like your kitchen or living.

If you must keep it outdoors, keep in mind that red wiggler worms prefer temperatures between 15-25 C (60-80 F). During freezing cold winters, the worms may die, so it is a good idea to bring them inside. If it is too hot in summer, keep them away from direct sun in a cool, shady space.

How much effort is involved?

Honestly, not much. About 5 minutes a week at most to feed the worms and prepare the bedding.

By diverting food from your trash, you'll notice your garbage doesn't stink anymore which means you can empty it way less often than before.

How can I convince my partner?

The best way to convince your partner to let you keep worms in the house is by promising them that you will take care of them properly, and by following our instructions of course!

Your partner only needs to be mindful of separating food scraps and bedding for the wormies while they are in the kitchen, while you take care of the weekly feeding and maintenance. Treat your wormies like a houseplant!

What can I feed the worm farm?

Ok here's our rule of thumb - if it came from the ground, it can go back into it. This means that you can feed your worms fruits, veggies, paper napkins, cardboard, eggshells, whatever.

A healthy worm farm will recycle your food as well as paper. You are typically going to be feeding an equal amount of food and bedding to your worms.

Just keep in mind that meat and dairy can make your worm bin stinky and attract maggots, so don't add that if you are a new worm parent.

What to do when away on vacation?

If you're going away for two weeks or less, you don't need to do anything. The worms will be fine left alone.

If away for longer, you just need to ensure your worms don't dry out when you're gone. You could ask a friend to water your worm farm and feed them some food every 2 weeks while you are away.

Will my pet damage the worm farm?

So far we have not heard of any complaints from people who have pets and a worm farm. In fact many cat owners report that their furry felines like to sit on top of their boxes.