Friday, May 29, 2015

The rapid rise and precipitous fall of a worm bin tower garden

My friend Curtiss may in fact be a more enthusiastic gardener than myself.

One day he showed up at the 326 Community Market with a large blue barrel contraption that looked like a redneck satellite, then proceeded to give it to me to test out.

He told me it was a worm bin/garden tower. I was intrigued. In fact, so were the shoppers at the market. In a short period of time, a group of interested gardeners had gathered around Curtiss to hear his explanation of how the strange device worked.

Here's what it looks like:

The concept is ingenious. It includes vermicomposting, low water usage and high-density planting all in one.

The center PVC pipe is there to receive kitchen scraps which in turn feed worms living in the barrel garden which in turn feed your plants with their rich castings.

Holes in the center pipe allow worms to travel in and out of the kitchen scraps as they choose.

In the bottom of the barrel are drainage holes on one side that allow you to put a 5-gallon bucket beneath the garden tower to collect the nutrient-rich worm tea/irrigation water that drains out. 

After filling my awesome new garden with potting soil and some rotted mulch, I planted a variety of herbs and small annuals in the pockets and the top of the tower. I also loaded it up with a 1000 redworms in the center and a bunch of kitchen scraps to keep them happy.

Suddenly it looked like a great Pinterest project.

But then something happened.

Something terrible.

After a month, the legs on one side slipped inwards and unceremoniously dumped my beautiful garden and its plants onto the ground, crushing some of my purple beans and all of the herbs on the downward side.

Pretty dramatic, right? I could make it even more dramatic. Like this:

It's like a motivational poster.

Basically, it seems the bolted-leg tripod approach wasn't quite stable enough. After an hour's work, I was able to save the plants on the top side, plus remove the dirt (it was way too heavy to lift back up and prop) and set up the tower garden on my back plaza where the legs will be more stable. I also tucked two cinder blocks beneath it for extra stability, then reloaded the dirt and worms. Now it doesn't shake at all and really seems to be tough.

Digging through the dirt in the center of the fallen garden did show me one thing I hadn't known about before the fall: the worms were very, very happy and had been making lots of babies.

I'm going to replant when I get a chance and give this thing a better test. I think the design is generally sound and with a little tweaking of its stability will turn out well in the end.

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At May 29, 2015 at 12:02 PM , Anonymous daddynichol said...

If a worm barrel falls, and a gardener is not around, did it make any sound? Perhaps. The tiny voices of thousands of falling worms would be incredibly saddening. *sniff*. I need to go to my comforting place.

Thanks for the great post!

At May 29, 2015 at 12:07 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

"I feel a great disturbance in the force... as if millions of worms suddenly cried out and then were silenced..."

At May 29, 2015 at 11:17 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I saw a Kickstarter with this design I KNEW it would fail! There is no way the amount of weight can be supported on such small legs over a long time. Further a gardener will have to be sure they put this where they want it for a long time as it is not moving easily. (BTW, it has been redesigned.)


At May 30, 2015 at 9:49 AM , Anonymous David The Good said...

Yep - you got it.


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