Worm Cafe - Compost With Earthworms Right in Your Garden





Introduction: Worm Cafe - Compost With Earthworms Right in Your Garden

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Earthworms are fantastic for gardens because they aerate the soil and their castings improve soil fertility, water holding ability, and drainage.

I had seen this idea somewhere else but wanted to make some changes that would work better for my situation. I hope it helps someone else also.

This is installed in my Square Foot Garden bed but would work in other gardens also. For more information about Square Foot Gardening contact me.

Composting is a way to reduce what is thrown away while adding to the health of your garden soil. Although I compost otherwise I was excited about the idea of composting right in the garden. Compost should be ready much sooner this way with less work: no turning compost, and no moving compost to the garden.

If you are not able to have a traditional compost bin this may be a way you could still make compost.

Step 1: Gather Materials

Find or purchase wood. 
I found four, 1"x5" pieces of 2' long lumber around my house - three cedar, and one Douglas Fir.  Any kind of wood should be fine, but I advise against using pressure treated, painted, or stained lumber.  You could use 2 1/2' or 3' long lumber instead of 2'.
You will also need a drill, bits and screws, about 2 cups of peat moss, kitchen scraps, a board or post cap for a cover, and a few earthworms.

Step 2: Prepare the Boards

Drill 1" holes within 6" of the end of each board. 
These openings will allow the worms to come and go - eating kitchen scraps in the cafe and then traveling through the garden leaving castings and aerating the soil.

Step 3: Put Your Cafe Together

Fasten the boards together with screws – long sides together.  I used 4 screws per side.

Step 4: Choose a Location

Choose a place in your garden to place the "Cafe”.   It would be best if there is not landscape fabric or anything else which will prevent the worms from going deeper when the temperature drops or rises.
I chose this empty square in my Square Foot Garden.

Step 5: Dig Out a Hole for the Box

Dig out the soil to a depth of 6” and a little larger than the box is wide.

Step 6: Put the Box in the Hole

Place the box into the hole with the end with the holes facing down

Step 7: Fill the Hole Surrounding the Box

Fill the hole outside the box with soil, making sure to save any earthworms you find so you can add them later.Fill the hole outside the box with soil, making sure to save any earthworms you find so you can add them later. Fill the hole outside the box with soil, making sure to save any earthworms you find so you can add them later.

Step 8: Add Earthworm Bedding

Add about 2 cups of damp coir (coconut fiber), shredded paper, finished compost, or peat moss into the box

Step 9: Add Earthworms and Kitchen Scraps

Put the saved earthworms into the box.  If you find a few more earthworms around your yard you can add them also.
Add some kitchen scraps (vegetable or fruit peelings) into the box (about 1 cup).  Never add dairy products, meat, fat, or bones.

Step 10: Cover It

Put a board or decorative cover over the top of the box to keep out rain and flies.  A post cap could be used for a more decorative look.

Step 11: Alternatives

I also made one out of a cardboard box for another bed in my garden. It may not last long but I thought I would try it anyway.

Step 12: Don't Forget to Feed Your Earthworms

 Kitchen scraps can be added on a regular basis.  Check and see how fast the earthworms are consuming the scraps to get an idea of how much you can add and how often.  You may be able to add a cup or two at least once per week.

This is new for me so I am trying it out for the first time.  I would be interested to hear how it is working out for all of you that try it.

Step 13:

Update on my Worm Cafe. I checked it June 9 and it looked like finished compost. In addition to the fruit and vegetable peelings I added on the day I built and installed it I had added a bit more a few days later. So, in two weeks or less it was consumed and composted by the worms! The cardboard one was installed a day or so before the wood one and it didn't do quite so well. There were still recognizable pieces of vegetables.  The cardboard also blows away easily.

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81 Discussions

There is a basic flaw in this:   Earthworms are not composting worms!  You need red worms for that.  

All you are likely to get is a bigger and bigger pile of garbage.  

5 replies

All earth worms compost.. it is a matter of how long it takes them to do they job. I raise African night crawlers and they will turn a compost bin faster than any other worms. For a very long time people have been convinced that you MUST have red wigglers.. but they do not even do as good of a job as the Africans.

I've had something similar in my garden for the past few years (a small plastic garbage bucket with holes drilled below the soil line) and my wife and I cannot outpace the earthworms. We use it in the asparagus bed and it works just fine from early spring until hard freeze in the fall.

We throw garbage in. And then we throw garbage in. And then we throw more garbage in ... and that little pail never gets much over half full. I don't think it would get even half full if the earthworms didn't have to wait until the bacteria had a chance to get things broken down somewhat.

This guy posted an instructable of a working system. Ergo: no basic flaw.

There are earthworms that live only in composting materials and earthworms that compost kitchen scraps but live in the soil.  Since the worms are not living in the compost but using it as a food supply there should not be a problem with using worms from your garden.

how will the worms get air? i made some composters out of 5 gal buckets but i have air holes in the top/ sides? thank you!

cool idea! Adding redworms would probably speed things up. You could also modify and add some poles/wiring for beans or other climbing plants.

I live in Oklahoma and I am going to try the café with a few European nightcrawlers

This a great idea!!! I saw a solar light post cap at HD that would be great abound the garden. Definitely going to try this!

Once you put the coconut or peat moss in initially, will you ever have to go back again and do this over? I live in central NC and am planning this but would like to make them more permanent since we have pretty mild winters.

1 reply

I never added any more coir, peat moss, or newspaper. I only added vegetable and fruit scraps from then on.


Everyday that i have looked at the compost it goes down a lot! Way more than i would expect from it just condensing due to gravity. When i threw it in, it was pretty wet and well pulvarized. the first pic is the night i built it, and then i took one every morning since

1 reply

It should be going down since the worms are consuming it and then spreading their castings through out your garden and there are microbes breaking it down also. I have never put that much in at once so it is interesting to see how it is working for you.

So I made it. It was so easy and went together so fast. I used a flat rock for my top. Once again, Thanx!!!

OMG! What a wonderful idea. I am going out and making myself one in the coming week and maybe one for a Christmas gift. Thanks for the great 'ible!

And to Kelser (and anyone else with an ant problem) try cinnamon. Sprinkle it around and that should repel your ants.

I will be trying this in the rooftop garden my elementary students have planted. Very simple and efficient! Thanks.

One thing I've heard when researching this sort of composting... that there's no need to harvest compost from this. If the unit is placed near the center of the garden plot, the worms come in, eat the scraps, and leave, spreading the compost throughout your garden for you within the surrounding area. Is this correct or is it still useful to collect and manually spread the compost remaining inside? I'm going to give this a try in the spring for sure! Thanks!

1 reply

There is no reason to harvest the compost. The worms will spread it around for you. Let me know how it works out!