Inside Your Soil: A Wonderful World of Worms
As children, many of us spent countless hours digging around in the dirt, only to discover slimy red and brown earthworms coming out to greet us with each scoop. Sometimes we picked them up and examined them closer and other times, we just watched them slither freely until they burrowed back down into the ground.
Earthworms are Vital to Soil Health
Thinking back to the days when you were young, you probably did not give much thought to what the purpose of an earthworm was, other than the fact that it was a weird and slimy creature that made its way to the surface after a rainy afternoon. Earthworms are vital to our underground ecosystem. They act as Mother Earth’s helpers, ensuring we have fertile soil to grow our vegetables and flower gardens in as well as have a picture-perfect lawn for our neighbors to envy.
What do Earthworms do for Soil?
Earthworms play an important role in soil. Essentially, they eat dirt and poop nutrient rich castings all day long! Their poop yields magical powers that fill your soil with beneficial microbes, plant ready nitrogen, and high concentrates of organic minerals. What more could you ask for?
Earthworms Burrow, Eat and Deposit Rich, Organic Materials Throughout Your Soil
They till your soil as they eat dirt and decaying organic matter. This feeding frenzy leaves your soil aerated and in overall better health. As earthworms move about under the soil, they create burrow tunnels, which allow plant roots to spread out and collect the nutrients they need to grow. Soils that are rich in earthworm activity have better structure and drainage than those without. You are also likely to see that your soil looks much darker when worms are present as their castings are loaded with hummus, which is considered to be the black gold of the Earth.
Earthworms Allow More Water to Reach Plant Roots
When earthworms are present in your soil, the water-holding capacity will be greatly enhanced. Worms have the ability to bulldoze through tightly compacted clay soils and ground up the material so that water can get in, making it much more suitable for plant life.
How do I Get Earthworms to Make a Home in My Soil?
Do you ever think about whether or not you have good soil to plant in? The presence of earthworms in your soil is the best indicator that your soil conditions are on-point! Earthworms are finicky tenants and will not make a home in your soil if it is too hot or cold, too wet or dry, or too alkaline or acidic.
Check Your Soil for Earthworms
Dig around the top 6-12 inches of top soil and see what kind of worm life is lurking below the surface. If you already have an abundance of earthworms in your soil, congratulations! You are probably doing the right thing.
If your soil seems vacant of worm life, it is time to do some further investigating to find out why.
Test Soil for Nutrient Deficiencies, Acidity and Adequate Moisture
Have your soil tested to determine what the acidity levels are. You can raise the pH of your soil by applying lime and lower the pH of your soil with sulfur. To control the moisture and temperature of your soil, be sure to mulch it generously with at least two inches or organic mulch.
Introduce Earthworms to Your Soil
Once the soil conditions are welcoming to earthworms, introduce a few and let nature take its course. Earthworms are a very amorous species and can double or triple in population in as little as 90 days! You can either transplant earthworms from other areas of your yard or purchase them from a garden center.
Fun Facts About Worms
Did you know…
Earthworms are Hermaphrodites
Worms are equipped with both male and female sex organs. When two earthworms mate, each worm’s eggs become fertilized due to mutual sperm deposits. When all goes according to plan, the eggs will hatch within six weeks and up to five new little earthworms will be born.
Earthworms can live up to five years, on average, as long as they do not succumb to the ill fate of becoming fish bait or a food buffet for moles, birds, and other worm-loving predators.
They Were a Symbol of Fertility in Ancient Egypt
In ancient Egypt, it is said that Cleopatra VII put to death anyone who smuggled worms out of the country. It was her belief that removing worms from the land would offend the God of Fertility.
Earthworms Can Regenerate…Sort Of
Be careful while you are gardening; earthworms WILL die if they are cut in half. While young worms can regenerate a few segments worth of body loss due to an unfortunate shoveling accident, the process takes a long time and is not always a success.
They Work Hard For Your Soil
Aristotle once described earthworms as being the “intestines of the Earth.” They play a vital role in aerating and mixing up nutrient-rich soil that helps plant life thrive. While proper fertilizing is important to the success of any heavy-producing garden or lush green lawn, be sure your soil is also equipped with the proper natural living tillers to get the job done.