Saturday, January 12, 2013


 One hardly has to introduce earthworms as an essential ingredient to a garden.  I knew a person needed a healthy dose of worm population but there is a lot a didn't know.  Dig into your soil and if you have a couple of night crawlers there, your ground is in good shape.  If you don’t then they need to be created, or give them a stronger invitation to visit.
What I didn’t put together was how many ways they help with the environment in general and the well being of ALL of your outdoor space.
Do you have a worm farm or garden?  Share it with us.
 The following is bits and pieces from the NRCS.  Go there to read in more detail.

They are major decomposers of dead and decomposing organic matter, and derive their nutrition from the bacteria and fungi that grow upon these materials. They fragment organic matter and make major contributions to recycling the nutrients it contains.
Earthworms dramatically alter soil structure, water movement, nutrient dynamics, and plant growth. They are not essential to all healthy soil systems, but their presence is usually an indicator of a healthy system. Earthworms perform several beneficial functions.
Stimulate microbial activity. Although earthworms derive their nutrition from microorganisms, many more microorganisms are present in their feces or casts than in the organic matter that they consume. As organic matter passes through their intestines, it is fragmented and inoculated with microorganisms. Increased microbial activity facilitates the cycling of nutrients from organic matter and their conversion into forms readily taken up by plants.
Mix and aggregate soil. As they consume organic matter and mineral particles, earthworms excrete wastes in the form of casts, a type of soil aggregate. Charles Darwin calculated that earthworms can move large amounts of soil from the lower strata to the surface and also carry organic matter down into deeper soil layers. A large proportion of soil passes through the guts of earthworms, and they can turn over the top six inches (15 cm) of soil in ten to twenty years.
Increase infiltration. Earthworms enhance porosity as they move through the soil. Some species make permanent burrows deep into the soil. These burrows can persist long after the inhabitant has died, and can be a major conduit for soil drainage, particularly under heavy rainfall. At the same time, the burrows minimize surface water erosion. The horizontal burrowing of other species in the top several inches of soil increases overall porosity and drainage.
Improve water-holding capacity. By fragmenting organic matter, and increasing soil porosity and aggregation, earthworms can significantly increase the water-holding capacity of soils.
Provide channels for root growth. The channels made by deep-burrowing earthworms are lined with readily available nutrients and make it easier for roots to penetrate deep into the soil.
Bury and shred plant residue. Plant and crop residue are gradually buried by cast material deposited on the surface and as earthworms pull surface residue into their burrows.
Earthworms improve water infiltration and water holding capacity because their shredding, mixing, and defecating enhances soil structure. In addition, burrows provide quick entry for water into and through soil. High infiltration rates help prevent pollution by minimizing runoff, erosion, and chemical transport to surface waters.

BUG BIOGRAPHY:  Night Crawlers and Tillage
The substitution of conventional tillage by no-till or conservation tillage is increasingly common and widely adopted in the United States and elsewhere. In these situations, earthworms, particularly the “night crawler,” Lumbricus terrestris L., are especially important. Earthworms become the main agent for incorporating crop residue into the soil by pulling some into their burrows and by slowly burying the remainder under casts laid on the soil surface.
In reduced tillage systems, surface residue builds up and triggers growth in earthworm populations. Earthworms need the food and habitat provided by surface residue, and they eat the fungi that become more common in no-till soils. As earthworm populations increase, they pull more and more residue into their burrows, helping to mix organic matter into the soil, improving soil structure and water infiltration.

OK, I knew worms were important but never realized their contribution to soil erosion, auto tilling, soil drainage etc.  Hey, if a person can get enough worms into their garden, sounds like no till to me.
I had a worm farm when we owned a bait shop and pour it into our garden when we closed.  Should not have done that.  I am going to create a new one.

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