Worms…Your Soil's Savior

What a winter! Or should I say lack of one? Our mild temperatures meant spring is off to an early start with no frost in the ground! Cleaning up around my garden yesterday morning, I was delighted to see my worms out and about. Yes, I adore worms. While they may seem slimy and gross to some folks, we gardeners know they are trusted friends. And, we have good company.

worms-out

Worms: Your Soil’s Savior

Charles Darwin, who spent nearly 40 years studying earthworms said about them, “It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures.” Here are just a few reasons why:

  1. Nature’s recycler. Earthworms decompose leaf litter and organic matter to the tune of 2,000- 20,000 pounds per acre… every year!
  2. 100% natural fertilizer. Through digestion, they turn organic matter like soil, leaves, etc. into nutrient-rich casings which are like vitamins for your soil.
  3. Aeration. As they move about, they forge tunnels that loosen the soil, giving plants more room to grow.
  4. Absorption. This looser, aerated soil is much better able to absorb water, reducing runoff.
  5. They are largely responsible for the health and vitality of your soil, and thereby benefiting your plants!

What’s the right amount of worms? Dig a one-foot by one-foot, half-foot deep square in your garden. According to the Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, healthy soil plays host to about a dozen worms in that area.

garden-wormAnd, now the question on everyone’s mind: why do earthworms emerge when it rains? Scientists used to believe it was because their tunnels filled with water, and worms would drown if they stayed underground. Not true. Worms breathe through their skin and actually need moisture to stay alive (that’s why they die when they dry up on your sidewalk). So, they can’t drown… at least not like humans do, and could easily survive several days under water. The correct reason? We’re still not sure. Soil scientists hypothesize two possibilities: finding mates and escaping predators. Worms can move more quickly above ground, but because they are addicted to moisture, they can only surface and move around when the ground is wet. When it rains, they can skedaddle (sort of) more quickly and find potential mates. Another reason: raindrops sounds like the pitter patter of moles, which eat worms. They hear the noise and wiggle aw