Wednesday April 11, 2018
With spring in full swing I suspect that many of us ask for a bit of help in the garden. Pulling weeds, planting, mulching...... However, did you know there is help already in the ground? I'm talking about earthworms!
Earthworms and Soil:
An important role earthworms play is tunneling through the soil. Tunneling accentuates the percolation (from the Latin word meaning to strain through) of water into the soil. This loosens the soil so oxygen and aerobic bacteria can get into plant roots allowing deeper penetration growing bigger, healthier plants.
Another role worms play is recycling organic waste by turning your kitchen scraps into worm castings (worm poop). Worm castings enrich the soil. We all know the better the soil, the better the garden.
Did you know? If there were only 5,000 worms in an acre of soil, they can produce up to 50 tons of worm castings!
Why are Worm Castings Beneficial?
Research indicates that, once material such as leaves and compost have passed through worms’ digestive system, the worm castings are easily broken down by microbes fertilizing your plants much faster than if the microbes were doing it alone.
Worm castings contain vital components such as calcium, phosphorus, iron, and nitrogen. Nitrogen helps reduce carbon dioxide being released from the soil. Click here to read about carbon dioxide and global warming
How to Attract and Protect Earthworms:
Earthworms need organic matter and moisture to thrive. Ensure your soil well stocked with organic compost and organic mulch. Refrain from excessive digging to maintain water retention. Click here to read about organic compost
Did you know? Despite rumours, worms cut in half do not grow into two worms. One half might survive, but in most cases you can assume that a bisected earthworm is a dead earthworm.
Did you know? When you see an earthworm wound in a tight ball under a rock it’s their way of protecting themselves from heat and dryness.
Beware of adding synthetic fertilizers as the nitrogen may repel earthworms and other beneficial insects. Many synthetic fertilizers also contain salt, which in high concentrations, is deadly to earthworms.
Sudden freezes can be an earthworm’s worst enemy. Protect them by adding a layer of organic mulch which can also double as a food supply. To read about organic mulch click here
You can either use the above suggestions to naturally attract earthworms or you can raise earthworms yourself. Raising earthworms is called vermiculture or earthworm composting. There are several ways to raise earthworms. At Hawaiian Organic Noni, have what we call worm hotels. Click here to learn more! On are smaller scale, earthworm bins can be kept in a cool, dark place (basements work well) and use kitchen scraps as a food supply. Here is a nice setup I recommend that is very affordable. If you don't want to pay for an earthworm bin, you can always make your own. We’ve discovered it's best to fill the bin with damp newspaper, soil, and of course kitchen scraps! For faster composting, you can process the kitchen scraps using a blender (remember worm’s don’t have teeth!).
How to Use Worm Castings
Worm castings can be added to potting soil for seed starts and indoor plants, or incorporated into your topsoil in the garden. Because the worms do such a good job of breaking down everything, you can put worm castings right down into the holes where you plant seeds — they won’t burn the seeds or roots of new plants like unfinished compost or other kinds of manure.
Happy Earth Day!