Updated: May 13, 2020
To begin, I want to say that in a lot of places in the world there are invasive species of earthworms, destroying the forest floor and hurting native plants, while letting invasive plants thrive. Since we are cultivating European natives in the garden, our plants do benefit from them. However the forest around us may not. Tune in next week to learn how to garden smartly and prevent overgrowth of earthworms in your local forests!
Earthworms are such an important part of the soil food web, and that makes them very important to any gardener. A lot of people look them over as grubs or random worms but they have a big job in the garden and they do amazing at it. We should all do what we can to improve our soil health and keep the earthworm populations up so that our plants are healthier and the ecosystem is flowing properly. There are a large diversity of earthworm species and they live pretty much in every corner of the earth except the deep desert. I'm not going to get super scientific but I do want you to leave this article with a bit of knowledge on these little guys and something you can do for them! These worms: -shred organic matter
-move large amounts of soil -feed mostly on bacteria, protozoa and dead organic matter -leave behind "castings" that plants love and support soil health -tunnel through the soil, enhancing its structure along the way
-even more Earthworms present in the soil are a great indicator that your soil is generally healthy because it is difficult for them to survive when chelated synthetics and other harmful chemicals are used. You can be sure they are there if you dig in the ground and find them, or you can observe birds and other animals eating them out of the ground. Here are some things you can do to foster a better earthworm population in your garden and lawn: -no tilling, it chops them up into small bits -no use of synthetic & salty fertilizers -inoculate soil with a beneficial tea to promote bacteria and protozoa growth
-reduce compaction of the soil by inoculating with a mychorrhizal fungus that supports soil and plant health
-reduce foot and vehicle traffic over any area you want earthworms to flourish
-using a mulch to protect the top layer of soil
-applying a light store bought worm casting top dress. If they are high quality you may find some live ones in the bags!
Earthworms rely on bacteria and protozoa as one of their main food sources and they will be absent from a garden that doesn't have healthy population of both. An absence of earthworms from soil can indicate a broken soil food web that needs repair.
You can even start your own worm bin and feed worms some of your kitchen scraps and collect the liquid and castings that come from them, they are great fertilizers for your plants. It's called vermicompost. Here is a website describing the details of it. Next time you see an earthworm make sure to stop and thank them for all the work they do for us, moving soil, shredding organic material, and infusing nutrients into the soil.