Earthworms are really good for the soil. So, you should be happy if you find them around your garden or compost.
Read on to find out how to attract earthworms to your soil.
What to Know About Earthworms
An earthworm is an invertebrate that is usually found in soil and water as long as temperature permits.
This organism is a hermaphrodite, which means that it carries both the male and female sex organs.
Earthworms are predominantly found in soil that is rich in organic matter because that is what they eat. They consume a variety of organic matter.
Interestingly, they eat as much as their weight every day.
The presence of earthworms in soil depends on the following:
- pH level
In terms of acidity
Most earthworms thrive in either neutral or slightly acidic soil.
There are approximately 2,700 different kinds of earthworms. Some varieties prefer different pH levels. It’s quite common to see some earthworms in soil with a pH level of 4.3 or 5.4.
Acidic soil will cause the worms to go into diapause or suspended development. They will remain in that state for a long period of time when the soil has a pH level of 6.4
Applying substances like lime sulphur or lead arsenate could kill the earthworms.
You know your soil is healthy because of the presence of earthworms, a lot of earthworms.
An acre of land could have as many as a million earthworms.
They usually grow to just 90 to 300 millimeters long. However, South Africa was once home to an earthworm that was 22 feet long.
Benefits of Earthworms
Earthworms are never revered. Some people refer to themselves as lions or tigers or even birds, but nobody wants to be a worm.
Often, worm is used as an insult to refer to a person you don’t respect or someone who is a coward.
The truth is
Earthworms are actually very important in the ecosystem. It’s sad that they don’t have the best reputation when they provide so much good to the world.
As mentioned, having earthworms actually means that your soil is healthy.
But it’s more than that. Earthworm activities provide a number of benefits to your soil and your garden.
1. Worm casts improve soil nutrition
Earthworms eat organic matter like leaves, grasses, dead roots, or manure. Their digestive system will do wonders to the organic matter so that they come out of the earthworm even healthier.
Yes, the poop of the earthworm, which is known as worm casts, is good for the soil.
It’s also rich in nitrogen, which is one of the nutrients that are important to the soil.
When the earthworm dies, its body will decompose easily, which will further add nitrogen to the soil.
2. Improve drainage
The activities of the earthworms include burrowing and channeling within the soil. The activities will result in a more loose soil, which essentially improves drainage and aeration.
Apparently, soil with earthworms can drain up to 10 times faster than soil without earthworms.
3. Retain soil moisture
The earthworm casts bond together and form into water-stable aggregates. They are actually quite good at keeping moisture in soil.
Related to that:
4. Improve soil structure
These castings are also found to rebuild topsoil, especially if they are left on the surface.
One research indicated that earthworms could build 18-centimeter thick topsoil within three decades.
5. Earthworms are important food source
To put it bluntly, earthworms are food. Birds eat earthworms and so do land snails.
While that doesn’t do anything for our soil, it’s still an important benefit that the “lowly” earthworm provides.
There you have it!
You know now that these earthworms are actually very important to the world and our soil. So, how do we gather them into your garden?
Just to be clear, you want them in the garden to make your soil healthier and not to provide food for the birds.
How to Attract Earthworms
Now that we’ve covered that earthworm activities will do wonder for your soil, it’s time to enumerate the ways to attract them in your area:
Make sure soil pH level is above 4.5
While some earthworms may be able to tolerate soil with a pH level of 4.3, most would prefer that it be higher than 4.5. They can tolerate slightly acidic soil, but not too much.
So, the first thing you should do is to check the pH level of the soil. If it’s too acidic, then you can add lime to increase the pH level.
Put organic matter
Organic matter is good for the soil anyway. When you increase organic matter in your soil, you are not only making the soil healthier, you are also trying to attract earthworms.
Earthworms eat organic matter like leaves and dead roots. When they digest these organic matters and cast them out, you will have an even healthier soil.
What organic matter to use
- Leaves – while clearing off the lawn or garden from fallen leaves, you could add these to a compost that could then be used as mulch in the garden.
- Plant roots – we mentioned that worms eat these, so they should be added to the compost.
- Animal manure
- Green manure crops – these are cover crops in agricultural land.
Make sure soil is always moist
A lot of the things here are actually related. For example, when you use mulch for the garden, you are essentially keeping moisture in.
Therefore, when you use compost mulch, you are attracting worms in two ways: you are inviting them to eat the organic matter while also making the environment more comfortable for them since they prefer moist soil.
Earthworms are also great at preserving soil moisture through its castings.
They need moisture to survive since they actually lose around a fifth of their body weight when they release castings.
What you need to do:
Just water the area where you want the earthworm to flock. Make it seem like it just rained.
Reduce soil compaction
Just because worms are good at loosening the soil doesn’t mean that they actually prefer compact soil.
That’s not how it works. Make sure to keep the soil loose by reducing foot traffic and other activities that would compact the soil.
Earthworms prefer loose soil that would allow them to move easily.
Don’t use pesticides
Chemicals could kill worms, so limit the use of pesticides. Avoid Benomyl, Malathion, and Sevin at all costs.
There’s something else you can do. If you can’t attract earthworms into your area, you could actually “raise” them through vermicomposting.
WHAT IS VERMICOMPOSTING?
This basically follows the natural process of using worms to turn organic waste into organic fertilizer known as vermicast. But instead of waiting for the natural thing to happen, you can actually make it happen in a controlled environment.
It’s actually a win-win situation. All households have organic waste that needs to be disposed of.
Instead of throwing it away
You can just put organic waste in a container in your backyard. You could introduce a few worms that would then multiply.
After that, you can use the castings and mix it with your soil and improve it further.
Your organic waste is actually put to use and you get more worms in the process.
When your soil becomes healthier and a better environment for earthworms, they will come naturally.
When this happens, you can have peace of mind when you grow your plants because you know that you have a healthy soil and a healthy environment.
Earthworms don’t really get the credit they deserve. People never really give them the respect they ought to have considering their importance in the world. They make your soil healthier.
If you see earthworms in your soil, know that it’s a sign of the soil’s good health. If you don’t find earthworms in your soil or your garden, then you should find ways to attract them somehow.
How to attract earthworms? There are various ways. The two things you should remember is that worms don’t like too acidic soil and they feed on organic matter.
- The Earthworm in New Light – Science Daily
- 11 Facts About Earthworms that Will Blow Your Mind – Country Living
- Crazy Worms Threaten America’s Trees – And (Gasp) Our Maple Syrup – NPR