At Garden Maker, we like to say “If your garden is thriving, hug an earthworm!” These superstars build, enrich and move soil like no other organism. In fact, a visible and diverse population of earthworms is one of the best signs of healthy soil life; it means they have enough food from smaller organisms, and are actively improving your soil every day.
We usually picture earthworms as only the common brown night crawler (Lumbricus terrestris) because it is the most common garden earthworm across the country. For those who are using worms for composting, red wigglers (Eisenia fetida) and redworms (Lumbricus rubellus) are most common. But these are only three of the 7000 species of earthworms of every shape, size and color that might be living in and improving your garden soil.
Earthworms are shredders, breaking up garden debris as they move through the soil to let bacteria and fungi get to work decomposing the organic matter into humus and nutrients. They are also voracious eaters of bacteria. Bacteria help digest all other organic matter that the earthworm eats. Not only does this provide nutrients the worm needs to survive, but it also helps break up the chemical bonds between some nutrients, freeing them up to be utilized by nearby plants. Earthworms are also unique in their ability to move nutrients vertically in the soil. That makes them key transporters of Garden Maker™ Naturals fertilizers, pulling those natural nutrients far below the surface where they are needed.
But wait, there’s more! Worms play a key role in aerating soil as they burrow through the garden searching for food and avoiding birds and other predators. The spaces they leave behind them break up compacted soil to allow roots to grow more freely. The tunnels also provide air for aerobic organisms and help manage water retention and drainage. The movement of the worms and the excrement they leave behind also move soil particles and microbes from the surface to underground and vice versa, moving nutrients around the soil to where they are needed.
Vermicastings or worm castings are the name given to nutrient-rich worm poop. The castings are incredibly rich in organic material, which contributes to the humus in your garden. If you aren’t seeing enough worms in your own garden, you may consider adding some Garden Maker™ Naturals Worm Castings to your next custom-mix fertilizer, or buy a bag of the single ingredient to add humus and trace nutrients to your soil. But ultimately, there’s no substitute for worm activity in your soil, so consider “transplanting” earthworms into your garden by delivering a few shovelfuls of worm-rich soil into your garden and give them lots of good compost and organic material to shred, digest and deposit.