Why I love the Worms in the Garden

I love my worms very much! Yes, they look creepy and slimy, but these creatures from below help feed my family and keep us all happy and healthy. If it weren’t for worms, I may have never found permaculture. I could be using synthetic fertilizers that most universities testing your soil tell you to use. I could have been growing this way and have cancer or other health issues due to using these chemicals to grow our food. My worms possibly saved my life and my children’s lives.

Years ago, I sent a soil sample into a large Pennsylvania University. In return they gave me soil recommendations that called for some ingredients I didn’t know about. I don’t remember what the recommended ingredients were, but I did research them. One particular synthetic said that it killed worms!

Well I love to go fishing, and on rainy nights I sneak out slightly to pick up worms for fish bait. I didn’t want to kill worms; all I wanted was to see is if I needed some additives for my soil. I kept looking at the numbers of my soil analysis and I thought this was junk. Who is testing this stuff, and why am I trusting them?

I figured my plants look fine and wanted to know why they did good since this place thought I needed to put this junk in my soil. That’s when I learned about worm castings. Worm castings (worm poop) is an amazing fertilizer for plants and soil. Worm castings contain:

Nitrogen @ .60%
Potash @ .06%
Calcium @2.0%
Iron @ .60%

These are approximate findings that depend on what the worms are fed and what types of worms they are. This is what the pros think, but there is so much more going on with the worm castings that we don’t fully understand yet.

So that’s when I figured that instead of using synthetics that would kill my worms, I would put “stuff” on my soil that worms love. Since the worms were going to help my plants, I would learn to love these slimy creatures.

Group of earthworms.

You know what worms really like? I found out they really like my plants! My plants give the worms a moist place to hang out and food to eat. The roots of plants host a cycle of life and death that create a cafeteria for worms. The worms then make deposits that my plant roots can absorb, feeding the plants.

Besides feeding my plants they also aerate my soil. Soil compacts after time making a dense, hardened place. This sort of soil makes it hard for roots to grow and hard for water to penetrate the soil. All the little tunnels that worms make softens the soil and lets water penetrate the soil easier. The more worms you have, the better the quality of your soil.

I have 2 sorts of worms that I have noticed. I have Night Crawler worms and Compost worms. Both behave differently and help us on the homestead. The Night Crawler (Lumbricus Terrestris) is the one you catch at night after a rain. They are long and slimy.

The Night Crawler eats soil full of dead microorganisms and then deposit the worm castings at the top of the soil. They are so polite to get the castings right where you need them! They burrow down a few feet really working the soil for your plant roots. I mulch my garden with a lot of leaves and these worms love eating leaves. They also like eating cardboard and newspaper, so I use them as weed barrier under my leaves.

Compost worms come in 4 main species. I don’t exactly know which I have, but I do know they really like rabbit manure. These guys don’t really dig down far but rather dig through manure and compost mixes. They also seem to enjoy eating mushroom mycelium and leaf mulch. These guys come and go: they seem to be picky about what they eat. One day I turn a pile of rabbit manure finding hundreds of them and 3 days later, they are gone.  These compost worms make fast work of converting manure to worm castings.

Worms 02

The compost worms can also help break down kitchen waste. Really, all you need is a container with a lid. Add compost worm friendly matter like banana peels, egg shells, potato peels, carrot peels, coffee and tea grounds, napkins and newspaper, and they are happy.  The more compost worms you have, the faster they can turn this waste into worm castings. Don’t try this with night crawlers; they just don’t eat this type of waste. They would much rather eat soil.

I also love my worms because they help supplement my chicken and fish feed. My chickens love to till up the compost heap and pick out worms. Worms are great feed and entertainment for the chickens. I laugh until it hurts to see all the chickens chase after one that has that prized worm hanging out of its mouth. My fish also appreciate the worms; it’s a healthy and natural way to feed them!

The best way to collect worms easily is to just place some boards on the floor and in a day or two I can just pick the board up to find the hiding worms. If I need a faster method, I poke a stick into the ground then use my vibrating sander against it so the pole vibrates. This brings any worms in the area up for picking and I don’t have to dig up my ground.

So, I hope you understand how much worms help us and why I love my worms so much. If your crops aren’t doing so well, you probably have a worm deficiency.  Remedy this by mulching and feeding the worms.  Your plants will be all the better for it.  Stay away from any synthetics or additives that may kill your worms.  It will set you back months or years. Worms are sustainable; buying fertilizers is not.



5 thoughts on “Why I love the Worms in the Garden

  1. I’m starting a new garden space this spring. I grew some greens, lettuce and cabbage on part of it over winter. Much of it has little organic matter in the soil yet. What worms would your suggest putting in (and how) to get things started? I’m also building a compost pile so I’d guess some red wigglers would work there? The board on the ground idea won’t work in E. Texas because of the invasive red ants that abound. Thanks for your article.

    1. Hello Paul!
      I’m glad to hear that the cooler weather didn’t keep you from growing your greens. I really like the red wigglers because they will consume all that decaying matter from your decaying greens and roots. I think they will work fine for you. If you just keep planting and give it time the right worms will just show up. Plant heavy so you don’t see your soil.

      The compost pile will also bring the worms at least in my experience. Somehow nature just knows what it needs. I have bought worms on 2 occasions and I think they all died so I gave up on buying them.

      Worms aren’t cheap to buy and I think they are used to the more sterile environment of temperature controlled worm buildings.

      Keeping the soil protected, mulched and covering your compost piles so they stay moist with a breathable fabric should let your native worms go to work.

      I don’t really know what to do about your ants but I hear corn meal will eventually kill them.

      Thanks for reading and good luck with the worms!

    1. Hello Pearl,
      I read the article and probably am not the right person to ask about this. I grow on less than an acre so I don’t have any reason to use heavy equipment.

      My thoughts are keep the heavy equipment off the fields and there isn’t any reason to sub soil. Some of my neighbor friends sub soil till every year but they have terrible earth. Acres of land and you probably wouldn’t find a worm to fish with. Then again, they could obviously be doing something wrong.

      Personally, if I had a large field I would first cover it with trees, shrubs and useful plants. I could guarantee that the worms would show up and I wouldn’t have to disturb the soil at all. But then again, I would never try and grow a mono crop and that is most likely the case the article was written for.

      Sorry if I didn’t answer your question but if you want to build soil just look to nature. Take a walk in the woods we really should replicate nature.

      Tanks for reading, Rich

      1. I don’t have any use for what they were doing either, I accidentally got on that site from a random link, then looked to see what else they did. My comment here was just “wow, they got all those worms, and they said it didn’t do any good.” they look at the world WAY differently than I do.

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