Gardening > Worms


Worms © Clearviewstock & Dreamstime
Earth worms are a real asset in the garden. They help to maintain the fertility of the soil by bringing minerals to the surface and increasing the amount of humus in the plot. Feeding on rotting vegetation, worms excrete small, gel-covered pellets, commonly known as worm-casts. The casts contain nutrients such as potassium, nitrogen and potash in a form which is readily available for plants to take up and are released steadily into the soil.

The crumb-like texture of the worm casts helps to improve the soil, making it more free-draining and better aerated. Worm casts can also improve a poor, dry soil making it more able to retain essential moisture. These benefits mean good, healthy root production.

Wherever there are large amounts of organic material in the garden worms can help to accelerate the process of decomposition. Microbes, which are also part of the process of decay, benefit from the presence of worms in the soil. This is because worm casts provide them with large surface areas of predigested organic matter containing various enzymes and bacteria which also help decomposition.

Useful amounts of rich worm casts can be obtained by building or buying a wormery. The species of earth worm used in a wormery is Eisenia foetida, also known as Brandling or Tiger worms. This particular worm can work through compost or manure very quickly and they multiply rapidly. They can tackle virtually any compost including leaves, damp newspaper, grass cuttings and kitchen waste. The worms eat their way up to the top of the wormery working through the layers of organic waste. The casts can then be removed from the bottom of the wormery and be used for mulching or for raking into the top layer of the vegetable plot.

Common earth worms are essential in the vegetable garden and the soil can be given an extra boost with the worm casts provided by the Tiger worms in the wormery.