Neighbours talking over the garden gate has long been a tradition. They share gardening tips, complain about the weather and pests yet are ever eager to discuss their gardens. That is what I had in mind when creating this blog. So stop by my garden gate to find out the latest happenings in my garden.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
"All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child." ~ Madame Marie Curie"

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Dirt on Worms

July 13, 2009

Worms whether it be earthworms or red wigglers are an excellent indicator of your soil condition. Ideally you will have both since earthworms burrow deeper turning and feeding the soil at the same time. If you are gardening in raised beds or tradition beds and don't see any worms when you are working the soil, you have a problem! If your soil cannot support a healthy population of worms then it certainly cannot grow vegetables. That is because there is an absence of organic matter in the soil, absence of moisture or it is sandy or too acidic. Worms do not like sandy or acidic soil and they consume the organic matter and in return leave rich worm castings. So not only are they helping to break down organic matter they also give back nutrients to the soil. At the same time they continuously aerate the soil helping to keep the light.

Our two new beds were set on the existing cleared ground then filled with a top soil mixture. I am pleased to say that very little soil disturbance reveals red wigglers! Had I not seen these worms within a week of putting in the beds I would have added a bit more organic matter and a tub of red wigglers to each bed. Red wigglers and earthworms can be found at any bait shop or ordered online.

There are many ways to increase organic matter in your soil which will keep your worms happy which in turn will keep your soil in tip top shape for your vegetables. The obvious solution is adding compost from your compost bin. You can also add well rotted manure and well rotted leaves. Some home gardeners using the square foot gardening method use one or two of the squares to put small amounts of pureed kitchen scraps then cover with a light topping of soil. The worms will eat through this within a week much the same as vermicomposting. Another easy way to add a bit of compostable material is when you weed. Young, tender weeds that have not gone to seed can simply be tilled under the soil where the worms will take care of them for you. Apply regular dressings of organic matter to your garden to keep your worms happy. Do not work in any clippings from vegetable plants that appear to have signs of disease such as blight or powdery mildew. Do not work in any weeds that have gone to seed. It is always better to remove the majority of gardening debris to be composted if possible or destroyed if necessary. This practice keeps diseases from spreading in the garden or remaining in the soil.

Worms are one of the most beneficial critters you can invite into your garden. They eat harmful bacteria, nematodes and fungi while producing a top grade fertilizer. They produce nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium carbonate and other micro nutrients in forms the plants can easily use. Their castings also help reduce the acidity of the soil over times because the castings contain calcium carbonate. A healthy worm population will not only help with your soil conditions they will encourage beneficial birds to frequent your garden helping with pest control. For the fishermen amongst the gardeners, a healthy worm population provides excellent bait as well.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome


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