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How to Add Earthworms to Your Garden

earthworm image by ril from Fotolia.com

Earthworms do more than most of us realize to improve soil. As they tunnel through the soil, they bring virgin, nutritious soil from below the surface. And their castings are actually a nutrient-rich fertilizer, containing nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and many other micro nutrients essential to healthy plant growth. But not all earthworms can be added to garden soil. Purchase an endogenic variety of earthworm like Lumbricus terrestris. Other types, like those used for vermicomposting are unlikely to survive for long.

Fertilize the soil. If earthworms are not present in your soil, it's likely the soil is too poor to support them. Till the soil to a depth of 6 inches with a pitchfork or hand tiller. Then spread 3 inches of compost over the soil and dig it in to a depth of 8 inches. Tilled, enriched soil can support up to 25 earthworms per cubic foot. Once your soil is fertilized, the earthworms will probably find your garden on their own.

Spread purchased earthworms over the surface of the soil. Space them out so that there are only two or three per every square foot of soil.

Spread a 1-inch layer of organic mulch (dried leaves are ideal) over the soil. It will keep the soil cool and moist and provide the worms with food.

Earthworms Damage A Garden?

Earthworms improve soil quality or tilth in a number of ways. In addition, breakdown of organic matter as it passes through the intestines of earthworms increases soil water-holding capacity. While earthworm castings improve soil quality and fertility, when they are brought to the surface and deposited in large piles, such as those left by night crawlers (Lumbricus terrestris), they can be unsightly and cause lumps on the lawn or in the garden. Moles eat earthworms, grubs and insects. Presence of moles is indicated by upheaval of soil in stretches a few inches across and several feet long. In addition to plant root damage through tunneling, the presence of moles poses a threat for other small mammals to use mole tunnels in search of food.

Tip

Avoid using chemical fertilizers, as they may actually drive away earthworms.

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