You’ve heard that earthworms are the sign of healthy soil? It’s not just that they’re indicators of healthy soil, but that they help create healthy soil. Plants and earthworms live in symbiosis with each other throughout the days and seasons, as earthworms feed off of plant residue and recycle and incorporate the nutrients back into the depths of the soil. In our last Newsletter, we took a closer look at some of the other soil organisms that make up the soil food web. But we want to give Earthworms a little more attention, because they’re important in everything that we do at Earthdance Organics.
Here’s a list of some of the benefits:
- Worm castings (poop) are stabilized nutrients that are directly available for plants to use
- Worm castings contain high concentrations of bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes, and protozoa, helping build and sustain the soil food web
- Worms can eat their weight in food each day!
- Worm castings help retain soil moisture
- Worm burrows help aerate the soil and promote root growth
- Worms help neutralize soil pH
- Worm castings offer a slow-release source of plant nutrition, with a 5:5:3, Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium ration
Different Species of Earthworms Have Different Habitats and Niches in the Soil
Creating An Ideal Environment For Earthworms
Earthworms make a home in soil that has a relatively neutral pH and that has plentiful food sources and adequate soil moisture. They feed on dead plant material found near the surface of the soil and pull it down into their burrows, where they digest and integrate these residues into lower soil horizons. In doing so, they are integrating and enriching microbial communities in the soil, and building their own ideal living environment. In our lawns, they feed on the thatch that we leave behind, and in our gardens, they feed on fallen petals and leaves. Therefore, earthworms tend to be more abundant in soils that maintain a constant mulch cover- for worms, mulch helps maintain soil moisture, moderates temperature fluctuations, and often provides a food source.
Worm Castings Are a Common Soil Amendment, and the Basis of Our FertileTea
Because of the quality and density of the nutrient and microorganism content, worm castings have been referred to as “black gold”. One method of composting is using earthworms to 100% digest and recycle nutrients, which results in a superior soil amendment. The worm poop generated is harvested and can be applied mixed into your soil as you would any other kind of compost. And because earthworms create an environment they want to live in, by feeding soil with a pH neutral, microbe-rich, nutrient-dense amendment makes for favorable conditions for worms, wherever you spread the castings.