Earthworms are important to the soil ecosystem, and a healthy soil ecosystem will result in healthier plants.
Plants need water and oxygen to grow properly. These elements are held in areas of the soil called pore space between the soil particles and soil aggregates, which is part of the soil structure. Strong soil structure aids in the movement of water and air.
As earthworms move through the soil they create these important pore spaces. Vertical burrowing earthworms help increase the availability of nutrients to plants, allow for better soil drainage, and help create a more defined soil structure. These amazing wigglers aerate and loosen the soil (add oxygen and release carbon dioxide), and improve water drainage, as they make their vertical descent.
Earthworms eat plant debris and soil which results in valuable waste products called casts.
Casts are rich in immediately available nutrients for plants such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. Worm castings also form water-stable aggregates that improve soil structure. As food passes through the earthworm, the castings are released with a neutral pH. This neutral pH can aid in the quality of plant growth.
After earthworms die, they decompose and again return plant available nutrients to the soil.
If you are interested in adding earthworms to your soil, you may purchase some through a worm farm or some garden supply stores.
To increase worm population in your soil, add finished compost, composted loose or bagged manure, (Cornell recommends manure to be composted 120 days before using in your garden) and rotate your crops or garden plantings.
Keeping these little guys fed will make them multiply and help to enrich your soil.
Look for more gardening tips online at www.cceoneida.com or call the Horticulture Hotline, Wednesdays and Fridays, 9 a.m. to noon at 315-736-3394.