By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Worms play an important part in soil construction and recycling of organic waste. They are a part of a network of organisms that turn refuse into nutrient rich soil. These nutrients are one of the benefits of garden worms to plant growth. Worms in gardens also perform cultivation functions that increase soil porosity and allow oxygen to get into roots. Encourage earthworms in soil or even try worm composting to experience the life-giving effects of worm castings.
Worms tunnel in soil and eat organic matter, which they excrete as castings. Worms abound in soils that are around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 C.). Any extremes of cold, heat or moisture are not good for worm activity. Worms in gardens are most active when soil is moderately warm and moist.
Their tunneling behavior accentuates the percolation of water into the soil. They also loosen soil so oxygen and aerobic bacteria can get into plant roots. Looser soils also allow plant roots to penetrate deeper and access more resources, which in turn builds bigger, healthier plants. One of the biggest benefits of garden worms is their ability to turn garbage into fertilizer.
Worms in Gardens and Lawn Areas
The fertilizer the worms provide is also called castings. Technically, this is worm poop, derived from their processing of organic waste. The castings are excellent sources of nutrients for plants, but may pose a nuisance in yards.
This is a form of worm composting. Earthworms in grass leave casting hills, or mounds, that are visually unappealing and may pose a trip hazard. The benefits of garden worms far outweigh this minor inconvenience, however. Consider that if there are 5,000 worms in an acre of soil, they can produce 50 tons of beneficial castings.
Encouraging Earthworms in Soil
Avoid deep tilling to prevent damage to permanent earthworm burrows. “Feed” your worms by providing layers of organic munchies for them to eat. These might be grass clippings, leaf litter or other natural compostable items.
Do not use pesticides, which can kill entire populations of worms in gardens. You can also transplant a couple of shovels full of soil laden with worms to areas with few of the organisms. They will soon populate the area. Worm eggs are also available at some nurseries and online. Vermicomposting will also encourage these beneficial creatures to the garden.
You can use these recycling abilities on your kitchen scraps. Red wigglers and redworms are the organisms of choice for worm composting, also known as vermicomposting, which is done in a bin. Earthworms aren’t a good choice – they are diggers and will try to get out. Placid red wigglers will turn your kitchen scraps into compost quickly and also provide compost tea for plants that need extra babying.
Line a bin with newspaper or shredded organic material and layer in good quality compost. Add finely cut kitchen scraps, add worms, and cover with a light dusting of soil. Keep the compost lightly moist and put a lid on with air holes punched in for the worms. As they compost the scraps, scrape finished product to one side and add more. This small set up provides similar earthworm benefits, but on a small scale.
Learn more about the benefits of earthworms by watching this video:
This article was last updated on
Read more about Vermicomposting
It is the decomposition of organic matter, whether animal or plant residues, and it is poor in terms of major and minor elements, and it alone is not sufficient to feed the plant, and there are also microscopic pathogens in compost,
It is the result of a digestive process after the complete decomposition of the organic matter, in addition to the ability of the worms to overcome and digest the harmful residues in the organic matter, and this fertilizer alone is sufficient to meet the needs of the plant from the major minor elements and also works to facilitate and skew the solid elements present in the soil, making it easier for the plant to absorb it. And take advantage of it.
For example, when you add 500 kilograms of vermicompost to the field soil, it is better than ten tons of regular compost. The elements of vermicompost easily dissolve in water, compost elements that do not dissolve in water and the plants cannot use them easily.
The effect of vermicompost appears within a very short period from the beginning of its use, and it may be less than a week. As for the compost, its effect appears after a much longer period.
Vermicompost does not provide the plant with what it needs from the major and minor elements only,
Rather, it provides the soil with a very large group of bacteria that have multiple important functions for the plant, i.e., more precisely, it supplies the soil with factories for the manufacture and creation of nutrients, growth regulators, and materials to resist soil pests in the soil itself, which restores the soil’s vitality again.
The sardine (Vermicompost) contains an antibiotic and fungi such as Actinomycetes, which increase the level of the plant’s biological resistance against insects and diseases, thus reducing the need for spraying pesticides.
Earthworms ingest soil contaminated with minerals, by coating mineral particles with a type of protein called metallocene.
Earthworms ‘can be a boost for greenhouse gardeners’
Greenhouse gardeners have such a wide range of techniques to make the most of the plants at their disposal that it would be easy to overlook some considerations.
Earthworms are typically associated with natural habitats, but they can easily be introduced to artificial environments. This can be tremendously beneficial to gardeners and can really help to give a plant a boost.
Organic growing blog Backyard Nature cites a study conducted by Wade Elmer and published in the journal Plant Disease as indicating just how much good earthworms can do.
The article – entitled Influence of Earthworm Activity on Soil Microbes and Soilborne Diseases of Vegetables tested asparagus, eggplant and tomatoes. These vegetables were grown in pots infected with common Fusarium and Verticillium species.
Fusarium is a type of fungi – most species of which are harmless saprobes – and is a fairly abundant in soil communities. However, some contain mycotoxins in cereal crops that can affect people if it enters the food.
Along with Verticillium, both fungi forms are known to cause serious plant diseases in vegetable crops. Indeed, there is no known chemical means of controlling these diseases in the case of Verticillium.
However, the study found that the presence of earthworms had suppressive benefits that significantly reduced the spread of this – by anywhere between 50 per cent and 70 per cent.
This was brought about as a result of the soil-based activity of the creatures and it was suggested that action to increase the presence of earthworms could help to stem the tide of soil borne diseases.
More general benefits were also identified, as plant weights were increased by 60 per cent to 80 per cent when the soil was augmented with earthworms.
Needless to say, it is easy to see why this could be appealing to the greenhouse gardener – and especially those who take advantage of the space to grow vegetables.
The most common kind of worm found in compost is the red wiggler, properly know as the Eisenia fetida. It is adapted to environments of decaying material and thrive in compost.
They are hugely beneficial to artificial environments, as they play an important role in helping to evenly distribute water through the soil. Combined with their ability to incorporate and spread organic material, they can really help to make a rich variety of nutrients available to more plants.
Furthermore, they are perfect for gardeners in the US, as they do not survive the kind of cold winters experienced in the northern states, so there is no need to worry about disposing of them and inadvertently introducing them to a non-native environment.
In an article for UK newspaper the Guardian, one-time presenter of the television magazine show Gardeners’ World Alys Fowler advised against being too sensitive and trying to separate worms from compost.
“It used to be thought that gardeners should discourage worms from containers, but they do no harm,” the expert commented, adding: “Quite the opposite, in fact – they do their work in pots, too, taking dead leaves and organic matter, and turning it into plant food.”
Indeed, Charles Darwin once stated: “It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures.”
However, Ms Fowler said: “They will congregate at the bottom of the pot if it’s hot, and you may well not want worms hanging out all over your balcony. So, to sort them out, place small mounds of compost on a plastic sheet, and the worms will make their way to the bottom of the pile, where it’s cool and dark,”
She recommended returning them to the top of the compost bin after this.
Worm Castings Are A “Miracle” Soil Conditioner
Increases Soil Fertility
Better seed germination. More flower and fruit production.
Safe For Kids And Pets
Unlike chemical fertilizers, Worm Casting are completely non-toxic and won’t hurt animals or people.
Plants, fruit, and flowers grow bigger with worm castings.
Castings smells like dirt.
Unlike chemical fertilizers which are made from Natural Gas, Worm Castings are 100% natural and non-toxic.
Will Not Burn Plants
Unlike chemical fertilizers, Worm Castings will not burn plants or harm soil at ANY level.
Safe For The Environment
Unlike chemical Fertilizers, worm castings do not destroy the water table or environment.
Castings add organic matter into the soil improving air flow in the soil.
Worm Castings help the soil retain water meaning you can water them less saving water.
Worm Castings add beneficial microbes to the soil that destroy bad microbes helping keep the plants and soil healthy.
Want to learn more about the benefits of Worm Farming? Let’s watch this video from OhHowHappyGardener:
Did you find this post helpful and interesting? Will you use worm farming for your homestead? Let us know in the comments section below.
LIKE this? I’m sure you’ll LOVE:
[…] 5. The Essential Benefits Of Worm Farming | Homesteading For Beginners […]
[…] The Essential Benefits Of Worm Farming | Homesteading For Beginners […]
[…] Vermicompost is favored among gardeners as a superior natural-fertilizer because, unlike other natural fertilizers, such as horse and chicken droppings, it is not ‘hot’ and the Vermicompost can be added directly to the soil around the plants, providing enrichment and a huge nutrient boost without risk of burning the plant and its roots. . […]
[…] 5. The Essential Benefits Of Worm Farming | Homesteading For Beginners image source […]
[…] The Essential Benefits Of Worm Farming | Homesteading For Beginners […]
[…] farming, or vermicomposting, is the process of turning your household food waste into nutritious and fertilized soil, or […]
Tell Us What You Think! Cancel reply
Want more Homesteading tricks, tips, and tidbits?
Subscribe To Our Newsletter:
Another option for composters is that of vermiculture, or raising earthworms.
For centuries, worms have benefited the soil by eating dead organic matter and turning it into plant food. And, gardeners who want to take advantage of their natural compost production can do so by raising worms.
The compost produced by the worms is called castings and it is described as “almost the perfect plant food,” byRon Greenwood of Unco Industries, a vermiculture company in Mount Pleasant.
“It improves the root structure of plants,” he said.
To start, you’ll need a container, bedding material, worms and organic waste.
The container can be as simple as a plastic dish bin or storage container and the bedding can be topsoil, certain types of cellulose insulation, or even shredded newspaper that has been soaked in water to a damp-sponge consistency, according to Greenwood. When using newspaper, choose only the black and white pages (color ink isn’t safe), he said.
“You want to make sure the bedding is moist so that the worms can get their moisture from it, rather than the bedding getting moisture from the worms,” he said.
The worms most commonly used for worm composting are called red wigglers, according to Greenwood. And one or two pounds of worms is enough to get you started, he said. A pound of red wigglers purchased locally, from Unco, costs $15.
When it comes to feeding the worms, any kind of fruit or vegetable scraps will do, along with coffee grounds and egg shells, Greenwood said.
“They love melon rinds,” he said.
As with regular composting, you want to avoid meat and bones as they tend to attract flies and rodents.
Most food waste can be put directly onto the worm bed just as it comes from the table, but grinding or cutting things into smaller particles will speed recycling time. On average, two pounds of earthworms can recycle one pound of organic waste in a 24-hour period.
Worm composting can be done in conjunction with a traditional compost pile or by itself. Some backyard composters find it to be a good alternative to outdoor composting during the winter, said Rose Skora, an agriculture educator with the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Sturtevant office. Many people choose to raise them in their basement, she said.
Worms can also be added directly to an outdoor compost pile, said Greenwood, as long as you provide a cooler area, in addition to the central compost pile, for them to escape to when the heat of the decomposition gets to be too much for them.
Worm composting has also become very popular in schools in recent years, said Greenwood. Students raise the worms and learn about biology in the process. It can also be a fun project for families, he said.
“It is very easy to do. People shouldn’t be afraid of it.”
At the same time, it is important to remember that when you are raising worms, you are dealing with a live animal, Greenwood said. Even worms have basic needs, including water, food and temperature control, he said.
“You can leave them alone to a certain degree, but you also need to poke your head in every now and then and make sure they are all right.”
Best indoor composting methods
There are two basic ways to compost — vermicomposting (using worms) and aerobic composting. A study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found vermicompost to be higher in nutrients than traditional compost however, both methods produce a compost rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. If you don't like the idea of having worms inside your home, aerobic composting is a good alternative.
In vermicomposting, worms eat the waste in the bin then excrete castings (manure). These casings combine with other decayed organic matter to form vermicompost.