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Introducing Worms to a Newly Created Garden

Many gardens today are newly created, often this means that the topsoil, turf, shrubs and trees etc have all been brought in and an almost instant garden created, even if this is not the case and the garden has been created from an already existing but neglected plot then this will have usually involved a great deal of mechanical work and suffered through the use of chemicals whether its sprays or so called “composts”.

Worms do not like disturbance, therefore if the soil has been imported or mechanically dug and moved on site many of the worms will have moved or been killed off, the end result being a nice looking garden (but unhealthy) and no worms!

Do we need worms, are they that important?

The answer is undoubtedly a resounding yes. Worms create the very soil that the plants live in, they do this by digesting all the organic matter left on the surface through dead plants, leaves etc (without them doing this the planet would now be miles deep in decaying vegetation!). As this matter is digested it is then deposited back as “casts” (actually worm poo!) this, when added to the ground up rocks and stones gives us soil.

This soil when it has not been interfered with my man is naturally rich in nutrients and all the micro life that plants need to grow and flourish, it also gives the plants the ability to fight of insect and disease attack, a good reason for the worms existence, if that was not enough, the worm has also been designed to burrow around in the soil, particularly in the vicinity of plant roots, creating tunnels that allow moisture and air into the soil for plants to use, a pretty convincing argument for their existence.

If there are no worms in the newly created garden then the plants will not have the benefit of the worms existence and will certainly need the intervention by man in the form of adding nutrients, sprays, digging etc. think of how a typical modern wheat field is managed.

Can we just then add worms?

Yes we can but it does have to be done with some thought and preparation, if you just toss on a few handfuls of worms and hope for the best it is likely to fail. We often hear that the soil is compacted and the customer hopes that the worms will break this up along with getting rid of the rubble and concrete also buried! unfortunately worms will not do this,  any potential site for adding worms to will need to have any compaction broken up, rubbish including rubble etc must be removed the  worms need food, this is the organic matter they would find naturally, in a new garden it must be provided by incorporating it into the soil BEFORE adding worms, it can be in the form of well rotted manure, garden compost or leaf mould or similar materials of a non chemical nature, we recommend this should then be left for a year to settle down and mature, during this period, where possible, a good layer of mulch and or compost should be put on the surface making sure the soil is damp and retains this moisture, then consider adding worms.

Flower and shrub beds

Wherever possible, a “no dig” policy should be established, worms do not like to be disturbed, in shrub and flower beds this is not usually difficult and any subsequent digging to plant would not be a problem, for the worms to thrive it is essential that the mulching continues. Sprays and chemicals are all detrimental to worms and should be avoided.

Vegetable plot

This is not always so easy, we still have this traditional need to dig but if this is kept to a minimum then the worms will be fine, the more worms the less need to dig except maybe when actually planting. The incorporation of organic compost and manures (old) is still essential, not only for the worms but for the health of the plot and its plants, again, chemical sprays and liquids must be avoided.

“Planting” Worms

When the plots are ready to receive the worms, they must be added by planting, if they are just spread on the surface, many if not most will be lost, the birds will have a field day! Worms are reluctant to burrow down into unknown territories, they don’t know what they might meet so they tend to stay on the surface and head for any dark or damp spots possibly where you do not want them.

If they are on the surface too long the ultra violet light in daylight and sun can severely damage and eventually kill them therefore it is essential they are “planted”. To do this, calculate the area in square meters or yards, work on 3 or 4 holes per yard/meter, dig out a trowel depth hole, add a bit of water and compost, pop in a pinch or so of worms, roughly dividing up the weight or quantity of worms purchased by the number of holes dug, always then cover over the hole with the soil.

Worm colonies are recommended for several reasons, they do not have to be planted immediately on arrival, they make the number of holes to be dug much less (one per 1 or 2 square metres) thereby saving time and effort, the worms are not suddenly introduced to a new environment that they are unfamiliar with, the colony container gives them a safe and secure environment until they are happy to venture forth, job done!

What quantity and species should be planted?

Sadly there are very few species of worms available commercially, many are not available simply because there is no demand, the ones that are available are Lumbricus terrestris, our largest worm, Eisenia hortensis a soil dwelling/compost dwelling worm, Eisenia foetida and Eisenia andrii both being mainly compost worms, all of these worms will live in soil but the “composting” worms will need good volumes of organic matter (which should be incorporated in to soils anyway) to thrive.

The quantity of worms required is not an exact science, as a rough guide you should be aiming for the following:

Introducing Lumbricus terrestris – this would be around 5 worms per square metre minimum, this is a guide only and the quantities can be varied according to budget, however, it should be noted that too few are likely to fail, these are the deep burrowing worms.

Introducing Eisenia hortensis, Eisenia foetida and Eisenia andreii (usually supplied as a mix) these should be planted at around 10 – 20 per square metre as a minimum, there are roughly 1000 per kilo for pricing purposes.

The quantities are governed by surface area NOT depth.

I hope this has been useful, please feel free to copy and download for your own private use. Strictly no commercial use or reproduction without our express, written permission.

Related Products

  • Worm Colonies – easy to use box of earthworms suitable for adding to a newly created garden.
  • Loose Earthworms – earthworms suitable for adding to a newly created garden.
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Composting………………….dog poo!

Getting rid of dog poo is something most of us would prefer not to think about too much , however it is a fact of life if you keep dogs, one of the most successful ways to do this is to compost it using worms. Being organic worms will compost it just the same as any other organic waste matter, the method is pretty much the same but there the similarities stop.

So what is the best system? lets face it, dog poo is not something most people would like to have a hands on experience with, to this end some wormery systems are best avoided, in our opinion the stacking tray system is one of these,  the best would be a simple box. To set this up you will need a box, preferably plastic, the typical kerb side recycling box with a lid often used by local councils are ideal, nothing smaller, into this the worms and bedding need to be placed, the small Worm and Bedding Kits as supplied by us are ideal, the dog poo is added and the worms allowed to get on with it, the same advice as to overloading the worms applies, if it is overloaded and the worms cannot cope, you will end up with a bin full of just dog poo, if it is regulated and well managed the worms will process the waste and there will be no smell, when the bin is almost full, stop adding poo until the worms have finished processing the last bits. It is advisable to dispose of the whole lot, worms included (unless you have no objections to sorting the worms out!) and to start again. If the dogs have been wormed, the poo cannot be added until the wormer has cleared the dogs system, give it at least a couple of weeks.

Dog poo compost cannot be used in any growing medium particularly for anything edible! it should not be used as a soil conditioner in vegetable plots or even flower beds, it may be possible to use it under large shrubs or trees but to be safe, children must not have access.

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Should worms be in a lawn?

” My front lawn has been reseeded recently and is not growing properly, could this be due to too much rain or lack of sunlight? could the soil be too compact? I don’t notice any worm casts, so I thought about introducing earthworms into the soil. “

This is not a question simply answered, a lot depends on what the soil was like prior to planting the seed, assuming the soil is up to supporting the growth of grass seed (it would have to be pretty poor not to do so!) and has been prepared properly then you have to look at the conditions, too cold, too wet, too hot and too dry will affect the germination rate, if the light levels are pretty poor such as in a heavily shaded area or under trees then germination could be slow and patchy, add to this that birds may have been feasting then you may have problems, lack of worms at this point will not affect the germination rate so until any problems have been put right it is unlikely that adding earthworms will help much to get things going.

The adding of earthworms to gardens is not something that is readily thought about, unfortunately it is often considered after a lot of work has already been done, adding earthworms should be planned in at a very early stage, taking the lawn as an example, even before adding worms the conditions they need should be carefully prepared, contrary to beliefs worms do need quite a good soil to live in, if the soil is hard, compacted, sandy, very dry etc worms will not suddenly turn it into good soil, they will leave! when the soil is good worms will work and turn this good soil into excellent soil and all plants, including grass will benefit from this. The action of worms in the soil creates burrows where oxygen and water get into the soil around the plants roots, when a worm feeds it leaves behind worm casts, sometimes these are left on the surface, these casts are a bundle of goodness, not necessarily fertilizers but all the other things that plants need to thrive, all this has to be in place before seeding, so the answer to the question “Should worms be in a lawn” is certainly yes! (as long as you don’t mind a few casts on the surface)

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Worms – are they really that important?

The most important workers of the soil are worms, scientific research has shown that a realistic population of earthworms in the soil has a positive effect on plant growth with an increase in crop production of 10% to 25%  compared to soils with no worms, not to mention the positive effect that they have on the plants ability to fight disease and bug attack.

During the growing season, particularly in vegetable gardens, the worms will have been badly disturbed even damaged by the practice of digging over the plot, soils are becoming more and more depleted in worms to the point we sometimes struggle to find any, if this is the case in your garden then it is important to replace them.

As we head into autumn/winter and the busy harvesting period begins to slow we start to think about preparing the veg and flower beds for next year, adding organic matter such as compost, old manure etc is usually high on the list, this is an ideal time to also add those important worms, over the next few months they are the ones that will be working hard to break down and incorporate this organic matter into the soil and whilst they are doing this they are creating a network of tunnels allowing oxygen and moisture deep into the soil, as the worms feed, what goes in must come out, the wonderful casts often referred to as “Black Gold” and with good reason,  they are jam packed with beneficial (to the plants) micro organisms – bacteria, fungii and a host of other benefits, this is worms working hard to prepare your plot!

I was thus led to conclude that all the vegetable mould over the whole country has passed many times through, and will again pass many times through, the intestinal canals of worms. Hence the term “animal mould” would be in some respects more than that commonly used of “vegetable mould” “

Charles Darwin.

That is why worms are so important they make the soil (vegetable mould)!

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My worms are dead!

Occasionally we will get a ‘phone call or an email from a customer who has received their order for worms that they have arrived with some dead, dying or very lethargic, when we query as to what makes the customer think they are dead, the response is invariably that the worms are not moving much, many people assume that worms are very active, wriggly creatures, whilst this is true when you have just dug them up (they are now attempting to get away from a situation where they are likely to be eaten! why else would they be dug up?) but when they have been harvested, packed and then shipped out in a moving vehicle the worms response is to burrow down, stick together, stop moving, “play dead” and hopefully I will not get eaten! disturbance, movement, vibration etc are all threats to worms.

We always send out worms in A1 condition, there is no point in doing so otherwise so unless something exceptional happens to them on route it is almost impossible for them to die, the exception to this maybe when smaller quantities are sent out in tubs and they have been left out under the sun, possibly during delivery or more likely when requested to leave or some other extreme conditions, if this has happened then the evidence is very obvious and distinctive.

When the worms arrive and they do appear lethargic do not write them off, if they are composting, garden or fishing worms and you are not ready to use them straight away, give them a little water and/or wet newspaper/moss and place the closed container somewhere cool for them to get over their journey, if they are composting worms and you can, add them to the wormery straightaway do so and give a little water, this applies if you have bought loose worms or in a kit.

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Preparing and keeping casters as live feeds.

We have put this together after requests from previous customers.

This advice applies to the 3 main casters available with some differences, these will be pointed out as necessary, the 3 casters are the large Blue Bottle, smaller Green Bottle  and the small House fly.

When maggots are required to turn to casters they should be sieved off the sawdust and put into fine and already damp sawdust or peat, do not just add water to maggots already in sawdust or you may find the wet maggots are able to escape an open container, These should be kept at room temperature, it is a good idea to take off the casters every day or so, this is done by placing them on the sieve allowing the maggots to wriggle through, the casters that are retrieved should have any rubbish removed and the clean casters put back into damp sawdust, to slow the development keep them chilled, if flies are needed then keep some at room temperature, you will notice that the casters will continue to darken, when they are almost black they are close to hatching and should be moved into an enclosed container or you may find you have a room full of flies. The flies will hatch best when the casters are kept in damp sawdust.