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Why you should use “Worm Worked Soil Conditioner.

Part 1
“Modern” soils are now very often depleted in many of the natural micro organisms that flourish when nature is allowed to work as intended, the most obvious damaged areas are the huge tracts of agricultural land, subject to intensive cultivation, drowned in constant applications of pesticides, herbicides and nutrients, once this method of “management” begins it is a downward spiral needing more and more interference to be able to continue producing a crop AND this has been taking place for many many decades!
This practice has also been applied to many domestic gardens from the day the soil was scraped clean by the developers to owners and gardeners attempting to rectify the situation by using the same methods as in agricultural. Many old established gardens have also gone through periods of this same treatment but many are now realising this as a mistake and are rectifying the situation by looking at how nature can reinstate a balanced soil.

Part 2
We now know what has happened to our soil so why should we change? we could continue using the artificial means to make our gardens grow but it costs money! it is extremely detrimental to soil life which happens to be part of the natural food chain even if low down, this in turn will affect creatures further up the chain, larger organisms, insects, worms which in turn will affect the local population of birds – you get the picture!
When the soil dwelling creatures are depleted the soil itself becomes a problem, losing structure, poor drainage, poor oxygenation, lack of nutrients which in turn means plants will also be affected causing poor growth, greater bug and disease attack traditionally this has been “rectified” by modern management methods and so the cycle continues, surely it makes sense to let nature do the work.

Part 3
So how is this product used? first, in restoring an impoverished soil we have to have the right basis to start, it needs to be friable, if necessary by breaking it up, then we can add our Worm Worked Soil Conditioner, this will introduce the micro organisms, bacteria and fungii that is so essential, adding worms at this stage will also ensure the continued improvement of the soil and reversal of the problems as in Part 2.
This remedial action can of course be applied to every square inch of soil in the garden but if the budget doesn’t stretch that far then it can be applied in specific areas of planting or even to specific plants particularly if planting substantial shrubs and/or trees
It is highly recommended that a regime of annual mulching is undertaken.

To be continued…..

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My garden is waterlogged – will worms help?

This is a query that often comes up during the winter months! gardens often become saturated during periods of persistent long periods of rain, providing the water drains away in a reasonable time, maybe a couple of days or so once it has stopped raining then there is no cause for concern, the problem is when this does not happen and the garden or areas of the garden continue to be water logged, if this situation continues for very long periods of time it can be detrimental to the health of the garden and plants in it. When the air in the soil is forced out by water Oxygen is depleted and the soil will become anaerobic, that is, stagnant, the most obvious sign is it will smell bad!

Sorting this out is not an easy task, clearly the water needs to be drained away and the most effective way to do this is to install some sort of drainage, this may be a bigger task than expected so other, quicker, remedies are considered, often customers have read or been told that adding worms will sort out the problem, this is rarely the case, sometimes if it is a localised soggy area then worms can help. If you suffer from a truly waterlooged garden then adding worms will, at best, result in the worms moving away or at worst, the worms dying off, the only sure way is to put in some sort of drainage system then add the worms , they will then provide the conditions in the soil to allow the drainage system to work properly.

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Introducing Worms to an Established Garden

Cultivated soils, particularly in old gardens frequently suffer from compaction, bad drainage, broken and fragmented structure and devoid of organic matter, usually through bad management in the past, these conditions are incapable of supporting a population of worms, therefore before worms are introduced, these conditions must be remedied. Once this has been achieved, a population of worms can be introduced.

There are two species of soil dwelling worm currently available, these are Lumbricus terrestris and Eisenia hortensis.

Lumbricus terrestris is the large worm that most people are familiar with, it is a slow breeding worm that likes to live in deep undisturbed soils, it also throws worm casts onto the surface and can be seen on grass, particularly after warm rain at night, giving it one of its common names of “Dew worm”
This worm should only be introduced into areas where it will not be disturbed on a regular basis and where the casts on the surface will not cause a problem, many of these worms are deliberately killed because of the “problem” of casts on the lawn.

Eisenia hortensis in contrast, is a comparatively rapid breeder, lives in the top 12 inches of soil and does not throw casts to the surface, making it a good choice for lawn areas, areas likely to be disturbed and areas where the soil is not very deep.
Both species will need ongoing feed in the form of organic matter either as a mulch or not collecting the grass clippings once in a while.

Both worms are a good source of food for wildlife and can be most beneficial in this way.

Once the worms have been introduced, the use of herbicides and pesticides should not be carried out for at least 12 months and preferably not at all.

“Planting worms”

Any worms purchased to be introduced into the soil should never be just scattered on the surface in the belief they will burrow down – they won’t! If left on the surface they are likely to be picked off by the local bird population or even killed off by the sun and ultra violet light.

With both species they should be “planted” dig trowel depth holes, a couple every square metre, water the hole, put in a little natural compost, NOT potting compost, add a few worms and break up the removed soil and put back on top.
In new areas used for shrubs etc, this should be done before any mulch is spread and in lawn areas, before turf or seed are laid, if worms are being introduced to an established garden then there is no choice but to dig the holes through the mulch or grass. The quantity of worms per hole is really down to the customer but as a guide, 2 or 3 Lumbricus terrestris and with Eisenia hortensis, a very small handful or a very large pinch!

What quantity should be planted?

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

Eisenia hortensis – up to 20 worms per square metre, this can be increased or decreased according to budget but not by more than +50% or -50%.

Lumbricus terrestris – this would be around 5 worms per square metre minimum but again the same rule applies as above.

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.

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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.

If you are using the Worm Colonies then base your calculations on a minimum of 1 colony per 2 square meters surface area.

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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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)!