Earthworms V. Rob and Hood

2009
05.21

I’ve Got Worms!

Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California posts this rather philosophical reflection:

The humble earthworm: memento mori extraordinaire: “Remember that thou shalt die.” The Conqueror Worm, devourer of prince and peasant. Metaphor for the frailty of the flesh, subverter of monuments, leveler of empires. Emblem of the vanity, the evanescence, and the end of all human endeavor. And yet, paradoxically, this earthworm, this great destroyer, is also a great builder – a builder of fertile topsoil, itself the sustainer of all civilization.

Sounds a little Shakespearean, doesn’t it?
I bought 50 encapsulated earthworm cocoons from Gardens Alive!

They arrived in May, a good time for me, because the soul had been weeded and was ready for planting. My goal for the red worms is they will grow
forth and multiply to a sufficient level to maintain a healthy soil. I planted these ready-to-hatch egg cocoons just like garden seeds, only deeper. Earthworms are living composters.

As I start out with a new organic vegetable garden, I don’t have a lot of earthworms in the raised beds because I made the garden soil myself. The surrounding lawn has plenty of earth worms. (Some of the worms are so big, they startle me when we encounter each other. At first, I think they are garden snakes.)

For my vegetable gardens, I was aiming for a lighter soil than the clumpy clay of southeast Missouri. The raised beds warmed earlier than the surrounding grounds and I was able to work the soil in the raised beds sooner this spring. The Lumbricus rubellus (litter worm or red wriggler) eggs should be hatching now and in the weeks to come.


The next day after I planted the encapsulated eggs, a squirrel dug up a couple of egg cocoons, but left most of the 50 undisturbed. So, I replanted the ones the squirrel dug up. I don’t know if they will hatch or not. These aren’t the same red worms as are in my vermicomposter. I’ll tell you about the garbage eating worms another day.

So far the only threat to the worm population is Rob and Hood, the odd couple of the Robin world that follow me every where waiting for me to dig up or otherwise disturb the soil, providing them a buffet meal. Some times I cover up the worms I unearth in hopes the lazy team of Rob and Hood will not turn the worm into lunch.

Earthworm castings turn garden soil into black gold, speeding the development of nutrient-dense, moisture-dispersing humus. Gardens Alive! recommends one egg capsule or cocoon for each square foot of garden.

I admit I wasn’t the scientific about the cocoon planting. But I did note which beds received the eggs. Oh, and I also poked a couple of cocoon eggs in the straw bales.

The soil is in pretty good shape from the look and feel of it. This growing season will be the test of the soil. In the fall, I’ll have a soil test from the UM Extension. University Extension also demonstrates How to Build a Compost Bin, which shows several methods of composting.

My goal is to increase the worm population in the raised beds. The worms will aerate the soil by tunneling through the ground, leaving nitrogen-rich castings to feed the plants.

My hope is that the earth worms can populate the garden faster than Rob and Hood can eat.

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