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Earthworms. The Gardeners Best Friend

Aug 17, 2007
When we see a garden at its best, it means the earthworms are at work making the soil rich in nutrients. The organic substances in the soil are broken down by these creatures and changed into nutrients that the plants absorb easily.

As the earthworms burrow into the ground, they loosen the earth helping the roots penetrate, making for a healthy plant. The loose earth absorbs the water and retains it while allowing it to permeate. In addition, the air has room to circulate. The earthworms movements churn up life-supporting nutrients which are deep down in the earth. They are brought to the top soil where the plants have better access to them.

Besides what they do for plants, earthworms serve as food for birds. Early in spring, when the garden is filled with the chirruping of birds, it's the worms they are after, since there are no fruit or seeds to be had at that part of the year. If earthworms are put into a container where no light penetrates, they can be preserved alive for a fortnight provided they have damp peat moss to sustain them.

Earthworms are myriad. They are categorized according to their features and location. They may be classified as rain worms, red wrigglers, field worms, red worms, night crawlers and red hybrid. One garden may be home to many different species.

Earthworms come in varied hues and sizes. Gray or black, red or maroon, earthworms come in all these colors and different shades of these. Their length could run from a couple of inches to almost a foot and in some cases an unbelievable twelve feet like a few species found in Australia. Damp soil rich in organic nutrients are ideal conditions for worms.

Earthworms live off insects, parts of rotting animals, manure, lettuce and the rind of the watermelon. In the main, they avoid extremely alkaline or acidic substances. However, their food preference depends on what species they are. Night crawlers, as the name suggests, collect food from the surface after dark.

Blades of grass and organic substances form their diet. On locating their food, they simply drag their spoil into the burrow from the surface by hanging on to their fare with their mouth. This, combined with the soil, is what they relish. Many earthworms like the red wrigglers, come to the surface for a meal.

Gardeners can help earthworms multiply by constantly adding organic substances to the soil. When the organic content in the soil goes down, the earthworms go in search of soil that is more sustaining or they will die. The proteins from their dead bodies that are converted into nitrogen help nourish the plants. However, the benefit is short lived. The death of earthworms means the end to a healthy garden, so important are they in nourishing the soil.

The food consumed by the earthworm is ground in the gizzard and passed to the intestine. Here the digestive process takes place with the help of enzymes. Some of the nourishment provides energy and helps in the growth of the worms. The remainder is excreted as granules. The soluble nutrients in these granular droppings are more nutritious than what the worms fed on in the first place. The deposits are rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and nitrogen.

In winter, earthworms are dormant. Since frost kills them within minutes of their exposure to it, they burrow deeper where the frost can't reach them. With spring, when the temperatures reach a comfortable level and the earth is soaked with spring showers, the earthworm is at its active best. This is the mating season.

They multiply quickly producing offspring by the hundred, annually. In summer, they are not as active. Food is scarce and the soil bereft of moisture can cause many to die. Autumn sees the earthworms stir into activity again. Reproduction takes place again until winter sets in.

Earthworms have a comparatively long life span. Some live for a decade if they can survive predators like birds and moles. Other threats to their life come from pesticides, used so freely today. Some fall prey to extreme heat or cold. Others succumb when the soil is parched and when food is deficient. These conditions shorten the lives of earthworms, which otherwise prove to be the gardeners best friend.
About the Author
Warren has put together a very informative site detailing the concise elements of worm farming for personal use and or your own business. Detailing benefits of home composting and many other aspects of worm composting.

More information:
Worms Composting
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