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Worms, Worms, Worms

A mess of earth worms on a table.

Earthworms benefit your garden soil in many ways. These underground excavators burrow channels in soil, making it more porous and improving drainage. They also bring some of the subsoil closer to the surface, mixing it with topsoil and increasing the amount of quality planting soil available.

Earthworms help plants grow by providing better airflow to the roots. Worms’ excretions are rich in nutrients and bacteria. And, the slimy secretions that earthworms produce contain nitrogen, which also promotes plant growth.

Vermiculture is the controlled growing of worms in specialty structures. To prepare your own worm haven, all you need is bedding, moisture and food.  

Shredded, non-glossy newspaper, paper or cardboard, aged sawdust or even dried leaves are typical bedding materials. Sand or lime provides grit for digestion. Lime also works to control pH. Bedding should be pH neutral, damp, edible and easy to move through, maintaining a constant temperature – not too hot or too cold.

Keep your worm haven in a cool, shaded area in summer and in a sunny, dry and warm or indoor area in winter.

Plant material makes perfect food for worms. Vegetable scraps that have been blended are best. Avoid large pieces or woody stems. Other kitchen scraps, such as oils, fats, meats and dairy products, should be avoided.

Too much moisture will create a lack of oxygen, making the worm haven smell bad. Keep in mind that water makes up about 70% to 80% of most plants. Providing adequate drainage will ensure that worms are happy and the air remains fresh.

By Brandy Brabham, WVU Extension Service Extension Agent – Roane County