Earthworms are one of a gardener's best friends. Luckily if you create the right environment for them they will come wiggling to your aid.
Earthworms are among the most beneficial creatures you can have in your organic vegetable garden. They improve soil health by creating tunnels that allow air and water to penetrate. Plus, they consume decaying matter, bacteria, fungi, and nematodes in the soil, which can cause a host of problems in your garden if left unchecked. As an added bonus, worm castings also serve as an incredibly rich fertilizer for your plants.
In fact, a natural abundance of earthworms in your garden is a pretty good indicator of the overall health of your soil. But don’t despair if your garden isn’t already full of these helpful underground dwellers. Fortunately, there are several ways you can attract more of them to your property.
Avoid Toxic Pesticides and Weed Killers
This one is a no brainer for any type of organic gardener. The case against pesticide use in your garden continues to grow as multiple scientific studies show that their use has a detrimental impact on earthworms and the surrounding ecosystem.
Of course, most organic gardeners wouldn’t knowingly use these products in their own gardens. The challenge lies in protecting your planting area from pesticide drift from neighbors. Site selection and the strategic use of physical barriers can help reduce this risk in many cases.
Create a Hospitable Environment
Earthworms ask for very little in return for the many benefits they provide. They prefer to live in a cool, dark, and moist environment and they need plenty of organic matter to consume. Mulching your garden will help retain the moisture earthworms and your plants crave. Plus, adding lots of rich compost and organic matter to your soil will keep them well fed.
Leave Your Soil Undisturbed
Some gardening methods involve tilling the ground to work compost and other amendments into the existing soil. However, doing so disturbs the existing ecosystems within the soil. Earthworms and other beneficial creatures can be harmed in this process, which is one more reason to consider using raised garden beds or containers or adopting lasagna-style gardening methods.
Be Cautious About Purchasing Earthworms
Similar to the idea of buying ladybugs to help your garden, you may also want to consider buying earthworms once you have made a hospitable environment for them.
Earthworms will come to your garden when the conditions are right. While it may be tempting to purchase them to speed their arrival, do your research first. Talk to a local gardening store about the type that will be best in your environment and if you really need to do it at all.
If you garden with the earthworms in mind, they will end up doing much of the work for you without the need for soil amendments, fertilizers or pesticides. Better for them and better for you.