Earthworms are among the most beneficial creatures you can have in your organic vegetable garden. They improve soil health by creating small tunnels that allow air and water to penetrate. They also 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. Yes, worm poop does amazing things for your soil and for your garden. We should all have the goal to see lots and lots of earthworms when we turn our garden soil.
A natural abundance of earthworms in your garden is a pretty good indicator of the overall health of your soil. If you do not see lots of earthworms, you have work to do to attract the helpful underground dwellers. Fortunately, there are several ways you can do this.
Here are 5 Ways to Attract More Earthworms to Your Garden…
#1: Avoid Toxic Pesticides and Herbicides
This one is a no brainer for any type of organic gardener. That stuff is bad, bad, bad for soil health, plant health, and the health of you and your family/pets. Not to mention they are bad for the planet in general…ala bee colony collapse and fertilizer runoff into our waterways. 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 neighboring farms and home gardens. Site selection and the strategic use of physical barriers can help reduce this risk in many cases. But if you are using any of these products, perhaps to keep up with the Jones’s and their landscaper, or to appease a homeowner’s association…STOP.
#2: Create a Hospitable Environment
Earthworms ask for very little in return for the multitude of 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 need to thrive. Plus, adding lots of rich compost and organic matter to your soil will keep them well fed and happy. You can makes lots of compost yourself using your own plant based kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, fall leaves, and a compost bin.
#3: Leave Your Soil Undisturbed
Conventional gardening methods involve tilling the ground to work compost and other amendments into the existing soil. However, doing so disturbs and damages 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 adopting lasagna-style gardening methods.
#4: Purchase Earthworms for Your Garden
Although this option is valid, it is listed last for two reasons:
For starters, if you create a welcoming environment that provides everything earthworms need to survive and thrive, then they will find their way into your garden on their own. Second, there is no sense introducing earthworms to your garden if it does not yet offer the basic requirements they need to survive. However, once your garden is ready, you can expedite their arrival by purchasing them from a reputable dealer who offers earthworms that are native to your area. Buying native species will ensure they have an easier time making themselves at home in your backyard. You can also raise earthworms in a worm bin until you have a suitable habitat for them outside.