Garden Worm Help

Question from Abbie:

Hi. I have an indoor garden/greenhouse where turtles and frogs roam
freely through a small vegetable garden. I need worms for the soil.
When I planted this spring I realized that I have no worms in my soil
and it is hard and compacted so I would like to add worms. Any
recommendations or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Hi Abbie,

You are certainly not alone in wondering about this topic. It is widely known that earthworms can mix and enrich the soil, so naturally a LOT of people feel the urge to stock their own soil with gobs of worms.

Unfortunately, this is a “chicken/egg” problem that most people get backwards.

Earthworms don’t magically turn any soil into black gold. In fact, if you try to stock worms in lifeless soil, you’ll likely end up with a lot of dead worms and/or a mass migration of the wigglers in an attempt to find ‘greener pastures’ (assuming conditions are favorable for such migration).

This is even worse if you try to stock composting worms in regular soil. Sadly, there are still a fair number of composting worm vendors who are not only more than willing to sell their worms to the soil-enrichment crowd, but who actually make claims about the benefits of adding composting species to garden soil.

The REAL “secret” for rich garden soil, though, is organic matter! If you mix in lots of manure, grass clippings, fall leaves – or any number of other biodegradable, usually carbon-rich, materials – it will greatly help to loosen up the soil and kick-start beneficial microbial activity.

And here’s the kicker…by doing this you are in effect creating a “worm-friendly” environment. In a lot of cases, at least if you give it enough time, native worms will start moving into the soil and increasing in number. But if you DO want to speed up the process, you can also stock some worms as well.

Rather than actually purchasing them, my recommendation would be to visit some local forests and other areas with rich deposits of organic matter to see what sorts of earthworms you can find there. These will likely be well-suited for your soil as well (again, once enriched with plenty of organic matter).

The “magic” results will come from the combination of the organic matter + beneficial decomposer microbes + earthworms (and plenty of other critters).

Getting back to composting worms…

I don’t mean to imply that they can’t be used in the garden at all. This is definitely NOT the case! I have greatly enriched my own garden soil over the years with vermicomposting trenches, windrows, modified “worm towers”, and various other vermi-gardening methods. The key is simply to provide the worms with a very rich habitat to live in.

Anyway – hope this helps, Abbie!

**For Even More Worm Fun, Sign Up for the RWC E-mail List!**
Previous Post

New to Vermicomposting Trenches

Next Post

Extreme Vermicomposting


    • Renee
    • April 9, 2016

    Good question and good info! I have started noticing more and more worms in our yard as I do more with our chickens and rabbits… before, when my husband and son wanted to go fishing I knew of one or two spots that might contain and puny worm or two, but now? Under the rabbit hutches are a gold mine for fat ones, as is the area that used to be the chicken run (and will now be a three sisters garden, I hope). Rabbit manure is a “cold manure” that can be applied as is, no composting needed… if you can find any to augment your current soil with you might be able to attract some native worms.

    An add on question, if you don’t mind. I have a worm bin that needs to be split up some… I contemplated boxing in an area under one of the rabbit hutches and getting an outdoor bin started – are the red wigglers I have indoors OK to evict to an outdoor trench/bin? Any chance of them disrupting the local ecosystem? (I seem to recall an article about a type of fishing worm being sold, then the leftovers being dumped at shorelines, taking over and messing things up a bit).

    • Mr-Yan
    • April 10, 2016

    After following the vermi-gardening posts from last year and using a lot of mulch over the last three years (back to eden type garden) I’ve really liked this type of deep organic mulch. It will greatly soften the soil and help rebuild what may have died off in it. I’ll be expanding my use of it this year.

    What may help Abbie with some of the deeply compacted soil is mulch it like mentioned above then plant deep tap rooted plants that are known to break up soils. Dandelion and alfalfa come to mind for this.

    • Alisonl
    • September 6, 2016

    Hello! I have 2 Earthtrainers (built for tomato growning) which are not in use right now but I had a thought that, with a small amout of modifications, they could be great worm bins. Have you ever looked into them and if so do you think they could work? Should I put worms in the bottom part and use the top part to creat a 2 tier system or leave that for extra moisture to collect. Thanks so much for your advice, I adore your site!

    For reference…

    • Helen
    • January 11, 2017

    Can I have more information about hay bale vermiculture please?

    • Bentley
    • January 12, 2017

    Sorry for the delay everyone…

    RENEE – I know this is late, but for the benefit of others who see your question, here is a link to the article I wrote about this:

    The long and the short of it is that the Red Worms (Eisenia fetida/andrei) used for composting are not the “Red Worms” causing a lot of the issues (Lumbricus rubellus). Composting Reds are adapted for life in very rich organic materials. Yes they can survive in materials like leaf litter, but they are not crazy litter processors like L. rubellus. SO they are more than happy to mainly stay where deposits like manure are sitting. Apart from that, you may actually already have some Eisenia worms in your manure now. Any time there are “loads” of worms living right in the middle of manure, it is usually a real composting species, not just one of these in-betweener worms (like L rubellus).
    MR-YAN – thanks for chiming in with your experiences and advice! Another deep tap root plant I love is Comfrey. The (huge) leaves are like the ultimate material for composting systems and they are “dynamic accumulators” (draw in loads of nutrients most other plants can’t even access) so lots of good stuff for your compost.
    ALISON – Thanks for your adoration (haha). That system looks very cool, and yes some people have wicking bed vermicomposting systems (even ones that grow plants, I believe). Would love to hear how it works out for you if you decide to go ahead with this (or already have)!
    HELEN – I had a series on the blog focused on the topic of hay bale vermigardening. Here is a link to the last post I wrote:

    Below that post you should see a link to earlier posts in the series.

    Hope this helps!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Get Your Free Vermicomposting Guide!

* Join the Red Worm Composting E-Mail List Today *