Using Composting Worms to Enrich Your Soil?

The following excerpt is from an e-mail someone recently sent in:

I have a 5 acre property and would like to enrich my soil by putting more earthworms on the soil.

This person wanted to discuss the matter further via phone and – I assume – buy the quantity of composting worms I recommended for the job. Unfortunately, there are more than a few worm suppliers out there who would happily sell to these types of people (even some who promote the adding-composting-worms-to-soil idea on their websites).

Let’s start with my response – and I will elaborate from there:

In all honesty, simply adding worms – especially composting worms – to your soil as a way to enrich it is not a good use of your hard-earned money. You are far better off to enrich the soil with organic matter – that is what the worms need to thrive (they can’t just magically transform poor soil unfortunately). Once the soil is loaded up with organic matter (this takes some time) – native worms may move in on their own. Or perhaps you can dig them up from somewhere close by and introduce them. Again, composting worms aren’t ideally suited for this – they are best put to use as waste processors (in some form of worm composting system).

I want to make it clear that I’m NOT saying composting worms can’t play an important role in boosting the overall fertility of your property – not the case at all. For example, there is a night and day difference between the fertility and overall soil quality in my yard now as compared to when we moved here (about 15 years ago – but I didn’t do much outdoor vermicomposting for a few years).

But the key is to set them up for success – by providing the conditions/materials they need to thrive. Integrated systems, such as trenches, windrows, in-ground buckets etc offer a relatively easy, and very effective way to accomplish this.

If you prefer to work with actual soil worms – not composting worms – simply refer to the advice I offer in my response above.
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