Worms Beneficial for Gardening – True or False?

Question from Norm:

I have an organic garden, worms seem a little creepy. Someone told me great for gardening. ( true or false )

Hi Norm,
The super quick answer is “100% absolutely TRUE!”. Worms are great for gardening…but as you can likely guess, this is the type of question that requires a bit more of an in-depth answer.

There are different kinds of “worms” and different ways they can be beneficial. Right off the bat, let’s address the commonly-held misconception that you can just dump a bunch of earthworms (doesn’t matter what kind) into your garden soil and miraculously you are going to end up with incredible soil fertility.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way – it’s like putting the cart in front of the horse. I’m sure I am singing to the choir here (since you mentioned having an organic garden), but – for the benefit of others – you absolutely need to enrich your soil with lots of organic matter as a first step, before even thinking about adding worms (which may not even be necessary if there are populations of worms anywhere nearby).

Let’s now focus specifically on composting worms. Because they tend to be one of the most-readily available earthworms for sale, many people end up buying them as soil-worker worms and simply dump them in their gardens or (worse) on their lawns. Sadly, there are suppliers out there more than happy to support these types of faulty ideas in the name of making a buck – even going so far as to include information on their websites about using the worms this way.

The only increase in fertility you might see from this type of practice is if the worms die and decompose in the soil – but that’s a pretty expensive organic fertilizer if you ask me!

NOTE: I don’t want to imply that composting worms can’t survive in soil – that’s not necessarily the case. If your soil is really rich in organic matter they may do just fine.

But, if you really want composting worms to thrive in/near your gardens, I strongly suggest you consider some form of integrated system – an actual worm composting system set up in close proximity (or directly in) a plant growing system. Some examples of what I mean include “worm towers“, vermicomposting trenches, and vermicomposting planters.

I started experimenting with these approaches almost “accidentally” (follow the vermicomposting trench link above for a bit of a backstory) about a decade ago as I type this, and the increase in fertility I have seen in my gardens (and yard in general) has been incredible.

As for worms being “a little creepy” (lol), I understand where you are coming from – and actually still think Blue Worms (Perionyx sp) are creepy, hahah – but my recommendation is to put these feelings aside, ease yourself into vermicomposting and really see what these worms can do. I think you will be amazed by how your perspective can change.

Hope this helps!

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