Here is a question from Rory:
I’ve really enjoyed your website. My wife and I are new to Nashville,
TN and the soil is very hard and claylike and I’m looking for
something that I can have throughout my yard not just in composting
bins or in composting areas. Something that won’t hurt my grass. It
sounds like I need some combination of red worms and soil worms. What
would you recommend for me who wants to improve soil conditions
throughout the entire yard. Something I can sprinkle around the yard
and forget about.
Unfortunately, there really isn’t any type of worm (composting worm OR soil worm) you can simply “sprinkle around the yard and forget about”. This is one of those situations that reminds me of the “chicken vs the egg” debate – lol – i.e. which comes first, the worms, or soil that’s been richly amended with organic matter for a period of time? In all honesty, if you just drop worms in your yard, more than likely all you will do is fertilize the grass with dead worms – or perhaps feed some local birds that might then fertilize your grass somewhat with their droppings!
You really need to start with the organic amendments first – or at least at the same time.
When I first moved to my present location our soil was absolutely awful – really hard clay that was very difficult to work with. Initially – before getting serious about outdoor vermicomposting – I mixed in some really rich top soil to help improve the gardens. Of course, things REALLY improved once I installed my vermicomposting trenches – and just generally when I got more serious about “vermi-gardening”.
Assuming you are not interested in setting up actual in situ vermicomposting systems around your yard, my recommendation is to focus on getting as much organic matter into your soil as you possible can. If you don’t want to rip up your lawn (to work on the soil below) try top-dressing heavily with a rich compost, and use a mulching mower (without the bag of course).
If you have gardens, it will be even easier since you can add a lot more material (compost, aged manure etc) all at once and really mix it in.
Taking these steps should not only improve the quality of your soil greatly, but it should also improve the ecology of your soil – likely resulting in many more soil worms moving into the area and helping you to continue improving the soil (just make sure you keep adding that organic matter).
Hope this helps, and doesn’t make you feel like I’m picking on you! Believe me, there are lots of other people with very similar questions.