Welcome to the Worm Party!

Just shot this video of my latest addition to the Pokéball garden, head on over to YouTube to check it out.

Earthworms are one of nature’s ultimate boons. As the worms burrow their way through the soil, they open up pore space for roots to grow. This has the additional affect of allowing water to drain more freely, and increasing the aeration of the soil. Earthworms are also ravenous feasters of organic matter, including manure, food scraps, cardboard and paper. They happily and restlessly consume these materials and convert them by way of digestive enzymes into worm castings – nutrient rich particles that are a prime component of soil humus. Without humus (not to be confused with hummus, a Middle Eastern culinary delight) our plants cannot grow. Humus is typically created by the microbial decomposition of organic matter, but earthworms, if they are present, can be a significant player.

But what exactly is humus? Well, it basically it is decomposed organic matter. But more specifically, it is organic matter that has reached its decompostional limit. (Is decompositional even a word?) So neither the microbes, the mycelium, nor the earthworms can eat this stuff up. It just sits there in the dirt, doing awesome things like absorbing 90% of its weight in water and soaking up nutrients due to its negative charge. Humus also gives soil its friable structure and that wonderful earthy smell that every gardener loves.

humus_formation_from_organic_resisdues-514x420
A technical diagram of how humus behaves in the soil. Notice all the organic constituents that make up the humus, and the nutrients it releases to the plant roots. (1)

So yea, basically earthworms are pretty rad. So why not team up with them and help them out with a WORM PARTY! To make a worm party, simply do the following:

  1. Get yourself some worms. The most common to use are red wrigglers or nightcrawlers. If you don’t have your own worm farm going already, its usually easy to find someone who does. Simply go down to your local community garden or farmers market and ask around. Craigslist is also a great resource.
  2. Obtain some kind of hollow, tube-like container about one foot in length. This can be anything from PVC pipe, and old bucket, or something you construct out of wood. It needs to be large enough in diameter for you to stick your hand and arm inside.
  3. Perforate the walls (and bottom) of the container with holes or slots large enough for earthworms to crawl inside. The more holes the better.
  4. Dig a one foot deep hole in your garden bed. The diameter should be a few inches bigger than your container.
  5. In the bottom of the hole, add worm bedding such as shredded paper, cardboard, or wood chips. Also add a bit of worm food such as manure or food scraps, and then add a few handfulls of worms and worm castings.
  6. Place your perforated container into the garden bed and fill the hole up with additional worms and worm castings. If you don’t have this many worms, thats OK, you can just put the original garden soil back in the hole.
  7. Chuck some kitchen scraps, more cardboard and paper, lawn clippings, or any other organic matter you have around into the new worm party.
  8. Pour a bit of water down the hole to ensure the environment is moist.
  9. Cover the top of the pipe with mesh window screen if you are concerned about animals getting inside.

And there you have it. A tasty little buffet for the worms, and tasty by-product for your plants. Be sure to periodically check on the party to make sure the worms are actually consuming what you’ve given them. Without the presence of a worm bin, they are free to go anywhere, so if they find something else they like they will simply leave your worm party alone. If they don’t seem to be eating it, try switching what your putting down there. Also be sure it is compacted enough so they can crawl around. Just tossing one banana peel down there isn’t going to give them much incentive to creep in.

So thats it. Party on Wayne, and party on worms!

Sincerely,
-The Abundance Gnome

P.S.
Forgot to mention, I was actually SUPER STOKED when I dug down into the bed to install these worm parties. The soil that I dug up from the first bed that I made a couple of weeks ago actually smells amazing and crumbles apart easily in my hands. Considering that just a few weeks ago this soil was rock hard clay dirt, I’m shocked that such a transformation can happen in such a short time. Thats the power of manure, microbes, dirt and a bit of water!

Also here is a bit of seedling porn. 🙂

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Red russian kale.
DCIM113GOPROGOPR3283.
Cabbages and broccoli.

 

 

 

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