Here is my friend.... the Earthworm

Mysore, India(Zone 10a)

Gardener's friend aka earthworm. They are found in good numbers in my yard and they appear towards the top layer of soil with it rains. This fellow looks healthy and well fed, ain't it? There are bigger ones too. Does the colour of its body differ with soil nature? Our soil is reddish. I see in some parts of the US that the soil is grayish. How are earthworms there in such soil?

Thumbnail by Dinu
Dolan Springs, AZ(Zone 9a)

Hi Dinu,
I think worms are the same color everywhere:>) And they are definitely a gardener's friend! Did you know that there are some areas where there are NO WORMS in the soil? Unless you introduced them. But in areas like that there is very little moisture, and other little critters help the decomposition of organic matter.

Mysore, India(Zone 10a)

Thanks for the info, M/d. No I knew not about the 'no worm areas'! Amazing Nature. But will the worms survive if they are introduced in such conditions where Nature itself has not provided?

Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

Dinu, I knew we had great soil when I dug my first earthworm. Here in zone 6 (or 5 or 7) the worms survive the winter, probably by burrowing deeper. They really like our compost.

There are farms (probably in someone's basement) of red worms, and they sell the output of the worms as castings, rich for the soil. Worm castings are from red worms, and they normally reside close to the soil surface, and that is why they cannot winter in my area. I don't know if they look red, but our worms are kind of pinkish grey or brownish.

Soil with worms is happy soil. It is loaded with worm castings, and the worms help to break down leaf matter and aerate the soil. All worms come to the surface when it rains; otherwise they drown.

Marcia

Mysore, India(Zone 10a)

Marcia, thanks for the information. Red worms. Did not know about worm castings. What exactly is that? Any pictures to show, please? I also think that using pesticides, insecticides and inorganic manure will affect the earthworms. Am I right in my assumption? I have observed that when it rains heavily, the next morning I see little hills of earth. At first I did not know about it and then I observed and pondered and presumed that they come up because the water fills their 'homes'. And I was right when I came to know about it earlier, here on DG. I'd like to tell that most of the things I have learnt about the soil, gardening and many other things from DG. I have not much time to take part in any other gardening websites. As you know I've been around since about 10 years.

Dinu

Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

I'm impressed with your gardening and water gardening and am envious of your temperate zone. Fortunately we have plants that flourish and bloom only after a cold winter.

When you buy a 2-pound bag of worm castings, it looks like a bag of moist dirt. In late winter or early spring, many vendors and growing societies take part in flower/garden shows, and that is where I got my first introduction to worm castings.

I seldom if ever use pesticides and insecticides and feed my worms good old compost. It is mostly leaves from maple, oak and cherry trees, used coffee grounds my husband has picked up from a local café and kitchen scraps (eggshells, melon rinds, vegetable peels) and anything that rotted before we got around to eating it. Our tomato plants especially thrive on the compost.

I use an organic above-ground spray to TRY to get rid of lily beetles.

Marcia

Mysore, India(Zone 10a)

Thanks Marica. I think what they sell here as 'earthworm manure' is what you call worm castings. But I'm not sure. Many do this business of making this in special rectangular containers - brick usually. I'll try to find a photo from the web and show you. I don't exactly know what they call in English to this one.

I'm an organic gardener. I put our kitchen waste (we are vegans) in a pit and then later spread and mix them to the plant bases. They say the rose plants love banana peels. I have one or two rose plants but I don't give proper attention to them - because of their thorns!! Yes indeed, these tomato plants really enjoy if we throw them and forget, but it does poorly if we plant it on desire! :)

We have problems from white flies and those suckers that kill plants - white ones that have powdery and sticky stuff the ants love. Sometimes I spray alcohol to some benefit.

Dinu

Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

I have a nice organic mixture that dilutes with water and sprays on the plants. It has the aroma of cloves, which is not unpleasant. However, it contains an oil that I prefer not to spray on tomatoes and cucumbers since it needs to be washed off. My husband and I often eat the tomatoes off the vine.

We are not vegans, so we are careful not to include proteins in our composting.

You are correct; worm castings is a fancier name for worm manure. To me it is just mud.

Mysore, India(Zone 10a)

Mud.... perfect. I observe that this term is not used much here on DG. Instead, I see earth and dirt more than mud or even soil. Sometimes the tomatoes grow like that in my yard too and a some attract the bandicoots which bite them off. In my new venture when I plan my yard plants in a few months I want to throw the kitchen waste in a particular area and see more tomatoes and papayas growing! Papayas too grow like that. I have to carefully transplant the seedlings to a suitable location.

Shullsburg, WI(Zone 5a)

Night time and especially during a rain is when the worms come out of the ground to mate. Which is a good time to go out with a flashlight and pick up a bunch to transfer to your garden! You have to be fast and careful cause they often leave one end in the hole with a good grip for a quick return. so either snatch them up fast or get a good grip and give them time to relax their hold. You will break a few till you get the technique down.

Madras, OR

I add worms to my compost pile every fall, several dozen of them. They have gradually spread thorugh out the garden, but i keep it up for good luck

Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

Koriput they come out during the rain because they will otherwise drown. I don't know that they come out to mate. Earth worms have reproductive organs for both male and female as I recall from my biology classes. Just to check it out, I looked at this site, and found the cutest description:
http://urbanext.illinois.edu/worms/anatomy/anatomy11.html

Shullsburg, WI(Zone 5a)

1. Go out in the rain in the day time and see how many worms are crawling around the ground. They must have all drowned and the eggs hatched and grew tremendously before the next night!!!!
2. If you look at another page in your referenced site, it explains how they breathe and their underwater ability.
3. And if you go dig up some dirt during and after a rain, you will find that it is not waterlogged! And since they don't "dig" a bigger tunnel than they need to crawl through, their rear end would effectively plug the tunnel.
4. The description of reproduction doesn't clarify the dual reproductive organs nor does it say that they reproduce asexually. With only one "ring" they would have to be contortonists to "do it" themselves. However, on a rainy night, they sure go at it more than during a dry night - just like the toads!
5. Around here, we have mostly nightcrawlers which are quite a bit bigger than the "common earthworm". Never did any statistical studies but seems like there are less earth worms around here in Southern Wisconsin now than there were back in the 60's. Probably because of the global warming.
6. I believer there are some places in the world where the "earthworms" grow up to 5 feet long. Can't remember where that is but probably in the tropics. They would sure help promote faster compost and soil water absorption huh?

Mysore, India(Zone 10a)

Koriput,
Very many thanks for the post. Very useful information you have provided. I never knew certain things you shared above.
Cathy, what a beautiful link that explains in a very simple manner.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I used to think that worms swallowed the soil they passed through, to make their tunnels. But I guess not. They only eat small organic bits and a few grains of soil or sand.

I guess they make their tunnels by pushing soil aside. Amazing that they can penetrate hard clay at all, but I've seen it.

Mysore, India(Zone 10a)

Rick, I too thought exactly the same as I heard from others the same. Also in the rainy season, we see clumps of clay on the surface and this might convince the fact you mentioned! Right? Wonderful information you gave, Rick. Thanks.

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

This is not an earthworm--but a Sphinx Moth Caterpillar moving a lot
of sand around to dig itself a den.

This is a cute You-Tube clip. Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6U44kvgw9_c

Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

Pretty nice, Gita.
Marcia

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