Can I put different types of worms in my soil?

Knollwood, TX

I know that sounds silly, maybe, but I've been working hard to amend our soil here & want to buy worms from The Worm Dude. Can/should I buy both red wigglers and nightcrawlers, or will they "compete" in some way? Should I just have one type? Thanks for any advice. :)

Lori in Far N. TX

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

I hope someone knows better than me. It may take a day or two.

Worms that are sold specifically for worm bins, do well in those conditions. Turned loose in the garden, they will either stay or go, depending on whether they like your soil.

My opinion is, that the Worm Dude may know more about worms than the rest of us.

More importantly, in my opinion, you do not need to buy worms because when you add organic material to the soil, the worms that already live near you and like your native soil, will find you and multiply.

Enterprise, AL(Zone 8b)

I see no reason you could not add different types of worms to your soil, they will stay if they like it and leave if they don't. I have never added worms to my soil, but it took a good two years to finally attract them to my garden and compost piles. Now I have lots of worms, not millions, but thousands at least. The Worm Dude sells worms, so just be aware he has a biased in that direction. Most things I have read say there is no need to actually go buy worms and add them to the garden soil, for contained compost piles it would be different. When you get your compost piles and garden soil ready for earthworms they will come and stay as long as you supply them organic matter. It just seems you could spend quite a bit of money buying worms never to see them again.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

'It just seems you could spend quite a bit of money buying worms never to see them again.'

That's the gist of my argument

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

If you have some woods nearby, dig around for earthworms. Move any you find to your garden. As, long as they have organic matter to eat, they will multiply.

Seven years ago I couldn't find a single earthworm in the garden. I dug up four worms from a neighbors wood. Now I have millions of earthworms.

I've noticed the worms in our compost bin are different from the ones in our garden - much redder in color.

"Build it and they will come".

Wake Forest, NC(Zone 7b)

Also, if you want to feed them a lot of vegetable food scraps, you can use red wigglers. You may find local red worms as fishing worms at rural looking service stations. I bought my red wigglers (red worms to me) from a little store about 3 miles from home, 5 years ago, there were supposedly 25 worms in a Styrofoam cup - I didn't count them but they were healthy. They cost $2.25 then. Now they have inflated to $3.30. I haven't counted the number of redworms now in my pile outside my garage because there are lots when it's cooler and fewer when it's very hot. Shade AND moisture will help you in TX.

The main point is, you don't need 500 worms because they reproduce rapidly IF you provide a good environment AND they die or leave rapidly if you don't.

If you just want worms in your compost, you can make sure parts of it stay moist - not wet - all the time and the (correct) local worms will find it and stay there.

Spend some time reading the vermicomposting areas for much more on earthworms.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

I have not purchased from this site, but the info provided regarding the difference between earthworms and red wigglers (compost worms) seems correct to me.

Wake Forest, NC(Zone 7b)

HoneybeeNC- that was an excellent article. I hope more people who are getting started will read it.

I was amazed at how quickly the native earthworms showed up when my first load of shredded wood mulch started to really decompose and we had some good rain. I had no idea there would be earthworms living below my 2 feet of red clay.

My first experience with red worms/wigglers was when I was about 6 yrs old (abt 1943) - we found a neighbor lady's dumping pile for her chicken house cleaning. We had no idea of how yukky it was to dig our fishing worms with our bare hands in that stuff but I'm sure we never told our moms what we were doing. They aren't called E. fetida for nothing.

Eisenia fetida (older spelling: foetida), known under various common names such as redworm, brandling worm, panfish worm, trout worm, tiger worm, red wiggler worm- fetid is from foetēre, to stink

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

pbyrley - you would be amazed at how far earthworms can/will travel on the soil surface when the weather is "just right". When we go walking on the greenway, I'm always rescuing wayward earthworms from the walking path, and putting them back into a damp area.

As you have experienced: give them the right conditions, and they will come.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

When I first started composting, I had just a few worms. Then they multiplied greatly within a few months.

However, for the last year or two, I haven't seen any worms in the heap!

Wake Forest, NC(Zone 7b)

Honeybee said it correctly - "If you build it, they will come". Try adding plain cornmeal - there's probably not much nutrition in dried leaves.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Rick, I'm wondering if you don't have compost worms (red worms). Regular earthworms will not live in compost.

I don't think worms like compost to get too hot or too cold.

Enterprise, AL(Zone 8b)

I have the same thing in my compost piles, but it seems to be a natural progression. When the pile is new it is not ready for worms, as it reaches a certain point they move in and do their work, then slowly as the work is done the numbers of worms becomes less. If new material is added to the compost the worms return to work again. My piles after a period of time have very few "regular" earthworms in the upper portions, but usually the lower portions near the ground continue to have quite a few. I think if you would check at night you would see a much greater number, I just think that I have not actually done it. So if you decide to get up in the middle of the night and check the earth worm population post back and let us know what you find. I have found that "regular earthworms" do live throughout the compost pile but only for short periods of time when the pile is just right for their liking. The rest of the time they stay near the bottom and dig down into the earth.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> If new material is added to the compost the worms return to work again.

That could be it. I add fairly small amounts of kitchen scraps and then don't inspect that spot for a week or two, and usually the scraps have already become indistinguishable.

Sod roots, twigs and waxy rhododendron leaves last much longer, but don't seem very palatable to anything.

>> Rick, I'm wondering if you don't have compost worms (red worms). Regular earthworms will not live in compost.

I don't know about that. I never noticed any small red worms, but back when I saw any, they seemed to be the old familiar "fishing worms" from childhood. Grey with that "collar" near the front (clitellum).

I thought it was neat that, at first, I had a small number of worms that got bigger and bigger over a few weeks. Then, suddenly, I had a lot of tiny worms!

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

I fully agree that worms will magically appear and stay if conditions are right for them. Never worry!

CREZIERES, France(Zone 8a)

Best info I have found regarding worms is at:
Regarding earthworms, they can't easily dig through dry soil so tryto keep it moist (mulching etc).

My composting worms sometimes hide so well inthe compost that they get put in the ground once it is harvested. Although they, ostensibly don't like the 'open ground' environment, I frequently find them in the soil, having survived months or years eking out a spare existence in the soil environment.

However, I wouldn't encourage anyone to put composting worms in the soil - that is a waste - better to put them in a bin or on the compost heap after it has cooled and then put the resulting vermicompost in the soil. There will be less expensive fatalities that way. :O)


Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Mike - thanks for the worm link. Lots of good stuff there.

Wake Forest, NC(Zone 7b)

I think you should get up about 4:00AM, that's when the compost pile will be coolest; you can look around the edges for your earthworms.

(I sure am glad mine stay around, I'd hate to have to look for them)

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Hmm, I might stay up LATE until 4 am, but getting UP that early is not in my repertoire!

Wake Forest, NC(Zone 7b)

I hope you know I was kidding!

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> I hope you know I was kidding!

No, my SO gets up so early that I didn't know there WAS any time that early. I'm glad to hear that YOU are sane!

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