MOFishin
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How & When to Add Worms to a Garden?

I didn't know exactly where to post this. But I hear a lot about how good worms are for your soil. Some people talk as if you just throw them out there. Did a little googling, and I'm getting the impression it would be better to bury them in little holes all around my garden?
Is there a right or wrong time to add worms to your garden? Is there, or could there be, something I need to add to my garden to keep the worms thriving?
It's my third year of gardening, and I'm wanting work on good healthy soil, which I don't think I focused on enough in the prior years.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Worms.

Usually you don't need to add worms to your soil. If you add enough organic matter to the soil, including fall leaves, compost, etc. the worms will come. Start a compost pile (that sits directly on the ground) and you are likely soon to have hundreds of worms that you can then add to your soil with the compost.
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Boboe
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Re: Worms.

I get my worms from the same place Rainbowgardener does--the compost pile. When I add compost to the garden, worms get added too. Our soil here is very nutrient-poor. We're on pure white sand. If you don't amend, almost nothing grows. I'm only on year 4 of my garden, but it's doing better each year because of amendments. So I guess what I'm saying is that I don't just dump a dozen worms in one spot of my garden and call it good. They get scattered around the garden as I add the compost.

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applestar
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Re: Worms.

I'm noticing your screen name -- if you are going to add leftover worms from fishing, my DH used to dump his in the compost pile after coming home from fishing. If he had some in the bait fridge that was getting old and he wanted to get fresh ones, he would also put them out. He used both red wigglers and baby night crawlers for fishing, so I imagine the wigglers stayed to populate the compost pile area -- vacating when too hot and returning for fresh food, while the night crawlers eventually made their way down into the soil beneath.

A similar environment will nourish the worms and encourage them to multiply and spread. They all delve deeper when too hot or too cold or too dry, and try to come out or relocate to drier areas when flooded. In spring after the ground thaws they start coming up to the surface, and if you make cardboard/paper mulched beds at that time, they will congregate and have a party, so they like that kind of well-mulched environment. I find the kind that like clay soil, too, when I'm digging deep into the subsoil and break up clay clods -- I suppose those are night crawlers.
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john gault
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Re: Worms.

It really depends on the type of worm you have, because there are two basic types. 1) the ones the live in the leaf litter 2) the earthworms that bury into the ground. They both look very similar, especially the uninitiated. If you put the leaf-litter worms in your garden (usually referred to as Red Wigglers) they will die if you don't have a relatively deep layer of mulch, because they can't dig deep into the soil, they feed (and live) on what's on top of the soil, so if there's not a heavy layer of mulch they will die from sun exposure and if in the shade they will just dry out -- they also need the moisture in the mulch to stay alive.

If you're not sure of what type of worm, you just need to put it in a heavily mulchy area, that way if they are of the Red Wiggler type they will survive and if they are the earthworms, they'll also be ok, because they also eat in the mulch, but then they can dig down to where the prefer to live.

When I first started gardening I couldn't add worms to my garden (regardless of type), because the soil was just too sandy and dry, with very little organic matter, earthworms wouldn't be able to bury in that stuff, because there was nothing to eat and they would have dried out. However, after the first year of gardening with heavy mulch, my yard was then able to support both types of worms and my soil is no longer just plain sand.

Here's a picture of my neighbor's yard, which is what my yard use to look like. You will not find a single worm in his front yard, but my yard is packed with them now.

Image


My yard use to look like that, notice the bare sandy spots, the grassy spots are not much different. This is what mulching does

Image

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Gary350
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Re: How & When to Add Worms to a Garden?

I use to have the city bring me 6 large trucks of compacted tree leaves every fall by spring leaves looked like potting soil so I tilled it into the garden. After a few years of that my garden had billions of worms. Reach down grab a hand full of soil it would have 100 worms in it. Worms eat up all the organic material then your garden has no organic material. Your garden will do better if you have MOLES. Moles eat all the, cut worms, all the ants, termites, Beatles, bugs, wasp larva, insects, slugs, anything that lives in the soil moles will eat it. Moles dig and loosen the soil your garden plants will love it.

MOFishin
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Re: How & When to Add Worms to a Garden?

This will be my second year in a row gardening this exact spot. There is a lot of clay once you get a few inches deep in the soil. I'm adding bagged compost, topsoil with pete moss, and a little sand to loose up the clay.
I guess my question now is, do I buy worms now and try to introduce them to where my garden will be planted in the very near future? Or wait and make a compost pile? I've never done any composting before.

MOFishin
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Re: Worms.

applestar wrote:I'm noticing your screen name -- if you are going to add leftover worms from fishing, my DH used to dump his in the compost pile after coming home from fishing. If he had some in the bait fridge that was getting old and he wanted to get fresh ones, he would also put them out. He used both red wigglers and baby night crawlers for fishing, so I imagine the wigglers stayed to populate the compost pile area -- vacating when too hot and returning for fresh food, while the night crawlers eventually made their way down into the soil beneath.

A similar environment will nourish the worms and encourage them to multiply and spread. They all delve deeper when too hot or too cold or too dry, and try to come out or relocate to drier areas when flooded. In spring after the ground thaws they start coming up to the surface, and if you make cardboard/paper mulched beds at that time, they will congregate and have a party, so they like that kind of well-mulched environment. I find the kind that like clay soil, too, when I'm digging deep into the subsoil and break up clay clods -- I suppose those are night crawlers.
I had nearly 2 dozen huge nightcrawlers in my fridge in late fall that I didn't expect to use. So I tossed them out there. Other than that, this is the first time I've put much thought into worms. This is really the first time I've put this much thought into improving the health of my soil.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: How & When to Add Worms to a Garden?

Composting is the best thing you can do for your garden. And improving the soil is what gardening is really all about. Feed your soil and it will feed you.

I don't agree with this statement: "Worms eat up all the organic material then your garden has no organic material." First if you are adding a bunch of organic material, it is impossible for the worms to eat ALL of it. Second and more important, the worms are not just disappearing the organic materials they eat, they are transforming them. They chew up fall leaves and kitchen scraps etc. and excrete them as worm castings (poop). Worm castings are the holy grail of soil amendments. They are very fine textured, contribute to making a soil that is soft, loose, crumbly, well drained AND they are extremely nutrient rich. Worm castings have 5 times more nitrogen, 7 times more phosphate, and 10 times more potassium than average topsoil. The nutrients are broken down into a form that is readily available to the plants, vs. being locked up in a dry leaf. The castings include thousands of bacteria, enzymes, and undigested organic matter that all become food for the existing soil biota.

Benefits of Using Worm Castings to Amend the Soil

Contains bacteria, enzymes, and organic matter
Promotes increased water retention
Buffers soil by binding with heavy metals
Locks up acid-forming carbon which increases nitrogen levels
Discourages plant pests and helps plants resist disease
Suppresses damping-off in seed starts
https://modernsteader.com/value-worm-castings/
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imafan26
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Re: How & When to Add Worms to a Garden?

I don't add worms they just come.
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john gault
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Re: How & When to Add Worms to a Garden?

MOFishin wrote:This will be my second year in a row gardening this exact spot. There is a lot of clay once you get a few inches deep in the soil. I'm adding bagged compost, topsoil with pete moss, and a little sand to loose up the clay.
I guess my question now is, do I buy worms now and try to introduce them to where my garden will be planted in the very near future? Or wait and make a compost pile? I've never done any composting before.
You've seen the pictures in my previous post of the super-dry sandy soil, but despite that there were some very small pockets of worms in my yard around trees where the soil is shaded and there was a small accumulation of organic matter, such as fallen leaves....

I took a small corner of my yard and raked all the leaves into a pile (and other yard waste) and used that as my compost pile and included my kitchen waste -- mix it well into the leaf pile and there's no smell at all.

The worm population exploded, along with other soil organisms. I then had a desire for more and more leaves and started picking up bags of leaves left on the curb for city pick up and put it both in my compost pile and started mulching my garden....and the rest is history...I never bought a single worm, they reproduce very fast and now I have them in most of my yard and garden.

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jal_ut
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Re: How & When to Add Worms to a Garden?

In these parts there were several species of small earthworms that were here in the soils. Then some brought in Nite-crawlers for fishing purposes. These were very large earthworms. They come up at night when the soil is damp to mate. Fishermen would go out with a flash light and look for them. When spotted they quickly grabbed them before the light disturbed them enough for them to withdraw back into the ground. I got a few of these and put them on the garden plot. After a couple of years they became established and they do well in my garden and yard.
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Gary350
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Re: How & When to Add Worms to a Garden?

I had no worms in my garden last summer. This year I am seeing worms. I have been adding 3 cu ft bags if peat moss to the garden it loosens the soil and makes the soil more acid, it is easy to till in, potatoes and peppers like the acid soil. I don't think the other plants care about the higher acid soil but loose soil is better for all plant roots. I have no clue where worms come from but they come.

MOFishin
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Re: How & When to Add Worms to a Garden?

Thanks for all the responses.
jal_ut wrote:In these parts there were several species of small earthworms that were here in the soils. Then some brought in Nite-crawlers for fishing purposes. These were very large earthworms. They come up at night when the soil is damp to mate. Fishermen would go out with a flash light and look for them. When spotted they quickly grabbed them before the light disturbed them enough for them to withdraw back into the ground. I got a few of these and put them on the garden plot. After a couple of years they became established and they do well in my garden and yard.
I'm going to go ahead and do that for now.
And I will follow everyone's advice and start a compost pile. I have no shortage of leaves still leftover from last fall.

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