judi7550
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New gardener wants to add earthworms to soil

Hello!

I'm new to the forum and this is my first post -- also new to gardening; the only thing I'm really sure about is that I'll be doing organic-only and would like to add earthworms to improve the soil, so have some questions.

First a quick background: I live in an apartment in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, so haven't got a real "yard" to work in, but the building's management allows residents to do some small-scale gardening on the property--

We're 2 blocks from Lake Michigan, which has a somewhat mitigating effect on the climate (slightly cooler than the inland areas in summer, slightly warmer in winter).

We have heavy clay soil and a fairly short growing season. (Zone 5)

While putting in soil amendments this summer, I saw a few worms (nightcrawlers) here and there but am planning to add more and hopefully the soil is now appropriate for them to live and multiply.

My question is: Since fall is coming should I wait til the ground thaws in spring (mid to late May around here) to add the worms? Or would it be better to add them now so they can become established before the ground begins to freeze--(sometime November I'm guessing--this will be my first fall here).

Any assistance would be greatly appreciated!

Judi N.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: New gardener wants to add earthworms to soil

Do you have anywhere to start a compost pile? If you have a compost pile sitting on the ground, worms will come in to it on their own. Then you can add compost (very beneficial) AND worms to your plot in the spring. If not you could do in the ground sheet composting, just bury your kitchen scraps and fall leaves and whatever organic materials you can come up with, between now and November, in your garden plot. Leave them to break down over winter and mix everything in, in the spring. That will draw worms in to your garden also.

OR you can do a worm bin. In that case you would have to order some worms on line to put in your bin. There are instructions here in the composting forum about how to do a worm bin. You can just do it in a plastic tote/ storage bin from the store and you can keep it indoors (no odor or mess). I think if you keep a worm bin from now to spring, feeding the worms with your kitchen scraps, by spring when the ground is warm enough for planting, your worms will have multiplied a lot and you can add worms and all the castings and materials from the bin to your garden plot. I think you will enrich your garden more that way than just adding the worms directly to the garden now, since in the garden they will just be dormant all winter. In your apt, they will keep growing and multiplying and creating worm castings all winter.
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judi7550
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Re: New gardener wants to add earthworms to soil

Thank you, rainbowgardener!

There's no place on the apartment property to put a compost pile :cry: so I think I'll try the indoor worm bin.

Looks like there's lots of great info on this forum, and I'm looking forward to digging into it :lol:

Judi N.

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Re: New gardener wants to add earthworms to soil

Another idea if you have or want to have a raised bed. Do the same thing that rainbow suggested with the compost. You can also sheet mulch with clean cardboard under the bed. On top pile your fall leafs on the soil and then work in in the spring. That will bring a ton of worms in.

Good luck
Stephen

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Re: New gardener wants to add earthworms to soil

Sorry about the large cut and paste.
There are three basic groupings of earthworms – 1) ‘Anecic‘, 2) ‘Endogeic‘, and 3) ‘Epigeic‘. The anecic worms, such as the large ‘Canadian Nightcrawlers’ (aka ‘Dew Worms’ – Lumbricus terrestris) build deep burrows, typically extending down to the mineral soil layers. They live a relatively solitary life (coming up the the surface for feeding, mating, and to escape from flooded burrows), and generally thrive at cooler temperatures than those worms in the other two groups.

Endogeic worms are basically the intermediates between the other two groups. They are still soil worms, but are typically located closer to the soil surface. Unlike the anecic worms, they often create horizontal (rather than vertical) burrows.

The last group, the epigeic earthworms, are of course the ones we are most interested in from a composting stand-point. This group generally lives at or above the soil surface – typically associated with concentrations of rich organic matter (eg. leaf litter, manure etc). They also tend to be much more tolerant of crowded conditions and wider fluctuations in temperature. Because they live in these potentially harsh/challenging environments, epigeic worms also tend to grow and reproduce much more quickly than the other groups of worms (helping to ensure the success of future generations).

You are certainly on the right track with your approach, Francisco. If there ARE any epigeic species of worms located on or near your property, there is a decent chance you will be able to attract them to an area where you have added organic matter on the soil surface. Whether or not you will attract the best species and/or enough worms to make your efforts worthwhile, is another matter altogether.

I know that if I did the same thing in my own yard, I would end up with lots of Red Worms (Eisenia fetida) concentrated in the organic-material-rich-zones. As an illustration, I recently left a few (freshly harvested) zucchinis on my lawn for a day or two. When I went to collect them, I discovered a handful of small Red Worms underneath each of them! I can only imagine how quickly I could populate a heap of aged manure if I dumped it on my lawn!

If one of your neighbors happens to be composting with worms, or if they have found their way into the area via some other means, you may be in luck! More than likely though, you will end up with a mix of epigeic and endogeic species that just happen to be living close by.

The fact that you’ve found some small reddish worms could be a good sign, but the only way you will know for sure if they will work is to put them to the test in a worm bin. As for them coming up under your cardboard – this is pretty common for most types of earthworms. Leave just about anything to sit out on your lawn for long enough, and you’ll likely end up with quite a few worms congregating underneath.
https://www.redwormcomposting.com/reader ... -backyard/

Eric

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rainbowgardener
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Re: New gardener wants to add earthworms to soil

Although I suggested ordering worms for your worm bin, I just stock mine with worms dug out of my compost pile. They are chewing up (not literally - no teeth) all the kitchen scraps and fall leaves in my compost pile, why shouldn't they do the same in the worm bin. But 1) I have a compost pile and 2) digging up compost with worms and adding it to the worm bin, tends to introduce other life as well that you don't necessarily want in an indoor worm bin.
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Susan W
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Re: New gardener wants to add earthworms to soil

Sounds like you're on a good path so far. Now, do you have an allotted space? ground level? raised bed? Did you grow stuff this season?
Adding worms now? No, not so much. You're in the frozen tundra (hey, I'm in the mid-south!), and wait until your ground thaws.
Compost? If you can dig a small trench/hole and put your kitchen waste, coffee grounds in and bury, then cover with dirt, do before freeze. No fats or animal stuff, cover and 4 legged furry things shouldn't be a problem.
You could also put down some shredded mulched (bagged from box store). Then in the spring turn that in.

Hope this helps.
Have fun!
Susan

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Re: New gardener wants to add earthworms to soil

When autumnal leaves start showing up, collect as many from the curb as you have the chutzpah to haul away.

In each bag of worms will be countless worm eggs. They (the eggs) will hatch as leaves compost in your garden (or bin).

Repeat annually.
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Gary350
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Re: New gardener wants to add earthworms to soil

Don't buy worms, grow your own.

Buy several 3.5 cu ft bales of Peat Moss at Home Depot or Lowe's, cover your garden 5" to 6" deep in peat moss. Till it in good your garden is your compost. Now is the best time to do this, worm population will start to multiply. Next garden season you will have so any worms you won't know what to think. Worms love organic material if you feed your worms you will have 1000s of them.

Worms don't reproduce until they are adults about 90 days old. Even if you only have 10 adult worms in your whole garden you might have 5000 worms in 6 months. Worms lay eggs all the time, they will continuously hatch out. In 3 months new worms will be adults and start laying eggs too. Worms love organic material 100s of worms will migrate into your garden to eat the organic material. So you end up with more adult worms laying eggs too.

If you want a certain type worm go to a fish bate shop and buy a dozen worms and put them in your garden. I know Michigan is the home of Night Crawlers I use to live there.

I had a worm garden once 30 years ago. The garden will get so populated with worms you can pick up over 100 worms in 1 hand full of soil.

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