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Question on the lateral movement of earthworms and soil life

 
pollinator
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Location: South Carolina 8a
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Good morning,

As I expand my garden piece by piece, I am sheet mulching by laying down kraft paper over bermuda grass, as I obtain materials. My questiom is will earthworms and other organisms move laterally into my new sheet mulch? I am also adding pockets of compostable material, as I obtain it. I am laying arborist wood chips amd leaves about a foot thick. It is my hope to plant my mochata in this mix in a few months to break through the paper and prep my bed for the fall. Is this possible? Will the soil life move laterally from my other beds? What other tips besides compost teas and fungal slurries can help speed this process up?


Thanks!
 
master steward
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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I'm pretty sure that they will move laterally if there is a worm friendly path to get from point A to point B and a reason for them to move.  I'm guessing the best way to speed it up would be to take a few shovel fulls of soil from a wormy place and inoculate it into the new locations.  That should give you some adult worms and some eggs to rapidly take over the new territory.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2595
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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When it rains I have seen earthworms on asphalt and concrete. They will find there way to you woodchip/sheetmulch. As they say build it and they will come
 
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Location: East of England
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The previous residents of here had a ~20cm thick layer of pebbles on our small, shady front garden. There was also a membrane underneath, and when we removed all of this the soil was so compacted that I more or less had to chip it away with a fork. Safe to say it was relatively lifeless. We had some top soil delivered, plante things out and, whilst it's still a work in progress, worms have now been spotted, despite the nearest visible soil being out the back of the house. So, to repeat what the above user said: if you build it they will come!
 
gardener
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Worms move along quite nicely—when conditions are good, upwards of 25 feet an hour, depending upon the species.  Once the wood chips and cardboard begin to decompose, the worms will take it from there.  They'll colonize that space in less than a month, tops.  They'll cruise under that cardboard and lovely wood chip blanket and find their way to all the best spots.  

Now if your question was "how do I keep the worms out?", then you'd be out of luck.

Best of luck with your new garden space.
 
author & pollinator
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A good question. I have wondered the same thing, but more about soil microorganisms in raised beds. I suspect bacteria grow and multiply just about anywhere. But I've wondered about mycorrhizal fungi, because they network with other fungi and plants. Can they still do that in raised beds? Or maybe just with those in their own bed. (?)
 
Marco Banks
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A single mushroom releases something like 2.7 BILLION spores in a day.  They are everywhere, blowing with the wind, settling on every surface, washing down into the soil with every rain, and colonizing any available surface that is suitable.  If you mulch the top of your raised beds after your plants come up, you'll create a perfect environment for a couple hundred of those spores to begin growing a fungal network.  

As much as possible, if you can minimize tilling those beds from year to year, the fungi will greatly appreciate it.  Just dig a hole for the plant you wish to transplant, or a shallow furrow for seeds if you are direct seeding.  I re-mulch the tops of my garden beds every year with a couple of inches of compost, and then a layer of poopy chicken straw on top of that.  

If you really want to get crazy, dig down about 2 feet below the surface of your garden bed and bury old wood, like a horizontal hugalkulture.  The fungi will colonize that layer and will reach upwards to find your plants' roots.

m
 
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