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Question regarding adding worms to soil

 
Luke Grainger
Posts: 10
Location: Melbourne Australia
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Hi all,

I'm thinking of adding some worms to my soil. I am trying to rejuvenate the soil and have mulched it and dug in a swail behind it.
We all know that worms improve soil.

What I'm wondering is if there is any danger to the eco system if I introduce earth or compost worms. Obviously worms that are
native to the area are ok but I was thinking of adding some of those small red compost worms used frequently in earthworm compost bins.

Once worms are introduced it would be impossible to remove them obviously so I thought it best to ask the question. I don't know if there could
be any unforeseen consequences.. or am I free to add any worm species I like? Thoughts?
 
Su Ba
pollinator
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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When I first started out making gardens I only had a few worms here and there. I soon discovered that I dramatically increased their population by simply feeding them and keeping the soil slightly moist. I did that by applying a 4-6" deep mulch and watering it in, then burying my kitchen waste here and there in the mulch as I had some. Before long, the worms were multiplying. Thus no need to buy worms. On the flip side, areas where I stopped applying regular doses of compost, garbage, or mulch, the worms died down to a minimal population again.

Most purchased worms die off. Why? Because the environment wasn't right for worms in the first place. Perhaps nothing to eat. Perhaps too dry or too wet. Perhaps too compacted. Thus most worm purchases are a waste of money.

Depending upon the variety of worm, compost worms may not survive in a typical garden. They thrive in high organic material, such as the garbage on the surface of their worm bins and the organic layers in the bin. Most people's gardens have bare soil or only light, dry mulch...thus nothing for compost worms to eat. In a forest, they thrive on the deep forest duff. Here in my region, I've had plenty of people tell me that they've released their excess compost worms into their gardens, but they disappear never to be seen again. Their garden conditions can't support the worms.

One of my garden mantras is: Feed the worms.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9435
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Su Ba wrote: I dramatically increased their population by simply feeding them and keeping the soil slightly moist. I did that by applying a 4-6" deep mulch and watering it in, then burying my kitchen waste here and there in the mulch as I had some. Before long, the worms were multiplying. Thus no need to buy worms.


This has been my experience as well.
 
Wayne Mackenzie
Posts: 107
Location: Sunizona Az., USA @ 4,400' Zone 8a
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The worm population explodes when I mulch with my neighbor's Mulberry leaves.
 
Rue Barbie
Posts: 70
Location: Coastal Southern California
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I'm also in the process of reestablishing worms in the garden via deep mulcing, etc. We've been in a long drought, and there are some, but I want more again. There are at least two kinds here that flourish in the right circumstances. Composting worms (red wigglers), and some sort of quite large one. There might be a native worm species too, but I'm not sure. Don't know where the red wigglers came from, but I suspect from my former neighbor who used to do a lot of composting.
 
Daniel Schmidt
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Location: Jacksonville, FL
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Luke Grainger wrote:We all know that worms improve soil.


I had never given this any thought before, but after searching for 'invasive earthworms', it appears that there can be cause for concern. In North America glaciers killed off many life forms, including earthworms. The ecosystems there lived without earthworms until they were introduced by European settlers. There is also some information about worms in Australia in this link Australian Earthworms.

My guess would be that if you can already find certain species on your land then it probably wont make much difference to create habitats for them to reproduce. With the substantial rainfall I receive here, it was very easy to find worms on the North side of my house. Keeping an area moist and blocked from the sun by a structure (in your case on the South side), tree, bush, or other form of shade will usually attract local worms. You can add mulch or other organic matter to feed them and then harvest some for whatever purpose. I don't find too many in my garden because it gets too much sun and is rather low in organic matter, as it used to be all beach sand. Building small habitats in the garden will be more productive than tossing them in if there isn't adequate habitat for them to survive.

The information from my invasive earthworm search is very thought provoking. I wonder if having invasive earthworms has shown detrimental effects to people trying to establish food forests. Or perhaps certain forests that don't natively have earthworms are having issues because there is not enough predators or some other element missing from the ecosystem. In my case, adding habitats for lizards and worms brought in armadillos, another invasive species which seem to eat the worms and lizard eggs. It appears to me that the armadillos are merely another mechanism trying to close some open loops in the local life cycles.
 
John Duffy
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Hi Luke. I would get some herbivore manure and compost it for a couple months. then, add some native worms and let Nature take its' course. I have not seen any species of worm that didn't love a good manure pile. Do a little research about the worms that are native to your area and try to make their environment to their liking. (moisture, temperature, preferred food) Worms are pretty easy to raise if you pay attention to their preferences. Best of luck to ya
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Luke Grainger wrote:Hi all,

I'm thinking of adding some worms to my soil. I am trying to rejuvenate the soil and have mulched it and dug in a swail behind it.
If you rejuvenate the soil, the worms will come, your efforts are best put into building a soil the worms will be happy to live in.
We all know that worms improve soil.
This is very true but there are actually correct worms and incorrect worms and you need to know them apart. You can put the wrong species in and they will either move on or they will die out, very counterproductive to my thinking.

What I'm wondering is if there is any danger to the eco system if I introduce earth or compost worms.
There is not, per se, a danger, but compost worms are best used in the compost heap. Worms always know where in nature they belong and they will travel to those sites all on their own
Obviously worms that are native to the area are ok but I was thinking of adding some of those small red compost worms used frequently in earthworm compost bins.

Yes indeed, native worms are going to be best suited and they will come on their own, meaning you don't need to spend money on worms, just soil improvements

Once worms are introduced it would be impossible to remove them obviously so I thought it best to ask the question. I don't know if there could
be any unforeseen consequences.. or am I free to add any worm species I like? Thoughts?
you are always free to do as you want. The question is should you do this or that or would it be best to let the earth mother provide the worms while you focus on soil amendments that make that soil more attractive to the worms. Just because we are able to do something does not mean it will be the right thing to do. Don't fall into the "improvements are always good" trap, observe first, think and research second then put all that information to work for the best fit for your land.
 
Luke Grainger
Posts: 10
Location: Melbourne Australia
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Thank you all for your advice!

I suspect red wigglers would die in this scenario.
I will try to find some worms locally on the land, there is a corner with well established trees and natural leaf cover resulting in good black soil. So then I will move them and some nice dirt to the area I'm trying to improve and then put the dirt and worms under the mulch. Hopefully the transplanted dirt keeps the worms happy and the biodiversity in that dirt spreads to the dirt and composting
mulch to create more good black dirt!

A lot of my land has highly compacted dirt so I'm not sure the worms in the corners would ever travel over to where I'm creating the good soil, swale, nitrogen fixing trees
and fruit forest.
 
Marco Banks
Posts: 395
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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I totally agree with the posts above: feed the soil and the worms will come.

If you are going to spend any money, spend it buying a truck-load of mulch, not worms. There are already plenty of worms out there, but your soil conditions are not such that they are multiplying. Put down a 8 inch layer of wood-chip mulch, step back for 4 months (while occasionally irrigating over the top of it or letting the rain soak it nicely), and then dig under the layer of wood chips and behold the wonder of worm reproduction.

Your soil needs carbon, not worms. LOTS AND LOTS of carbon. Pile it on the surface—don't till it in. If you build it, they will come. If you buy worms and add them, they will just die.

Then, push that mulch to the side, plant your tomatoes, peppers, okra, peach trees and sweet potatoes in the rich soil below, and gently push the mulch back into place once the plants are a few inches tall. You'll have more worms than you can imagine. Do this for 2 years and you'll be absolutely amazed with the soil life and plant productivity.

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