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Earthworms Eating Tree of Heaven Debris

 
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Hello!

First post here, happy to have found this beautiful forum.

Renting a property with a neglected back-yard and have decided to try & grow some food.  So far the biggest issue has been figuring out how to work with the neighbor's aggressive Ailanthus trees.  There has been some success removing the suckers & seedlings (root system still intact) but not sure what to do about the substantial amounts of rotting leaves, stems & seeds that have been regularly falling all over the garden.

Last night, after a heavy rain, I went out to see what the earthworms were up to.  There were too many to count.  Massive nightcrawlers had surfaced and were feeling around for debris to pull back into their burrows.  The decision was made during the storm to offer them the food I wanted them to eat (small wood chips & other rotting leaves) but upon morning inspection it seems they thoroughly enjoyed the rotting Ailanthus leaves & stems.

I've no problem leaving the leaves to decompose throughout the garden but I understand that Ailanthus trees possess a growth-inhibiting toxin.  My question now is whether the earthworms digesting the debris is enough to degrade the allelopathic effects or if the worms are just helping to distribute the toxins deeper into the soil?

Any advice on working with this tree or uses for the many suckers that were removed would be appreciated.

Thanks!
 
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Fascinating!

I'd love to see you do an experiment.  Could you catch enough of those night-crawlers to populate a worm bin?  And then, feeding your worms a heavy diet of the Ailanthus leaves in question, get them to create a supply of worm castings.  Once you have enough of the worm castings to heavily amend some potting soil, it would be easy enough to run a simple comparative side-by-side trial.  Plant a variety of seeds in pots --- half in the worm casting amended soil, and half in your control group (unamended soil).

Let the seeds germinate (if they will germinate), let them grow, and then compare the results.

My hunch is that the digestive process would substantially remediate the toxic qualities of those leaves.  



 
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