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Gardeners wishing to grow beautiful flowers or lush vegetables need helpful creatures burrowing in their soil. Earthworms provide important services as they live beneath the soil surface. Not only do these annelids work to break up the soil and make it lighter, but they also help make soil richer. Enriched soil helps plants grow more energetically. Explore these outdoor home improvement helpers to learn how they benefit growing areas.
All About Earthworms
Earthworms exist in the soil throughout the earth in many different climates. As earthworms live in the soil, they engage in several different beneficial activities that help make soil better for growing plants. Earthworm movements through the soil help to break it up and aerate it. This aeration process makes the soil better for plant growth. As earthworms consume dirt and other microorganisms present in the soil, they produce castings, which help make the soil richer.
How Earthworms Work in the Soil
Earthworms make extensive tunnels in the soil as they move. These channels are effective for loosening the soil, which helps plant roots grow and take hold in the ground. The channels also allow water to move through the soil more effectively, which helps it reach plant roots faster. The more quickly water moves down through the soil, the less water will run off the surface. Water runoff creates erosion, which can be detrimental to growing areas.
Dangers to Earthworms
A number of dangers exist for earthworms. During periods of drought, the soil may become too dry for earthworms to survive. In dry soil, earthworms cannot breathe effectively. A lack of natural microorganisms in the soil will make it difficult for them to find enough food. Earthworms also have natural predators. Birds and moles are two animals that will eat earthworms. Increased use of pesticides may also pose serious risks for earthworms due to the chemicals in the soil and a disruption of the natural soil balance.
Creating an Ideal Earthworm Habitat
To ensure that a home garden has a plentiful supply of earthworms, create an environment that will enable them to thrive. Earthworms need soil with a moisture level of at least 40 percent to enable them to breathe adequately. Earthworms also prefer a neutral soil pH level, neither too alkaline nor too acidic. Add organic matter to garden soil to help feed earthworms. Examples of organic matter include mulched grass clippings, compost, aged manure, and peat moss.
- Overview of Earthworms: The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides comprehensive information about earthworms and their habitat here.
- Did You Know... Earthworms (PDF): Learn fascinating earthworm facts and details by perusing this report about earthworms.
- Earthworm Castles: Explore how earthworms move through the soil and what they eat with information provided on this Web page.
- Using Earthworms to Improve Soil Health and Suppress Diseases (PDF): Having soil rich with earthworms can make it healthier and more able to withstand soil-borne diseases.
- Worm Composting (PDF): Use worms to create compost to use in garden improvement efforts.
- Questions and Answers About Earthworms: Review common questions about earthworms and learn the answers to these questions.
- Earthworm Information: The United States Botanic Garden shares information about earthworms, including how they move and how they eat.
- The Realm of Earthworms: NASA Gets Down to the Nitty-Gritty: NASA is studying earthworms to apply this information to weather forecasting and other areas.
- The Science of Composting and Vermicomposting: Explore composting by learning about worm anatomy and physiology.
- Soil Management: Earthworms: Earthworms provide valuable services for farmers and gardeners as they aerate the soil and make it richer.
- The Living Soil: Earthworms: Earthworms engage in numerous activities in the soil, including shredding plant residue, mixing up soil particles, and enhancing the soil's ability to hold water.
- Earthworm Overview: Explore how earthworms behave in the soil with information presented on this Web page.
- Beneficials in the Garden: Earthworms: Having many earthworms in garden soil can improve the soil and the plants that grow there.
- Earthworms: Thatchbusters: Earthworms can help aerate the thatch that accumulates at the top layer of soil.
- The Earthworm: View a labeled image of the earthworm to learn about its anatomy and physiology.
- Learn About Earthworms: Explore the life cycle and habits of earthworms with information presented in this article.
- Activity: Earthworms: Earthworms have specific body parts making up their anatomy, as presented in this lesson plan.