Earthworms are indispensable in your garden because they aerate the soil, pull down and digest decomposing organic matter and create humus. They are invaluable in improving the soil and are also the main stay of numerous other creatures including badgers, beetles, birds, centipedes, hedgehogs,moles and slugs.
There are some twenty-five species of British earthworm of which Lumbricus terrestris, the common earthworm, is the most often seen. It usually measures between 10-25 cm in length. The giant earthworm Microchanetus microchaetus is the longest, reaching up to nearly 2 metres in length.
You can encourage them to take residence in the garden by keeping the soil moist, mulched and manured. Worms are sensitive to vibration, which they associate with rainfall. Drumming on the soil will bring them to the surface in search of moisture, a fact which birds have exploited for many years..
Up to eight million earthworms may live in a hectare of grassland, even more in deciduous woodland. Earthworm numbers can be a indicator of how fertile your soil in. Dig a spadeful of soil and count the number of earthworms it contains. If you have six or more present you have a fertile soil in which plants should thrive. If you only have a few dig in plenty of organic matter into the soil to improve its fertility. Worms can live up to ten years old. Charles Darwin estimated that the worms in a single acre would shift between 8-18 tons of soil per year.
You can enlist the help of worms to keep fruit trees free from scab, a fungal disease that causes black or brown blotches on the leaves and fruit of apples and pears. The fungus grows on dead leaves and releases spores. You can run a mower over the leaves in the autumn to keep them small and worms will pull them underground before the scab spores have a chance to infect healthy trees.
Worm casts can make a nutritious top dressing. Leave them to dry on the lawn and use a brush to sweep them over the grass. Never apply a lawn dressing that contains worm killer as the benefits of worms in the lawn far outweighs the inconvenience of a few worm cast. You can remove them by switching or applying sulphate of ammonia as worms dislike acidity.
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