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Earthworms are among the most beneficial creatures you can have in your organic vegetable garden. They improve soil health by creating tunnels that allow air and water to penetrate. Plus, they consume decaying matter, bacteria, fungi, and nematodes in the soil, which can cause a host of problems in your garden if left unchecked. As an added bonus, worm castings also serve as an incredibly rich fertilizer for your plants.
In fact, a natural abundance of earthworms in your garden is a pretty good indicator of the overall health of your soil. But don’t despair if your garden isn’t already full of these helpful underground dwellers. Fortunately, there are several ways you can attract more of them to your property.
Adding Earthworms to Your Garden:
#1: Take Out the Toxic Pesticides and Weed Killers
This one is a no brainer for any type of organic gardener. In fact, it is a crucial step when you want . The case against pesticide use in your garden continues to grow as multiple scientific studies* show that their use has a detrimental impact on earthworms and the surrounding ecosystem.
Of course, most organic gardeners wouldn’t knowingly use these products in their own gardens. The challenge lies in protecting your planting area from pesticide drift from neighboring farms and home gardens. Site selection and the strategic use of physical barriers can help reduce this risk in many cases.
#2: Give Them a Happy Home
Earthworms ask for very little in return for the many benefits they provide. They prefer to live in a cool, dark, and moist environment and they need plenty of organic matter to consume. Mulching your garden will help retain the moisture earthworms and your plants crave. Plus, adding lots of rich compost and organic matter to your soil will keep them well fed.
#3: Leave Your Soil Alone
Conventional gardening methods involve tilling the ground to work compost and other amendments into the existing soil. However, doing so disturbs and damages the existing ecosystems within the soil. Earthworms and other beneficial creatures can be harmed in this process, which is one more reason to consider using raised garden beds or adopting lasagna-style gardening methods.
#4: Buy Earthworms for Your Garden
Although this option is valid, it is listed last for two reasons:
1. For starters, if you create a welcoming environment that provides everything earthworms need to thrive, chances are good they’ll find their way into your garden on their own. Second, there is no sense introducing earthworms to your garden if it does not yet offer the basic requirements they need to survive.
2. However, once your garden is ready, you can expedite their arrival byfrom a reputable dealer who offers earthworms that are native to your area. Buying native species will ensure they have an easier time making themselves at home in your backyard.
*Source: This scientific review cites multiple studies on this topic:
Earthworms, pesticides and sustainable agriculture: a review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26951221