A farmer’s plow and a gardener’s tiller will loosen soil just like worms do. However, the plow and the tiller destroy microbes, fungi, earthworms, and the underground relationships that have developed over time and through much effort. Additionally, the weight of the plow actually contributes to soil compaction as it rolls along. Tillers create dead pan layers from numerous years of same depth tilling which tends to compact the soil just beneath the tiller tines. Because of the hard packed “dead pan” layer, water and roots have great difficulty penetrating it.
When a worm loosens soil, the roots of plant roots spread easily throughout the soil. Long after the seed is sown, the worm continues to nourish the plant by working with the soil. If unharmed, worms work with the soil for the entire life of the plant. Twisting and turning as they move along, worms create a network of tunnels. Air flows into the tunnels allowing not only the worms to breathe, but microbes as well. Water and moisture travel through the tunnels, supplying much needed moisture to the worm’s body and to the roots of the plants. The worm, often called “Nature’s plow,” is a much better way to loosen the soil.
By encouraging earthworms in the garden, you will be encouraging plant growth. An earthworm is a very interesting creature. As it tunnels its way through the earth, it actually eats the soil and any organic matter in its path. Organic matter could be anything from dry leaves, old roots, green manures that have been turned under or left on top to dry out, or even small wood shavings – basically, anything that grew or is composed of things that were grown. All of the “stuff” they eat is processed through their bodies and excreted in the form of castings. If you look close, especially in the spring, you can see some of these castings lying on top of the grass or in your garden bed. Earthworm castings are also one of the most nutritious things for plants as they deliver worm created compost and deep soil nutrients right to the roots of the plant. Earthworm castings also encourage the production of nitrogen in the soil.
Interestingly, earthworms were actually imported from Europe because the North American soils were so void of them. You can purchase earthworm cocoons and spread them throughout your compost pile. There are approximately 10 earthworms in each cocoon and you can buy as many as 50 at a time. Many people grow earthworms in little earth worm farms. They make a tea out of the earthworm castings and feed the tea to the plants. Plants grown this way produce abundant, highly nutritious food.
Hopefully by reading this you have developed a new respect for earthworms as they are a gardener’s best friend. While tillers and plows are necessary at times, earthworms are really the most economical, productive, earth, and plant friendly way to plow.
Encourage Earthworms in your yard and garden by using all natural fertilizers, weed killers, and pesticides.