|Red Wigglers (Eisenia foetida)|
With that said there is one creature that you and your garden should not be without for such maintenance, and that is the worm. Well worms, plural, to be exact.
Worms provide a plethora of benefits. For instance, as they move about your soil they will consume a variety of things from organic matter, to the clay, silt and so on, and in turn give you castings. These castings, also called vermicompost, are filled with some of the greatest nutrients your plants will need to grow.
Besides the nutrients the castings provide for your soil and your plants, they are also good for making your soil more granular (more crumbly), which helps improve your soil's structure allowing air and water to move more freely.
As worms move around your soil, they also create tunnels. These tunnels help aerate the soil underneath, and that is beneficial to plant roots, giving them a looser soil to grow and expand.
"Soil that has been well worked by worms can take in water four times faster than soil that hasn't," writes Edward C. Smith, in his book The Vegetable Gardener's Bible. "This reduces runoff and prevents water loss through evaporation from puddles that form when soil cannot absorb rainfall quickly enough."
To see if your soil has enough worms you can do a simple worm count by digging an area in your garden, one foot wide by one foot long by a half foot deep. Turn the soil over and look for worms. If you don't find any, your soil has issues. You are looking for more than a dozen worms in that sized area that you dug up.
Don't panic if you don't find any or less than a dozen, it just means you have some work to do, to create an environment that is suitable for them. Adding in plenty of organic matter (i.e. grass clippings, leaves, coffee grinds, egg shells etc.) will go a long way to building a healthy worm population.
This will take some time and you must be consistent, because as soon as you stop feeding the worms, they are out of there. You can speed this process up a little bit by purchasing some red wigglers and adding them to your soil. Even if you purchase the worms and add them in, you will still need to add organic matter to the soil to keep feeding them, otherwise they will leave as well.
As long as you keep adding organic matter to your soil, you will be fine.
About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us. Be sure to join Mike`s vegetable seeds mailing list.
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