Earthworms are great recyclers of organic waste.

Want a recycling crew to start working up the soil? Get a batch of worms.

For everyone who is getting their gardens ready for planting, a thriving population of earthworms is absolutely essential. I enjoyed this Australian website’s reference to Charles Darwin, who sang the praises for worms in 1881:

“Of all animals, few have contributed so much to the development of the world, as we know it, as these lowly creatures.”

Healthy soil contains plenty of active earthworms and other soil life. Garden masters argue that earthworms improve soil structure and tilth by opening channels through which water, air and roots can travel to more easily assisting plant growth. Earthworms also redistribute nutrients throughout the soil when they feed and excrete at different depths, adding to soil life and plant health.

Here’s a quick summary about earthworms provided by Earthwormsinfo:

  • Worms provide paths for root systems to penetrate.
  • The air in burrows is more humid than surface air.
  • The number and length of burrows increases as more food is available.
  • Some earthworms consume their own weight in a combination of food, water and soil everyday.
  • Their dry body weight is two-thirds protein, and they are low in cholesterol.
  • They pass the waste of that food from their bodies every 24 hours in the form of vermicast-nature’s best soil conditioner.
  • A well-run system does not smell offensive.
  • Up to 70 percent of all household waste is edible by earthworms.
  • Earthworms live 2 to 3 years under favourable conditions, but healthy worms up to 15 years old have been recorded.
  • Earthworms have been around for 600 million years.
  • Earthworms only mate with worms of the same species.
  • Worm eggs can survive drought and cold winters, provided they are deep enough in the soil or it is well mulched.
  • Earthworms are hermaphrodites – each worm is both male and female. Mature worms can fertilize or be fertilized. In some cases they may do with out a partner and self-fertilize.
  • Worms are subject to so few diseases that you can virtually say they catch none at all, and for very good reason, the bacteria fostered in their gut and excreted with their castings are benevolent, and produced in such overwhelming numbers that disease-producing bacteria can not survive.

Many thanks to Earthwormsinfo for this solid information on recycling sustainability in action.

Photo: Joel Abroad