The Q&A Archives: Earthworms

Question: My flower beds don't have any worms or bugs - only brown dirt and clay. Should there be worms in the beds? Can beds be too clean? Thank you.

Answer: Earthworms will go where there is adequate moisture and the soil has good tilth. Good soil has loose texture and contains 3 to 5% organic material, or humus, in the top few inches. It absorbs and holds moisture, yet drains well. Therefore it is able to support lots of earthworms and harbor a massive population of valuable microbes. These organisms generate 50% or more of the nutrient needs of most plants as they process the organic matter through their digestive systems. If you take the trouble to build and maintain good soil on your property, it will be teaming with beneficial insects and earthworms.

Begin by amending your flower beds with organic matter, either this fall or next spring prior to planting. Simply spread a 4-5" layer of organic matter over the top of the bed and dig it in to a depth of about 8". After planting, spread another 2-3" of organic matter over the bare soil. This mulch material will help moderate soil temperature, slow evaporation and suppress weeds. At the end of the season, dig this organic matter into the soil and add another inch or two of fresh organic matter over the top. After a few years of amending the soil, your soil will be rich, loose, and healthy.

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