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Grow Your Own: Worms!

by Juan Jardinero

“…it may be doubted if there are any other animals which have played such an important part in the history of the world as these lowly organized creatures.”
Charles Darwin

Earthworms are special creatures; their job is to plow the soil by tunneling through it. Their tunnels provide the soil with passageways through which air and water can circulate, and that’s important because soil microorganisms and plant roots need air and water just like we do. Without some kind of plowing, soil becomes compacted, air and water can’t circulate in it, and plant roots can’t penetrate it.

Even the ancient Greeks understood the importance of Earthworms, Aristotle referred to them as “the intestines of the earth”. This is something we should appreciate because earthworm droppings — called castings when deposited atop the ground — are rich in nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, and these are all important nutrients for healthy, prospering ecosystems. In your own backyard you might be able to confirm that grass around earthworm burrows grows taller and greener than grass just inches away. Even in ancient Egypt, farmers were not allowed to touch earthworms for fear of offending the god of fertility.

Their ability to produce fertile soil is well recognized and can be easily managed through vermicompost. Worms will happily turn it into some of the best fertilizer on earth—worm compost. Vermicomposting is a fascinating, fun and easy way to recycle your food scraps. A worm bin requires very little work, produces no offensive odors and provides worm castings that help plants thrive.  Composting with worms improves the fertility and water-holding capacity of garden soil, and benefits the environment by recycling valuable organic materials. Worms can eat up to their body weight in food scraps a day and reproduce at really high rates making them very efficient workers in your garden and farm. Locally, coffee plantations have started using them to process the coffee shells allowing them to produce not only their own fertilizer but a second marketable product.

Interesting facts about worms:

– An acre of soil can hold up to one million worms.

– Compost worms are hermaphrodites, having both male and female sex organs.

– Worm poop holds up to nine times its weight in water and is rich in nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.

– Cleopatra declared worms sacred.

– Earthworms are not native to the Americas. They came from Europe in the soil used as ballast on ships.

– Earthworms are 82% protein…a fact worth recalling if you’re ever starving hungry.

Want to learn more about worm composting or other gardening activities, email us at juanpa@elinfinito.org for other volunteer opportunities.

 

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