buy worms or don't buy worms....?

karlajr(z5 CO)July 15, 2011

I have a new perennial bed with no worms. My yard was mainly sandstone and sand. I brought in topsoil, mixed it up a bit, and put in my perennials. I have watered on a regular basis and am pleased to see that all of my new plants appear to be happy. While pulling weeds I noticed that the ground/new soil is so hard.

I am wondering if I should buy worms to put out there. I had not seen any while digging holes for the plants. What type of worms would I buy?

Any input is appreciated.

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cnetter(z5 Co)

In my experience, if the soil has plenty of organic matter, the worms will come. I can't stick a trowel in the ground without hitting a worm. They're even in the soil of my potted plants. I think you have some worms, they just need encouragement to grow and propagate.

Manure is great for growing worms. My manure piles are absolutely full of worms and, since I use a lot of it in my gardens, they are full of worms too. Manure also helps to soften hard soil. Compost would work just as well, I just happen to have lots of manure around here.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 4:00PM
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dsieber(z5 (Lakewood CO))

Ditto what Cnetter typed with the usual proviso WELL ROTTED don't go out and rustle some semi dry cow pies and toss them in your garden!!

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 7:25PM
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cnetter(z5 Co)

Very true. In fact, I use the worm test to tell if my manure is ready to use. If it's full of worms, it's ready to use.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 8:18PM
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i trench compost, just dig a hole and through in your scraps (no meat) and cover. The worms will come.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 8:35PM
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Dan Staley

I agree the worms will come. I do a bike ride that passes near a bait shop, and I took a couple dollars and a plastic bag with me on a ride just after we put in the veggie garden & the kid helped me place them. She had fun with the worms.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 9:43AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Ditto everybody else, Karla! Anywhere where you put organic matter, they will come--and if there's enough for them to eat, they will proliferate!

If you have room, I recommend you start a compost pile that's built directly on top of the soil. I didn't even realize what I was doing when I started my pile, but I started throwing all my vegetable matter on the ground in a corner (it was on top of hard packed, heavy clay that didn't appear to have ANY worms in it), hoping to make compost---and I wound up with a Worm Factory! It's wonderful! Of course I get the compost to use, but sometimes when I'm getting a pot full of the compost to use when I'm planting something, especially if it's in a spot that seems to be devoid of worms, I make sure I'm getting it from a part of the compost pile with a LOT of worms to "transplant." There are places where I can almost pull them out by the handfuls!

This is from a Compost Tome I wrote a few years back!

"Another observation! The most worms were in the wetter and more undecomposed parts of the pile. The compost at the very bottom of the pile, which was completely decomposed, had no worms at all in it. That surprised me a little bit since I--and probably we all--think of earthworms as eating earth, but I think I really knew better even before I noticed that. My compost pile is directly on the ground, which, tho I didn't realize it when I started it, is a really, really good thing since worms can migrate up out of the ground, and they absolutely thrive in the pile. I think that's been at least as much of a benefit from my compost pile as the compost itself!"

If you have a compost pile or an area of soil with enough organic matter in it, I guess you could buy some and "plant them" to give you a jump-start, but if you plant them in places where there's nothing for them to eat, a/k/a organic matter, I think they'll do very poorly and may even migrate away from where you want them, in search of greener pastures!

Work on getting lots of organic matter into your soil, and I think you'll be happily surprised to find that If You Build It, They Will Come!

Let us know how your Worm Project is going as it progresses,

Here is a link that might be useful: Reflections on Compost - 2008

    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 1:48PM
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karlajr(z5 CO)

Thanx so much to all of your for taking the time to respond. I have been watching my new plant bed when I water and I have an area that gets a good bit of water that has no plants in it. I'm gonna start a little compost area right there. I'll have to think of some way to keep my dog out of it.

Again, thank you so much for responding.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 11:33PM
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austinnhanasmom(5 CO)

I agree that compost will bring the worms, but in my yard it took at least a season. I lack patience...

I bought European Night Crawler cocoons online. These worms compost and burrow deep enough to survive the winter. They are now prolific in my yard and find the compost quickly. They get to be quite long when fully stretched, 10-12".

Something new to my yard is nesting robins. They FINALLY found my yard worthy of nesting. There must have been 5 baby robins in my yard this year. As such, the worms vanished. I wanted to show my son how to dig worms and use them to fish. No luck...had to go buy worms at Walmart for fishing.

The reason that I bought cocoons is that for years and years, I would buy dozens of nightcrawlers from Walmart and toss them into my yard when I aerated (spring). The worms never seemed to thrive. They should have spread throughout the composted areas, but did not. I read that they thrive where they hatch. By tossing cocoons into my yard in the spring, I hoped that they would thrive where they hatched.

Seemed to be true. Cuz they are everywhere...and it took half a season.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 9:44PM
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austin - thanks for saying something about the cocoons. I have had my garden in the same place for 10 years and I don't know if it is all the winter freeloaders that come eat all the ducks scratch or if it is something else, but way out here I can count on one hand how many earthworms I have seen. Yes, even in the compost piles and manure pile.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 2:31PM
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austinnhanasmom(5 CO)

Billie -

what I did with the cocoons:

I dug some holes in my garden in the spring and added compost, then cocoons and added the soil back. This was in the NE section of my yard - BAD BAD placement for a garden I know - but veggies were an after thought! after my landscaping was done. By fall, there were large earthworms throughout my 1/4 acre yard. The next spring, these earthworms became smallish snakes.

Now, if I find a less then ideal planting space, the addition of compost quickly brings these worms. I think because these European Nightcrawlers survive the winter, there are usually more then enough for the robins and the yard. When I dig now, I nearly always cut through a few.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 6:03PM
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I am new to gardening so please be patient with me. I live on a large mountain ranch in CO during the summer months and we have a big problem with mice. Will composting right on top of the soil attract mice? Are worms helpful in a flower garden?

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 7:51PM
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jnfr(z5b CO)

I think worms are helpful in any kind of garden.

You might get mice in a compost pile, but that's less likely if you keep it damp and stir regularly.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 12:33PM
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