Worms for Raised Bed Garden

susancol(7 Atlanta)February 28, 2011

So I was digging in my raised bed gardens, which are made up of primarily compost and are sitting on hard clay underneath. I noticed that there are no worms to speak of in my soil. So I was considering buying some and seeding the garden with them. I don't want to vermicompost. I just wanted to have a normal amount of worms in my garden. Is this ok? Or would the worms I purchase and put in the garden just die if I don't feed them like you would in a vermicompost setup? Are the worms you get for vermicomposting different than the ones that would naturally occur in a garden? Does it matter? Is this a good idea for my garden or a newbie disaster?

Thanks in advance for your response!


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I'd save the money and simply wait. You did not say how long you had your raised beds running, but worms will appear. At one time I swore my worm population was deficient. I'd dig around and find very few. Then after alot of mulching in the lawn and using compost in my garden I began to notice more and more worms. Now I can barely turn a spadeful to plant a seedling without seeing a worm.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 5:34PM
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The worms used in composting are different than worms that live in soil. You may have success putting composting worms into a garden bed that is mostly compost, but there are no guarantees. I'd hate to see you spend the money, then lose all of them.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 6:07PM
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susancol(7 Atlanta)

I've had my raised beds for about 4 years now. It seems like in past years I've maybe seen a few worms, but this year there definitely were none that I noticed. My beds are made primarily of compost - maybe some peat or perlite added in, and I add some new compost every year. (not homemade). So the consensus is not to try the purchase route? I agree that I would hate to buy 'em only to have them die. That's why I asked the question of you experts.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 3:57PM
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Composting worms are different from those that live in the ground. In the wild, red wigglers live on top or in the the first couple of inches of the soil.

I just moved to Southwestern Idaho with clay soil and am just starting my raised beds. I plan to some EH's and some Alabama Jumpers to work my compost into the clay.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 1:39PM
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I put worms in my square foot beds.
I simply use one square of my beds as a compost space. That is, I put fruit/veggie scraps in there for the worms to munch.
If you do not give them a constant food source they will die or take off. That is, if you are adding red wigglers.
Or you can do like the others say and just keep adding organic compost to your beds and eventually the native worms will come.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 8:54PM
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If your raised garden bed is kept damp, it sounds like a good environment for composting worms even without you working at it.

I just built a new raised bed, layers of manure, lucerne etc, and after letting it cook for a couple of weeks, I have added some compost worms and I think they will do very well.

I am not planning to feed them, plenty of stuff there already.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 12:53AM
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I had to back a ways to find this posting which I would like to piggy back with something I have been experimenting with in my garden. I started gardening after moving to Montana nearly ten years ago and have yet to see an indigenous worm in my 60' x 100' garden. I have been vermicomposting kitchen scraps indoors with red wigglers in a peat moss based media for a number of years and started using the 'spent media' for germination and potting mixes after starting my garden.

Although I have several outdoor compost bins for horse and cow manure using these same red wigglers, I have not been able to establish them in the garden, which comes to no surprise. However, I have tried something new which may be of interest. I dig a sizable hole in the garden to transplant tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash. The holes are refilled with a 50:50 mix of top soil and vermicomposted manure.I began noticing a few red wigglers in the holes after my spring tilling earlier this year. I was a bit surprised that they had survived our harsh winters, but the thought occurred to me that adding some red wigglers to these holes initial might serve the same purpose (aeration) as native earth worms. I added a cottage cheese container of vermiculture mix this last season to each hole from the indoor compost bins which contained hundreds of worms. The worms didn't appear to migrate from their transplanted homes and appeared to be doing well throughout the growing season. I mulch with alfalfa hay around each of these holes and irrigate with drip feeders or soaker hoses. Occasional checks showed some worms near the surface of each hole. I'm anxious to see how many residual worms I will see in the holes come next spring tilling.

I am still trying to find a suitable earthworm which will establish themselves on a permanent bases in my garden but this could be tricky. My garden rests on bed rock which is two feet below the surface and -20F temperatures are fairly common for extended periods of time. Our ground frost can extend this deep which makes for tough conditions for indigenous worms.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2011 at 11:28AM
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I built a raised bed garden this year out of straw bales. I did seed some worms in the bales. At the end of the season, I raked up the remains of the bales to use as mulch and compost and was amazed at the amount of worms in the material. Of course this material was all sitting on top of the ground. I have two 4x4 bins full of material and a big 5x5x3 pile that I'm dying to check come spring when everything thaws.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2011 at 12:54PM
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coach_g, I surrounded my hoop house with hay bales for some additional support from our all too common Chinook winds. When I moved several of these inside the hoop house to make a winter cold frame for spinach and loose leaf lettuce, I noticed the same thing. However, these were not native worms, but a bunch of renegade red wigglers. Straw bales are a natural hide out for any worms in the neighborhood and a good way to establish a plot of fishing worms if your into that. Toss some corn meal or ground corn cobs underneath several adjoining hay bales and your in business.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2011 at 5:52AM
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If you use or have used Roundup in or around your garden, perhaps you have killed off your worms.
I read this recently:

'MonsanoâÂÂs advertising campaigns have convinced many people that Roundup is safe, but the facts just donâÂÂt support this. Independent scientific studies have shown that Roundup is TOXIC TO EARTHWORMS, beneficial insects, birds and mammals, plus it destroys the vegetation on which they depend for food and shelter. Although Monsanto claims that Roundup breaks down into harmless substances, it has been found to be extremely persistent, with residue absorbed by subsequent crops over a year after application.'

    Bookmark   October 12, 2014 at 5:07PM
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Jeff Sokol

Tilling? You're likely killing your worms. Quit missing with the soil and the life will come back...

    Bookmark   February 16, 2015 at 5:10PM
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nexev - Zone 8b

Minimal tilling or soil disruption is what we are trying too. There is always some of course when setting up new gardening beds or even planting. Large plants when ready to remove I have been cutting off at the surface rather than pulling the roots so they will remain and the soil is not disturbed.

I chose the EH for adding to the garden and lawn last year and have spotted them when pulling weeds or doing shifting of soil. Yesterday while dividing some comfrey there were at least 4 worms to a shovel of course this was taken by cleaving the comfrey in two which means they were right in among the roots rotting leaves and new leaves not to mention the manure the comfrey were planted in. They do seem to love this plant though.

We are zone 8b and we had an unusually mild winter which no doubt helped greatly though I have no doubt that even with a cold winter as long as there is cover left for them they should be fine here. Colder areas where the ground freezes is probably a much different story.

The 'If you build it they will come" mantra certainly applies to many parts of the planet but for some composting and earthworms are simply non existent so importing them makes sense to get them established.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2015 at 7:06AM
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