To some people worms in the garden can seem to be an unpleasant nuisance, but they are a sign that your wildlife garden is healthy and in great shape. They are actually vital in that they aerate the soil which maintains its structure and fertility. They also bring important nutrients to the surface and help with drainage, not forgetting that they are a vital food supply to all manner of bird species and other wildlife such as foxes, hedgehogs, moles and amphibians.
How Do Worms Improve The Health of My Garden?
Worms convert organic material into nutrients which plants can absorb. Because they loosen the soil, the roots of plants can grow more easily and it makes it easier for water and air to circulate within the soil which, in turn, enables the soil to retain any water it receives far more effectively.
How Worms Help With Composting
After digestion, a worm’s excrement (often called ‘castings’) acts as an excellent composting aid which, when added to the soil, helps to ward off pests and other diseases. Worm casts contain far higher amounts of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus than soil which creates an optimum pH level and many gardeners prefer to keep a wormery – which is a compost bin with worms living in it – than a simple stand alone compost bin as their constant activity speeds up the entire composting process. And, worms are able to recycle almost any organic matter. To encourage more worms into your garden, it’s important to keep your garden well-watered.
Worms also provide a vital food source in the wildlife garden to many small creatures and especially to birds. In early spring, they can mean the difference between life and death to some bird species as they provide a good source of nutrients before the seeds and berries ripen. This, in turn, gives garden birds better prospects of finding food in order to raise their chicks. Worms are full of protein and are a particular favourite of robins, blackbirds and thrushes and other birds who feed on the ground rather than from bird feeders.
The Different Types of Worms
There are many different species of worms and some are parasitic. For wildlife gardeners, however, the two main species of interest are the earthworm and the composting worm.
The earthworm lives deep beneath the soil so they are ideal for flowers and vegetable beds whereas the composting worms only live in organic matter and the more worms you have in your compost the faster it will be converted. You shouldn’t be too worried about how many worms you add to your wormery as they are very good at regulating their numbers to suit the different conditions they find themselves in.
A good garden centre can offer you useful advice about creating the right kind of environment, as some types of composting worms prefer manure, some like wet conditions, others prefer it to be warmer etc. Somebody with a good knowledge about worms and composting might even suggest a number of different types of composting worm and combine them to suit the make-up of your compost.
It’s therefore important to recognise the ecological benefits of worms to your wildlife garden. Whether you like them or are repulsed by them, without them – your garden would die.