Garden Worms and Other Beneficial Feeders for Your Garden

There’s a reason why celebrate soil mending garden worms as your ultimate natural soil improver. But you might have heard lately that there are different species of earthworms and garden worms. What’s the difference between these? Are they all specialized for a particular task? What do they all do?

Well, let’s start with the more common species. You’ve probably seen them already – nightcrawlers, red wiggler, red wigglers, night crawlers, potato worms, bloodworms, stone worms, horsehair worms, and blue worms. They all come from the same place, which is the castings of grass that homeowners mow their gardens with. Each has a different name, but basically they all go by the same description. They live in the soil, excrete waste material (worm poop), and eat (worm food). They are all used as fertilizer for gardens.

So let’s get down to the specifics. These earthworms do one primary job for people who raise them: consume organic matter. That means that the more organic materials your worms get to consume, the healthier and happier they will be. There are two primary types of organic matter: organic matter that comes from plant matter and inorganic matter that comes from animal waste or dead animals. Nightcrawlers, red wiggler, red wigglers, and red worms are carnivores. They eat mostly dead plant matter, so their nutrition is largely coming from the plant matter in the soil.

If your worms are mostly carnivores, then you’re doing OK in the organic stakes. But that doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels. You still need to look for ways to give your garden worms some additional nutrition. And there is an interesting concept that I like to call “the trade offs”. Plant matter is very abundant in the soil. So, if you make it easier for your worms to digest it, they will eat more of it and produce bigger and healthier babies.

Now, if you have ever taken a soil sample from your garden, then you’ve seen the chemical compounds called humic acid and pyloric acid. These compounds are widely used in modern organic gardening because they greatly enhance soil fertility. But there are trade offs with these chemicals. If you make it harder for the earthworms to break down these chemicals, the result will be healthier plants with less nutrients – and this is not what you want to see happen.

To solve this problem, there is another substance that you can use – called composting castings. This is made from the remains of whatever it is that the earthworms have eaten. To this castings, add one part worm castings to two parts organic matter. Composting castings are rich in plant nutrients, and they are easily turned into kitchen scraps or yard clippings. (I’ve even used them to water the grass when I was gardening last year.)

There are two major benefits to using composting materials. First of all, this is much more efficient than tilling. It also makes gardeners’ life less stressful, because there’s no more need to till the fields. And composting isn’t really all that time consuming. Just mix a couple bags of material in a container, and then throw it into the ground and water it in – pretty much that’s all there is to it! All you’ve got to do now is just let the composting bacteria do their thing.

You’ll notice that the soil has gone from looking dry and dingy to being incredibly rich in nutrients. You can also just imagine how much better your plants will grow if you don’t have to use as much water and fertilizing products, and you don’t have to spend as much time and energy tending to the earthworm population. Earthworms alone will recycle your organic matter, but they’re not the only beneficial “feeder” animals for your garden. Lizards, birds, fish, deer…all of these animals will eat your compost and other wastes, and many of them are actually quite good at recycling your waste.