Earthworms create successful gardens


story tease

By Amber Dietz

OSU Ext. Intern

CANFIELD

How do you feel when you think about earthworms? Do you think they’re gross? Do you think they only belong on the end of a fishing hook? Do you think they’re no-good dirt-dwellers that just cover your driveway after a bad storm? Or, do you think of them as very beneficial to the soil and help aid in plant production and the quality of your soil?

Earthworms do indeed serve a purpose in our environment and could potentially help you grow the crops you hope for every year.

There are several benefits to earthworms in your soil including: maintaining a healthy pH level, the release of microbes and valuable organic materials and also the exchange of oxygen and much more.

To start, earthworms help maintain a healthy pH level in the soil by allowing it to pass through their digestive system, which has a neutral pH level, thus sustaining it. According to Penn State Extension, earthworms excrete material that has high concentrations of beneficial microbes that help decompose crop residue. Earthworms can eat around 2 tons of dry matter every year, which they digest and release back into the soil; letting it mix together. From there, the rich topsoil promotes a better crop production.

Lastly, it is critical for crops to take in oxygen, and that’s where earthworms play an important part in growth and development as well. Air-filled porosity is critical in helping plant roots to thrive. Roots need oxygen for their growth, whereas they produce carbon dioxide that needs to leave the soil. Because earthworms improve soil porosity, they improve the exchange of these gases with the atmosphere. Earthworms increase porosity by two mechanisms: by creating permanent burrows and by improving soil aggregation.

Some things to help promote the activity of earthworms and for them to sustain a healthy life under your soil would be to apply fertilizers, lime and certain types of pesticides. These three components can actually help construct the amount of earthworms in your soil and assist the neutralization which earthworms prefer. Some fertilizers, such as ammonium sulfate, are not good for earthworms.

Earthworms are essential to the success of crop production, our lawns and our landscapes. The absence of earthworms would be potentially detrimental to the growth of plants and could, in theory, decrease your chances of success. So remember, earthworms are much more than filthy, slimy dirt-dwellers: They can help grow great crops and keep you prosperous!

Visit http://go.osu.edu/earthworm to learn more about earthworms.

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