Can I Put my compost worms in the garden?
You turn over a little soil in your garden.... everywhere you look worms scurry out of the light you've just exposed them to. You know your soil is rich and healthy and you'll be growing crops you can be proud to feed your friends.
As a gardener, rich, dark soil loaded with worms is something you strive for.
BUT...can I put my compost worms in the garden?
Compost worms spend the majority of their lives above the soil in organic matter that falls on top of the soil. This leaves them very vulnerable to weather and predators.
This means you'll have to meet certain environmental conditions for these worms to survive.
Environment Needed For Compost Worms To Survive In The Garden
Compost worms need a lot of organic matter to survive in garden soil.
They also need a moist region in or near the surface.
The easiest solution to keeping these conditions is heavy mulching. To keep compost worms alive in an outdoor garden a very thick mulch layer provides food, moisture and protection from birds and other predators that would love a snack. It also provides an insulating layer from the hot summer sun.
What Mulch To Use?
Almost any dead organic matter can be used as mulch. The best mulches to start with allow a good amount of air to circulate through them and have few or no weed seeds. These include:
- autumn leaves
- wood chips
- finished compost
Once you have a thick layer of this type of mulch starting to decompose, you can add finer materials and be a bit less picky about whether it has seeds. Other frequently available mulches you can use after your initial base are:
- grass clippings
Things To Avoid
If you want to give the worms in your garden the best chance of survival there are a few things to avoid:
- excessive chemical fertilizer
- excessive digging (only dig a hole as large as needed for your plants)
A Better Way?
Deep mulching works to attract all types of native earthworms. It also provides the best chance of having compost worms survive (at least the warm months) in your garden. BUT there's no need to go out and add a whole bunch of worms to your garden. Once you have a thick mulch layer and are using castings in your garden worms will appear if they're able to survive. You see it's almost impossible to remove every egg capsule and baby when you harvest your castings. If the garden is hospitable then they will grow up and reproduce.
To use one of my favorite movie quotes "If there's one thing the history of evolution has taught us, it's that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, it expands to new territory. It crashes through barriers painfully, maybe even dangerously. Life finds a way"
- Ian Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum) Jurassic Park 1997