Did you know that 2015 is International Year of Soils? And today is a Blogger Action Day on Save the Soil started by Lori Fontanes at (http://whattheducks.com/2015/01/12/talk-dirt-2-me/).
As part of my contribution, I wanted to talk about the humble earthworm. It is estimated that there are 3000 species of earthworms globally. The common earthworm (Lumbricus terrestris), is one of the most abundant species in Ireland and Britain and is found throughout the Northern hemisphere. It has also been introduced into Southern America, Australia and New Zealand.
Earthworms play a vital role in soil health. On one website, earthworms are described as ‘ecosystem engineers’ (http://www.earthwormsoc.org.uk). Firstly, earthworms dig burrows. Some species dig vertical burrows, others dig horizontal burrows. The burrows allow air and water to penetrate into the soil. At the same time, the burrows allow carbon dioxide to escape. Earthworms also help decompose organic matter. The common earthworm will come to the surface and pull plant material into its burrow. Darwin described earthworms as ‘natures ploughs‘ because they mix soils and the organic matter. Their casts (faeces) are rich in organic plant material and help maintain soil fertility. There can be 20-40 earthworms per square metre of garden!
Providing plenty of organic matter in you garden is a good way of encouraging earthworms. You can do this by putting mulch around plants. It is also great to have a compost bin or compost heap. It’s a great way to recycle garden and kitchen waste. I took this photo of my compost heap yesterday – it was cold and the worms are probably buried deep within but they are definitely there!