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Encouraging worms


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Blowin
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Joined: 20 Aug 2008
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Location: Drimoleague, Co Cork

PostPosted: Sun Oct 20, 2013 8:10 am    Post subject: Encouraging worms Reply with quote

Our bungalow was built in 1982 on a sloping field and, to produce a level site, I'm assuming 'soil' would have been pushed down hill to where my veg plot now is. This is the seventh season I've had it under cultivation but right from the start I've noticed a scarcity of worms that is still no better today. The odd specimen that I do turn up is one of those anaemic mauve and white ones that always look to me as though they haven't found any good nutrition.

Over time I've put four tractor trailer loads of farmyard manure on it plus around 250 cast off growbags from a friendly strawberry grower. I maintain a compost heap at all times but prefer, for ease, to allow it to rot down on its own without turning, as per the Shewell Cooper method. Of the three, the manure and compost have been seething with red worms (brandlings) and the growbags have yielded more than a few healthy giants of the traditional type.

I have two sizeable lawns that, together, take over two hours to mow and the contents of the box always goes on the garden, either straight away as a weed suppressant or after 'going off' in a stack for months.

Despite all this (and no harmful sprays) worms are still a rarity and I'm assuming this is impeding the taking down of surface material into the soil. Can anyone put a finger on the possible reason and, hopefully, suggest a solution?

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Sive
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Joined: 18 Apr 2008
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Location: Co.Wexford

PostPosted: Sun Oct 20, 2013 10:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I will be interested in the response to this query, Blowin.......
We live in a new house, built on part of a field that was previously tilled and despite 7 years of no sprays/chemicals and constant improvement of the soil through manure/compost etc. I have a similar feeling to you, that I should be seeing more earthworms than is the case.
Which leaves me wondering whether I am imagining how plentiful worms were in the suburban garden I first started back in the seventies......my memories are of finding large worms with every forkful of earth I would turn over.
Or could it be something to do with the type of soil we have here?
Or more worryingly, is previously-tilled soil so impoverished and soaked with chemicals that earthworms have been wiped out ?
Like you, I have been wondering about a solution....even wondering can one maybe buy earthworms to introduce into a garden ???
It sounds mad, but maybe it is possible to do so......
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tagwex
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 20, 2013 12:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You can both either buy or make your own wormery. Failing that there are many places in Ireland that sell worms, also quite a few county councils sell them too.
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Blowin
Rank attained: Orchard owner


Joined: 20 Aug 2008
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Location: Drimoleague, Co Cork

PostPosted: Sun Oct 20, 2013 1:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sive - The methods of tillage round here involve so much 'bag manure', or fertiliser to you and me, and sprays that the plant they've just put in hits them up the backside as they plant the next one. They then have no alternative after a few years but to move to a new patch. If your garden was tilled, then this may be your problem. Mine, on the other hand, was a continuation of the lawn when we came in March 2007 so is a different sort of problem.

Tagwex - You're right. If only via fishing bait firms, worms can easily be bought BUT the countless thousands I've put on/in my bit have just disappeared so I can only guess that the soil is the problem - but I may be wrong.

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Sive
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 20, 2013 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are many different types of worms..... and I never know whether they are all equally valuable in the soil.........the ones I miss seeing are the large pink/brown ones...they just aren't present in the sort of numbers I would expect.
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kindredspirit
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 20, 2013 3:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is your soil VERY stoney, as you say in your signature?

I think earthworms prefer a very damp soil and certainly don't like sandy ones. They definitely like clay soils and black humus-rich ones.

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tagwex
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 20, 2013 4:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well if you have put that many in then you do have a problem. Hedgehogs/ birds/ New Zealand flat worms???? Any of those present?
Speak to some of those wormery owners - they may enlighten you without the hard sell, you never know.
I don't know but is there a limit to acidity/alkalinity levels that worms wont survive in?

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Its my field. Its my child. I nursed it. I nourished it. I saw to its every want. I dug the rocks out of it with my bare hands and I made a living thing of it!

This boy can really sing http://youtu.be/Dgv78D2duBE
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Blowin
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Location: Drimoleague, Co Cork

PostPosted: Mon Oct 21, 2013 9:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The soil round here is pretty stoney and, over the years, I've taken out large quantities - some I could only just lift and plenty bent the tines on my fork. At first a fork was the ONLY tool I could dig with but I've now reduced the stones level to a degree where I can turn it over with a spade.

I've seen an odd hedgehog and the garden is alive with birds because we feed them but, apart from a few species of crow, most are small birds that feed on seeds, peanuts, fatballs etc. In previous threads I've mentioned my use of polythene sheeting to suppress weeds but I don't even find any under that.

Now, oddly, when I'm digging out silt from nearby ditches/dykes, I quite often find really healthy specimens and, after heavy rain, one can usually find some marooned on the wet road. All this but not in my veg patch!

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Sive
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 21, 2013 5:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here are two web pages that may be of interest for us all:

http://www.weekendgardener.net/soil/increase-earthworms-090909.htm

http://www.wikihow.com/Encourage-Earthworms-Into-Your-Garden

What do you think of the advice ?
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Blowin
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Location: Drimoleague, Co Cork

PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2013 5:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks very much for those, Sive. I think I shall have to bite the bullet and have a soil analysis done. It's the only item of advice, apart from maybe the nursery areas, that I haven't done.
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Blowin
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a PS to the last post, can anyone recommend a soil test method?

I imagine sending samples away would be expensive but the DIY kits I've found on my browser don't tell me much. Because of the patch's history, although small I'd like to test two or three areas to see if they're different. In a current row of leeks, for example, they start off like trees, dwindle to spindly malnourished, and finally are average - all in a 20ft row.

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tagwex
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2013 11:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I will throw in my twopennyworth Blowin. Recently I had my soil analysed by my local garden center, I understood from what he told me that it was going to be a full analysis of all the minerals and get a report back on what levels the minerals were present at and what they should be for 5. Great thinks I. He also said that those DIY kits are pure rubbish and not worth doing, and they cost more than 5. It turned out that I only received back the ph value (5.56) and to look up the following website to ascertain the amount of lime needed http://www.aglime.org.uk, go to the lime calculator button and feed in your soil type.
If I was looking for a complete soil test, I would start by asking the local farmers what they do, your local garden center, a local agricultural college, agricultural research center (there is one in Wexford here - Johnstown Castle).
As previously stated ring a few worm providing companies and see if the ph of yours is outside the parameters of what worms prefer to exist in.

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Its my field. Its my child. I nursed it. I nourished it. I saw to its every want. I dug the rocks out of it with my bare hands and I made a living thing of it!

This boy can really sing http://youtu.be/Dgv78D2duBE
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Good guy
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2013 11:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've just checked out the Biodiversity Ireland invasive species index. Newzealand Flatworm has been recorded in a number of locations close to you and I suspect this might be the reason for your lack of worms. If they have been recorded at all in your area, you can be darned sure there are plenty of the horrors about!
Not a lot you can do except lay traps (flat stones, bits of untreated wood or black polythene for them to hide under) and kill them. Look out for the eggs, too. (These are black, rugby ball shaped and about 3mm long.)
They arrived in my garden with plants I bought in, about 20 years ago and all the big worms have gone. There used to be lots, even in areas that had not been cultivated, when I started this garden. Now I rarely see worms and they are never bigger than about 30 or 40mm.
The only other thing you can do is to encourage the health of the worms you do have, by leaving out the use of chemicals and by providing them with compost etc, as other people have suggested.
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tagwex
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2014 2:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I bought a kilo of Dendrobaena worms yesterday for the compost heap. Hope they start devouring the veggie peelings soon. Checked on them this morning and I couldn't see one, all burrowed down into the goodness.
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Its my field. Its my child. I nursed it. I nourished it. I saw to its every want. I dug the rocks out of it with my bare hands and I made a living thing of it!

This boy can really sing http://youtu.be/Dgv78D2duBE
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Good guy
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Location: Donegal

PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2014 11:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My heaps are covered with pieces of old carpet. Whenever I lift back the cover on the heap to add more stuff, the carpet is covered with wriggly red worms - except in hot/dry or very cold weather. I'm always delighted to see them. I sometimes give them a few words of appreciation but I'm glad to report that they have yet to answer me back!
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