Organic farming: earthworms are the main indicator of fertility

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Plants need fertile, “living” land for normal growth and development. Crops planted in healthy soil practically do not get sick and give stable high yields. The main indicator of fertility is the presence of a sufficient humus layer, which not only provides nutrition to plants, but also improves the structure of the earth, saturating it with moisture and oxygen.

Organic farming: earthworms are the main indicator of fertility

In the previous articles of the cycle “Stop destroying the earth by digging and weeding”, “Flat cutter instead of a cultivator”, “Biological protection from pests and weeds”, we found out that the main enemies of fertility are deep tillage and thoughtless use of pesticides. This leads to the destruction of the main producers of humus, earthworms. Today we will talk about how to contribute to an increase in the number of worms in the garden, as well as how to organize a worm house – a place for growing these useful animals, which are the only producers of the most valuable fertilizer – vermicompost.

Charles Darwin also wrote in his writings that earthworms in the process of their vital activity have a positive effect on the structure and fertility of soils: “Worms perfectly prepare the earth for plant growth … They sift the earth so that no dense mineral particles remain in it … They thoroughly mix everything soil, like a gardener preparing crushed soil for his most exquisite plants “.

Darwin proved that the population of earthworms in several years is able to pass through the entire arable layer of soil, enriching it with humus, improving the structure and fertilizing with its secretions.

Organic farming: earthworms are the main indicator of fertility

Earthworms are nocturnal animals. During the day they hide in burrows, and at night they crawl out. Holding on to the edge of the burrow with its rear end, the anterior worm exposes it to the surface and makes circular movements, rising above the ground and feeling it. This is how earthworms search for food. Having felt, for example, a fallen leaf, they grab it and drag it into a hole, which is a long narrow channel (in the hot season it can reach a length of 1.5 meters).

The worm spends all its life in the ground, digs deep passages, which contributes to its loosening. There are many varieties of these invertebrates on our planet. There are, for example, tetrahedral worms that live only in very humid places. Fetid worms live in dung heaps and oily garden soil; yellow-green representatives of this species can be found in rotting foliage. The reddish worm, familiar to every gardener, is a typical inhabitant of moist humus soil and lives at a shallow depth. This type of worm can be found in almost any garden and summer cottage..

What work do worms do in our gardens

A soft invertebrate worm can penetrate even the driest and hardest soil. He tears off a piece of earth with his lips and swallows it. If a very dense and dry soil comes across on the way, the worm moistens it with saliva. Having eaten to the full, he crawls out to the surface, where he throws out the soil that has passed through the intestines. Thus, the worm passes through its intestines and soil, and dead plant particles, which are finally destroyed, crushed and mixed with the soil..

In the process of nutrition and life, earthworms enrich the earth with their own intestinal microflora, which contains various biologically active substances (antibiotics, vitamins, amino acids and other enzymes). During the digestion of organic matter in the intestines of invertebrates, humic acids are formed, which, entering into combinations with the mineral components of the soil, form a valuable environmentally friendly fertilizer – biohumus.

Organic farming: earthworms are the main indicator of fertility

Earthworms are able to digest various bacteria, fungi, and protozoa (including the nematode). The activity of worms disinfects and heals the soil. This is especially important for compost heaps, where we put not only plant residues, but also manure and food waste..

Increased acidity today is a problem for many vegetable gardens and orchards. The main causes of acidification are considered to be the introduction of mineral fertilizers and leaching of calcium due to soil destruction. Every year, farmers are engaged in liming (plowing lime and dolomite flour into the ground), this occupation requires a lot of effort and time. Earthworms will help to solve the problem of high acidity. In the process of metabolism, worms release a large amount of calcium carbonate, which can significantly change the acidity of the soil, bringing it closer to neutral.

Organic farming: earthworms are the main indicator of fertility

Passing the soil through the intestines, the earthworm fills it with coprolites. Coprolites are the so-called manure of these invertebrates. Unlike manure from other animals, it does not have an unpleasant odor and contains various biologically active substances in an easily digestible form. Some animals even use it as a medicine. Coprolites cannot burn plants and infect the soil. Earthworm manure contains a complex of bacteria that are able to transform organic matter into a form available for crops, as well as bind nitrogen from the air. The composition of coprolites contains a natural enzyme chitinase, which protects plants from insect pests, as well as various fungicides that prevent the development of dangerous diseases. In short, coprolites are fertilizers, protection and growth stimulants..

From the foregoing, it is clear that earthworms are excellent helpers for the gardener. They help to improve the structure and fertility of the soil, in the process of their life, an environmentally friendly fertilizer is produced, as well as biologically active substances that protect crops from pests and diseases. Let’s figure out how to increase the population of these useful animals, how to attract them to our gardens.

How to restore the number of worms in our sites

Deep cultivation is the number one enemy of earthworms. Digging and turning the soil, we destroy the burrows of invertebrates, we kill them themselves. Contrary to the childhood delusion, the worm, cut in half with a shovel, dies, two individuals cannot be obtained from it.

Organic farming: earthworms are the main indicator of fertility

Scientists have found that earthworms are animals intelligent enough to leave the place where they are threatened. Therefore, in order for these useful animals to populate your garden, you must abandon the shovel and cultivate the land with a flat cutter.

In addition to digging, the use of mineral fertilizers negatively affects the well-being of worms. So that animals do not die, the concentration of soluble salts in the soil should not exceed 0.5%. With the constant introduction of chemistry, this indicator increases several times.

An earthworm will never settle on an area where it has nothing to eat. These animals are vegetarians and use decaying plant debris and microorganisms as food. We are used to completely removing weeds and “putting things in order” in the garden. In the fall, we remove all fertile and faded annuals, tops, fallen leaves. And we are burning it all! With this useless work, we deprive the earthworms of food and they leave our land.

Organic farming: earthworms are the main indicator of fertility

In order to restore the population of earthworms in their areas, it is necessary to abandon the shovel. No need to poison animals with chemistry. It is necessary to leave a sufficient amount of organic matter in the ground for their full nutrition – the worm will never settle on bare ground. In addition, there is another simple way to restore the population of these invertebrates – earthworms on the site can simply be bred.

How to breed earthworms

Worms are hermaphrodites, that is, they mutually fertilize each other, after which they lay cocoons with eggs. In nature, this process is rather slow. Invertebrates that wake up after hibernation enter the mating season and lay one cocoon a week for three months. The juveniles hatched from them reach maturity only by autumn, when the hibernation period begins. Unfortunately, in winter in severe frosts, most of the young worms can die..

In those worms that are hatched under artificial conditions, the reproduction process is much faster. For breeding worms, it is not at all necessary to buy a Californian or any other artificially bred breed. You can use the “mongrels” that already live on your plots. In a sense, this is even more correct, since they are well adapted to local climatic and other conditions. And, for example, Californian worms, although they are distinguished by increased fertility and fast breeding times, do not tolerate local frosts at all, and simply die in the cold season..

How to properly organize a worm

It is better to breed worms in a container. This will save them from animals for which they are natural food (moles, rooks, etc.). You can adapt anything for this – an old bathtub, a large trough, any drawer. If nothing suitable was found, you can organize a wormhole right on the ground. However, in this case, you will have to take care of additional protection measures. You can, for example, cover the ground with a net or concrete with a slope (so that the water does not stagnate). This will protect your pets from moles. To protect against birds, you must cover the top of the worm with a fine mesh.

Organic farming: earthworms are the main indicator of fertility

The size of the house for invertebrates should not be very large, no more than 2 m2 by area, otherwise it is difficult to care for it. And you don’t need more, unless, of course, you are going to breed worms for sale. Earthworms need moisture and relative coolness for life, so the worm should be placed somewhere in the shade (under a canopy, under trees, in a shed or in a cellar).

Organic farming: earthworms are the main indicator of fertility

Next, you need to prepare a nutritious bed of compost, which we spread on the bottom of the container with a layer of 40-50 cm. If you organize a worm-house on the ground, you should get something like a small garden bed.

The compost should be well watered with warm settled water, it is best to use rainwater. After that, cover the litter with burlap or straw, and let it stand for 5-7 days. The dwelling is ready to move in.

Where to get manufacturers

There are three possible answers to this question. Firstly, worms can be found in their own area. You can dig in old dung heaps, in heaps of last year’s foliage. For this, you can dig up a small piece of land in the spring. Even in the most “killed” soil there is always a certain amount of earthworms. You can also dig for worms in the forest or collect on paths after rain.

If you can’t find enough invertebrates using the above methods, try to bait them. To do this, in a quiet, humid place, for example, in a raspberry grove (you can even in a forest), you need to dig a small ditch, fill it with compost, moisten it thoroughly and cover it with burlap or paper. In 1.5-2 weeks, earthworms will appear here. It remains only to carefully collect them together with the compost with a pitchfork in a bucket and bring them to a new home..

Organic farming: earthworms are the main indicator of fertility

Finally, you can simply buy worms. For a good worm house that will constantly supply you with vermicompost, you need from 500 to 1000 individuals per 1 sq. It is important to note that you need to make a purchase from trusted sellers who have permission to sell. This will save you from deception, as there have been cases when, under the guise of juvenile worms, “cunning” entrepreneurs traded in a nematode.

How to properly populate a wormhole

So, there are worms, and the house is ready for them – we are starting to move in. In the center of the worm hole, you need to make a hole and overturn a bucket of worms there. Next, flatten the surface and cover with burlap or straw. In hot weather, it is important not to allow it to dry out, the wormhole must be watered with warm, settled water often enough.

When inhabiting worms, it is necessary at first to provide them with their usual food. To do this, they must be resettled with a certain amount of the substrate in which they lived earlier. Gradually, they themselves will look for new sources of food and switch to the diet that you can offer them. It should be noted that the worms collected on the street after the rain take root best of all – apparently, they are used to eating anything..

After a week, you can already evaluate the first results. Observe if your pets inhabit the entire space of the wormhole, and how they look. If their surface is clean, the worms are mobile and hide from daylight, then everything is in order. You need to start feeding the worms 3-4 weeks after settling, and before that do not forget to regularly water their home with settled warm water..

How and what to feed earthworms

It is best to organize a worm house in the spring or early summer, so that the invertebrates have the opportunity to reproduce and get stronger before the onset of cold weather. Juveniles grow fast enough, and over the summer the number of worms can increase by 30-50 times, depending on the fertility of the breed.

You need to provide your pets with enough food to grow and reproduce. Therefore, fresh food should be periodically added to the wormhole. This should be done every 2-3 weeks, adding layers of organic matter 15-20 cm thick on top.

Organic farming: earthworms are the main indicator of fertility

Earthworms can eat almost any organic matter in your area. Suitable as food for them:

  • cattle manure that has lain for 6 months;
  • pig manure aged for at least a year;
  • rabbit or goat manure (can be given immediately);
  • cleaning vegetables and fruits and other kitchen waste (except citrus and animal waste);
  • used tea and coffee brews;
  • crusts of stale bread;
  • soaked shredded newspaper or cardboard.

Organic farming: earthworms are the main indicator of fertility

Any food should be fed to worms only in crushed form, since they have no teeth. The composition of the feed should also be kept constant, as it will take some time for adaptation to change. It is important not to forget to maintain the required humidity using watering with well-settled warm water.

How to pick up vermicompost from a wormhole

In the house built for them, the worms live mainly in the upper layer, rich in fresh organic matter. Below is the vermicompost produced by them, for the sake of which, in fact, the worms are bred.

In order to remove it, you need to carefully remove the top layer with worms and transfer it to a new prepared house. The bottom layer is sieved and laid out on the beds, receiving a unique environmentally friendly fertilizer. It is not recommended to scatter worms in the beds – they may not adapt to new, more severe conditions and die.

Organic farming: earthworms are the main indicator of fertility

The vermicompost that your worms produce can be kept in reserve and used for transplanting indoor plants and for growing seedlings. Some enterprising gardeners even manage to make money by selling fertilizer to neighbors..

How to properly prepare a wormhole for winter

In order to keep the worms until spring, when cold weather sets in, it is necessary to insulate and protect their home from freezing. To do this, at the end of October, the upper part of the wormhole must be moved to a new location. Next, sprinkle the worms with a layer of compost, 40-50 cm thick, and always sew up the sides with boards or tar paper, which will protect the worms from severe frosts.

You also need to take care of protection from rodents. To do this, cover the wormhole with a fine metal mesh. If there is no net, you can use branches of coniferous trees (rodents do not tolerate the smell of needles).

At 4–6 degrees, the worms stop feeding and hibernate. With the onset of frost, they freeze, but this is not dangerous. As soon as the spring sun warms up, your pets will come to life, begin active life and reproduction, providing you with the most valuable environmentally friendly fertilizer.

As you can see, breeding worms is not very troublesome, but very rewarding. These useful animals provide the most valuable natural fertilizer – biohumus. In addition to breeding, it is necessary to strive to increase the population of these invertebrates in gardens and dachas. Earthworms, if they live on the site in sufficient numbers, will do all the work for you. They are able to loosen the earth and improve its structure, increase fertility, they will provide nutrition and protection of plants from pests and diseases. Treat nature with love and understanding, and the earth will thank you with a rich environmentally friendly harvest.

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