When I was a child growing up in Miami, Florida, the sidewalks would be covered with earthworms after it rained. In the mornings, I would find little piles of soil balls that I dubbed worm doodles. I have called them that ever since.
Vermiculture, Vermicomposting, or Worm Composting
We are talking worm poop here. And what wonderful stuff this is that worms create from organic matter in the soil, burrowing, eating, then pooping out little balls full of nutrition and beneficial microbes that they bring up to the surface.
I was looking for slugs in my maturing kale (in the garlic bed) this morning, being quite successful I might add, when I saw what I initially thought was a small snake. Looking closer, I realized that the creature was a huge earthworm. I have so many earthworms in the former pumpkin bed that the entire surface of the soil is covered with worm doodles, or worm castings, waste material that is highly prized by gardeners, a nutritious, natural fertilizer that also contains beneficial microbes that are reputed to fight disease and strengthen plants.
The process of composting using earthworms is known as vermicomposting or vermiculture. Apartment dwellers can worm compost in containers using just kitchen scraps. Red wrigglers are recommended for bin composting as they will do their thing in the top 2 inches of soil while the worms we have here burrow down much deeper.
After a little online research, it looks like the giant earthworms that I have in my garden and yard are Canadian nightcrawlers, an invader from the north. Actually, all earthworms in the northeastern United States are invaders. Apparently, fishermen throw leftover earthworms on the ground when they are finished fishing and these worms are changing the face of the land by altering the pH of the soil in forests and eating leaf litter reducing the layers of fallen leaves to almost nothing (this is true, and I have actually wondered about this when walking my property). Whether this phenomenon will turn out to be detrimental to the environment over time is yet to be seen. Scientists are concerned for the trees; reducing the acidity of the soil will affect native trees over time.
Some of the earthworms I have found in my garden and compost pile were 8 inches long.
After researching this morning, I went out to my back yard garden, scooped up worm castings and fertilized my peppers, squash and tomatoes. I will continue to redistribute the abundant worm castings to other parts of my gardens and make a point of moving more of the earthworms from the compost pile to each of my garden areas so that they can do their magic everywhere.
Celebrating earthworms here today!