So, what´s so great about worms? Worms are great friends to our environment. Earthworms, as they burrow and feed, swallow the soil, digest it, extract its food value and expel the residue as worm castings which are far richer in nitrogen, phosphate, calcium, and magnesium than the finest of ordinary good top soil. Worms actually MAKE rich dirt. Not only do worms create this wonderful soil for our gardens and yards, but composting also greatly reduces the amount of the garbage that is sent to our dumps and landfills.
Worms love to eat all kinds of food. They love food scraps, (but not meat, bones, or dairy products because these may cause unpleasant odors or invite unwanted ‘guests’ into your worm bin). They also eat cardboard, and even material from vacuum cleaner bags. Then they turn it into nutrient-rich compost (castings). These castings can be used as a fertilizer for all types of plants. Worm castings are the richest form of natural fertilizer known to man. This will promote higher than average growth in plants.
Earthworm Life Cycle:
Earthworms are amazingly prolific breeders. A thousand mature breeders, properly cared for and allowed to multiply, may give you half a million or more breeders, growing earthworms, and egg capsules within a year. Earthworms are bisexual, having both male and female reproductive organs. Each worm produces egg capsules, but must first be fertilized by contact with another worm. Each healthy worm, under favorable conditions, will produce an egg capsule every 7 to 10 days. These incubate in 14 to 21 days, each hatching 2 to 20 young worms, with an estimated average of 4. The new worms thus hatched will reach breeding age in 60 to 90 days, as indicated by the formation of clitellum...a thick ring about 1/3 the length of the worm from its head. The domesticated earthworm will continue to grow, after reaching the breeding stage, for perhaps six months or more before reaching its full size.
Earthworms for Soil Improvement:
The earthworm has been aptly called, "The Gardener's Unpaid Handyman." It tills the soil around root areas by its tireless burrowing. The burrows form channels through which root growth may reach down into the subsoil for minerals and moisture. They also absorb rainfall quickly for storage in the soil instead of allowing it to run off, carrying away valuable top soil. Most important of all, the earthworm eats, digests, and enriches dead and decaying vegetable wastes in the soil, ejecting it in the form of casts, rich in plant food value, watersoluble, immediately available to plant roots.