As spring approaches one should begin thinking of the earth hidden beneath the snow.
Worms are one of the keys to healthy soil. These often overlooked creatures though small have a powerful impact on the health of the soil in which they live. Converting organic material into lush and verdant soil, thick and black with a richness in which plants might thrive, the mighty though humble earthworm also aerates the soil through which it crawls.
In addition to fertilizing the soil they also serve as a prey species to other creatures that aid in the health and well being of the soil such as shrews who are voracious predators of the mighty earthworm. As the shrew then pursues it’s prey these creatures too further aerate the soil pushing the now softened soil to the side creating channels through which roots might spread and grow. Sponge like pockets in the soil for water to collect adding to the water retention of the soil continuing to add to the water table as the water filters through the now loosened soil to the awaiting bodies of water hidden far below the surface.
The shrews in turn invite predators of their own such as many nonvenomous snakes and birds. For example the noble Garter snake pictured above is a nonvenomous constrictor which excels at hunting the shrew which hunts the worm. The snake too aids in the health of the soil further aerating the soil as it pursues it’s prey. Though they might commonly be found on the surface they also slide through the wider openings created by the shrew further breaking apart the now soft and lush soil which now grows your beautiful garden or crop field. Each piece building on the other to create a lush whole.
So this spring when the snow clears and before the green shoots really take hold might we suggest that you go out into your little patch of wonder and assess the health of the mighty earthworm to which we all owe so much. Take a shovel and peel back the sod, run your hands through the earth and take in all of the information it is trying to reveal to you. The color, is it rich, black and soft to the touch, clumping together in your hands like a very fine wool? Does it have a soft earthy smell that you can feel on your skin and even taste in the air is it inviting? Or is it dull in color, crumbly falling apart in your hands easily sifting between your fingers or even hard much like a pseudo rock?
There is no need for special industrial fertilizers or complex steps to fertilization which at best should be in addition to not a replacement of the natural functions of nature. As always all things should be performed with balance in mind and with a careful observation of the world through which we tread. So should you find your soil dry and becoming leeched of life, simply dig a few holes in the areas you wish to replenish and steward, breaking the soil apart with spade and hand down to a depth of several inches to approximately 2 feet and introduce the mighty earthworm to your home.
There is no need to buy special compost or fertilizing worms as many a merchant has become aware of peoples interest in returning to the land and have began taking advantage of our naive nature catering to those unaware selling “special” worms to aid in soil quality. There is however nothing special about these worms beyond a higher price point. So instead support your local bait shop by purchasing night crawlers or earthworms from them rewarding both the honesty and hard work of these local merchants who are in fact your neighbors and possible friends.
There are so many benefits to having the earthworm rich soil and all of the bounties that come from this creature that one might fill many books with nothing but information on this simple creature. We do hope that you do choose to acknowledge its importance in stewarding your slice of nature and independence in your journey of self-discovery and awareness while you look more in-depth at this silent hero.