Thursday, January 26, 2006

Wondering about Worms

While spreading compost this morning and watching the hundreds of worms at work, I wondered what will become of them. I know that compost worms are a different species to earthworms, but what will happen to those worms spread on the garden with the compost? Will they move down into the earth, and change species and become an earthworm? Wouldn't that be a bit like expecting a horse to become a cow just because it was put in the same paddock? (For overseas readers, a paddock is a field or a meadow.) I surely hope all those worms don't die after having served me well in the compost heap.

Come to think of it, I've never actually put compost worms in the heap, so perhaps they are just small earthworms?


ms*robyn said...

I have a compost heap too and I don't ever add worms. My theory is this: the compost heap is open at the bottom to the soil and worms make their way up into it, turning the scraps into good compost. When I put the compost onto the garden, I make sure that I cover any worms so that they aren't exposed and they seem to make their way down into the garden bed. I have never found a dead worm yet. so rest easy, Alice, I am sure your worms will be ok

judypatooote said...

That is just a bit deep for me.... I know nothing about worms except that you use them for fishing..... I use to help catch them.....and I remember pouring out some soapy water, and tons of the worms would appear......

Garden Obsession said...

They'll be fine. They'll have enough to munch on just in the compost you put them out with and then probably move back into your compost pile if they are the surface-dwelling sort (like the red wigglers I keep in my worm bin). Worms don't live an outrageously long time anyway. And you won't find dead ones, probably. They'll just break down and become compost themselves. I think I've only ever seen dead ones on the sidewalk after a rain (aside from the few escapees from my worm bin, who I just throw back in to be part of the process... little cannibals!)

I highly recommend Amy Stewart's book on worms and vermicomposting and such. I learned a lot reading that.

Calidore said...

I have just asked my Gas man who also happens to breed worms. He said compost worms are Tiger worms. When you spread the compost they will go into the soil and live quite happily with the earthworms and keep doing their thing. Sort of a bit multicultural isn't it? Got me thinking though - wonder if there are any compost worms in my compost pile - or are there only snakes. Not going to think too deeply on that one!!

Glad Sara arrived safe and sound. Can she send some snow, rain and cold weather this way.

Stuart said...

I'm wondering whether they have 2 sets of clothing which depends on their job at the time. A bit like humans who wear pyjamas to bed and then dress in a suit and tie to go to work and depending on what environment you find them in (at work or answering the door at 7 in the morning) is what you'll find them wearing.

Maybe this is the case with worms. If you find them in the compost they're in their little red outfits yet if they're turfed out into the garden they quickly change into their brown earthworm suits.

Just a theory, that's all!

susan said...

Happy Aussie Day! Off subject, sorry, I know nothing about worms.

Alice said...

Stuart - I do like your thinking. I wonder what other little outfits they may have? I've often looked in amazement at all of the varied life busily turning garden rubbish into garden food. Do you think they are all earthworms in disguise? If they are then they make some really creative outfits.

Calidore and the Gas man - thank you for letting me know that all the worms are living and working in harmony. Surely a lesson for the whole world?

Thank you all for your helpful comments.

Chloe said...

Running a little late on this one, but I think my early reading was this:

Two sets of worms - compost ones are Tiger and Red - I bought them, still have them in my compost, I think. I have one of those triple deck black plastic things, and keep my breeding colonies in there. They cannot survive in soil alone, as they need the really high densisty of organic matter. Kitchen scraps go int here to breed them up. The Gedye-type bin (ypside-down dome) breeds them up well on kitchen scraps too. When I empty those layers out, they go into my big bins (ie the half galvanised iron tanks). So I use them to innoculate the tanks with compost worms. They live in the surface layer mainly.

Earthworms - have to have enough sand/grit in whatever they are living, as they need that to go through their gullet for survival. Cannot live in pure compost. So I make sure I pull plenty of weeds with soil on the roots for the big bins - not a problem finding weeds at my place! I also process layers of the poor/clay soil through those bins, so that puts a fair bit more in the big bins.

I get earthworms from one bin to another by always putting a fair bit from one bin to another - top off matured bin into new bin etc. Earthworms will come up from the soil, work through all levels, and may even get their grit by going back down into the soil if there is not enough in the compost - not sure about that.

I just know the worm combination in my big bins breaks things down really, really quickly. But I think I only find the earthworms in my garden after I have spread the compost, I don't really find the tigers or reds.

And the bottom of my tanks are cut off too, so I suspect a lot of earthworms head off for the soil before I get to spread it, too.