Earthworms get a bad rap as people tend to think of them as generally disgusting. However, did you know that these creepy, slimy creatures are the secret superheroes of your garden? As a gardener’s best friend, earthworms can dramatically improve the soil in your garden, ensuring that your plants will grow tall and live long. It is important to take stock of these earthworm benefits so you can encourage not hinder their effects.

There are four different earthworms you might run into: night crawlers, garden worms, manure worms, and red worms. They are pretty common in the soil, and there can be as many 500,000 in one acre of cultivated land. All are great for the soil.

Earthworms’ life cycles usually follow the weather. In the winter when the weather is cold, you will find mature and young earthworms as well as eggs. They mature into the spring, and as the temperature rises through the summer, they lay eggs and then die. By midsummer, the earthworms are very young or still in their eggs. Then by autumn, most are active and growing. The cycles will repeat themselves as long as the soil stays damp and they have food.

Here are the main ways that an earthworm benefits your garden:

Benefit #1: Nature’s Plow

Plowing the dirt, or breaking up the soil to allow air and water to get to the root of plants, is vital to the success of your garden. Plants do not grow well when their roots don’t have access to water and air.

Earthworms perform this process for you naturally as they move through the dirt. They make tiny tunnels that allow the perfect amount of air and water to provide to the plants’ roots.

Benefit #2: Garden Garbage Collectors

Your garden produces waste in the form of dead leaves, grass clippings and dirt. Luckily, those make up the earthworm’s diet. They eat this organic matter and naturally clean up your garden. Without them, your plants may die off because of all the waste.

To draw more earthworms to your garden, you can even add more organic matter to your garden. Throw some mulched leaves or grass clippings to attract these creepy-crawlies.

Benefit #3:  Organic Fertilizers

Earthworms naturally provide fertilizer through their waste, which is called “castings” when found on top of the soil. It is rich in phosphorus, calcium, nitrogen, and magnesium, which are important nutrients plants need to thrive.

As you can see by these earthworm benefits listed above, earthworms are an important part of your garden’s natural ecosystem. If you don’t have them in your garden, now is the perfect time to add them! You can find them at any bait shop or you can find them by digging around nutrient rich soil. You can even grow them yourself before transferring to your garden.

Once you have them, it’s important to introduce them to your garden in the right way – just throwing them in and hoping for the best might not work. Well before you put your earthworms in, lay down some of their favorite food: dead leaves, plants, compost material and other organic matter. Ideally, you would want to let mixture sit for at least a few weeks. Then add your worms. You should limit the number of earthworms to about 10 per one square meter. This is not an exact science, but you want to be careful of having too many in one area.

Earthworms are sensitive to physical and chemical changes. To keep the earthworms happy and thriving, try not to dig around your garden wherever possible. You want to leave them undisturbed so as not to disrupt their habitat. Also, never use chemical fertilizers or pesticides that will affect the soil composition. They will most likely leave your garden if they experience significant changes.

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