Why Worms Are The Best Friend You Didn’t Know You Needed
Worms are a familiar sight for any gardener but are not always considered the most attractive or desirable of creatures. However, they play a vital role in maintaining healthy soil and a healthy environment.
Why are worms important?
Worms are found worldwide where the soil, water and temperature conditions allow. They seem a tiny, insignificant part of our environment, however, they are massively vital in keeping our planet healthy. No, really.
The creatures have been endorsed by Charles Darwin himself who said: “It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organised creatures” (link).
A farmer or gardener is able to identify how healthy their soil is by digging up a small patch and counting the number of worms found.
They carry out 4 main functions in the soil:
- Nutrient recycling
- Improve soil structure
- Repairing soil damage
- Provide a food source for other important species
There’s one thing us and worms have in common, hating food waste. Worms will eat just about anything; from dead leaves, plants, fungi and even our kitchen leftovers.
They break down and recycle these into organic matter that is so full of nutrients, the soil contains over 1000 times more beneficial bacteria than would be present without them!
Improve soil structure
As worms move through the soil, they mix the layers and allow more nutrients to be spread throughout the profile, loosen the structure and oxygenate the soil.
This creates an improved structure which allows for more water to be absorbed helping to decrease the risk of flooding.
Repairing soil damage
For a creature that’s so dirty, worms definitely clean up well! They help the conversion of harmful pollutants in the soil to become non-toxic by aiding in the spread of microorganisms that carry out this function.
Provide a food source
Worms are vital for the health of the soil, but they are also integral to the food chain. They are a protein source for garden species such as birds and hedgehogs. So the healthier the soil is, the healthier the rest of the species are!
What is a worm farm?
Creating a worm farm is a great way to utilise the highly nutritious, organic matter that worms produce on your plants at home.
They are inexpensive, easy to maintain, reduce food waste and produce organic fertiliser pretty quickly.
There are a few things to consider when starting your worm farm. Certain species are a lot more efficient than others, earthworms can bury deep into the soil, whilst these are the best worms for the garden, compost worms can eat their own body weight in food each day making them perfect for composting (the clue is in the name).
Worms are not very picky eaters and will accept most vegetarian foods, including bread, fruit and veg scraps and coffee granules. Citrus fruits and onions should be added with caution though.
You can find out more about building your own worm farm and the complete guide here!
Is a worm farm vegan?
Depending on your ethical views, worm farms may not be considered vegan. This is due to the worm's labour being used and the creatures being kept in a confined space after being removed from their natural habitat.
To counter this, worm farming doesn’t require the use of any animal products or byproducts to be successful. The use of them is also giving back to the environment by helping to feed plants and reduce food waste.
This is an ever-increasing discussion with many valid points on both sides of the fence which ultimately comes down to your ethical standing (link).
Worms are fantastic creatures and allies that are the engineers of the underground world. Protecting them is vital to not only keep our soils healthy and well-balanced, but vital in maintaining the rest of the ecosystem. Not all heroes wear capes!
By Lizzie Dymond
Lizzie is part of our fantastic Customer Delight team, she has a passion for all things sustainable and can't get enough of our Protein Power Bowl. On her days off, you’ll find Lizzie nose-deep in a gripping fantasy book, dancing around her kitchen to Taylor Swift and baking chocolate cookies or taking in a show at the theatre.