The Art of Vermiculture for the Lawn and Garden

James Hale discusses the virtues of vermiculture for the lawn and garden, including earthworms 101 course, earthworms and composting, and how to care for earthworms.

| June/July 2000

Learn about vermiculture for the lawn and garden. 

Putting nature's original gardeners to work.

Aiding and abetting earthworms — a practice known as vermiculture — is an easy, eco-friendly route to a better garden. By improving soil structure naturally, worms reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Feed your grass clippings, leaf cuttings and kitchen scraps to the worms rather than sending them to the landfill, and in return these tiny tillers will provide you a nutrient-rich humus — perfect for garden and potted plants alike.

While many vermiculturists keep their worms in special bins, I've devised a containerless method that works just as well or better. What follows is my plan for vermiculture for the lawn and garden. The lawn exists to supply the garden with grass clippings and weeds (both excellent worm food) in the warm months, as well as with leaves and other yard waste in the fall. Key to the plan is what I call the "worm pile," a mound of dirt and organic material that sits aside the garden, accommodates the densest population of earthworms and produces a nutrient-rich soil. The plan requires some effort, but no real heavy work and no expensive equipment.

Earthworms 101

To reap the full rewards of vermiculture, you'll need to know a few basics so that you can help your worms to thrive in their work.

Earthworms breathe air through their skin, absorbing oxygen and giving off carbon dioxide. Fishermen aren't kidding when they say they are going to "drown some worms." Water can block the movement of air through the skin, causing the worm to suffocate. Even so, an earthworm's body is 80% water and requires a moist environment.

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