Over the Easter holidays we held a family worm event in the gardens at Chartwell. This very popular, free event saw plenty of kids and adults alike finding out more about the wriggly little critters that are so important to us gardeners. Worm fact sheets and colouring in posters were available but the highlights were the worm charming in our raised beds and the creation of a new Wormery! Yes, you did read that right. Worm charming took place in the Kitchen Garden last week! The Worm Charming World Championships have been taking place in the village of Willaston, near Nantwich in Cheshire since 1980, but we held some slightly less competitive attempts ourselves. Worms are attracted to impact on the soil surface, so striking the soil with forks and other implements is a popular method of worm charming. Some participants were also seen to be blowing paper trumpets at the soil too! Any passing visitors must have wondered what on earth (pun intended!) was going on!
As for the new Chartwell Wormery, the children at this event had great fun layering up our Roly Mole worm bin (don’t ask!) with soil, kitchen scraps and of course the worms themselves, as seen in the picture below. Some children even overcame their fear of worms once they understood how interesting they are. These special composting worms will provide us with a regular supply of very fine compost that is excellent for seed sowing, as well a concentrated ‘worm juice’ liquid that we will be able to use to feed our plants.
Now, some of you might be wondering why the common earthworm is so important in the garden. Charles Darwin famously said in 1881 that “it may be doubted whether there are any animals which have played such an important role in the history of the world as the earthworm”. Worms are detrivores, which means that they obtain nutrients by comsuming detritis. They therefore aid in the decomposition process of organic matter, releasing nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium and calcium as well as helpful bacteria and fungi from the worm’s digestive system, back into the soil via worm casts. This incorporation of organic matter includes the dragging of leaf litter down into the soil. A soil with a large worm population will usually have a greater depth of topsoil because of this. Worms also improve soil structure by forming stable aggregates due to their sticky gum that they secrete. The burrows and pathways that they create helps to increase the aeration of a soil and aid drainage, as well as increasing the water holding capacity via the creation of soil pores that are able to retain water molecules.
Worms are more common in soils that are moist, warm, have a neutral or slightly alkaline pH and have a high organic matter content. They don’t like dry, acidic or sandy/gritty soils. So, the next time you see a worm in your garden, thank the gardening gods that it’s there, and hope that there are many more down in your soil too!