Rapid activity this winter on our site (in the Kuban) was developed by the mole. Heaps of earth appear here and there: digs, not tirelessly paws. I confiscate the earth from the heaps and put it on top of the beds (it is without weed seeds), and the industriousness of the mole even makes me happy. The more moves he digs up, the more larvae, slugs and other evil spirits will crawl into the holes he digs, becoming a mole breakfast, lunch, dinner. His appetite is excellent and he does not recognize any winter hibernation. Of all the soil living creatures, I am sorry to give the mole only earthworms. But they (for the most part) have already gone to winter in the lower layers of the soil. And what earthworms are dear to me, I will tell in this article.Earthworms - why are they needed and how to breed them for fertilizer production?
What are earthworms?
Earthworms are probably familiar to everyone - in the rain on the asphalt, tile, paths there are a lot of them. The most widespread theory (far from the only one) - in waterlogged soil they have nothing to breathe, and they climb outside. But I like another version - in the rain they have the opportunity to travel!
A thin film of water on the surface of asphalt, concrete, etc. allows them to seamlessly migrate over relatively large distances. Also, probably, they hope for a better life in a new place. In order not to disappoint them, after the rain I collect them on the paved areas and take them to where they feel good, and it’s useful for me.
There are a lot of different earthworms on the planet, all sorts of different, from 2 cm to 3 m long. However, this three-meter horror lives only in Australia and there is no use for it in our Russian soils. We have our own, adapted, smaller ones.
Most often found:
- litterthat tinker in the upper, 10-centimeter layer of soil;
- soil-litter, deepening by 20 centimeters;
- and can get caught burrowdigging their moves very deep, by a meter or more.
Litter is most often collected by fishermen, and burrows come across digging wells, pits, ditches. And the soil-litter is regularly cut by gardeners with shovels, which does not suit them (worms) at all, contrary to the widespread opinion that shovel propagation.
It turns out that very few species are able to grow a new tail or a new head, and, for the most part - one thing. So cutting it is most likely to get one very unhealthy worm and a dead second part.
What are they needed for?
Gardeners-summer residents-gardeners treat earthworms, as a rule, with respect. And this is absolutely true, given the great free help that they provide in improving the soil. Although most do not even suspect how much earthly worms do any good!
The most obvious is that the worms loosen and mix the soil. Making their way in the soil layer, push apart particles of soil and swallow the dead parts of plants. It is worth noting that worms feed only on dead parts of plants, without harming anything growing.
Movements left by worms in the soil increase air access to the roots (they also breathe). In addition, moisture condenses on the walls of the passages with temperature differences, thereby providing the roots of the plant, which appeared next to the pass, with a kind of “drip irrigation”.
For the convenience of movement and breathing (in worms, skin respiration), the body of the worm is covered with mucus. When the worm moves in the soil, the mucus partially remains on the walls of the course, strengthening it. The mucus itself changes the soil around the course: in the 2 mm zone, the soil is slightly alkalized, nitrogen is added, the growth of some phytopathogenic bacteria and fungi is suppressed, while the growth of other types of bacteria is stimulated. Also in the zones of moves increases the release of carbon dioxide needed by plants.
Worms improve the soil structure not only by digging passages, but also by their “stash” - thrifty creatures drag particles of dead plants into their passages, making a separate storage mink. Eating, for example, a leaf, an earthworm eats away the flesh and leaves coarser veins that will remain in the soil, improving its characteristics.
And finally, coprolites are the very waste products of earthworms, which, in addition to agricultural benefits, are a very profitable business.
Eating organic debris, worms also swallow soil particles. Passing through the digestive tract, organics are processed by microorganisms that live in the intestines of the worm, enzymes, are partially absorbed. The rest comes out in the form of dense granules containing 5 times more nitrogen, 7 times more phosphorus and 11 times more potassium than the surrounding soil. And all this in an accessible form for plants!
In addition to mineral elements, coprolites have natural antibiotics that inhibit the activity of pathogenic organisms, hormone-like substances that stimulate the germination and growth of plants, vitamins, amino acids and bacterial microflora, useful for soil formation. In addition to the benefits actually contained in them, coprolites also have a stable structure due to gluing together with mucus. Therefore, in a humid environment, they dissolve gradually; they are not washed out of the soil by rain and watering.
Read also our material Why I do not dig my garden, or How I managed to refuse a shovel.
How to attract earthworms to the site?
That is, earthworms need to be groomed, cherished and lured from neighbors. It is clear that if the worms feed on organic matter, it must be present in the soil (or better on the surface of the soil). Mulching is one of the best options.
Somehow, planting roses in a new stretch of spring closer to the porch, we (if in fairness a husband) could barely dig holes of the required depth: in that place was pressed clay with very fine gravel. It is also dry due to a slight slope. Planted. I sighed over them, covered the soil around me with a layer of newspapers, covered me with mowed grass from above. When the grass has dried up - another layer of newspapers and a layer of grass. And on top are the bumps. Already in the fall, transplanting one rose (re-sorting) under a layer of mulch, I found worms that had well settled in there and were eaten off. Yes, and digging noticeably easier.
There was still a good option: they collected strawberries, bushes pulled out, along with weeds left to rot in the garden. Above they threw grass overhead over the whole summer, ash was poured from the barbecue and grass again. Watering the rain. In autumn, under a thin, top-dried layer of grass in a completely processed organic material, a huge number of worms swarmed. The bed was ready for planting at least something - a continuous vermicompost!
Worms do not like acid soil. Although this has its own subtleties: our friends in the Khabarovsk Territory had a summer house almost on a peat bog — lingonberries, blueberries, and local rhododendrons grew well. So the worms were found among them, but not small pink, but large, with a finger thick, gray-pink. That is, information that worms do not live in acidic soil is probably about the most common. They also do not like strongly calcareous soils.
They also do not like dryness: when dry, they go to deeper layers, as in winter. But they do not like flooding. In environmental requirements, they are similar to most cultivated plants - they prefer moderation, without extremes.
Compost heap - a paradise for worms, a kind of worm incubator: warm, humid, friable, organics of the sea - live and be fruitful! Approximately such conditions are created for them in the production of vermicompost.
Despite the fact that the worms are hermaphrodites, that is, they have both female and male genital organs, they most often need a partner. Apparently, for the exchange of genetic material. Although not all species and not always, some are self-sufficient. As a result of the sexual process, the worms will throw off a cocoon formed by mucus with seed material and eggs. In fact, fertilization and development will occur inside the cocoon in the soil.
Cocoons are vulnerable - loosening, digging destroys a huge number of them, reducing the number of voluntary assistants. If you do not climb into the soil, from cocoons, after about 3-4 weeks young worms will get out. And after 3-4 months they will grow to adulthood and will live for 6 or 7 years, if no one eats them. Every decade can bring offspring in good conditions.
And many people love worms! Moles making whole "worm depots", frogs, toads and snakes, lizards and birds. Fish still - with the help of fishermen. So it’s in the interests of gardeners to breed as many worms as possible - so that everyone and everything suffices.A compost pile is a paradise for worms.
How to breed worms for fertilizer production?
Worms are not so small, it is not difficult to catch for different purposes (for fishing, for chickens, for experiments). What Darwin was fond of at one time - he set up different experiments on harmless and defenseless creatures. Okay, at least for the good of the matter.
He had a lot of followers in this matter, about worms they found out a lot of interesting things. In particular, if simple earthworms are settled in very good conditions (lots of food, moisture, heat), after a few generations a population of large, well-eating and perfectly breeding worms is obtained. That is, it’s like pets.
When they process, for example, kitchen waste, they will produce many remarkably useful coprolites from the other end of the body - a natural, environmentally friendly universal fertilizer for all crops. Thus, California Worms and Russian Prospectors were deduced. Californians have been cultivated for longer, they are gluttonous and more productive, but ours are more adapted, and their potential is higher.
And this allows all interested parties to get quiet and incredibly productive pets at home / in the garage / basement. Which will eat all the vegetable kitchen waste, paper, and can even eat fabric and leather - but not fast. In this case, numerous offspring and a noticeable amount of useful coprolites will be produced.
The technology is quite simple, you will need:
- warm room;
- at least two plastic vegetable crates;
- piece of thick film;
- a bucket or two.
One box needs to be covered with a film and filled up to half with garden soil with worms caught. Additionally pick up a couple more buckets of earth, without worms. You can pick up earth and worms in the forest along with beautiful foliage. The ground should be moist, but not wet. Add 200 grams of chopped organic waste (peeling, tea tea, banana skins, etc.) to the worm box, mix.
The box is placed in a warm place, you can cover it with a newspaper. Check in a couple of weeks - how are they doing? If organics are not visible, add as much on top. Then, when the young appear, the processing process will go faster, and organic matter will need to be added more often and more, sprinkling a little earth with a little bucket. Humidify if necessary.
As soon as the level of compost compares with the top of the box and is even a little “slide”, a second box is placed on top of it, pressing down and organics sprinkled with earth are placed in it. The worms themselves will get there through the trellised bottom.
Then everything is the same, adjusted for processing speed. As soon as the upper box is filled and processed, the lower one can be removed, ready-made vermicompost can be put into it from there (for seedlings mixed with soil, for indoor flowers, in a greenhouse), in an empty and without a film box, again put the organic matter with the ground and put it on the box with worms.
Surplus worms in the spring run in the greenhouse, in the greenhouses, in the beds. Let the “incubator" itself continue to work, producing fertilizer and worms to settle on the site.
The technology for breeding worms is quite simple.
Read also our article Quick compost - excellent fertilizer and no bonfires on the site.
Who else lives in the soil?
The well-being of the soil is provided by numerous soil inhabitants, but most of them are so small that we do not notice them. A healthy and fertile soil is full of life: bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, ticks, foottails, larvae, worms, ants, nematodes, millipedes, enchitreids, and much more.
All depend on each other, many exist in symbiosis. Manipulations with herbicides, fungicides, insecticides destroy the existing connections and the vacant living space very quickly occupy aggressive forms, most often pathogenic.
Worms feed on dead organics, but without soil microorganisms they will not succeed. So, the beloved by many clean land without a single weed is half dead, the biocenosis is disturbed in it, it requires constant labor and investments in the form of top dressing, cultivation, weeding, watering. Instead of soil biota, gardeners work. And vice versa - if there is organic matter in the zone of plant roots, all soil living creatures will actively work there, providing plants with everything necessary.
Ways of gardening and gardening, of course, is a private matter for everyone. But in the Red Book of the Russian Federation there are already more than a dozen annelids, and behind them in the chain are all those who eat them.