We’ve all seen those slimy earthworms slithering around our outdoor spaces and in our soils. However, although they may not be one for looks – earthworms are actually super beneficial to your yards and gardens. The truth is – if you have earthworms in your yard, it’s a good thing!
If you have earthworms in your yard that means that you have very healthy soil. Earthworms are beneficial to your yard because they break down organic material, add nutrients to your soil, improve soil water retention and support biodiversity.
Finding earthworms in your yard may seem scary at first – but trust us, they are beneficial to your outdoor space, and will do so much more harm than good. Unless you feel that you are having an infestation and finding earthworms in your home, there’s no need to get rid of these critters.
So, today we’re going to tell you why you have earthworms in your yard and why that’s a good thing!
Why Are Earthworms Good For Your Yard?
Let’s cut right to the chase – earthworms are actually really good to have in your yard because they do a lot of good for your soil.
Earthworms provide nutrients, break down organic material, loosen compacted soil, improve soil retention, and support biodiversity all within your soil so that your flowers and plants can thrive!
As good as earthworms are for your soil, you do not have to add them to make your soil better, in fact, if your soil is doing good, it will naturally attract earthworms to it.
Adding earthworms on your own can actually cause harm to your soil, so when it comes down to it – leaving earthworms to be, and leaving them to do their own thing, is the best thing you can do for the worms and your yard!
Earthworms Break Down Organic Material
Earthworms are major decomposers and will eat and break down all organic material as part of their regular diet.
Earthworms eat things like decaying leaves, roots, petals from flowers, living things like nematodes, protozoans, rotifers, fungus, bacterias, fruit peels, rinds of fruits, and decaying vegetables. Earthworms eat all of the things that typically – go to waste.
Since earthworms feed on the bacterias and fungi of the decomposing organic material, which basically recycles the nutrients that the organic material contains, earthworms eventually give the nutrients back to the soil – and we’ll explain why below.
Earthworms Add Nutrients To The Soil
This may sound unbelievable – but we’re telling you to believe it, the way that earthworms add nutrients to your soil is by the casts of its skin!
Earthworms eat plant debris and soil, which turns into nutrients, and because of this, their bodies are then more nutrient-dense than the soil itself.
Once an earthworm sheds its cast, the nutrients go back into the soil, giving the soil nutrients such as Nitrogen and Phosphorus, that immediately is taken up by the plants! According to research published in Applied And Environmental Soil Science, earthworms specifically effect the concentration of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium and calcium in the soil.
More specifically, according to the National Library of Australia, Earthworms provide four times as much phosphorus than your soil does, and when an earthworm sheds its cast, it often sheds it in tunnels that they create underground!
These tunnels not only become a way for nutrients to pass through the soil, but they are beneficial to your plants as they help loosen compacted soil!
Earthworms Loosen Compacted Soil
Earthworms create tunnels in our soil. These tunnels help loosen any compacted soil, which in turn, helps plant roots grow deeper and allows the plant roots to reach extra nutrients and moisture!
Earthworms create holes by pushing forward through the soil with their bodies, and if the soil is too hard to get through – the earthworm will eat its way through it, picking up any decaying matter, and nutrients along the way.
Any nutrients that the worm does not need will be excreted through a mucus they produce, or through the casts of their body.
These earthworm tunnels allow air and water to get through, which keeps the soil loose, healthier, and will help the plants that live in the soil, thrive.
Earthworms Regenerate New Topsoil
Another reason why earthworms are beneficial to soil is that they can actually regenerate and rebuild topsoil, which keeps your yard and garden fresh, nutritious, and plentiful.
Think of an earthworm casting as a cement – once in the soil, the casting cements soil particles together to create bonds of nutrients to the soil. These new bonds, if you will, are now able to store moisture without dispersing immediately, improving soil water retention and creating new layers of soil throughout.
As long as you have earthworms, the cycle doesn’t really end, and your soil will constantly be renewing, gaining nutrients, and will improve over time.
New South Wales reports It’s been studied that in a 30 year period, earthworms created 18 cm of new top soil in their habitat.
Although this may not be the fastest method, it’s a natural method that already happening – and that we don’t need to intervene in.
Earthworms Can Improve Soil Water Retention
Further, earthworms improve soil water retention because of the tunnels that they build.
According to the article titled Soil Penetration by Earthworms and Plant Roots in the National Library of Medicine earthworm tunnels can range from 1-2 meters per individual earthworm and can move up to 100 kg m−2 of soil per year!
These earthworm tunnels act as drainage systems throughout the soil. The tunnels allow moisture from the surface to spread underground, increasing soil water retention and allowing more moisture to freely move underground.
With more water retention, soil offers more benefits to plants and habitats, and in that, earthworms support biodiversity.
Earthworms Support Biodiversity
Earthworms support biodiversity and help plants flourish, and other predator animals flourish like ants, centipedes, beetles, birds, snakes, and toads – all because of their livelihood.
Earthworms are an important part of our ecosystem and are at the foundation of many of our plant food sources, which we need as part of our diet. Earthworms truly structure the soils in which they live and can make a huge impact on the health and success of the living things in their habitats.
The fact that earthworms redistribute nutrients and create tunnels which changes the way the soil breathes and how much air and water the soil gets, is amazing to think about.
Due to their instinct, earthworms directly impact other organisms in choosing where they live, grow, and reproduce.
Why Do You Have Earthworms In Your Yard Anyways?
Now, we’ve gone over why having earthworms is beneficial – but have you ever wondered why earthworms are in your yard in the first place?
Earthworms are in your yard for a few reasons, they flock to healthy soils, they gather around fallen organic material, your soil may be semi-moist and attract them, and they love well-planted areas.
All in all, if you have earthworms in your yard, then you’re really doing right when it comes to your soil!
Earthworms Flock To Healthy Soils
It’s true. Not only do earthworms make your soil healthier, but they flock to healthy soil.
According to information published by Wales, the preferred soil for an earthworm consists of these few attributes:
- Soil around 44 degrees Fahrenheit (not frozen)
- Abundance of organic matter (think fallen leaves and environmental debris)
- Soil that has a pH of 6.
- Soil that is not too compacted, looser.
- In well aerated soil.
If your soil aligns with these bulleted points, that means you have very healthy soil, and should actually have an ample number of earthworms in your soil.
Earthworms Will Gather Around Fallen Organic Material
Earthworms sought out organic material to eat and organic materials are also what allows an earthworm to flourish.
Earthworms eat all the decaying organic material that falls to the ground. Think leaves, plant roots, plant leaves and petals, fruits and vegetables, and – soil! Like most animals, when there’s food, there’s a way, and earthworms will gather around fallen organic material, and eventually, live amongst that source of soil.
Earthworms eat organic material and then use the nutrients that would normally go to waste as a natural fertilizer through the shedding of their casts – which goes right back into the ground soil. Not only are earthworms recycling heroes, they don’t let good waste – go to waste!
Semi-Moist Soil In Yards Attract Earthworms
Another thing that an earthworm is attracted to is something they actually need to survive semi-moist soil! Earthworm population is usually highest in areas where soil is moist and, in a sand, silt and clay mixed soil.
According to the government website for California Recycling, earthworms live in semi-moist soil, and they compare the preferred soil to a damp wrung-out sponge.
Earthworms Need Moist Soil To Breathe
Earthworms need semi-moist soil to breathe, as moist soil allows for diffusion, which is the process which allows an earthworm to breathe.
Earthworms don’t have respiratory systems with lungs, rather, they release carbon dioxide, and receive oxygen.
Having moist skin allows the oxygen to pass through their bodies, which is then dissolved into their bloodstream. If the soil is too dry, an earthworm’s skin will become dry, which will stop the process of diffusion, and can harm the earthworm.
Fun fact – if you happen to see earthworms on the ground when it’s raining, it’s because the soil may have been too dry – and they need to wet their skin a little bit to help them get oxygen!
Earthworms Prefer Well-Planted Areas
Another thing that attracts an earthworm is well planted areas, and it totally makes sense knowing what we know about earthworms and organic material!
Well-planted Areas Means Organic Material
Well-planted areas mean an endless supply of organic material which will feed many earthworms.
According to the University of Illinois, there can be up to 1,000,000 earthworms in one acre of land! If that’s the case, the more plants – the better. Well-planted areas can also mean the presence of moisture and healthy soil, which in turn, attracts earthworms on its own.
Well-Planted Areas Mean Shelter
The other reasons that well-planted areas attract earthworms is because of the shelter that it brings, as well as the shade!
Earthworms have photosensitive skin which means they need a dark environment to live, as light can hurt their skin, so well-planted areas provide enough coverage for them to live comfortably!
How To Attract Earthworms To Your Yard
After learning everything today, if you think your soil is in need of some earthworms – then there are some things you can try to attract earthworms to your yard!
Start A Backyard Compost
It goes without saying that adding a backyard compost full of organic material, is the best way to attract earthworms to your yard and garden!
By adding organic food scraps that are non-acidic like certain vegetables and fruit peels, grains, breads, pastas, eggshells, coffee grounds and then more environmental materials such as leaves, lawn clippings, all crushed, or cut up into very tiny pieces, will break down easily, and be the perfect combination of compost to attract earthworms.
If you’re looking for a compost bin, we recommend this Redmon Compost Bin , which can sit on your ground or soil, so that worms can not only visit the compost bin, but take the nutrients back into your soil!
Buy Worms Or Make A Worm Bin
According to the Environmental Protection Agency a worm bin or Vermicomposting bin, is a compost bin specifically made for worms that provides moisture, and proper ventilation.
With an ample supply of food that gets restored once all has been consumed.
Using a worm bin can be a good way to keep worms in your yard because it’s a controlled environment that can mimic ideal conditions for a worm to live.
This Worm Factory 360 would be a great addition if you’re looking to start a vermicompost! It’s easy to use, provides the largest volume of any at-home vermicompost, and is extremely durable!
Keep Your Yard Well-Planted
Lastly, if you’re looking to attract earthworms to your yard an easy way to do so is simply by planting more plants and keeping up with their care!
By planting a lot of plants closely together, watering them when needed, and allowing for the organic material to sit on the surface of the soil when it falls, you will easily attract more earthworms to your yard.
Having plants may be all that you need to get things rolling to attract the worms! If you have a lot of lawn, but not a lot of plants or trees around, organic material may be few and far between, which means, no food for the worms!
Having a well-planted area will not only bring some curb-appeal to your yard and gardens, but some worm-appeal as well!
What Are Some Negative Effects Of Earthworms
Although earthworms are truly beneficial, of course there are some negatives you should consider before trying to attract them.
Earthworms are prey to birds; they can overpopulate and cause damage to smaller soil areas and can even increase erosion in areas near water. Let’s talk about those below.
They Attract Predatory Birds
Earthworms are a food source for many birds, and although that’s not horrible, the problem that arises is that your gardens start to attract birds, and then those birds can become a problem for your garden.
Birds eat worms, seeds, berries, fruits, and vegetables (to name a few) all of which can be in your garden, and of which can be the exact things that you’ve been trying to grow! Likewise, the more food your garden has to offer, the more likely birds will stay around and nest, which is only going to cause you more problems.
Although earthworms help the soil, the soil isn’t useful if birds start getting to your plants before they even get to thrive.
I mean, it would be useful if you’re trying to create a habitat for birds – but more times than not, that’s not the case.
How To Keep Birds Away From Worms
If you’re noticing that you have earthworms, and are now noticing a lot of birds, the best thing you can do is put bird feeders far away from your soil and higher up in trees, to attract birds elsewhere.
Also, you can try adding faux decoys like this 2 pack of Horned Owl Decoys, to scare birds away!
They Can Overpopulate Small Areas
Another problem with earthworms is that they can overpopulate small areas, and if the area is small enough, they can completely eat away at all the soil and cause the amount of soil available to drop.
Too many earthworms mean too many nutrients, and if they’re providing an excessive amount of nutrients – this is actually bad for your soil!
The castings of an earthworm hold a lot of nutrients and those nutrients act as a natural fertilizer for lawns and gardens, however, if there are too many castings, there are too many nutrients and your lawns and gardens can actually burn, similar in the way that adding fertilizer unnecessarily can damage your lawn.
A little goes a long way when it comes to earthworms, since literally one single earthworm can make an impact.
Having too many earthworms in one area can do more harm than good.
Earthworms Erode Soil Near Ponds Or Water Features
The problem with earthworm tunneling is that when it’s prevalent near ponds or water features, soil can easily erode and break down, and having earthworm tunnels makes it that much faster for the soil to erode.
Near ponds or water features, the soil is typically very rich, moist and compacted, which makes it heavy and almost sludgy – but, really good for plant growth.
If earthworms make their way into this soil, they can create a lot of unnecessary tunneling that will make the soil collapse within itself since the soil is already so compacted together – think about the texture of wet cement as a comparison.
Although earthworms do plenty for our semi-most, dryer soil, and well in garden and lawn soil, there is already so much going on near ponds or water features, that adding the extra tunneling will cause the soil to erode.
That’s A Wrap!
All in all, earthworms are one of the most important animals in our ecosystems. Sometimes called the “intestines of the Earth” earthworms help our plants flourish and thrive! If you notice them in your garden, there’s a few reasons why:
and there’s a lot of good that comes with it too!
- Earthworms love healthy soil.
- Will flock to organic material.
- Need Semi-moist soil to live.
- Love well-planted areas.
Edwards, C. A., & Bohlen, P. J. (1996). Biology and ecology of earthworms (Vol. 3). Springer Science & Business Media.
Sharma, D. K., Tomar, S., & Chakraborty, D. (2017). Role of earthworm in improving soil structure and functioning. Current Science, 1064-1071.
Logsdon, S. D., & Linden, D. R. (1992). Interactions of earthworms with soil physical conditions influencing plant growth. Soil science, 154(4), 330-337.
Bhadauria, T., & Saxena, K. G. (2009). Role of Earthworms in Soil Fertility Maintenance through the Production of Biogenic Structures. Applied and Environmental Soil Science, 2010, Article ID: 816073.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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