Monday, October 24, 2011

Here's the scoop on worm poop

Every now and then, the rugs in my house look like this:

That’s because my yard is often covered with piles of this:

I don’t really LIKE having a messy home and I sure wish I could learn to wipe my feet a little better before I come inside. But I’m definitely not complaining. As an eco-friendly gardener, I know that having piles of worm poop in my yard is a very good thing.

Earthworms help aerate the soil by crawling around creating little tunnels and passageways. And the whole time, they are just eating and pooping, eating and pooping. Aristotle called worms the "intestines of the soil" for their role of converting organic matter to fertilizer. Most of that pooping occurs underground, but during times of extreme moisture, the worms migrate towards the surface and leave their poop, also called castings, in little piles around your lawn.

The scoop on worm poop is that it is full of nutrients and extremely beneficial to your lawn and plants. Worm castings contain 0.86 percent nitrogen, 0.37 percent phosphorous and 0.25 percent potassium. Other nutrients include 2.3 percent calcium and 0.72 percent iron. The castings provide natural nutrients, often eliminating the need for harmful synthetic fertilizer products. The healthy lawn will then attract more earthworms, which will further improve soil aeration and increase the penetration of rainwater.

Earthworms help in breaking down thatch, increasing decomposition and creating usable nitrogen in the soil. In fact, five or more earthworms per square foot of soil provides the lawn with 25% of its seasonal nitrogen requirements.

Some people, however, don’t see the value in worm poop. They find these tiny piles of poop unsightly, both outside their home and when tracked inside. Weak thin lawns, which have been mowed too low, will certainly make these piles more evident.  

Dealing with Worm Poop
  • Rake or sweep castings into the lawn when they are dry. You can also sweep up castings and add them to your compost pile or potting soil mixture.
  • Don't overwater. Earthworms will stay near the surface if it's continuously moist.
  • Mow high and keep the lawn healthy to hide the poop piles and minimize the unsightliness.
  • Some sources recommend using a roller to press down the casts but over time, this can cause compaction of the soil.
  • Keep castings outside where they can do some good. Put doormats outside all of your doors and use them!
  • If you can’t remember to do that, sweep up worm castings that make it into your home with a hand held vacuum or broom and dump them in your potting mix! (That may sound silly, but worm castings sell for about $3.00 a pound and provide many valuable nutrients to your plants.)
Here are some more posts about the value of earthworms:

Earthworms: Wriggling Wonders of the Garden

Recycled Worm Info

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