they crawl in, they crawl out Earthworms seem slimy, but they’re great for gardens Amanda Sears UK Extension Office arthworms. To many, they are an icky organism that crawls onto our carports after a heavy rain. But these creatures should not be thought of as a nuisance; they should be considered nature’s plough. As earthworms crawl through the soil, they aerate and loosen it by digging tunnels up to seven feet deep. This brings up the mineral rich subsoil and also allows oxygen to penetrate deeper, which improves beneficial soil bacteria and can help with the health of plants in the area. Earthworms consume on a daily basis their weight in fallen leaves and other organic material. As they tunnel, they ingest soil and organic matter, which produces castings (worm poop). They grind large particles into smaller ones, and soil microorganisms break these down into even smaller pieces. Earthworm’s activities in many ways mimic a miniature composter, in that it mixes and conditions plant wastes into fertilizer for new plants. These creatures are active from spring until fall. During the day, worms lie in their burrows near the 22 Madison Living WINTER 2018 surface. At night they go in search of food. Adding organic matter such as compost and mulch will attract earthworms to an area. Not only is this food for the worms, but it also creates a cool, moist environment. They will not tolerate soggy soil; that is why they seek dry places (such as a sidewalk or carport) after a heavy rain. Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expressions, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability. Facts about earthworms: n Under favorable conditions, one acre of land can contain more than a million earthworms. n The largest earthworm on record was found in South Africa and it was 22 feet long! n Earthworms are hermaphroditic which means each individual possesses both male and female reproductive organs. n There are approximately 2,700 species of the earthworm. n Worms do not have eyes. n Worms are not insects. n People often use this term to refer to caterpillars as well. It is caterpillars that are eating the plants in your garden, not a worm.