The Lowly Earthworm – Benefits and Concerns for Carolina Homeowners


Earthworm concerns for Carolina homeowners

Ever walk out onto your patio, sidewalk, or driveway during or immediately after a swift rainstorm? Chance are you have seen countless earthworms wriggling about as they try to escape from the flooded ground. While this can be a chance for many to gather some bait for an upcoming fishing trip, it can also serve to show just how many earthworms live and breed in the soils of lawns across the Carolinas. For a guide from the pest control technicians at Nelon-Cole, we wanted to help educate on the various ways that earthworms can be beneficial to our lawns, but if left unchecked can also have some negative effects.

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earthworms can have tremendous benefits for both lawn and garden areas

ARE EARTHWORMS GOOD?

A healthy earthworm population is mostly a good thing for your lawn for a variety of reasons. As earthworms feed on decayed plant debris, grasses, and manure, their digestive system concentrates the organic and mineral elements of the food they eat, so their casts are richer in available nutrients than the soil around them. Nitrogen in their casts is also readily available to plants and used as a rich fertilizer.

Your lawn will see improved drainage as a result of a healthy earthworm population as well. Their extensive system of burrowing and tunneling helps to loosen and aerate the soil, thus helping to improve drainage. Soil that is rich with earthworms has been shown to drain up to 10 times faster than soil with few or no earthworms. In zero-till soils, where worm populations are high, water infiltration can be up to 6 times greater than in cultivated soils. Earthworm tunnels also act, under the influence of rain, irrigation, and gravity, as passageways for lime and other material.

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earthworms help to to aerate your lawn, and significantly helps with drainage

Decaying earthworm casts help to cement soil particles together in water-stable aggregates. These can store moisture without dispersing. Research has shown that earthworms that leave their casts on the soil surface rebuild topsoil. As compared to worm-free areas that have been tested, a healthy concentration of earthworms has been shown to increase the production in pasture land by 70-80%. This raises stock carrying capacity for grazed pasture land. Though we doubt that many homeowners in our service area have cattle grazing in their lawns, it does serve as a powerful example of their benefits.

HOW CAN I ENCOURAGE EARTHWORM GROWTH

Earthworms do not typically like soil that is highly acidic, alkaline, dry, wet, hot, or cold (sounds like they can be quite picky!). Their mere presence alone is a good sign that conditions are excellent for them to thrive. You can, however, improve your lawn if some of the above problems are present.

Increasing organic matter is an excellent technique for helping earthworm populations thrive. A typical garden and waste compost pile can make a fantastic addition to your lawn which earthworms love. If you find that your lawn does not have a proper pH level for good earthworm growth, you can apply fertilizers high in calcium or lime to your lawn and monitor pH levels over time. The effects will not be immediate, but over time you should see a significant increase in earthworm populations.

Keeping your lawn properly watered is important, but unpredictable precipitation particularly during the summer months can make this challenging. Worms can lose up to 20% of their body weight in mucus and castings each day, so they need moisture to stay alive. Creative use of groundcover elements such as mulch or pine needles can help keep moisture in the ground (though some of these, such as pine needles, can raise acidity levels in the ground, so proper pH monitoring is recommended).


BRINGING EARTHWORMS INTO YOUR LAWN OR GARDEN

For many homeowners, preparing for and introducing earthworms into your lawn can be expensive and time-consuming depending on the current condition of your lawn. But you can jump-start their growth by introducing them first into flower beds, raised beds, and garden areas and see the benefits even more quickly than with a full lawn.

The most obvious method is to try to remedy as many of the above lawn maladies as possible. This can often be done without professional help and with little expense. Another technique for bringing in and introducing new earthworms into your area is to cut pasture sods from areas with high worm populations and transfer them to your needed areas. New earthworm colonies will establish within a couple of years as long as there is plenty of organic matter and soil and climatic conditions are favorable. It is important that you transplant whole sections of pasture, not just worms.

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just the presence of earthworms may indicate you have a healthy lawn

CAN EARTHWORMS CAUSE DAMAGE IN MY LAWN?

A healthy lawn is hugely benefited by good and healthy earthworm populations, but your pest control professionals at Nelon-Cole are always on the lookout for signs that things aren’t as good as they may seem.

Over time earthworm castings can cause a bumpy surface which can lead to scalping when mowed (this can also be recognized easily by your landscape professionals). As a secondary concern, a good population of earthworms inevitably invites earthworm predators into your lawn. These can be moles (which can do significant damage to your lawn with their aggressive tunneling) and bird species.

While some homeowners in the Carolinas may be squeamish with dealing with earthworm populations in their lawns, know that they are mostly beneficial to both your lawn and your local wildlife food chain. Though they can directly cause some damage to your lawn, this is mostly cosmetic and easily remedied. Keeping and maintaining a healthy earthworm population is key to having a healthy lawn, and as such, these are not pests that should be viewed as aggressive in the same way as termites and aggressive ant species.

Your pest control professional at Nelon-Cole can help you identify earthworm levels in your own lawn, and also find and remedy any mole or other wildlife problems that may be present.

Call us today at 1-888-7-TheWeb and get a FREE consultation about your home and your lawn!


Are you having (or suspect you may have) pest or moisture control issues in your home or business in the Carolinas? Call the Carolina pest control experts at Nelon-Cole today and get a FREE consultation on how we can eliminate fall pest concerns in your home – and protect you from further pest and moisture control issues in the Carolinas in the future!


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