This soil amendment wiggles as it works

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Do you have worms?

No, not the kind that calls for a visit to a vet or a doctor. The kind that crawl, mostly unseen, in the soil of your garden, lawn, and flowerbeds.

They’re a wonder of nature; veritable living cultivators that churn through hard and soft soil alike, providing nutrients, breaking down organic matter, and allowing oxygen and water to reach plant roots. They eat soil and organic material, breaking it down and leaving behind vermicast — essentially, worm manure — which is high in nutrients and, according to a 1998 study from Elsevier Science, lower in contaminants.

The study shows that worms can be used to treat a variety of waste, including sludge from paper mills and even biosolids.

On a smaller scale, they can help make your gardens more productive by providing organic nutrients and soil cultivation. According to an Organic Gardening  article,  “a single acre of cultivated land may be home to as many as 500,000 earthworms, each making the soil a better place for plants.”

If you don’t have worms in your soil, it’s likely there’s a lack of organic materials or an overabundance of chemical fertilizers. Adding vegetable matter such as leaves, grass and some table scraps (no meat or dairy) can help, as can cutting down on or eliminating the use of chemical fertilizers (a good idea anyway, because they can end up in the watershed.

You can even purchase and raise worms (and not just for bait when you’re fishing). A simple search on the Internet will turn up a number of companies that sell them, along with worm bins to raise them in. Instructions on building your own worm bin are also readily available.

So the next time you take a walk outside, think about what’s underfoot: thousands of earthworms, working hard to cultivate the soil and make it a better place for growing.