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The word “worm” might not dig up the most pleasant image or feeling, but not all worms are created equal, and gardeners should take note.
Different types of worms live in soil, with various effects. Corn earworms, tomato hornworms, cutworms and cabbage loopers are a part of the dirty dozen of bad bugs that eat or suck the juices out of your backyard plants, and because they go from plant to plant, they can also spread diseases.
Meanwhile, nightcrawlers, which are large earthworms, are incredible for your garden, as they aerate the soil and convert dead plant matter into nutrient-rich super soil. Red wigglers are another variety of earthworm that are beneficial to your prized plants, serving as the ideal composting bug—ingesting food scraps and other organic waste at a rapid pace.
Keeping the “bad guys” away is a matter of first being sure to keep an eye out for garden worms regularly, then employing beneficial insects, like green lacewings, minute pirate bugs and damsel bugs. You can also use a spray with the ingredient spinosad, like Monterey Garden Insect Spray.
To introduce the “good guys,” you’ll want to wait until spring when the soil is warm, and then sprinkle one to two pounds of cornmeal over about 18 square feet of your garden, ensuring there is a noticeable dusting that covers the surface of the soil.
Use a shovel to mix the cornmeal into the top three inches of your soil, and then water the area until it is just moist. Having soil that is too wet will actually work against your hard work, merely drowning out the garden worms instead of helping them stay alive and thrive.
Waiting for the earthworms to do their thing is going to be like watching paint dry, so give it time! After about 30 days, your garden should produce enough bacteria to attract garden worms. At this time, add one to two pounds of cornmeal about every two weeks, checking every so often for earthworm activity.
Another great option is to add organic material such as manure or compost to your garden, which garden worms will seek out from near and far. The organic material also adds its own nutrients and moisture to your soil. It’s a win-win!