Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Vermont Garden Journal: Earthworms

AP Photo/Dean Fosdick

Friday, November 15, 2013 at 5:57 p.m. and Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 9:35 a.m. I'm Charlie Nardozzi and this is the Vermont Garden Journal. We all have played with the wiggly earthworm since childhood. As gardeners we've been taught to revere the earthworm as a master decomposer of organic matter and savior of plants growing on clay soils. But all is not what it seems with the earthworm. There is a dark side to this creature.

First a little history. There are no native earthworms in North America. All the earthworms were wiped out in the last ice age 11,000 years ago. It was only when European settlers started arriving that earthworms were introduced. Earthworms in the garden are good guys. They gobble up organic matter, breaking it down into compounds plants can use. And they create water and air channels, helping breaking up clay soil. But what works in the garden, can wreak havoc in the forest. Their introduce has changed the ground rules of forest soils.

Forests grow best with thick layers of organic matter that decompose slowly. Understory plants thrive in this environment as well as sapling trees. With European and, now newer Asian, earthworms invading forests, they eat up the organic matter quickly, changing the habitat and reducing the understory. This changes the forest ecology impacting wildlife and eventually our beautiful, deciduous trees.

So what's a gardener to do? Certainly keep gardening with earthworms in your vegetable and flower gardens. But try to place your garden away from the forest and don't move soil and debris from your garden, to the forest edge for fear of moving earthworms. If you are vermicomposting indoors with red wiggler worms (another invader), let the worm castings freeze before spreading them outdoors or under plants. That will kill the wigglers and their eggs.

And now for this week's tip, cover root crops such as carrots, beets and parsnips with a 1 foot deep layer of hay or straw now to protect them in winter. You'll be able to dig and eat your roots all winter with this insulating layer on top.

Nest week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about protecting evergreen and roses from winter. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.

Dark Side of Wiggly Worms
Dark Side of Earthworms

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
Latest Stories