Alright students, it's time to test your knowledge of our crawly companions. You can check your answers at the end of this post - hopefully you'll fare better than I did!
Earthworm Pre-Test: True or false?
1. If you cut a worm in half, you'll end up with 2 worms.
2. Worms have lips.
3. A worm has no brain.
4. It takes 2 worms to create another.
5. Rabbits and worms have nothing in common.
Interesting as knowing the answers to those factoids may be, what you'll definitely want to remember is that earthworms are good to fish with, good for your birds to eat, good for recycling kitchen wastes, and good for your garden soil.
In their process of digestion, worms actually reduce soil acidity and complete the composting process of freeing up plant nutrients. So if you're interested in initiating a symbiotic relationship that will benefit your garden, your worm friends, and the environment...[commence frenzied drumroll]...vermicomposting is the answer!
Worms can be used to make fertilizer for your garden out of your household garbage or other organic material. Aristotle referred to the earthworm as the "intestines of the world." These lowly creatures eat dirt and organic matter. They combine this food with their digestive juices and excrete a mixture of organic and inorganic material called "castings." The castings improve both soil structure and its ability to hold moisture. Worm castings are practically neutral in pH; they're a water-soluble humus, a perfect fertilizer for plants. Both country and city gardeners can improve their soil by raising worms and using their castings in the garden.
Here's what you'll need to get started on creating your own backyard worm bin:
Your worm bin can be made of wood, metal, or plastic. All are equally good, but if you use wood it should be exterior-grade and not aromatic, because aromatic woods (redwood, cedar, etc.) are hard on the worms. Wooden worm boxes wear out. If you let the box dry out once in a while, it will keep longer; building 2 boxes and alternating them allows for that. Painting the wood with something like polyurethane varnish or epoxy also helps protect the wood. Otherwise a wood box will last only 2 or 3 years. If using a ready-made container, be sure it was not used to hold pesticides.
Thoroughly scrub any plastic container you use. You can build or place your bin outdoors if you live in a mild climate. The container should be no deeper than 12 inches; 8-12 inches is a good size. The worms tend to stay on the surface, so a deep container is unnecessary and will only encourage the growth of smelly microorganisms, which live where there is little or no oxygen. The width of your bin depends on how much organic garbage your household produces, if you're using the worms to recycle garbage.
Your bin should have 1 square foot of surface for each pound of garbage you'll be adding per week. (An average person produces about 2 lb. of garbage per week.) So for a family of 2, a 2 °- 2 °- 8-foot bin is generally good.
Are you inspired yet? Well, either way here are the answers to the pretest.
Earthworm Pre-Test Answers
1. False. One half may continue living, depending on the cut's location.
2. True. They actually have 3 lips.
3. False. Not only does a worm have a brain, it also has 5 hearts!
4. True. The red wriggler is bisexual but still needs to mate with another worm before laying its eggs. It will be blessed with hatched-out babies in 20 to 30 days.
5. False. These 2 animals have a good symbiotic relationship.