Earth workers par excellence

Smooth, long and thin is the rainworm and it prefers to live in the first eight inches of soil under our lawn. Here comes the rainworm spared by the digging gardener and he is protected by the same gardener against his worst enemy, the mole. The most common type of rainworm in our garden is the Lumbricus terrestris . An adult specimen measures thirty centimeters and has more than one hundred and fifty rings. The color of a healthy worm is pink to reddish brown. The front is round and that’s where the mouth is; the back is flat. A third of the length from the head is a band that is important for the reproduction of the worm.

Rainworms can live up to ten years and you wouldn’t expect that. A lost head or tail piece can regrow. The rainworm absorbs oxygen directly through the skin; he has no lungs. A worm has no eyes either, but the worm’s body is sensitive to light. Light means danger to the worm: the hot sun dries it out and, moreover, when it is so horribly visible, it is an easy prey for many enemies.

Earthworms reproduce by laying eggs. It takes five months for a young worm to hatch from the egg and then the worm needs another year and a half to mature.

Every garden has rainworms; per hundred square meters of garden there are about three thousand rooting in it. They eat their way through the earth, which is mixed with the remains of half-decayed plants and animals. In this way, this army of worms creates numerous corridors that ensure a healthy water and air balance in the top root layer of the plants. The soil consumed by the worm, in which all the organic material has been digested by the intestinal action of the worm, is deposited on the surface in the form of mounds of earth. Other types of rainworms fill the higher corridors with the processed soil. This produces excellent soil, rich in plant nutrients and minerals from the deeper layers.

The worm army is able to completely replace the top two inches of garden soil with ‘worm’-processed soil within a few years. Stones that were on the surface have therefore sunk five centimeters below the surface.

Earthworm, foto: James Lindsey - CC BY-SA 3.0

The Gardener and the Rain worm
Frequent digging between the plants and ruthlessly keeping the garden surface ‘clean’ do not provide ideal living conditions from the rainworm up. Digging destroys the worm-friendly structure of the soil and makes it look for a less turbulent environment. Bare earth of the kind on which no fallen leaves lie and no weeds thrive, offers the rainworm no protection against the ever worm-hungry birds, hedgehogs, shrews and moles. The latter in particular is a major consumer: an adult mole can receive up to fifty rain per dayworms. Moles even build special storage rooms in which they store worms.
The presence of a compost bin is a big step towards a healthy worm population. The worms multiply quickly in such a hotbed full of organic waste, so that they can also do their good work elsewhere in the garden.

See also: Earthworm

Moss, moss and more moss

Really, moss everywhere..

Between the tiles, in the grass, the fresh green cushions of moss can now be seen everywhere. The months of January, February and the very beginning of spring are the most important months of the year for mosses. Then it receives all the available light, which will be blocked by leafy shrubs for the rest of the year. There is also enough moisture to swell the fine cell structure of the mosses to burst.

Mosses multiply by means of spores, which are formed in urn-shaped boxes. These spore capsules are covered by pointed caps, the hoods, which fall off as soon as the spores are ripe. Such a minuscule spore of moss settles for the very least: the most shady and insignificant spot in the garden. Moss is not welcome everywhere – for example in the lawn.

Actually moss is quite beautiful! In addition to the mosses that develop in the form of pillows, there are also the beautiful lichens. These colorful placards cover weathered walls. The Grey-cushioned grimmia with its green offshoots, nesting between the stones of the rock garden, is also present in early spring.

Give moss a place in the shade garden, because it is already there anyway. Find a decayed tree stump and tie to it, for example, Pin cushion moss, Silky-wall Feather moss and Rough-stalked Feather moss. Place the tree stump with the mosses in a shady spot under a large shrub. In the summer you can no longer see the mosses because its hidden under the shrubs. But as soon as the leaves fall in the fall, the moss emerges in its delicate splendor. With a bit of luck, some mushrooms will also grow among the mosses over the years.

herkennen mos in gazon
Lawn and moss, photo: PlantEnPlagen

The moss in the grass is a different story. It can best be combated by spreading lime; after all, moss likes an acidic environment. Preferably three times a year, a substantial dose of lime: at the beginning of the growth periods of the grass in March and August and at the beginning of winter when the heavy rain acidifies the soil. Dead moss is easy to rake away. Scarifying also removes the moss, but also a lot more – so don’t do it. See also: Scarify, better not.

Scarify, better not

The days are getting longer, the grass is starting to grow again and so is the moss in the lawn. The lawn looks lifeless after winter; fresh green tufts of moss are emerging. Dead blades of grass are hidden between the green. Some gardeners start talking about scarifying, about the ‘felting’ of the lawn. Between the grasses accumulate a thin layer of death grasses – the so-called felt layer.
What to do? Scarify? Or fertilize and maybe sprinkle some lime against moss?
Scarifying – machining the lawn, where moss and death grasses are cut away – seems effective. Once raked together, there is a large pile of moss and dead grass. The lawn has been freed from the moss, bare spots have arisen here and there and the layer of felt has been removed. With the moss and the felt layer, the humus – degradable dead organic material – has also been removed. The amount of humus determines the fertility of the soil. Every year humus disappears from the soil due to active soil life. Soil without organic matter is desert soil, nothing can grow there. Farmers replenish the humus content each growing season; if they don’t, that impoverishes the soil.
The soil life, that underground army of earthworms, sow bugs, fungi and bacteria, live on dead organic matter and process this while eating into nutrients that can be absorbed by plants. Scarifying deprives the soil life of its source of nutrition and the soil life deteriorates as a result. In the absence of worms, the soil hardens and the water permeability decreases. When it rains, puddles form on the lawn. After scarifying, fertilizing with an organic fertilizer (granules of cow and horse manure) is necessary. Reseeding the resulting bare spots is also necessary, otherwise the empty space will be taken up by pioneer plants such as ryegrass, bindweed, speedwell, clover and creeping buttercup.

Soil life
Let the soil life do its job instead of scarifying. Give the worms, sow bugs and centipedes food in the form of organic fertilizer and compost. The soil life springs up after the winter break, multiplies very quickly and breaks down the dead plant material, the felt layer. Earthworms scarify the lawn and prevent the soil from compacting, so that rainwater and air penetrate deep into the soil. the grass will take root more deeply and will then be more drought resistant. Is the soil on the sour side (< 6 pH , such as peat soil for example) which allows moss to form easily, then sprinkle lime granules in March and June. Rake away any large tufts of moss and sow bare spots.

Iron sulfate
Iron sulphate is sometimes used to kill moss: a fertilizer that also kills moss. However, iron sulphate is also deadly for soil life, so do not use it. Also because iron sulphate is unsafe stuff. It leaves rust stains on stones and floors and accidentally inhaling it is downright unhealthy. Keep pets (dogs and rabbits) away from ferrous sulfate treated lawns.

Moss formation is prevented by mowing not too short (< 4 cm), ensure good drainage and regularly sprinkle lime granules in the spring. Keeping the lawn slightly high will reduce the light of moss and slow down growth. In general, 5 cm is the best cutting height in the summer, which prevents burns and rapid dehydration during heat. In winter, grass can withstand snow and ice and then 6 cm is a good cutting height. A last mowing takes place in November, after which the grass grows after all, hardly any more.

Admittedly, such a natural lawn will look a little less tight than a fertilizer-sprinkled, scarified, super-green lawn. Fertilizer is the fast food among fertilizers: the grass ‘explodes’, but since fertilizer contains no organic matter, it does nothing for the soil; spreading fertilizer is short-term work. The soil is impoverished and an excess of fertilizer is leaked into the surface water. The result is a suffocating algae growth.

Blackbird with earthworm, photo: Look Sharp! - CC BY-SA 3.0

A healthy, living lawn
A non-scarified lawn has worm mounds and a thin layer of humus between the grass blades. In this layer live the worms, the sow buds and the centipedes. Blackbirds and thrushes come to look for earthworms on such a healthy, living lawn. Or a  visiting seagull that seems to dance. In reality, the gull kicks on the ground, creating vibrations so that worms and insects come to the surface (ha, rain!) after which they are picked up by the gull. This is how a seagull dances its meal together.


Birds with human features

The starling is a bird that feels at home in the city in late autumn. Like humans, the starling is a group animal. He also has decidedly human traits: his demeanor is often described as cheerful and chatty. So a nice bird.
The starling is an omnivore, and because convenience serves the starling, it seeks the company of humans. Because where there are people, there is food and the starling likes it all. In the countryside with orchards still full of fallen fruit and fields with leftover wheat, the starling is abundant.
But it is also a good place for the starling in the city: the people there leave enough food in the open air for starlings to get their money’s worth. In addition to urban landscaping, city dwellers also produce a great deal of – edible – waste. Together with the gull, the starling scours the garbage dumps en masse in search of edible items and thus benefits from human activities. The starling is therefore very prosperous and it is probably the most numerous bird in the world: it is estimated that more than a hundred million starlings fly around the world.
The group feeling of the starling is complicated. In the breeding season in spring it is lacking and the birds have enough on their own. They migrate into the province and nest in the countryside. Densely wooded areas and very open terrain are avoided, they build their untidy nests in trees and on buildings. Towards autumn, the group feeling rears its head and they seek each other out. They gather at a comfortable distance from their permanent home in the city and leave for humans in large groups.

When the first winter cold sets in, usually in the first week of December, most of the starlings leave. Heading south. Not all of them go, some hibernate in the urban environment. Sometimes the urban starlings are still visited by relatives from the far North, because when thick layers of snow have made food inaccessible there, these starlings sink to the south. We see these temporary guests scurrying around with their Dutch relatives.

Group of starlings, photo: CC0 Public Domain

Huge swarms stand out against the clear autumn sky. Food is also eaten at such a collecting site. A hundred thousand starlings dive into the meadows and eat everything that can be digested by a starling stomach.
Satisfied, they then all head for the city. To an environment with tall trees where they find a place to sleep under a lot of chatter.
Starling visits do not go unnoticed; at night the food is digested and in the morning before they return to the countryside in groups, they defecate extensively.

The grass in winter

Driving rain, hail showers and strong wind ravage the lawn

At night and early morning a chilly frost descends on the grace down. Moles leave a wild trail of mounds in their fierce hunt for worms. The GThe variety takes a beating in the winter, drenched in rain and sluggish because the growth is gone.

Careful when walking
The lawn, which is so strong in the summer, is vulnerable in the winter months. It is especially important if it has frozen on the ground at night and the blades of grass are still beautifully white.race to run. The otherwise flexible blades break like glass splinters under the heavy sole of the foot and then die brown. It won’t be until springonly then will they recover.

prevent moss
it gosun acidifies over time, partly due to our slightly acidified rain. If the growth of the gWhen the variety comes to a standstill during the winter months, the moss, which thrives in a slightly acidic environment, takes the opportunity to spread.
Rake the moss away. Sprinkle at the beginning of March, when it is possiblevariety gently begins to grow again, lime on the grace. This increases the acidity and makes it gasun moss-unfriendly. Fertilizing the gvariety is best at the beginning of April, when growth is completely back in the grace. That is also the time to remove any bald spots in the room to sow in the sun.

Mos in het gazon, foto: PlantEnPlagen

Moss growth in the grace, is unfortunately not the only thing that makes a tight gasun in the way. Moles , mildew , mushrooms , leatherettes can do itcause a lot of damage from the sun. More about diseases and pests in the ga sun can be found here .