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