When we talk of warms in soil, our minds go to earthworms and their beneficial use but, there are bad worms in garden soil and this can negatively affect plant growth in a garden.
It is only natural to wonder whether introducing earthworms to the garden is a good idea because earthworms themselves are frequently hailed for having numerous positive benefits on soil quality.
According to research on earthworms in agricultural contexts, earthworm burrows can increase soil aeration and water infiltration, and their castings (excrement) combine minerals and organic matter to produce soil aggregates.
Additionally, earthworm activity can release compaction and enable plants to access nutrients.
However, you can have healthy soil without earthworms, and if you have healthy garden soil, earthworms will likely appear on their own.
It is not required to buy worms to add to the soil, and moving them from one place to another can do more harm than good.
While earthworms are good for compost piles and garden beds, they can gravely harm natural ecosystems.
Not always; a variety of worm species are necessary to keep our garden soil aerated, and nutrient-rich, and to aid in the decomposition of rotting waste.
Specifically, vermicomposting is focused on the advantages of maintaining worms to make rich, extremely nutrient-rich compost for plant and vegetable growth.
If you are growing mold-prone plants or plants that require clear-draining media, such as lavender, which is generally quite tolerant when left to its own devices, you must keep your soil aerated.
Giving your plants and herbs a feast of soil that has been loosened by earthworms can encourage root growth and may even result in higher flower and food crop outputs.
Thankfully, eliminating the majority of “bad worms” from the soil in a humane manner may only need relocating them to a compost bin or applying fresh neem oil to the topsoil to serve as a deterrent.
Don’t be tempted to stock up on chemicals because there’s no need to use them in your garden to get rid of the hungriest “evil worms”!
Act now if harmful worms and larvae are affecting your plants or you risk losing lovely plants that attract butterflies and other pollinators.
Why some Worms are Bad for your Garden
Below are the reasons why some worms are bad for your garden.
- Competition with Other Species
- They enter through alien soil from distant lands.
- Some worm species are invasive.
- Some worms are capable of removing every nutrient from fertile soil.
1. Competition with Other Species
The majority of earthworm species are helpful to your garden, but when they outcompete other animals for soil and nutrients, worms can have a detrimental impact.
2. They enter through alien soil from distant lands.
Any species closely related to the earthworm will likely be beneficial for maintaining the aeration of your soil; “nightcrawlers” are a sort of earthworm that sometimes receives a bad rap that isn’t necessarily justified.
While some worm species can be invasive and harmful in the wild, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about in your garden.
This word is frequently used to describe worms that have traveled to North America via foreign soil.
In North America, night crawlers are not native. They originated in Europe and are currently dispersed across North America and Western Asia.
They may have arrived in soil used as ballast in ship bottoms.
3. Some worm species are invasive.
This indicates that some of these worms can overrun a certain area or garden. Temperate woodlands may suffer if invasive species of earthworms from the suborder Lumricina are present.
These woods require thick coverings of duff that is slowly degrading, like the layer of needles, bark, and other waste found beneath fir or pine trees.
When earthworms infiltrate forests, they eat the organic materials, break them up, and disperse them throughout the soil. Nutrient cycling and leaching are increased as a result.
4. Some worms are capable of removing every nutrient from fertile soil.
These worms in your lawn alter the soil composition of our natural areas and gardens. Rich organic soil is transformed into tiny crumbles that resemble coffee grounds by jumping worms.
As a result, nutrients are depleted, soil fungi are disturbed, and soils’ capacity to retain water is reduced. All of this affects the well-being and output of our garden plants.
You might need to alter some of your landscape’s planting and management procedures as their population increases.
7 Bad Worms in Garden Soil to Watch out for
Some worms are good for the soil in gardens. For instance, earthworms plow the soil while preserving important nutrients. However, several other species kill and destroy garden plants.
Many common plants can suffer damage by types of jumping worms, nematodes, tiger worms, and cutworms, which can sometimes eat away at roots and stems.
Let’s take a closer look at some worm species you should avoid and how to get rid of them.
1. Jumping Worms
The Amynthas agrestis receives its name from the fact that when disturbed, it appears to jump. These worms traverse the ground by moving in a snake-like manner when left alone.
Since these worms do not burrow, it is odd that they are typically found in the higher layers of soil.
Jumping worms are often brown and have an eye-catching “clitellum” (the creamy, white band around their bodies).
They can survive in both hot and cold climates, and between the end of the summer and the beginning of the fall, they make cocoons.
Due to their ability to take nutrients from topsoil, these invasive worms can be harmful. This affects the growth of plants by altering the soil’s chemistry and removing essential nutrients.
Plants and trees, especially saplings, may take longer to grow as a result.
Picking out adult jumping worms by hand while gardening is the simplest approach to get rid of them from your soil.
Try adding about a third of ground mustard seed to a gallon of water and drizzling it over your soil to help these little animals emerge from the ground more quickly.
2. Land Flatworms
There are over 900 different kinds of land flatworms, making them among the most invasive creatures in your yard.
This predator is reported to attack and consume things 100 times larger than itself in addition to eating snails and earthworms.
Their aggressive predatory activity can eliminate beneficial worms and insects that you want to welcome, which are harmful to the soil in your garden.
Furthermore, these obstinate creatures may even limit pollination in your garden and lower soil quality.
Land flatworms lack segmentation and are flatter than other species. They can reach a length of 20 inches, are dark in color, and resemble a slimy ribbon.
These worms can be found in chilly, wet, shaded locations.
Killing land flatworms immediately with salt or hot water is the best method for getting rid of them from your garden (avoid chemicals).
Citrus oil and vinegar can also be used to ward off these pests, though.
3. Grub Worms
Grub worms, which are beetle larvae, emerge from the earth where adult beetles have lain their eggs. They are tiny, creamy, white wrigglers.
These worms are commonly found curled up, with darker patches on either tip and are rarely more than three inches.
If these worms are allowed to multiply in garden beds and containers, they can cause significant damage.
Grub worms start to work devouring lush foliage and, in some circumstances, eating through plants to the point of devastation even though they only normally remain in their larval form for up to six weeks.
Due to their small size, grub worms are not always simple to get rid of. If your bed or pot is overrun, the best course of action is to fully replace your topsoil.
In any case, grub worms are a tasty treat for visiting birds and frogs. If you simply make your garden more appealing to larger species, the issue may go away on its own.
4. Tiger Worms
Tiger worms are a particular annoyance for North American gardens since they only have a month to live, but during that time, they tunnel along plant roots and do serious harm.
The tiger worm will also multiply furiously and give birth to a large number of children during its brief lifespan.
Tiger worms are striped, as one might expect, and are typically simple to identify when not hidden by their brown hue. Typically, the Eisenia fetida is categorized as a species of earthworm.
Tiger worms aren’t entirely awful, but if they’re allowed to reproduce carelessly, they may do a lot of harm, however, they can contribute to keeping the land fertile.
Since they are renowned for being voracious eaters of both decaying materials and living vegetation, they are also frequently found in vermicomposting bins.
Tiger worms can best be eliminated by manually removing them from burrowing areas while being cautious to check for offspring.
If at all possible, move them to your compost container as opposed to letting them destroy healthy plants.
5. Pot Worms
While not as damaging as some of the worms on our list, pot worms can nibble away at your plants and out-compete other, more beneficial creatures. They thrive in moist compost.
They can be helpful, much like tiger worms, by aerating your soil. They are frequently mixed up with other white worms found in your soil.
Although this species typically looks like small pieces of thread crawling around your soil, pot worms are occasionally mistaken for grub worms.
Pot worms should only actually be removed, in contrast to other species in this guide, if they are beginning to overrun your bed or container.
Because pot worms don’t like alkaline soil, it would be a good idea to add organic mulch to lower the pH. If numbers are out of control, another option is to remove the topsoil and use neem oil as a deterrent.
Contrary to common opinion, cutworms are destructive, invasive larvae that eventually turn into cutworm moths.
This species is frequently seen in garden soil in the early spring, furiously devouring plant life before pupating into its adult form. For up to two months, you could have to fight off cutworms on your own.
The Pennsylvania Integrated Pest Management Program’s J. Kenneth Long claims that whereas adult cutworms consume the entire plant, the larvae burrow underground and attack the plant’s surface.
The plant eventually perishes as a result. Fortunately, a variety of helpful garden guests frequently feast on these ravenous little creatures.
Wasps, for instance, are well-known larval cutworm predators, and spiders and birds will also eat them if the chance presents itself.
Cutworms typically consume rotting material, which might be beneficial for composting. The variegated variety has yellow patterns, and they are typically black to brown in hue with spots.
There is a type of microscopic roundworm called the root-knot nematode. Plants’ roots are fed on by it, which results in the formation of knot-like growths and swellings on the roots.
The plant’s capacity to absorb nutrients and water is hampered by these growths.
According to Mary Olsen of the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, infected plants develop slowly and are more prone to wilting.
Due to their rapid multiplication and preference for plant roots, nematodes of many types, the root-knot in particular, maybe a nightmare for gardeners.
The root-knot nematode can be particularly annoying because of the way it feeds, which causes swollen roots that impede plants from absorbing water and nutrients.
Consequently, untreated nematode issues can cause widespread plant mortality.
Since these worms are difficult to observe without a microscope, the harm they cause is frequently evident before the specimens themselves.
If you’re giving your plants the correct care and they’re still dying from what appears to be dryness and/or malnutrition, hidden nematode activity may be to fault.
Acting soon is essential; at worst, you might need to entirely remove your topsoil and treat it with neem oil or another natural pesticide.
Nematodes can be prevented from returning by incorporating some repellent plants, such as French marigolds and painted daisies, into your oil.
Without applying pesticides, which would also kill other species, it is practically impossible to eradicate earthworms from the forestland that they have invaded.
However, organic farmers with crops close to forests can take steps to stop the spread of earthworms. You can cease utilizing worms if you compost with their help.
Compost material should be frozen for at least a week before spreading, though this may not be possible. This will kill worms and their eggs.
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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
Let's see how we can mitigate these problems together.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.