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Worms might be very slimy and sometimes irritable creatures, but they are just as vital to the ecosystem as humans themselves. From being great allies for your soil to being a source of life for your plants, your garden would just not be the blooming beauty it is without them.
But how do these worms survive? What do worms eat and drink? Would they devour my seedling? This article entails in comprehensive detail everything you need or want to know about earthworms and their feeding habits.
What do earthworms eat?
Earthworms feed on many forms of organic material, e.g., garden clippings, vegetable peelings, decaying leaves, coffee grounds, eggshells, and many types of living organisms such as nematodes, protozoa, rotifers, bacteria, and fungi.
An earthworm can consume the equivalent of its own bodyweight on a daily basis.
Primarily, the diet of earthworms mostly consists of decaying plants (grasses, leaves, plant debris), rich in cellulose, but they also enjoy bacteria and fungi. By leaving hay or dead leaves on the ground, you allow them to acquire all the necessary resources and keep their role as soil decomposers.
Vermicomposting makes it possible for earthworms to transform our kitchen waste into quality vermicompost, subsequently producing organic liquid fertilizer.
Vermicomposting consists of placing earthworms in a “vermicomposter” where they feed on the waste brought to them. Their droppings accumulate and constitute vermicompost which blends perfectly with the odorless soil.
Due to their body composition, earthworms are great indoor organisms and are perfectly suited to the needs of city dwellers: they do not emit odors and ensure rapid decomposition.
The earthworm depends on the abundance of decomposing plant and soil matter for its survival.
Worms help the process of breaking down the already deteriorated matter into even smaller pieces, digesting them, and re-depositing them in the soil. While earthworms mainly consume the roots of dead and decaying vegetable plants, they eat live red clover (Trifolium pratense).
In addition to dirt, other earthworm delicacies include manure and dead animals, as well as the dead leaves of trees such as maple (Acer), birch (Betula), and ash (Fraxinus).
How much do earthworms eat?
It depends on how many worms you have. Earthworms can eat their weight each day and can double their population every 3 months. If you start with 1000 earthworms they will consume between 250 and 500 grams of waste per day.
After a few months, you should have 2000 earthworms and you can subsequently double their feeding ratio. Baby earthworms (small earthworms) will not eat much and will take about 3 months to reach adulthood.
How do I improve the appetite of the earthworms?
Earthworm populations are capable of consuming two tons of organic waste per hectare in one year. However, to be possible, organic materials must be present in sufficient quantities and of a certain quality to sustain them.
In soils that contain a lot of carbon and not enough nitrogen, vegetation takes longer to break down, providing less material for the worms to process. Adding manure to the soil improves digestibility, giving the worms a more ravenous appetite.
What is the ideal living condition for earthworms to maintain a ravenous appetite?
Earthworms must be kept within a temperature range of 15 °C and 25 °C and have a humidity between 75 and 85%. The pH should also be between 6.5 and 8.
Also, you might want to tell your neighbors that they don’t like noise, and are photophobic in nature.
Do earthworms excrete after eating?
After eating, the digestive system of the worms is so well-structured that the worms eject the result of their consumption in the form of castings, small twists on the surface of the ground. The good news is, the more castings you have in your garden soil, the better the soil in your garden.
In order not to disturb the earthworms, it is better to avoid turning the soil in depth (forget the old-fashioned “Plows”) or the fork-spade which could sink too deeply to turn the soil and thus disturb the micro-organisms.
Use tools such as the “broad fork” if you want to work the soil in the garden, especially in a vegetable garden.
The worms defecate on or near the surface of the earth. Their feces or racks are rich in nutrients and make the soil more fertile.
When is the best time to feed the earthworm?
Autumn is the best season to bring the organic matter to your soil to enrich it, and therefore to earthworms which break down this organic matter and make it assimilable by plants.
During this season, the favorite food of earthworms is cellulose. Place on the surface of the ground: dead leaves, grass clippings, kitchen peelings, and weeds. If you run out of raw material, then opt for cardboard boxes (preferably brown with no tape, no inscriptions) will do, it’s practically pure cellulose!
Autumn catches earthworms fully active. Take advantage of this to enrich your soil and prepare it for the coming year’s crops. The soil will be easier to handle, loose, airy, and perfect for your seedlings and plants.
What kind of food is harmful to earthworms?
Materials such as plastic, synthetic fabric, metal, cement, snack bags, tetra pak and glass are not ideal feeds for your worms.
Among other things that you should never have to add is: bread and its derivatives, cooking oil, diseased plants, paper with color printing, human or animal feces, meat products, dairy products, and rice.
If you have any questions about what to put or not, this site is the ideal place to leave your questions, I will gladly answer them.
What do earthworms drink?
Nothing. As off as that might sound, not even water is ingested by these little slitherings. But put into proper context, this is not as incredulous as it sounds.
Unlike vertebrae, who need lungs to respire, worms breathe through their skin, which is the same medium they get the water they drink.
However, for worms to inhale oxygen, the skin has to be moist. To moisturize, worms create a mucus coat beneath their skin that aids to retain as much water as they need, all of which is gotten from the surrounding soil.
However, since too much of anything is bad, worms will drown if the ground is too wet. Hence the reason why worms come out of hiding in their numbers onto your driveway after a rainstorm.
On the other hand, if the soil gets extremely dry, these worms will possibly suffocate due to dehydration, if they can’t find moist ground quick enough.
Will worms eat my plant?
Earthworms also called nightcrawlers or rain worms, eat leaves and other plant matter. However, they do not eat the fresh plants and leaves directly, rather they prefer to eat decomposed leaves and plants in the ground.
What kind of worms should I be feeding?
There are around a hundred species of earthworms in the US, distributed according to the area they occupy in the soil.
The piglets (less than 5 cm deep), dark red, live on the surface, in leaf litter or decomposing plant waste (particularly compost, leaf litter, etc.). It is the worms in this category that are used for vermicomposting (Eisenia fetida and Eisenia Andrei).
Endogés (1 to 20 cm deep), pink, whitish, even translucent, live in networks of horizontal galleries in the first 20 cm of the soil and eat dead roots. For example, the cutworm (Nicodrilus caliginosus).
The anecics (10 to 30 cm deep), large, red, gray, or brown, come out of the earth every night to look for the organic matter on which they feed, empty their intestines by making a “cast” (which is rich in nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and calcium – easily assimilated by plants), then descend into their vertical galleries, burying organic residues with them.
Among them, the common earthworm (Lumbricus terrestris) is the best known. They thus participate in the bioturbation of the soil by intimately mixing organic and mineral matter and by promoting microbial activity. More stable and better structured, these soils are more fertile and less sensitive to erosion. Thanks to their network of galleries, these tireless ploughmen aerate and drain the soil.
How do worms digest food?
The organic matter that is ingested by these invertebrates is mobilized directly through the pharynx to reach the esophagus and on getting here, passes to a structure called a crop, which is a simple sac that serves as storage.
The process continues to transport the material stored in the crop to a compartment or structure that resembles a simple stomach called a gizzard, where particles are crushed and simpler nutrients are obtained to allow better absorption of them in the intestinal tract.
Like all digestive systems, unprocessed foods that are mixed with mud or swamp are excreted through the anus, which is when they expel the so-called humus, which is a mixture of mud with organic matter.
Have you ever been sitting out in your garden enjoying a cup of tea and when your finished there’s some left in the tea pot. You could put it down the drain however that would be a waste of water. You maybe wondered “Can I water my plants with tea?”
Let’s find out…
Can I Water My Plants With Tea?
What benefits are there in watering with drunken tea? If you conduct a chemical analysis of tea, you can find in the composition of the drink minerals and organic matter, as well as tannins, that will acidify your soil. Not all houseplants need such acidification.
We can certainly say that ferns that suffer from the action of carbonate salts in soil or water as well as cacti that love hard water and the tannins it contains, respond well to tea.
The rest of the houseplants, however, react to the watering of the teapot with a lot of disdain or probably disgust. More so, there is no reliable experimental data that would prove the obvious benefit of such a fertilizer.
There is an opinion that regular mulching of the soil with tea residue helps to retain moisture, and if you make tea leaves under flowers indoors and gently store them in a flowerpot, the plants will receive a fertilizer with an extended lifespan.
Disadvantages of Watering Your Plants with Tea
Flavored tea with additives can lead to dramatic consequences for flowers including root rot and imbalance of soil nutrients.
Watering plants with tea leaves that contain sugar provokes the appearance of a fungus mosquito in the pot, black midges, and other pests that are not easily eliminated. These pests will start a toxic relationship with your flower and will require a huge chunk of alimony to severe the marriage.
When using moldy tea, you can introduce bacteria, mold in the soil (apparently) and cause soil contamination.
For cases of domestic greenhouses that prefer acidic soil, such addition can only do more damage than good.
Top Tip: You can determine the acidification of the soil by such signs as a greenish coating on the soil, which gives off an unpleasant smell, rotting of inflorescences and leaves, as well as mold on the petioles of plants.
These arguments will make the supporters of the “grandmother” methods reflect and think deeply. But if you are a cultured person and can’t be dissuaded by what neighborhood folks think, you might as well go ahead with teeing up your flower, pun intended.
How to Use Tea Leaves for Irrigation and Fertilizer?
This option may be acceptable to supporters of organic floriculture, as natural remedies have recently become widespread.
Top Trick: Any tea can be used for watering: black, green, herbal. The main thing is that it does not contain additives and flavors of synthetic origin.
How to Water Plants With Tea Infusion?
Make sure your flowers need soil acidification. Plants like tomatoes, oxalis poinsettia, and east lily thrive in acidic conditions. A simple soil test can be performed with a litmus test.
You do not need to constantly pour this fertilizer under the flowers, several times a month is enough. Avoid watering your plants with tea that has added sugar, acidic or moldy solution. You can use a cool, weak, unsweetened solution at room temperature.
Top Trick: If, in addition to watering, the tea leaves also flow under the flowers, then it is necessary to strictly fix the amount of them, mixing them with the top layer of the soil. This method will help maintain humidity, which will require you to water the plant less often.
Some Other Ways to Use Tea Leaves.
If you are a tea addict like many of us, then you might be “elated” to discover that there are other means to use them.
A large amount of waste after drinking tea can be turned into a drainage layer when planting a flower in a new pot.
To do this, lay the tea leaves on the layer of expanded clay, sprinkle with earth and plant a flower. When it reaches the roots of the lower soil layer, part of the tea leaves already decompose and serve as organic fertilizer.
Instead of a drainage layer, the dried tea leaves are mixed with the flower soil when a plant is transplanted into another pot. This additive is acceptable if the soil is dense, then it acts as a baking powder.
So, if you use tea for watering, then you should do it following all the rules, do not use additives and flavorings, or moldy raw materials. This method is best for plants that prefer acidic soil and hard water with tannins.
When adopting this method, try to regularly loosen the soil under the flowers indoors and monitor the condition of the plants. When midges and other insects appear, you need to cultivate the soil and reduce watering.