worms for gardens and lawn

Asked September 3, 2016, 5:24 PM EDT

We have used worms for composting, but in our severe winter weather, can they be used to improve gardens or lawn? I just bought a bunch for my compost and wonder if I should spread them out? Thank you. I really love your service.

Deschutes County Oregon

1 Response

Thanks for your question about worms! They are fascinating--and very different! The worms typically used for vermiculture/vermicomposting are red wrigglers (Eisenia fetida), and they really love living in 'rotting' organic matter. They are small, (under 2 inches) and do not like a soil environment. In fact, if you distribute them in the ground, they will try to move toward and into composting material. (You can often find them at the bottom of a compost pile.)

The worms that we call 'earthworms' or 'night crawlers,' Lumbricus terrestris, on the other hand, do eat organic material, live or dead, and can burrow down as deeply as 6.5 feet.

Worms are generally light intolerant (photophobic) and breathe through their skin, which has to be kept moist or they will die. As the night crawler/earthworm article points out, some species of worms are non native and some considered invasive.

So, short answer is that purchasing red wrigglers for composting and then spreading them out will neither get you their valuable castings, but won't benefit your soil either.

Happy worming!