Native worms vs. red worms in soil

Asked April 25, 2019, 4:14 PM EDT

I have a red worm compost bin and am wondering if it is safe to use that compost in my yard's vegetable garden, since it inevitably contains red worm cocoons. I have heard the use of non-native worms such as red worms can be harmful to worms native to our soil and can out-compete the natives. I live in Tumalo. Second, is there a way to process red worm compost to remove/kill any cocoons so it is safe to use (though this does not appeal to me)? Third, if red worms exist in the vegetable garden, will they eat the plants' roots and/or root vegetables growing beneath the surface there? If you are not sure of answers to these questions, please so state. BTW, I do not ever use synthetics or poisons in my yard. Thank you.

Deschutes County Oregon

1 Response

Hi. Nothing to worry about on any of these scores.

Red wigglers are not going to survive in your garden soil - it doesn't contain enough raw organic matter to sustain them. Likewise any cocoons applied with the castings will hatch but not live long. Red wigglers eat organic matter that has been partially decomposed by fungi - they slurp up the slimy parts. Unless plant roots are diseased, they won't food on them.

Like any manure, worm castings have a higher concentration of essential plant nutrients than the original foodstuffs. I like to put ~ a cup of castings under vegetable starts (tomatoes, peppers) to give them a good start. I've been doing on my property for 30+ years; red wigglers have not taken over my garden yet ...