Earthworms are crucial to the well-being of any soil because they consume decomposing or dead organic materials and aerate the soil through their tunneling activities. Also, they enrich the soil with organic matter loaded with macro and micronutrients. Therefore, earthworms help make your garden more conducive to plant growth.
But, do earthworms eat plant roots? Don’t stress out if you don’t understand! Everything you wanted to know about this topic and more is right here. By reading this guide you will be able to know, Do Earthworms Eat Plant Roots?
How do earthworms help plant roots?
Earthworms in the soil are a great asset to any garden because of their positive effects on plants.
1. Decompose the organic matter.
When earthworms consume dead or rotting organic stuff, they speed up decomposition, making it more digestible for microorganisms like bacteria and fungi. These organisms play a tremendous role in the decomposition process and are an integral part of our ecosystem.
Other soil-dwelling organisms rely heavily on the bacteria and fungi that thrive off the nutrients supplied by earthworms. Soil laden with worm castings is likely home to more beneficial bacteria than soil with no worms.
2. Improve soil nutrition.
Organic debris that has died and decomposed, such as leaves, dead plant roots, and manure, are the primary food sources for earthworms. These nutrients store in the worm’s digestive tract and then excrete back into the soil along with the worm’s cast.
The high food content of these forms causes worms to abandon them in their burrows (mainly nitrogen and phosphorus). Plant roots can easily access nutrients in the soil’s subsurface voids.
Earthworms’ digested and subsequently expelled soil is five times as rich in nitrogen than undigested dirt. Some worms’ tunneling behavior is also beneficial because it allows fertilizer to be distributed more resounding in the soil, where plants can better use it. Additionally, worms do not devour fresh plant roots; thus, they do not represent a risk to healthy plants.
3. Help to grow healthy bacteria naturally.
Worms and beneficial microorganisms in the soil can coexist together. Microorganisms in the soil decompose plant food to provide essential nutrients for growth. Together, worms and soil bacteria can digest big organic matter particles and the soil bacteria themselves.
Because of the worms’ contribution to a stable ecosystem, it is not necessary to turn the soil. Cow manure, compost, and mulch can be used as a top dressing and mixed in by the soil’s natural organisms, eliminating the need to dig through the organic matter.
4. Enhance the soil’s structure.
By making tunnels and expanding dirt, earthworms make the ground more stable. Because of this structural change, water and soluble nutrients can quickly reach the plant’s roots. Worm burrowing has proved to increase water filtration by up to ten.
For this reason, worm-inhabited soil is far more resistant to flash floods than worm-free soil. The massive depths to which worms may dig are invaluable when it comes to preventing plant roots from rotting.
The holes form passageways that aid in soil aeration, water drainage, and filtering. A well-aerated soil environment provides essential ventilation for plant roots and other soil-dwelling organisms.
How do they help to aerate the soil?
Soil aeration is made possible by the work of earthworms, which creates tiny cracks in the ground where roots can spread and flourish. They will loosen the soil, promoting faster root development and greater root size.
5. Digest the old plant roots.
Earthworms will tunnel through dead plant roots so they can consume and digest them. A plant’s little and big roots will gradually replace as the plant develops. Since they are natural cleaners, worms will get to work clearing up the old roots and getting them out of the way so the new ones may flourish.
Worms are helpful because they eat decaying plant matter, including rotten roots. Worms will devour anything from small, dead plants to seasonal weeds. Worms will colonize plant roots that have stopped growing and no longer connect to a robust and healthy stem.
Soil bacteria will also consume the roots of a plant that has stopped growing. The bacterial decomposers of plant roots will be eaten and digested by the worms, releasing the carbon back into the soil.
6. Improve drainage.
Earthworms do a lot of digging and tunneling, which loosens and aerates the soil and makes it drain better. Up to ten times more quickly than soils without earthworms, soils with earthworms can drain.
Water infiltration can be up to six times greater in zero-till soils than in cultivated soils, where worm populations are large. Rain, irrigation, and gravity can move lime and other materials through the tunnels made by earthworms.
What do earthworms eat?
Earthworms eat mostly decomposing plant matter to survive (e.g., dead roots, rotting seeds, leaves, animal manure, and dead animals). Microbes, fungi, and even some soil particles consume to aid digestion.
Detritivores are earthworms that live near or on the soil’s surface and feast on decomposing plant matter and animal dung. Some detritivores, like “epigeic” earthworms, feed and dwell on the soil’s surface, while others, like “anecic” ones, do the same but burrow deep into the mineral soil.
In reality, they are pretty picky eaters who only eat decomposing stuff. They like to eat decaying leaves that have been around for a while rather than newly fallen ones.
They also favor high-protein, high-carbohydrate litter over low-protein, low-carbohydrate litter.
Do earthworms eat roots?
Earthworms are most at home munching on decaying organic stuff. They may consume tiny amounts of plant roots if they can’t find anything else to eat.
Yet they are typically too nutrient-dense and challenging, making digestion difficult, so they will forgo them if they can. Therefore, your plants will never again need to worry about earthworms.
In contrast, if they run out of dead organic materials, if you keep them in pots, they may begin devouring your plant roots.
Earthworms prefer the great outdoors and won’t survive well in a container, so don’t bother bringing them indoors. Furthermore, they could do more harm than good in that situation.
In a natural composting process, soil bacteria and worms combine to decompose dead plant roots and return their nutrients to the soil. It is a fantastic, hands-off method of revitalizing your soil.
The roots of an annual plant can leave in the ground after the plant itself has died off for the season by simply cutting off the top. Give them to the earthworms to eat and watch them disintegrate.
Additionally, encouraging the development of beneficial bacteria and fungus in the soil is a massive benefit of leaving plant remnants in place. Leaving the ground alone and letting the worms do the work can help it improve on its own, but digging it up can throw it out of whack.
Can I put earthworms in potted plants?
When deciding if it’s a good idea to retain earthworms in potted plants, there are many variables to consider.
How does the size of the pot affect putting earthworms in it?
The worm’s ability to move around and find the optimum food and surroundings with the best moisture and other living circumstances mainly depend on the pot size, making it the most crucial aspect.
Containers smaller than 16 inches or 10 gallons in capacity are not appropriate for worms. The standard for houseplant containers is substantially less than this. Consistency is vital when working with a limited amount of water in a little pot. The soil is either too dry or too moist for the worm to survive in either condition.
How does the potting mix affect putting earthworms in the pot?
Commercial potting mixes typically lack the living microorganisms and organic substance that earthworms need to thrive, so they are not a good choice if you want to pot your plant in soil. Earthworms that are starving could potentially consume the plant’s roots or even escape the container.
How does the soil quality affect putting earthworms in the pot?
Most houseplants require a relatively small amount of soil to grow in the pot. If you put earthworms in the container, the dirt will loosen too much, and the root ball won’t have enough support.
If the pot or garden is large enough, the worms can move freely throughout the soil, not just around the plant’s roots.
How do I keep earthworms in pots?
The following considerations may help you keep earthworms with your plants if your pot, container, or grow bag is more significant than 16 inches (40cm).
Don’t overstock the containers with worms. Problems such as hunger brought on by an increase in population could eventually impact your crop.
- You can use compost, rotted leaves, or even leftovers from the kitchen to enrich the soil. Excessive amounts of organic fertilizer can cause worms to get burned.
- Overwatering should avoid at all costs. It would help if you created drainage holes at the bottom of the container to avoid soaking the soil.
Recommend the use of worm castings. Earthworms and their castings significantly improve soil quality by increasing air circulation. Do you know? The worm castings are an excellent soil amendment for container plants because they improve drainage and water retention.
How to attract earthworms to your garden?
Assuming you aren’t starting with a completely bare plot, you probably already have worms on your soil. Instead of buying worms from a business, it’s more sustainable to let them fill your earth naturally. Thankfully, when you take care of the worms, you also take care of the plants.
1. Keep the soil moist.
After a heavy rain, earthworms may spot slithering above ground, but if the soil is too soggy, they may drown. If water collects in one spot, the drainage system is inadequate. If you have clay soil, amending it with compost and other materials will help the water drain more quickly.
In addition to being sterile, scorching, and uninviting, dry sand is an unfavorable growing medium. Loam soil has the ideal properties of both water retention and drainage.
That’s why it’s so important to water your plants regularly. Mulch can help conserve moisture and attract earthworms by simulating the conditions they like.
2. Enrich the soil structure.
Earthworms avoid compacted dirt because it is difficult for them to move around it. Keep off the soil until it has dried up completely, as moisture makes compacting it easier. When soil is tilled or dug, earthworm populations decline, and the ground becomes compacted, detrimental to plant growth. When you garden without disturbing the soil, worms can preserve their homes.
Compacted soil is not a good place for worms to live since it heats up more quickly than looser, moister soil. Preparing your soil for spring planting is better by growing a cover crop in the fall and tilling it into the ground in early spring.
It improves the soil’s overall health by increasing its nutrient content, decreasing water loss to wind and evaporation, and maintaining a more comfortable temperature.
3. Feed the earthworms.
In the absence of nourishment, earthworms won’t be able to accomplish much for your plants. Put in some compost, grass clippings, or leaf litter. Due to the commercial digestion process, commercial compost is excellent for plants but not worms.
When the growing season is over for annual flowers and vegetables, cut off the tops and compost the roots. Worms are permeable, so the worms will quickly absorb any insecticides, fungicides, or fertilizers applied to the soil.
4. Check the soil quality regularly.
Soil neutral in pH—not too acidic and not too alkaline—is ideal for earthworms. The pH of your soil can quickly determine. pH values of 6.0 to 8.0 are suitable for earthworms to thrive.
Watch How to feed the earthworms and plants | Video
What kinds of worms cause damage to plants?
Caterpillars of insects like moths, beetles, and butterflies, as well as worm-like parasitic nematodes, can cause severe damage to plant life. Caterpillars such as grub worms, cutworms, and horn worms prefer eating living plant roots and leaves over decaying ones. Those who live underground and feed on roots are difficult to spot unless you actively search for them.
Do earthworms mean healthy soil?
The role of earthworms in soil is multifaceted. They boost plant growth, water retention, and the cycle of nutrients in the ground. Although they are not necessary for a healthy soil system, their existence is often a good sign.
Why doesn’t my compost have any worms?
The temperature in your compost pile may be too high right now. Problems Associated with Humidity If it rains too heavily, worms will drown. If your garbage can has a plastic bottom, they may do this because they know they can’t get out. They will leave if the climate becomes too wet or too dry.
Can earthworms use in plant containers?
In contrast to ground soil or vermicompost, the earth used to pot a plant may not have enough food for earthworms to thrive and multiply. Thus, it would help if you didn’t introduce them. Casting tea can be used as a soil amendment and a foliar spray for your potted plants.
What is the average lifespan of an earthworm?
Within the first few months of life, they begin to develop sex organs, and by the time they are a year old, they have reached full size. They have a possible eight-year lifespan but are more likely to survive between one and two. Size at maturity for earthworms can range from under half an inch to about 10 feet in length.
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