Fall work in spring: Let the earthworms do it!

I'm not sure where I first heard that line about letting the earthworms do your digging for you, but I'm putting it to the test this year. It's part of my effort to get away from digging in amendments every year, which is hard on the worms (they have permanent tunnels) and can even be hard on soil structure. Besides, it's too much damn work!

This year, I've got another excuse: no time. My shoulder injury last autumn meant that I barely managed to finish the harvest. As for cleaning up plots, laying down compost, prepping new plots—forget it. None of that happened.

Which means that all of that was left for spring. Which, as most of you know, has its own task list.

Now, some people faced with a particularly steep challenge will leap into action.

I, however, generally feel as if I'm not only behind the 8-ball, but, all too often, that I'm struggling to find the address where the game is being held. So given my own inertia, the extra load of work awaiting me, and this spring's extremely unconducive weather, I'm still prepping plots in June.

However, I will admit to taking shortcuts. I've been sifting compost, including the pile

  Hot compost

I built two autumns back, featured in the post, Hot Compost, Anyone? A year ago, when it was half this size, I planted potatoes in it; this spring, I've been sifting it, adding a bit of fertilizer (depending on the crop) before laying it down in a thick layer (about 3” deep) on plots that are up and running. But I'm not digging it in. I'll let the worms do that.

Here's hoping they carry down the potassium and phosphorus plants need. Those two nutrients, unlike nitrogen, are fairly immobile in soil, so I run the risk that plants will either not get what they need, or that they'll develop very shallow root systems in order to get it, since I provide those nutrients only at the surface. I've got my fingers crossed.

8 Responses to Fall work in spring: Let the earthworms do it!

  1. Sounds cool. Worms are must have in a garden environment. I think I will have to try that.

  2. Worms really helps our garden to grow organically. Many of them do worm casting which is the best natural growing secret for plants. Even with a very little quantity of worm castings, you get a large amount of beautiful yields extremely rich in texture. It is said that worm castings have large quantity of important nutrients compared to other organic fertilizers.

  3. Very interesting. I had originally thought the opposite that worms would actually affect the crops by eating it. It’s nice to know that it’s essential to have a healthy garden. What is the proper temperate to keep a healthy garden?

  4. Well, don’t try it yet, dw, as for all I know, it will kill all my plants…
    Definitely good for the garden, Jean, and I believe they all leave castings, which are indeed the best fertilizer around.
    Interesting, Karina, and not as far off as you might think. Worms–the earthworms most of us have in our gardens–do eat organic material on the surface, but they tend to stick to dead stuff. Don’t ask me why; you’ll have to interview a worm.
    Not sure what you mean by “the proper temperate to keep a healthy garden;” temperature? That’s a bit of a broad question–
    –Kate

  5. Thanks for the enlightenment! Haha, if only worms can talk. I apologize for that. In terms of maintaining a garden year round, what temperature would you say it should be? The area where I reside, the temperature differs and we have really cold seasons. I was wondering if there’s a way to maintain the garden year round with a limited space. Thanks!

  6. Well, Karina, we get real winters here in Montana, too. (Where are you?) But miracles can be done with even simple greenhouses. Check out Four Season Harvest, by Eliot Coleman.
    –Kate

  7. I would definitely rather try to let the worms do the work. I guess I will have to see how this works out. Thanks for the tip!

  8. I’ve always wanted to try out having a worm bin, as I’ve heard great things about them. For now though, I just don’t have the space! I’m currently doing all of my summer gardening out of a large raised bed on the roof of one of our county buildings near my work place. It’s difficult to work with, and I try to amend the soil with organic compost every year. I really think that worm castings would be a great addition, but for now I’m like you, I just have no time!

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