Eplants.co.nz............ New Zealands Plant Portal........ Over 6,500 Kiwi Plant People and Services
The only site in the World with Live Images from Chelsea, Melbourne and Ellerslie Flower Shows.
WebCams | The Search | Plantfinder | This Weeks Tips | Featured | Eplants Home |

New Herb News Here


Welcome to New Zealands Plant Portal. Wally Richards Weekly Garden Tips & Advice.

Gardening Articles for week ending 20th OCTOBER 2007
Written by Wally Richards.

Earthworms are a very important aspect in gardening, when you have lots of worms in your gardens you will have healthy plants and soil. If you have good worm populations you can bet your bottom dollar that the soil food web is active and healthy also. On the other hand when you have few or no earthworms then your soil and plants have a problem. We can gauge the health of our soil by the number of earthworms per square foot which can be 50 or more in that given area.
There are basically two types of worms, surface feeders (tiger worms) which only operate in the organic matter near the surface of the soil. Then there is the bigger, deep dweller worms, which operate in the area from near the surface and down to several feet under ground. The later one maybe the only one you come across when digging the gardens if you are not supplying ample organic material to the surface of the soil on a regular bases. The deep dwellers do a lot of good bringing up minerals from the lower depths and taking organic matter down, but it is the surface dwellers that achieve the best gardens for us, breaking up organic matter as their contribution to the soil food web.
Plant disease spores are in the soil near the surface waiting for the right conditions to activate and cause the common health problems we see in our plants such as rust and blackspot. When you have good populations of surface feeding worms they take the spores into their bodies as they are feeding and get rid of the spores.
Some years back I read an interesting account of the comparison between two orchards, one had sheep and geese to keep the grasses and weeds down where the other used Roundup.
When the scientists investigated the orchards they found good worm populations in the one with sheep grazing but sparse worm populations where the Roundup was used. The instance of diseases in the trees of the Roundup weed controlled orchard, was high and frequent chemical spray needed to be applied.
Where in the more natural, earthworm populated orchard diseases were minimal and only required occasional control methods. The scientists concluded it was the surface feeding worms that were responsible for the low disease rates, killing millions of spores while they foraged.
The other aspect would be a far healthier soil food web and thus, healthier fruit trees to boot.
To obtain good worm populations they are a few do’s and dont’s. You have to supply ample organic material to feed the worms which means animal manures and organic waste such as foliage of weeds or plants. They need a sweet or alkaline soil so a spreading of Rapid Lime every 3 months will be to advantage. The surface of the soil needs to be kept moist and moisture retained by a good layer of compost or mulch.
The liberal use of all man made fertilisers must be avoided as these create an acidic condition which kills the soil life and makes the worms move away to better conditions. Likewise the avoidance of chemical spray and chemical weed killers.
A little man made fertiliser at the base of a plant can be used if needed, but that is all and a little Rapid Lime applied to remove the acid effect.
The problem arises in the summer when the soil starts to dry out and we have to water the garden to keep the plants happy and the soil life working. If our water is one which contains chlorine from the town’s supply, the chlorine is going to kill the soil food web and really upset the worms.
Last week I was contacted by a lady in Palmerston North who breeds Tiger Worms for sale to home gardeners. During the conversation I asked her if she knew what effect chlorinated water had on earthworms. She told me that they had, some years back, while living at Bulls, the need to moisten up their worm pits as the summer had become very hot and dry. (Normally worm pits require no extra moisture as they are covered and ample moisture is available most of the year)
But this particular summer the tops of the beds became too dry and the worms would not work in these conditions so they applied light sprinklings of the town’s water which contained chlorine.
What transpired was the young, immature worms suddenly went into panic mode and reached maturity rapidly so they could reproduce themselves but they were incapable of laying eggs.
The mature worms became very inactive only eating sufficient to keep themselves alive and for 6 months would not reproduce. This meant for that period of time these worm farmers had no stock to sell. I did not realise that chlorinated water could affect worms so much.
To overcome the problem if you can stand your chlorinated tap water in vessels for a day or so then the chlorine will dissipate and can be used safely on your gardens. The alternative is to spend about $120 on a filter housing and filter to connect your outside tap to. The replacement filters are about $35.00 and one filter should last about a season dependant on how much water you are needing to use.
They make the world of difference to your gardens, keeping the plants growing and healthy.
You can obtain a worm farm such as the Worm-a-Round where you can breed your own worms with your kitchen scraps. Not expensive and a big savings in the longer term. You gain the worm pee which is a fantastic food for your soil and plants plus the vermicast (worm casts) for potting up and soil conditioning.
Alternatively you can make a worm pit in a garden by digging a hole about 16cm deep and 30cm wide, into the hole place some shredded, wet newspaper along with kitchen scraps. Place a sack or cover over the hole and leave for a week or so and then from a worm farmer obtain a bag of Tiger worms.
Put the worms into pit and cover. Add more kitchen scraps over the ensuring weeks and your starter pack of worms will multiply.
By placing wet newspaper, animal manure and compost over the surrounding soil the worms will spread out over the garden. Keep the area moist with non-chlorinated water and avoid chemical fertilisers and sprays. Overtime you will find that your humus level will build up and you can speed up this process by watering Mycorrcin and Magic Botanic Liquid into the compost layer every month or two.
Sprinkle Rapid Lime about every 3 months but avoid areas where acid loving plants are growing.
The only disadvantage of having a worm pit, compared to a worm farm, is not being able to collect and use the worm pee.
A lady told me a story a couple of years back about how she started a Worm-a-Round farm off but instead of collecting the worm pee she just left the tap turned on, to drip out.
The spot where she placed the Worm-a-Round was rough ground as hard as the hobs of hell where nothing but a few weeds grew.
After several months she discovered that soil area around the worm farm, where the worm pee had being dripping, was far better soil than in her gardens. Thats nature at work for you.
If you have good worm populations you are fortunate so look after them, they are the greatest asset you have in your gardens. If not, you should look at buying a worm farm or bags of worms and making worm pits. I tell you what, you will thank me in a year or two’s time if you do so, and don't forget to look after the worms.

Any Problems ring me at 0800 466464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
Email wallyjr@gardenews.co.nz
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz

Garden Pages and News at www.gardenews.co.nz
Shar Pei pages at  www.sharpei.co.nz

Problems ring me at 0800 466 464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz

Garden Pages and News at www.gardenews.co.nz
Shar Pei pages
at www.sharpei.co.nz

Please check out the Event Calendar. If you want your activity included, just let us know. Thank you.


Chelsea Flower Show

Taking us to show you
the Worlds Greatest Garden Shows. Live.

Thank you. Eplants Email