Are Worms Good for Gardens? (or Are Earthworms Bad for Your Garden?)

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From an early age, we learn about all kinds of creatures that live in and on the ground, often referring to them as ‘creepy crawlers’. That could be one of the reasons why many of us come to believe that most insects and other little creatures are more of a nuisance to our gardens and crops than they are essential.

Yes, earthworms are fantastic for your garden. They help to aerate and add nutrients to improve the quality of your soil with their worm castings.

Sadly, many people ignore just how essential certain creatures are. You should not so easily dismiss the red worms and night crawlers from your garden soil, and should in fact pay more attention to making your garden a welcoming place for earthworm populations.

Let’s take a look at why.

Is It Good to Have Worms in Your Vegetable Garden?

Yes – earthworms can be useful in getting rid of decayed vegetable matter.

For those of us who grow vegetables, either in our own gardens or in entire crops, we have known the awful feeling that you get when you realize that something has been eating and/or killing our beloved vegetables.

Although some of us tend to resort to the idea that it must be earthworms, it is important to know that this is simply not the case.

Earthworms will never harm your living and growing vegetables.

In fact, earthworms do not eat any living organic material, instead, they only consume decaying organic matter.

So, yes, they will eat your plant roots, but only if they are dead. And they help to eat your vegetables, only if they are rotting. 

Therefore, to maintain healthy soil in your garden, it is always best to have garden worms.

Do Worms Help Gardens Grow?

In a way, yes, earthworms do help gardens to grow. In fact, earthworms are essential for a healthy garden.

As was mentioned before, earthworms will only eat decaying organic matter. Therefore, they automatically help to take care of the dead cells that enter the soil, be it from a plant or animal.

Moreover, beyond taking the dead matter away by eating it, they then turn it into something that is very beneficial for your garden. 

The decaying organic matter that the worms eat is then transformed into worm castings (worm poop).

Believe it or not, those worm castings will do wonders for your garden. The worm castings are full of nutrients that will help your plants to grow.

Beyond that, they will also help to keep your plants hydrated. Worm castings are well known for being able to contain moisture very well.

The plants that consume the worm castings through their roots are then far more likely to remain hydrated, as the worm castings will help them to contain moisture.

As any plant lover knows, good hydration is key to the survival of any plant, and worm castings are a great way of ensuring that. 

Moreover, beyond helping to keep the plants hydrated, simply by living in the soil, the earthworms are helping your plants to be healthier.

As earthworms burrow through the soil, they aerate the soil, thus providing more air for your plants.

Again, as any plant lover knows, ensuring that your plants having the right aerated atmosphere is key to their health and longevity, and that is best ensured by our friends the earthworms. 

worms all over the green leaves

Do Worms Harm Gardens?

No, earthworms do not harm gardens. In fact, as we have just seen, earthworms are essential to the good health of gardens. 

However, as you know, earthworms are not the only kinds of worm that you are likely to find in your garden, and there are indeed worms that are capable of inflicting more damage than good to your garden. 

Nematodes are the best-known worms that can damage gardens. Nematodes are known for consuming all kinds of organic matter, including earthworms. (However, beneficial nematodes will live in harmony with earthworms and help your garden and its soil.)

Other worms, including jumping worms, Alabama jumpers and snake worms, are also known for causing quite a bit of damage to gardens. 

Other worm-like creatures including fly larvae, or maggots, are known to consume fruits and vegetables as they grow, thus killing them or at least rendering them inedible for humans. 

Of course, there are ways of protecting your garden from all kinds of threatening worms, however, you will need to ensure that the methods that you plan on using will not be harmful to your plants, your own animals and family, and indeed the earthworm.

Many chemical-based insecticides can easily kill worms and damage vegetation, not to mention compromise the safety of certain fruits, vegetables, and herbs for human consumption.

It is therefore a better idea to look at natural ways of keeping your garden and crops safe from the wrong types of worms while maintaining a healthy environment for worms.

Should I Put Earthworms in My Garden?

Due to their undeniable benefits for plants, trees, and other kinds of vegetation, many gardeners have chosen to install worm farms and worm bins in their gardens. 

However, actually purchasing and adding strange earthworms to your soils would be a bad idea.

Not only will you have any way of knowing whether or not the worms have remained in their environment, but it could also be damaging for the worms and the surrounding ecosystems.

Instead, consider installing a worm bin in your garden, where the worms can make rich compost for your vegetation.

Compost worms will happily live off of your kitchen scraps such as coffee grounds, or your garden waste such as leaf litter, grass clippings, etc.

You should consider adding a few things to prevent there being too much moisture in the bin, and therefore making the soil conditions healthier for the red wigglers.

You could use more organic matter such as manure to balance out the moisture, or home waste such as shredded paper, cardboard, etc.

Pros and Cons of Earthworms in Your Garden

The Benefits:

  • More worms will improve drainage in the soil after heavy rainfall
  • As the earthworm tunnels through the soil, it will improve soil structure by helping the soil aeration
  • Adding organic matter from your general waste will attract worms and serve as good food for them, which will turn into good soil

The Negatives:

  • Putting them in your garden yourself could damage the surrounding eco-systems
  • Adding strange earth worms to soil they’re not used to might not do them much good

Summary and Final Thoughts

As you can see, the list of benefits of worms in your garden is far larger than the list of cons. Worms are essential for our planet’s ecosystem and have a huge role to play with life on earth. 

Of course, not all worms are equally beneficial, and some invasive species can be very disruptive.

There are plenty of ways for you to better control the environment in your garden, to ensure that the desired species of earthworms are well cared for, and the invasive ones are repelled.

You could add compost heaps with organic mulch, for example.

So far we have read that worms do clean out dead matter/cells from your gardens but ever wondered if worms eat human dead bodies? or do worms eat leaves/dry leaves? Find out in our other articles