Re-planting: An Earthworm's Dilemma

A very hectic Monday and Tuesday for a lot young  prune trees, Farmer Al and all his crew members which included some 30,000 earthworms (Eisenia fetida). About 100 new prune trees were planted directly in holes that contained compost and worms. As was reported last week, the goal is to see how well trees will grow in a re-planted area with the help of vermicompost.

Initially the worms were to be removed from the planting holes because we wanted to “save” the worms for other tasks and we thought they would not survive the trauma of intensive digging. However, it turned out that harvesting the worms before planting using a shovel or a  trommel would slow the progress of the planting crew. Fortunately, some worms survived the digging ordeal. I found at least two worms in each of the 117 planting holes a few hours after the re-planting and they looked healthy. This means that the worms will continue tilling and mixing the organic matter around the trees and many minerals and other nutrients will be made available to the trees. I will be monitoring the worm populations around the new prune trees  as the season progresses. If this approach to re-planting is successful, we might breed worms in the long beds described in a previous blog and produce vermicompost in-situ (next to the trees) in the future.

In a future blog, we will discuss what effect  E. fetida has on the ecology of the native earthworms (Bimastos). The familiar earthworms of our gardens and composting piles are all descendants of European worms. Native North American earthworms are smaller than the immigrants and they prefer undisturbed soils in areas that are becoming rare.

Christophe Kreis MLF Soil Consulting PhD, Molecular Biology/Developmental Biology, University of British Columbia, Canada. Christophe is co-founder of MLF Soil Consulting with his wife Monique. He started his career in basic medical research and after various positions in academia and industry Christophe slowly returned to his first passion Soil Ecology and Microbiology. It is his belief that human health is tied intimately to soil health through the production of healthy food. For this reason MLF Soil Consulting is committed to help farmers improve the management of their soil through composting, vermicomposting and biological analysis of microbial soil life.
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