Can red worms in the soil hurt my plants?

Hello,

I live in the Pacific NW – USA and am trying my hand at winter gardening (with the typical salads and winter veggies) in a small glass greenhouse with lights (ceiling) and 60 degrees heat. My plants are not thriving… in fact, they are dying.

When I planted the 6”-9” deep box, along with many tall gallon (or larger) pots, with new potting soil mixed ½ and ½ with new bagged compost, I placed a thin layer of not-quite-composted alpaca manure in the bottom of each container. This manure contained composting red worms.

Are they eating the roots of my young plants? I know earthworms will leave the plant roots alone, but red worms are SUPPOSED to eat all living material. Do you suppose this was my mistake?

Maybe the manure was still too hot? (although it no longer smelled, yet was sorta crumbly)

 

Linda Fox



1 Comment

  1. Steve

    January 20, 2014 at 8:49 am

    Hi Linda,

    Rest assured the red worms are not harming your plants. You will have to look elsewhere for your problem – very probably the manure itself is the villain as it is too fresh. Fresh manure can definitely burn the roots of your plants.

    The worms themselves do not consume living plants – they only consume decomposing dead plant litter/ manure and they do this with the aid of micro-organisms which are bred within the worm’s gut and expelled with their faeces. These micro-organisms break down the dead material, making it available in an acceptable form for the worms to consume. In fact, every time I use my worm compost (Worm Poo) in my garden or to feed my pot plants there are always live worms and egg casing mixed in, which are just too much trouble for me to bother to separate fully. So my plants always have colonies of resident red worms and there have been no detrimental effects – quite the contrary as my plants thrive on this. The live worms and beneficial bacteria would continue to keep up the good work and make even more worm compost from any dead material in the soil, as long as the weather is warm enough and the soil remains damp.

    Good luck,

    Steve

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