Bug of the Month: Earthworms
Earthworms are sometimes called the intestines of the soil or nature's plow. They are the gardener's best ally as they literally eat their way through earth, digesting organic matter and minerals and transforming it into mature soil. They also break up and aerate the earth.
Charles Darwin singled them out as among the most important animals in the world. They produce their weight in worm castings daily. They can survive rain and frozen soil; indeed they have even survived the Ice Age. However, adding synthetic fertilizer or chemical pesticides will kill them.
To get the benefit of rich earthworm castings for your garden, consider vermicomposting. You can acquire earthworm boxes and hundreds of red wigglers for a nominal cost, set them up in an out-of-the-way spot, and let them go to work for you, turning kitchen waste into a terrific source of nutrients and soil conditioners.
For instructions on how to build your own vermicompost bin go to www.rodaleinstitute.org/20040801/Grube.
Barry Zucker is executive director of Beyond Pesticides Ohio.