Debbie Roland, Compost Specialist
Is your yard or garden a new creation? If you have a new house which had dirt and caliche brought in or if you have hauled in soil to make a garden, the answer may be yes. The Master Gardeners are dealing with this situation in one of the local gardens we tend.
This particular location has raised beds that were filled with construction dirt. Of course there is a concern about what chemicals could have been in the dirt. The challenge we have is making soil in these beds that is healthy and will grow a mix of vegetables and flowers. As we recommend to everyone, we have had the soil tested so we know which direction we need to move.
We know that adding worms will create soil which will continue to improve as the months and years go by. However, the worms will need something to eat in order to survive.
We are adding leaves, compost and other organic matter and will let it “percolate” until Spring when we hope to plant. In a perfect world this should then be left for a year under a 4’ layer of mulch. Worms do not like to be disturbed and wherever possible, a “no dig” policy is good. For the worms to thrive it is essential that the mulching continues. Sprays and chemicals are all detrimental to worms and should be avoided.
As worms eat they form tunnels which allow water and air to get to the roots of plants. Without access to air and water, plants do not grow well, which is why you might notice that plants sometimes don’t survive if it is too dry and the soil is compacted.
When your garden is ready to receive worms, they can’t be added by just dropping the worms on the surface. If you do that the birds will have a field day and the heat will most likely kill them. Simply dig down a few inches, set the worms in just like a plant, and cover them back up.
To keep your worms happy, look after your soil. Be sure it is well fed with compost and mulch, and don’t dig unless you have to. It will be good for your plants, and will make the worms want to call your garden home.
If you have questions, please contact the AgriLife offices in Ector 432-498-4971, or Midland, 432-686-4071.