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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Garden Worms and Chook Worms

Worms from my worm farm
I've been neglecting the garden lately. Because I enjoy being out there I always feel a tad guilty about all the other things I ought to be doing. Like planning classes or cleaning the bathroom or making dinner or playing star wars lego battles with the monkey boys. So the other day I put my nagging aside, turbo tidied the house and put on the gardening gloves.

Since building the chook shed and re-locating the kids' slide, there's room to make some new veggie patches and I set to work on these. The chooks have been having a wander over this ground for the past couple of months and I figured eight chicks doing their business on them must be good. But the soil didn't look good. All compacted and hard to dig into. I suspect no-one has dug this ground for years and years actually. But I got out the pick ax (whoo whoo) and worked up a sweat. I do have an ear infection at the moment so every time I stood up I felt a little dizzy and needed a sit down again. No it wasn't Veggiegobbler Wonder Woman. More like Nana Veggiegobbler with a big heavy tool needing constant rests and cups of tea. Anyway, I laid little rows of bricks around the edges and then got the little shovel and sat down to dig it over some more. And do you know how many worms I found?

None.

That's right not one! What's going on there? I've been reading all over the place that all good gardens have lots of worms. I've seen pics of Mark's Veg Plot's compost bin and he has bucket loads of worms in there. So I thought I might have a look in my compost bins. I might just get lucky and find enough compost ready to go on these beds. I got the twisty gadget from the shed to turn it over (something I rarely do I admit - I leave the erky jobs to Monkey Man) and gave the bin that's having a rest a bit of a turn. No worms in there! The second bin that we're currently filling luckily revealed quite a few fat, juicy worms. And just as I was giving it another turn it also revealed a little mouse that I'd managed to freak out. I got over that quickly enough and had a bit more of a turn and then I discovered a whole nest of  little mice which freaked me out a tad. And provided the chooks with a bit of entertainment for a few minutes.

So I went back to my soil turning and a nasty little thought popped into my head. A couple of weeks ago I'd given my chicks a worming treatment. Monkey Man teaches saxophone and one of his students happens to be a vet. Always one to take advantage of free professional advice I consulted her about  Wonky and her mate who were looking a bit off colour. She noticed the runny chook poo and recommended a worming treatment. In fact she gave me a free syringe full of the stuff which I obediently popped into their water. And which I suspect has rid my chooks of worms (no more runny poo and everybody looking happy) but could it have also rid my new veggie patch of worms too?

I've been having a bit of a google about trying to find out whether this is the case and I can't find anything. But it does ring a bell to me. I seem to remember reading not to put dog poop from dogs that have been recently wormed in your specially designed doggy poo worm composter. So it makes sense that you don't put wormed chook poo on your garden where you want worms. But intestinal worms are different from garden worms aren't they? Well, the damage has been done now. I do know that I ought to put crushed garlic in the chook water every so often as a natural worming treatment and this is what I'll do in the future. Meanwhile, I've put some manure on the new beds and hope to attract some worms there soon.  Does anyone know for sure about this? Any advice?

9 comments:

  1. Its not uncommon to find no worms in the soil if its compacted and dry with little organic matter. But I've never herad about 'wormed droppings' killing garden womrs...
    Adding organic matter to the soil and keeping it moist and cool will help bring worms back though.
    Glad to hear the chicks are feeling better!

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  2. I got told to avoid horse poo from wormed horses cause the stuff kills off the compost and garden worms. Fingers crossed for you that chook worming is not the same.
    I do find that the hard as nails soil always as less worms to begin with - once turned a couple of times it gets more worms in it - hope this is what is happening in your garden.

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  3. When I first started digging here, I only found occasional big worms way down. Now that I have added a couple of lots of compost, manure, mulch etc. I find them all the time. I think you just have to work on the soil. if your composts are the plastic ones, they can be too hot for worms in summer. When I had one of those, it only had worms in the cool weather. Mark lives in a cooler climate than us.

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  4. when I first started my garden two years ago there were no worms and I have continually added my own home made compost, and now when I dig I always find worms. I would add the almost ready compost and dig it in - it will continue to compost on the gorund and attract lots of worms. I dont wait until my compost is finished composting to add to the garden. If you have mice your compost might be too dry.

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  5. Hullo! I also think it's probably just your compacted soil...I have wormed my chooks but notice no change in the worm population (they are safe because my silly chooks are too grossed out by them to eat them!!). I do however keep a clove of garlic in my chook's water at all times...they have never been bothered by mites, worms, etc and I wonder if it's the smell! :)

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  6. Thanks for the mention & link, Veggiegobbler!
    Contrary to popular belief, Mark is not an expert on worms, he just observes their behaviour and draws some logical conclusions. As others have pointed out, compost and worms go together, because the organic matter that compost is formed from is also food for the worms. I always interpret soil full of worms as being healthy soil. In their travels within the soil the worms aerate it, which is very beneficial. Their gastric juices also help to "bind" the soil and improve its structure. Inexpert as I am in chicken-rearing I would say that I think it unlikely that the small amount of medicine you gave to a few chickens is going to have any significant effect on your garden.

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  7. Well it sounds like the jury's out on the worming affecting the worms. But it's unanimous - I need to add more compost, dig more and mulch to attract the worms. And I'll definitely be doing the garlic thing.
    Africanaussie I'm interested that your compost isn't completely composted before you add it. Do you have things growing in the same bed? I would have thought this might affect the growing seedlings etc. But I might just give it a go.
    Mark I think you are a worm expert because the photos of your compost are grossly full of squiggly worms. Anyone who has that many worms is an expert in my book.

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  8. I read somewhere that because things compost down so quickly here in the tropics by the time compost is fully decomposed you have lost a lot of the nutrients. I normally will add it into a bed about a month before I plant, never right on top of little seedlings. I notice that after the compost has lost its heat is when the worms come,and so I feel I am just doing this final step in the ground.

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