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Freeze Warning

Jim Boxberger - Correspondent
Posted 5/8/20

Hopefully you reading this on Friday before it is too late to cover your plants. After a beauty of a weekend last weekend, this weekend will be a beast. There is a freeze warning tonight with …

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Freeze Warning

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Hopefully you reading this on Friday before it is too late to cover your plants. After a beauty of a weekend last weekend, this weekend will be a beast. There is a freeze warning tonight with temperatures reaching down into the twenties.

If you have baskets or flower boxes on the porch, bring them in. Anything you can't bring in, cover with plastic, landscape fabric or even bed sheets. Hopefully this won't last long and we can get back to that beautiful weather we had last weekend.

Spring fever has hit everyone this week, the robins are out in full force and bumblebees are starting to stretch their wings. And with the warmer weather, below ground, earthworms are starting to stir. I have written many times about the benefits of mycorrhizal fungi, now I will talk about the benefits of earthworms.

The major benefits of earthworms to soil fertility can be summarized into three categories, biological, chemical and physical. The first biological factor, in many soils earthworms play a major role in the conversion of large pieces of organic matter into rich humus, thus improving soil fertility.

This is achieved by the worm's actions of pulling below the surface deposited organic matter such as fallen leaves or manure, either for food or to plug its burrow. Once in the burrow, the worm will shred the leaf and partially digest it and mingle it with the earth. Worm castings can contain 40% more humus than the top nine inches of soil in which the worm is living. This is why garden centers sell worm castings as a soil enrichment.

Secondly the chemical factor, in addition to dead organic matter, the earthworm also ingests many other soil particles into its gizzard, wherein those minute fragments of grit grind everything into a fine paste which is then digested in the intestine. When the worm excretes this in the form of castings, deposited on the surface or deeper in the soil, minerals and plant nutrients are changed to a more accessible form for plants to use.

Studies show that fresh earthworm castings are five times richer in available nitrogen, seven times richer in available phosphates, and eleven times richer in available potassium than the surrounding upper six inches of surrounding soil.

And third physical, the earthworm's burrowing creates a multitude of tunnels through the soil for aeration and drainage, which is of particular value to wet, soggy areas. Earthworms can be added to houseplants, outdoor containers and hanging baskets too, they are not just for fishing anymore.

The two most common earthworms varieties available in our area are the large nightcrawlers that are great in the garden and flowerbed and the much smaller red wiggler which is widely used in compost bins to break down compost even faster.

And if you don't want to go out looking to buy worms, you can just buy the earthworm castings. Either mixed into a soil or by itself, earthworm castings are available at most local garden centers. And if your garden center doesn't sell worms you can always find them at the bait shop, they are the same worms.

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