Monday, June 13, 2011

The Lowly Earthworm


We are having a clearance sale, and I tell people the dirt alone is worth more than we are charging. That's because our dirt is full of earthworms!
There's nothing wrong with the plants we are selling dirt cheap. A few have been burnt either from not enough water or not enough warmth, and they look a little scruffy. Others propagate a little too happily and we have a lot of them; and still others just have proven not to sell well so we are not going to carry them anymore. All these pots have been with us a few years and have received several doses of fertilizer and daily waterings so the soil is rich and dark. And the earthworms love it!

I met quite a few of these wriggly, moist and squirmy creatures this morning, so thought I'd look them up. This is what I learned:
Earthworms live all over the world, where ever soil is found
They vary greatly in length, from several inches to up to 12 feet !
Depending on where you meet them, they can be pink, tan, brown, red, or even blue or green.
They have 5 hearts, both male and female reproductive organs, lay eggs, and taste through a body covering that senses chemicals in the soil. It's possible for an earthworm to regenerate its body after it's been severed, but not in all cases. It can regrow the tail portion if the severing occured after the 13th ring of the body. Something like that. I'm not a surgeon.
They are a good omen in a garden. Their burrows help roots grab hold in the soil, their worm poop is high in nutrition, and they help water and nutrients move down to reach the plant.
At the markets where customers might be lucky enough to purchase a few in our plants, we are set up on a brick courtyard. It gets so hot I have to put my shoes back on because my feet burn. I bring water for the plants, but several times we have noticed an earthworm exodus. The poor things get so hot in the soil that they feel they have to leave and find cooler ground. My daughter and I find them wriggling on the hot bricks, of course in a worse situation, so we scurry about collecting them, pouring water on them, and telling them it'll just be for a bit longer and to hang in there. Sometimes we just have to donate them to one of the large flower pots dotting the Lakeland streets.

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