6 April 2010

max and the mighty worms

I have been at the Phoenix for good few years now, in fact for far longer than it feels, so the children that greeted my arrival have now grown up and some are now parents themselves.  Just like it says on one of the benches the next generation seem to agree that 'I like worms and woodlice' too.  

This is Max.  Out taking the air with Gran and Grandad and full of 'what is it?' curiosity.  As I  had just unearthed this whopping worm and wanted to show it off - well you would - the timing could not have been better so up to the railings on my hot hand it went.  Max is used to the tiger worms in his Gran's wormery but this one was much, much, bigger and so demanded some investigation.  

When I first came to the garden I was surprised to find very few worms when digging, in particular very few of the large deep tunneling species, probably because the thin dry soil held such little organic matter.  Now after years of soil improvements with tons of compost and leafmould added it is good to find their numbers have increased exponentially and worms are uncovered with every spadeful turned.  They are most apparent at this time of year when the soil is moist and they are near the surface (they go deep to avoid drought) busy dragging dead leaves below ground to be eaten and mixed with the soil.  It amazes me that all the autumn leaves heaped optimistically on the beds every year will have been pulled below ground with their tiny toothless mouths by midsummer   Their underground activity is clearly shown by the number of 'casts' that appear each night across the lawns.  This is worm poo, made up of indigestible soil particles, digested vegetable matter and magical worm excretions, and it is rich and fine and makes nutrients readily available to plants.  All the rough soil in the garden is continually processed in this way  and I know that eventually it will be perfection.   Continually extruded aboveground as casts it slowly builds up to create a new layer at the surface and this slowly buries things - the brick chessboard set into the lawn is disappearing steadily belowground as it is buried by worms.  I wonder, if I stood still long enough, how quickly I would go under too?  

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