The Lawn Coach: Let the Worms do the Hard Yard Work

The Lawn Coach
Let the Worms do the Hard Yard Work

Dear C.J. I recently heard from a friend about something called "vermipods." What exactly are these and would you recommend using them in my lawn? -Dana, MI
Hi Dana: I'm really glad you wrote this one because I've only recently begun to research this myself. It actually falls under the category of "why on earth didn't I think of that?"
Vermipods are basically dried little discs that contain worm eggs. Did you ever get those mysterious Sea-Monkeys as a kid? Do you remember the ones that had the wild cartoons of miniature sea creatures floating around in a fish tank? Once they rehydrated, out hatched the incredible, frightening brine shrimp. At least we had our imaginations to make it more interesting. The vermipods are basically the same idea, but out pop worms instead of brine shrimp. Each pod can actually carry up to twenty worms.
Worms are incredibly beneficial to the soil, but are often significantly reduced via excessive pesticide usage. Now that the lawn industry is decidedly heading in a more organic direction, things like vermipods are getting a much closer look. In my opinion, it's far past due. As more and more research is done, we find that working with mother nature ends up being far more healthy and effective than fighting her.
While worms squirm their way through the earth, they naturally loosen and aerate the soil by leaving all the channels through which they burrowed. This allows air, water, and nutrients to better infiltrate the soil. After eating plant material, they then expel said material through the opposite side of their bodies in the form of an all natural fertilizer. The overall effect is a far richer soil that is much more hospitable to plant growth.
As an aside, I do recall an older gentleman with whom I worked at a golf course years ago. Believe it or not, he had been working on the maintenance crew for fifty years. One day he pointed out that he used to be able to go anywhere on the course, dig a hole, and find a bucket full of worms to go fishing with. Then he challenged me to find even one worm anywhere. I couldn't, though admittedly I only tried one spot. Still, the point was made. The intense maintenance practices of the more recent years had pretty much wiped out the worm populations.
So, how do you make the soil hospitable to the worms in the first place? First, try to balance the pH to as close to 7.0 as you can get it. Worms can tolerate some variation, but do much better in neutral soils. Next, add some organic matter in the form of a good compost. This may be tricky or even a bit difficult, but the worms need food. Balance soil moisture. Worms can't take flooding, but don't do well in drought either. Avoid pesticides as much as possible. Fungicides are especially toxic to several species of worms. Use organic fertilizers as much as possible. The worms don't tend to like synthetics. Leave grass clippings. This is just more food for our slimy friends.
Will worms turn your lawn into a perfect, green oasis? I doubt it. But they will have a great positive impact that absolutely will make your lawn healthier and your life easier. Not only can you take some of the work off your own hands, but you can reduce pesticide use and help the environment in the process.

You can visit C.J. at www.TheLawnCoach.com. Read past columns and questions, and send your questions in!