Lawn care: are earthworms a help or a hindrance?
Aaaah, the humble earthworm; where would we be without them?
Truth be told, we’d be in a complete muddle if there were no earthworms to help break down dead plant matter into lovely nutrient rich, fine-textured soil. But I suspect there are some lawn-lovers and greenkeepers out there who are gnashing their teeth at the sight of lots of little lumpy wormcasts all over their beautifully manicured lawns.
So what can be done if worms are defacing your lawn?
Monty Don gave some good advice on the BBC Gardeners World TV programme on Friday 9th October. It’s worth trying to catch it on the I-player if you didn’t see it.
He basically advised gardeners to let the worm casts dry out and then disperse them with a besom broom. Worm casts are a fabulously rich source of plant food and are far too good to waste.
Suggestion 1. The easy way to cope with wormcasts
My preferred approach is to turn a blind eye. Worm casts only really appear when the weather is warm and the water table is high. So we’re talking mainly in autumn.
My own lawn is a family lawn and as well as playing host to 2 lively grandchildren and 3 dogs it is occasionally grazed by my chickens (Stella, Martha and Arthur). It needs to be tough. To keep my lawn strong through the winter I tend to raise the height of the lawnmower blades and let the grass grow a little longer – maybe 2-3 inches. It still looks good, the grass copes well with winter weather, and guess what – I can’t see any worm casts because they’re hidden by the grass. Hurrah!
I try very hard to keep raking up the leaves as they fall on to the lawn (excellent exercise!). I add some the leaves to the ground beneath my shrubbery in the hope that the worms will go there to do their thing. At the very least the leaves make lovely mulch to supress weeds and help the soil retain water in spring and summer.
Suggestion 2. Persuading worms to move on
If you have a fine lawn or a bowling green to care for, worms will more of a problem for you. You need a gentle way of dissuading them from working on your patch.
There are no chemicals available that will kill earthworms in your lawn. There is however on product on the market that will irritate the worms’ skin and encourage them to move somewhere else.
That product is called Castclear and it’s available to buy from our sister company, just south of the border near Southport. www.turfland.co.uk. Castclear should be applied in late September and early October and is best applied by a lawncare professional.