An acquaintance mentions that every time he kicks a leaf in this garden, an earthworm wriggles into view. Never, it seems, are these skinny, undernourished worms, but ones that have obviously lived the good life. We have a bit of a thing going in the garden this year with snakes, and I’ve warned my wife not to scream too quickly, the snake that causes her fright could be one of these chubby worms instead.
I don’t think much about worms until I dig a hole, and then there is one fat fellow after another. I do my best not to injure the little guys since I know they’re doing good work, but there’s much to do and only so much care can be taken. Still, I expect I do more good than harm.
Certainly, there are plenty of gardens with lots of earthworms. The improved soil of the garden is an ideal habitat, and for gardeners who annually dump loads of compost or manure, worms validate their efforts. In this garden I’ve done little or nothing to improve the soil, so the presence of earthworms is a stamp of approval for doing whatever it is that I’m doing. Which is, not much.
And, I think this is a good thing. I suspect that a tidy gardener removes much of what ends up building good soil in the garden. This property borders a stretch of forest, so there’s no shortage of fallen leaves and small twigs. Except for a very few that might blow into the neighbor’s, no leaves are bagged or burned. Some are shredded, but many others remain piled where they fall until they decay.
Twigs and branches are seldom cleaned up, but sometimes are broken into smaller pieces so that the garden doesn’t look like a cyclone passed through. On a rare occasion when something must be pruned, the compost pile seems so far away, so branches are chopped into smaller pieces and dropped to decay. Almost all perennials that must be pruned in early spring are cut and discarded into the garden’s beds. Which is good for worms, and for the soil, and of course what’s good for one is good for the other.
Also, good for the garden’s plants, it seems, as well as for the gardener who is getting a bit too old to fool with digging in hard ground. A large measure of credit must go to my fat, wiggly little friends.