- IMPORTANT PEST IDENTIFICATION: Please Read This Before Calling Us Out!
- Eddie’s Corner: What are these strange little mounds I find in my lawn?
- Damage from Earthworms
- Monitoring of Earthworms
- Management of Earthworms
- How to Deal Earth Worm Casts on Your Lawn
- What Are Worm Casts and Why Are They a Problem?
- The Benefits of Having Earthworms in Your Lawn
- How to Remove Worm Casts and Control Worm Activity in Your Lawn
- Removing the Casts
- Controlling Worm Activity in Your Lawn
- Let the Grass Grow a Little Taller
- Collect Grass Clippings and Fallen Leaves
- Keep Lawn Thatch Under Control
- Avoid the Use of Organic Fertilisers and Compost
- Don’t Water the Lawn Excessively During the Summer Months
- Top Dress Your Lawn with A High Sand Content Top Dressing
- Apply Iron Sulphate to Make the Soil More Acidic
- Apply a Worm Suppressant to Your Lawn
- In Conclusion
- Earthworm castings taking over our yard
- Holes in the Lawn
- Solitary Bees
- Cicada Killers
- Ground Hogs
- Skunks & Raccoons
- Lawn Pest Control
- 6 Simple Ways to Encourage Worms in Your Soil
IMPORTANT PEST IDENTIFICATION:
Please Read This Before Calling Us Out!
IS IT A GOPHER OR A MOLE?
Pocket GOPHERS are easily confused with several mammals such as MOLES, VOLES, ground squirrels, chipmunks, rats, and more. It is absolutely necessary to correctly identify your pest. If you are not sure, please spend a few minutes reading and looking at the photos. Compare your situation and identify your pest. Trap size and methods are specific for MOLES and different for GOPHERS. We do NOT recommend using our service if you cannot identify your pest.
- Mole Identification
- Moles, what to look for
- Gopher Identification
- Vole Identification
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Part of the frustration in dealing with these pests, especially moles, is that we never actually see them; we only see the damage that has been done by them and the truth is, we may never see them.
Moles are not a rodent, they are an insectivore related to the bat and shrew family, feeding mainly on earthworms, but they also feed on snails, slugs, millipedes, centipedes, but rarely vegetation. Moles eat live prey and cause little or no damage to perennial landscape plants. They prefer to live in moist shady areas and most often invade from woodlands. They may damage delicate annuals by creating air pockets around roots, and cause extensive cosmetic damage to lawns and other garden areas, but moles are not after plants.
This photo was taken after the mole was removed from the trap.
Rarely, will you see a mole above ground.
MOLES? WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Mole signs may include mounds, raised ridges, or both, depending upon soil conditions. Moles prefer moist areas where the grubs and worms are plentiful. These shallow surface tunnels often follow along a house foundation, driveway, lawn border or other solid object.
The photo above is a raised ridge or shallow mole run in moist soil along a walkway.
The photo above is also a raised foraging tunnel with mole mounds in the background.
These raised mole runs will often make lawn or flower beds feel “squishy” when you walk on it.
When moles arent foraging for food under the surface, they are excavating. They push dirt straight up resulting in regular conical or volcano shaped mounds that are fairly uniform in shape, though may vary in size.
The photo above shows a typical symmetrical conical shaped mole mound.
Note the soil is made of sand.
Another typical conical shaped mound characteristic of a mole. Note the dirt clods that are also characteristic of a mole. Gophers will not make these kinds of mounds or dirt clods.
A burrow system is a vast network of interconnecting tunnels and passages. Tunnels vary in depth from 3 to 30 inches. Moles are active year round and make regular use of their tunnels. If the food source becomes scarce in the upper soil levels, moles will move into deeper tunnels, or extend the tunnel system 50-60 yards in one night in search of food. Moles will even use dirt from new excavations to plug up old tunnels, fooling you into thinking he has left only to emerge in a month with several mounds. The number of mounds or ridges in any given area does not indicate the number of moles present. A single mole might construct from 50 to 100 mounds in a month. Moles average only about two (2) per acre.
This series of mounds are characteristic of a mole system as seen from above ground.
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Gophers are often mistaken for moles. Gophers do not have the huge spade-like feet like moles do, but they can certainly do as much, if not more damage.
Gopher eyes and ears are barely visible, but the sensitive whiskers and tail make up for the weakness in their hearing and sight.
The Pocket Gopher is named for its external fur-lined cheek pouches that he uses to carry roots, tubers and other vegetative matter.
Look what plants Ive been eating!
A gopher is strictly an herbivore. Gophers cut roots of trees and vines and gnaw the bark of trees, at times completely encircling them so they die. The gopher cuts the roots of plants beneath the surface, then pulls the rest of the plant into the burrow. They can consume and destroy large amounts of vegetation.
Here is evidence of gopher damage. A Hydrangea root ball eaten away by one gopher.
Here is more evidence of gopher damage.
This gopher is eating away at the roots of this ornamental tree.
As a gopher digs tunnels and pushes dirt to the surface, he comes to the surface at an angle, resulting in crescent or irregular shaped mounds, and the plugs are visible. These crescent shaped mounds with a plug at the top are produced while tunneling for succulent portions of plant.
Notice the crescent shape with the plug, unlike a mole mound that is conical shaped and never has a plug.
Two gopher mounds, but still the crescent with the plug.
In addition to creating mounds and eating roots from underground, gophers will dig open holes to the surface to feed on surface vegetation. Some feed holes are only the size of a silver dollar, other feed holes are 2 to 3-inches across. You must really be observant to spot the small ones. The size of the feed hole is determined by the size of the gopher. The same rule applies for the diameter of the tunnel. The bigger the tunnel the bigger the gopher. However, it really gets confusing when a small gopher moves into an abandoned tunnel where a large adult gopher once lived. That is where years of experience helps.
Gophers will plug their hole after it is done feeding.
More Feed Holes.
Notice how the vegetation has been eaten away around the opening of the hole.
These holes will be plugged with soil after the gopher is done feeding at a location. Look for fresh, plugged “feeder holes” with grass or other plants chewed or eaten around perimeter of hole. We will discuss how to identify freshly dug mounds and plugged feed holes on “is it fresh” page.
A flag is placed at each mound showing the tunneling system of ONE gopher!
Tunnels vary from 2 to 3 inches in diameter. These tunnels are most often parallel to the surface, usually at depths from 6 to 12 inches, with secondary tunnels down 24 to 36 inches. A gopher is capable of hiding his activity by back filling tunnels that are no longer needed with dirt from new excavation. Gophers can live in moist to dry soil but avoid saturated areas, and most often invade from sunny wild lands or turf areas such as parks.
Gophers are active year round, solitary and territorial. An adult male gopher can control territory up to 2000 square feet. A gopher will dig up to 7 or 8 tunnels which may extend as much 800 feet each.
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Voles, also known as field mice, are common pests in lawns and gardens. VOLES are often confused with a GOPHER. A full grown VOLE will be about the size of a young GOPHER. The fur can be dark brown like a mature GOPHER, but unlike GOPHERS, VOLES have mouse-like ears. VOLES can create damage to trees, shrubs, bulbs, and perennials like a GOPHER, but the open tunnel is characteristic of VOLES. While A GOPHER plugs the tunnel, VOLES leave very clean, very round, polished, open holes and beaten down pathways through the grass. Nature has not equipment VOLES to be diggers, so generally, VOLES take over abandoned MOLE and GOPHER tunnels. Unlike GOPHERS who are strictly herbivores, on occasion, VOLES are cannibalistic. I have pulled MOLES and GOPHERS from my traps and found the carcass eaten from the tail forward by a group of VOLES. The photo is an example of an abandoned GOPHER system that VOLES have taken over. Our traps work only on MOLES and GOPHERS, so it is important to identify the pest creating damage to your property before requesting our service.
Voles invade abandoned tunnels made by moles and gophers rather than dig their own.
We are now licensed to trap; skunks, possums, raccoons, squirrels, gophers, moles, and voles
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Eddie’s Corner: What are these strange little mounds I find in my lawn?
By Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent
We have received several calls over the past couple of weeks about small mounds of dirt in the bare spots in the yard. They also comment that they have seen a small hole in the middle of the mound and bees are flying over this area. The critter that is causing this situation is called digger bees.
Digger bees are the name given to the group of insects causing this phenomenon. Many types of bees live together in colonies, but digger bees are solitary bees that nest in the ground. There are many types that can range from one-half to three-quarter inch in length. They come in many colors.
The females dig holes in the ground up to six or so inches deep. They pile earth around the sides of the hole. There can be many holes in one area, making it look like a digger bee community.
The female bee makes a nest in these holes to raise her young. She collects pollen and nectar and stocks the nest with it for the young bees to feed on. The bees can be very active in April and May in North Georgia as they build and stock these nests.
The bees typically cause little problem. The digging should not be enough to damage the lawn. If you like, water the area to resettle the soil. The bees are not very aggressive. You should be able to garden and mow grass around them with few problems. The bees are not likely to sting unless you grab one in your hand or stick your finger down in the hole and aggravate them. I would only be concerned about working around the bees if I was allergic to bee stings.
We do not recommend any chemical controls for the bees. They serve as pollinators and are not hurting anything. They will probably only be around for four to six weeks and then disappear until next year.
Digger bees like to make nests in dry soils where the grass is thin. If you want to discourage the bees, find ways to thicken the turf in these areas and water the soil when bees first become active. Adding mulch to the area will also discourage them from locating in a particular area. Generally, it is best to ignore or even enjoy these occasional lawn invaders.
Keep in mind that digger bees can look like several other species of bees, so take care when you are in their area. Digger bees make many holes in the ground, but there is only one bee per hole. Yellow jackets and bumble bees do not make as many holes and they have several insects per hole.
All of these bees are pollinators and are classified as beneficial insects. Because they are beneficial please avoid killing them if at all possible. Some will sting and should be avoided and some will not sting, so make sure you have the correct identification before you work around the holes.
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Source(s): University of California
Earthworms encompass a large group of soil dwelling worms in the phylum Annelida. The most common species found in turf are in the family Lumbricidae including the nightcrawler, Lumbricus terrestris. These worms are brownish-red and grow up to a few inches long. Their bodies are cylindrical with about 150 segments. In turfgrass, earthworms are primarily seen at night or when they are driven out of the soil by watering. Where high populations of earthworms are present, small mounds, or castings of fecal matter, are deposited on the soil or lawn surface.
Earthworms may be found in soils under all turfgrass species.
Damage from Earthworms
Earthworms are not pests of turfgrass and do not feed on turf. Earthworms swallow soil as they burrow and feed on microorganisms and partially decomposed organic matter in the soil. Their role in a lawn is primarily beneficial. Thatch buildup has been associated with reduced earthworm populations. Burrowing helps to mix some of the nutrients in the soil together as well as decompose organic matter in the soil. Earthworm activity improves aeration, increasing water and nutrient movement through the soil. Earthworms deposit castings when they ingest soil and leaf tissue and emerge from the soil surface to remove fecal matter. Castings are rich in nutrients and organic matter and can provide some benefits to turfgrass plants. However, when casting piles become large, they may be considered unsightly and over time may make the lawn lumpy. Occasionally, moles may burrow in lawns with high earthworm populations to feed on them.
Monitoring of Earthworms
Look for small mounds or castings on the soil or turfgrass surface. Earthworms often rise up to the soil surface or sidewalk after a rain or irrigation.
Management of Earthworms
Rake castings to remove them. Power raking with a thatching rake adjusted so the teeth will drag through mounds but not down to the turf crowns will be more effective than hand raking. Adjust your irrigation schedule so the top layer of soil dries out between irrigations. This will drive worms deeper into the soil. Turf mowed at the higher end of the recommended height may hide castings. Earthworms have some natural enemies such as ants, centipedes, birds, snakes, toads, carabid beetles, and nematodes. Do not apply pesticides to control earthworms.
Are you concerned about a bumpy, rough area in your lawn? Does a close inspection of your lawn reveal a miniature replica of the Blue Ridge Mountains ? Such areas can be annoying, difficult to mow and even dangerous for anyone walking or running across them. What causes these bumps? And, more importantly, how do you get rid of them?
There can be several reasons for bumpy lawn conditions. Sometimes the repeated freezing and thawing conditions of winter and early spring move the soil up and down. In other cases, older and more established lawns become rough and uneven over time as the turfgrass gradually thins out. Thinning lawns can be caused by shade, insect damage, and poor maintenance practices. Re-establishing a healthy, thick turf will help improve this situation.
Another possible cause of bumpy and rough lawns is the presence of earthworms. In such cases, it is the movement of earthworms in the soil and the castings that they leave behind on the soil surface that cause the roughness. Castings are the result of the ingestion and excretion of soil and plant litter by the worms. You may also notice that the activity of earthworms is greatest in the spring and fall when soil moisture conditions and temperatures are conducive to their activity.
The problem of earthworm “damage” to turfgrass areas is a complex one. On one hand, a population of earthworms is usually an indicator of healthy turfgrass. On the other hand, the bumps that sometimes occur as a result of earthworm activity are unsightly and can make it difficult to mow your lawn without scalping the bumpy areas. These spots may also be a safety concern if you have trouble walking over them.
In a lawn, earthworms work as natural aerators. They turn over the soil in a steady and methodical manner without any real disruption to the turfgrass. Their holes improve the movement of water and nutrients into the soil and make them more available to the lawn. In addition, earthworms are some of the best decomposer organisms that exist in the soil. They decompose thatch and, by doing so, help recycle nutrients and make them available to the grass again.
Generally speaking, it is desirable to have a healthy population of earthworms in your lawn. If earthworm activities become problematic for you, however, there are a few things you can do. The best techniques to alleviate earthworm “damage” include basic, good lawn care practices. These practices are detailed in UGA Extension Bulletin #773, “Lawns in Georgia.” Good lawn care practices include the following: a basic fertilization schedule, aeration of the lawn and over-seeding to fill in thin patches.
Another basic lawn care practice that can help control the bumpiness caused by earthworms is proper irrigation. Generally, earthworms only become a nuisance when the soil is extremely moist and they must surface for air. This is why they are often seen in the spring as the soil thaws and soil moisture is high. Irrigating less frequently and deeply during the growing season will keep earthworm populations deeper in the soil profile so that they are not creating bumps and castings on the surface. On the other hand, frequent and shallow irrigations can encourage earthworms to stay near the surface. It is also important to keep in mind that earthworm populations are harmed by the use of certain lawn care pesticides and there is not any pesticide products labeled for their control. If you use these products, understand that that harm may be done to earthworm populations.
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- Earthworms in Lawns – September 23, 2013
On your lawn, you may see tiny mounds of soil appearing on the surface. They crop up in random places all over the lawn. They most often appear in the autumn or winter, but can crop up at any time of the year. These are worm casts.
An earthworm on grass
Worm casts are created by earthworms. These worms consume and digest organic matter in the soil. They then expel it from their gut onto the soil surface. This creates the coil of smooth soil which we call worm casts.
In the UK, worm casts are created by three different species of worms. The lob or common worm (lumbricus terrestris), The grey worm (aporrectodea calignosa) and the black-headed worm (aporrectodea longa). The lob worm is the most common worm cast creator. It only comes out at night or during periods of heavy rain.
On your lawn at home a worm cast can be squashed underfoot making a muddy patch on the grass. The mud can be smeared on the patio or stepped on and trodden indoors, causing a mess. A squashed worm casts is also a perfect germination patch for a weed seed.
Worm casts can be a nuisance in the lawn care industry. Especially on fine turf lawns such as golf courses and bowling greens. These rely on a smooth surface to roll a ball on. A golf green dotted with worm casts can become unplayable. Worms soften the surface and their casts blemish the green.
It is frustrating that the high nutrient content and good soil required for fine turf is a haven for earthworms. The better your lawn, the more difficult the problem of worm casts can become. Green keepers have battled with earthworms for decades.
Should you try to control worm casts on your lawn?
A close up view of a lawn worm cast
On a lawn at home, worm casts are less of an issue. The longer grass and less reliance on a flat surface make worm casts less problematic. In most domestic lawn care situations, I discourage trying to control worms. Worms bring too many benefits to soil and the general ecology of your garden. Trying to control them may only bring further problems.
If it does bother you though, what can you do about it?
Natural ways to control worms casts
- Leave your lawn longer. A longer grass brings a healthier lawn. Blemishes in the soil surface tend to not be a problem if the grass leaves are longer. Especially in the winter. Keep your mower blades high (at least 30mm) and the worm casts will be less of a problem.
- Reduce the worm food source. Keep the leaves off your lawn in the winter. Also make sure you remove the grass clippings when mowing. Reducing the amount of organic matter on your lawn will reduce the amount of worm activity in the soil.
- Improve the drainage. Worms tend to put up more casts and seem to be more active in wetter soils. Improve the drainage in your lawn and you will reduce your worm problems.
- Brush casts away when they appear. If you see worm casts appearing, use a stiff broom to brush them away. This will distribute the nutritious worm casts soil and remove the problem. This is best done before mowing and when the casts are dry.
Chemical control of worm casts
- Carbendazim is a worm control used by professionals. It suppresses worms by keeping them lower down in the soil. In my experience it can also kill worms, which is why I no longer offer the treatment. Carbendazim is not available to the general public. Some lawn care companies will apply worm controls so get in touch with your local operator. There are rumours that it is in danger of being added to the banned chemicals list. So it may be withdrawn at any time.
- There are some worm control products which are available for home use. These are usually based on sulphur. Sulphur lowers the pH of the soil, making it more acidic. This tends to discourage worms. Attempting to adjusting your soil pH can bring mixed results. At worst it can cause other turf problems. It is best to conduct a soil test and try in small amounts if you wish to try this route.
Worm cast control in summary
Unless you are aiming for a smooth surface, trying to control worm casts in your lawn is unnecessary. Try to reduce the number of casting worms naturally and maintain your lawn correctly. You will find that you will learn to love the humble earthworm. They are your friends in your garden.
- Sports Turf Research Institute
- Royal Horticultural Society – Worm Casts
- Landscape Juice – worm control discussion
Some people think worms can be weird looking and a little gross but are also very important to helping your lawn and garden grow, they provide many beneficial factors. It is possible to grow a beautiful lawn and garden without worms, but they certainly do help a lot by making the soil more rich and promoting healthy roots.
The Reason Why We Love Worms
As worms crawl through the dirt they are creating tunnels below the ground which has two benefits. The first is aerating the soil by making tunnels which makes the soil nice and fluffy. This circulates fresh air to all parts of the plant. The second benefit of tunnels is helping roots grow. Instead of trying to push through the soil, tunnels allow a place for the roots to go.
The other reason we love worms is for their poop. Everybody eats and everybody poops, including worms. Worms eat whatever is in the soil and turns it into food for the plants and lawn.They act as natural fertilizers for the soil. The only downfall is the small mess they can leave behind. Sometimes they push out these small mounds of castings above the soil however these mounds are not harmful in any way.
Where To Find Worms
The type of worm you want to introduce to your lawn and garden depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Certain worms eat more organic materials such as grass clippings, food scraps, and other food sources. Some worms eat soil and recycle it into something the plants can use for fuel. If you want to make compost outside the garden and introduce it later then you will need to use worms that eat organic food. If you plan to skip the compost and plan to put worms right in your lawn or garden, then worms that thrive on soil alone is what you are looking for.
How do They Survive?
Worms may be small, have no eyes, legs, or arms, but they can still be picky about where they live. Worms are dormant in the winter when temperatures are freezing. They also dive deep into the soil and curl up in the hot summer months when the soil is too dry for them. Worms are most active in the spring and early summer when soil is moist and it is the perfect temperature out. Even though worms are pretty self sufficient, they do need a little nudge in order to survive. They will not survive is super cold weather, over saturated soil, or any other harsh conditions. They need to have slightly damp soil to move around in and food to eat. Laying down a layer of grass, leaves, mulch, or any other natural materials in your garden will give the worms something to eat and keep the soil moist.
Not all Worms are Created Equal
Some types of worms are not helpful to gardens and actually destroy them. Root-knot nematode worms attack the roots of plants. They will eat at the roots of plants and make knots in the roots which in turn swell up and die off. Roots are the blood lines of plants and If the roots are all tied off, then water and other nutrients cannot be carried through the plant. It will cause the plant growth to be stunted, flowers will wilt, and possibly die all together. Tomato hornworm, corn earworm and imported cabbage worm are all worms that attack vegetable plants. They eat the veggies instead of supplying them nutrients.
How to Deal Earth Worm Casts on Your Lawn
Is your lawn covered in worm casts?
Those little slimy piles of muck can really ruin the look of your lawn, especially in September/October when the weather starts to cool and the rains arrive.
But the fact is, earthworms are good for your lawn and provide more benefits than problems.
So what’s a lawn owner to do?
Table of Contents
What Are Worm Casts and Why Are They a Problem?
There are around 27 species of earthworm in the UK. Out of these species, only three produce worm casts.
- Lob or Common Worms (Lumbricus terrestris)
- Grey Worms (Aporrectodea calignosa)
- Black-headed worms (Aporrectodea longa)
Of the three, the Lob, or Common Worm is the most common.
Worm casts are small masses of slimy, muddy soil that get deposited on the surface of your lawn by these 3 species.
They’re the excreted remains of their diet.
Worm poo, if you like.
The slimy feel to them is the result of the worms digestive enzymes. These enzymes make them very fertile.
You’ll notice more and more worm casts appear as the temperatures start to cool and the rains arrive.
In the UK, this usually means September into October and right through into spring if we experience a mild winter.
As the soil becomes wetter, worms move to the surface to breathe, eat and reproduce – usually at night. It’s during these times when they leave their casts behind.
Problems Caused By Worm Castings
Worm casts don’t look nice.
If your grass is fairly long you might not really notice them. That said, they can be as tall as 60mm and on an ornamental lawn, they look awful.
And if you have a large population of worms in your lawn, they can completely ruin the appearance.
Their muddy, slimy composition also makes them difficult to remove without making a mess by smearing them over the grass.
Another problem is that worm casts are incredibly fertile. If you leave them, or if they get squashed and smeared by trampling feet or a lawn mower, they can become ideal places for weeds to establish themselves.
All that being said, worms provide a range of benefits and lawns with worms are much healthier than lawns without.
So, before I tell you how to reduce their numbers and activity, consider the following benefits.
The Benefits of Having Earthworms in Your Lawn
You could call worms ‘A pest with benefits’.
They live in the upper 30cm of the soil and provide more far benefits than problems;
Natural Soil Aerators
Worms are soils natural aerators.
They burrow through the soil extensively loosening it, relieving compaction and creating channels which not only help with drainage but also allow oxygen and nutrients to penetrate the soil.
All of which can then be absorbed and used by the grass.
Lawn Thatch and Disease Controllers
Worms ‘eat’ the soil and other organic material including lawn thatch, dead roots, grass clippings etc.
Not only does this help to keep lawn thatch under control, but it also helps to keep fungal diseases that develop in the thatch layer at bay. These diseases include Dry Patch and Type 2 Fairy Rings.
Improve Nutrient Availability
As worms digest their food, the digestive enzymes concentrate the minerals and goodness which makes their excrement even richer in nutrients. In fact, worms can excrete 5 to 11 times more Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus than they consume.
Only a tiny percentage of a worms excrement ends up as worm casts on your lawn. The vast majority of it stays below the surface.
This means all these nutrients are then available to be consumed by the grass.
Also, when worms die they decompose very quickly, adding even more Nitrogen to the soil.
How to Remove Worm Casts and Control Worm Activity in Your Lawn
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that having worms in your lawn is actually a good thing.
However, the problem of removing their casts and controlling their activity remains. This is a two-pronged approach but let’s deal with the worm casts first.
Removing the Casts
I’ve found there are two ways to remove worm castings;
- Wait until they’re dry and either brush them back into the lawn or pick them up and crumble them into a powder and toss it back over the lawn.
- During wet periods it’s not always possible to wait for worm castings to dry. So, I go out daily, pick them up by hand and toss them in the compost bin. Using a tool like a hand trowels is futile as you can’t get in amongst the grass. I don’t wear gloves either as I have less dexterity, I use my bare hands.
Really, these are your only options.
Controlling Worm Activity in Your Lawn
In combination with removing their casts, you can take measures to control worm activity, reduce the number casts, and make them less visible.
Here are a few measures you can take;
Let the Grass Grow a Little Taller
The easiest way to mask the appearance of worm casts is to let the grass grow a little taller than you normally would.
As the seasons change into autumn, keep the grass at least 2 inches high. Worm casts will be much less visible amongst the taller grass.
However, you should still look for them and collect them up as when they appear.
Collect Grass Clippings and Fallen Leaves
Worms feed on organic matter including grass clipping and fallen leaves.
During the autumn make sure you collect up any grass clippings after cutting the grass and remove any fallen leaves. A garden vacuum is best for this job.
Worms will literally pull fallen leaves into their burrows so removing them will take away their food source from the surface of the lawn, helping to reduce surface feeding activity.
Keep Lawn Thatch Under Control
Worms feed on lawn thatch within the root zone of the grass.
The more thatch that’s present the more worms will come to feed on it. Scarify your lawn every couple of years to keep thatch levels from building up.
Avoid the Use of Organic Fertilisers and Compost
Organic lawn fertiliser and composts are the perfect worm food.
Spreading them over the surface of your lawn is sure to bring worms to the surface so they can feed on it.
Instead, use granular or liquid fertilisers.
Don’t Water the Lawn Excessively During the Summer Months
Worms live in moist soil.
During the dry summer months, worms will burrow deeper underground to get to where the soil is most.
If you water the lawn too much, your risk bringing them back to the surface.
Top Dress Your Lawn with A High Sand Content Top Dressing
Top dressing your lawn is for some, a part of their annual lawn care program.
You can use a top dressing mixture which contains a high sand content to lower the amount of moisture in the lawn. This will force them deeper underground.
It’ll also make the soil more abrasive which the worms won’t like!
Apply Iron Sulphate to Make the Soil More Acidic
Worms don’t really like acidic soil so applying a dose of Iron Sulphate every 8-10 weeks will keep the soil on the acidic side. You can do this by applying lawn sand in the spring or liquid Iron Sulphate in the Autumn.
This, in turn, will force the worms to go deeper or find other areas of the garden where the soil is more palatable. It’ll also give the grass a boost of green colour as well as kill any moss that’s present.
Apply a Worm Suppressant to Your Lawn
Worm killers are illegal, at least for non-professional use and in my opinion, worms shouldn’t be killed anyway.
Your opinion might be different.
However, the only product available for tackling worms is a product called Cast Clear.
It’s a surfactant product that contains nutrients which have been shown to reduce worm activity in the upper parts of the lawn. It then breaks down to natural nutrients which are then readily available for use by the grass.
The presence of worms in your lawn is a good thing and lawns that contain worms are much healthier than those without.
They provide many benefits but their worm casts can be a nuisance. A nuisance that we just have to deal with using the methods I’ve outlined in this article.
Over to You
Are worm casts ruining the look of your lawn?
How do you plan to deal with them? Or have you already sorted the problem?
I’d love to read about your experiences and what you plan to do about it. And, if you have any questions, leave a comment in the comments section below and I’ll be sure to reply.
It’s no secret that people need to make less garbage, and that composting has become big business. While any home composting method will decrease the load on local waste management, there are some very good reasons to compost with Red Wiggler composting worms.
Even if you do not need the worms for purposes such as pet food or fishing bait, the products your worms put out are valuable for anyone growing any type of plants. There are three great gardening aids you can get from your home worm bin: Vermicompost, Worm Castings and Worm Tea.
Vermicompost. The first worm product is vermicompost. Vermicompost is the crumbly contents of your worm bin after the worms have had some time to process some of the food and bedding. It contains a mixture of worm castings and bacterially composted waste. While it may contain some recognizable bits of food waste, especially things like eggshells, vermicompost mostly looks like crumbly dirt. Vermicompost can be used directly on plants with no fear of burning.
Castings. If your worms have had longer to process their food, then it is likely that most of the material in your bin may have had time to pass through the body of the worms. It is only after it has passed through an earthworm body that compost is called worm “castings.” Although they may clump together, earthworm castings generally have less variation in texture than vermicompost. If you have a multi-layer worm bin, such as the Worm Factory 360, castings will accumulate in the bottom trays if you feed your worms in the top tray. Both vermicompost and worm castings are high in nutrients, but worm castings may also be high in salts, so you should dilute them before using them on plants. Try using 25% castings and the rest other ingredients—a little goes a long way.
Worm Tea for Lawns and Gardens. Worm tea is made from castings or vermicompost and can be used as a spray or drench for your plants. Do you have a larger area to fertilize, such as a lawn? Worm tea is the way to get the most mileage from your vermicomposting. Learn how to make worm tea.
Using Vermicompost and Castings Directly
All three worm products improve soil texture and fertility. They do this both by adding nutrients directly to the soil and by increasing the biological activity in the soil. And in the case of vermicompost and castings, valuable humus (organic matter) is also added to the soil. Humus is the great moderator—it helps clay soils drain better and helps sandy soils retain water better.
You can use castings and vermicompost directly as a topdressing or as a mulch on house plants or trees. Spread an inch or two over the soil around your favorite plants. Just make sure that if you use castings you keep the surface moist enough to keep a crust from forming. You can also broadcast vermicompost or castings over your lawn. Both hand broadcasting and mechanical application will work.
Supercharge Your Potting Soil With Vermicompost or Castings
One great way to use vermicompost and castings is to add it to your potting mix. Worm compost is potent stuff, so you’ll only need to add 10-30% by volume to your mix. The rest can be commercial potting mix or a DIY recipe such as:
- 1 part coir peat or peat moss
- 1 part vermiculite or perlite
- 2 parts compost or leaf mold
Storing Vermicompost for Later Use
If you can’t use all the vermicompost as soon as you harvest it, you can save it. First, you’ll need to make sure the vermicompost is moist, but not so wet that it compacts. The rest is easy—just store it in a way that preserves moisture but allows air flow—perhaps in a burlap sack, or a 5 gallon bucket with holes in the lid. Stored this way, the aerobic microbial action will slowly continue, keeping your compost fresh and usable for up to three years.
Earthworm castings taking over our yard
Your lawn does indeed look as though it could use a little work to help it look better.
I would recommend that you do the following:
1. Go to a big box store and purchase a thatch rake if you don’t already have one. Then rake well, removing the under layer of dead grass called thatch. This takes a little muscle power.
2. In the next few weeks have your lawn rototilled. You can hire a company to do this or you can rent a rototiller yourself. Just be aware that rototillers are pretty heavy and bulky to handle.
3. Purchase a grass seed blend from a garden center. Talk to the employees there about how much shade you have in your yard so they can select the best seed for your situation. Overseed with the grass seeds immediately after the rototiilling is done. Keep moist. Don’t let your yard dry out. This seeding should be done before about the middle of September to avoid frost killing the emerging seedlings.
4. About mid-October fertilize with a lawn fertilizer that is high in nitrogen and iron. Don’t use a fertilizer with weed killer at this time.
Next spring I think you will notice a big change in your yard. You should have some healthy new growth. At that time if you are still bothered by the earthworm bumps, you can blend a mixture of soil and peat moss. This can be spread on the lawn and gently raked over the lawn surface. The soil will settle in the depressions and, hopefully, help to level out the surface. The grass with grow up through the deposited soil.
Aeration is something you will want to continue in the years to come. This will help with the worm bumps and give you a healthy lawn. If you can do it twice, spring and fall are the best times. If you choose to do it only once a year, you will want to have it done in the fall. This is the most beneficial time of year for your lawn. Aeration brings oxygen to the roots which are growing extensively this time of year. Strong roots mean a healthy shoot growth.
Good luck. A little work now will help you have a nice lawn next year.
Holes in the Lawn
Hole with piled soil of a solitary ground-dwelling bee.
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension
When holes and excavations mysteriously appear in lawns, it is helpful to note the season, location, and size. These are helpful clues when trying to identify the culprit and prevent further damage. The following information should help match the holes to the cause.
If you are very observant, you may see small holes as if something was poked into the ground, but no mounds or loose soil. These are probably caused by birds looking for food.
If the soil in your yard has a healthy population of earthworms, you may find 1-inch high piles of small, granular pellets of soil. These castings were passed through the body of earthworms the night before and were brought to the surface as tunnels were cleared. They are more common in spring and fall when soil moisture and temperatures are conducive to earthworm activity. There is usually no hole in the top.
Eastern cicada killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus) attempting to fly to its nest in the ground with a captured cicada.
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension
There are many insects that spend the winter in the soil, during which time they transform from a larva into an adult. In the spring and early summer, especially after a rain, you may see nickel-size holes caused by their emergence. These holes may be surrounded by small mounds of loose soil and fecal pellets. Examples include cicadas and June beetles.
There are also insects that prefer to live in the ground during their adult stage. Many bees, for example, are solitary and will dig cylindrical tunnels in loose soil as they create chambers for egg-laying. These holes are typically between ¼-and ½-inch wide and are found where vegetation is sparse. The entrance may be surrounded by a mound of loose soil as high as 2 inches.
Cicada killers are large wasps that hunt cicadas and use them to feed their developing young. Females create a ½- to1-inch diameter tunnel into which they drag immobilized cicadas. They prefer areas that are dry and bare but may also be found where grass is maintained very short. You may notice a small, u-shaped mound of dirt at the entrance as well as lines in the soil where cicadas have been dragged.
Shallow, 2-inch diameter hole dug in lawn by an Eastern gray squirrel.
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension
If you live near water, you may find 2-to 4-inch high towers made of balls of mud, with a 1-inch wide hole in the top. These are the work of crayfish, which are nocturnal and tunnel in areas where there is a lot of soil water movement.
Voles are small rodents, also called meadow mice or field mice. They do not hibernate, so they may be seen any time of the year. They construct surface runways as well as underground tunnels and eat a variety of plant material, especially hostas, roses, nandinas and hibiscus. Tunnel entrances are 1 to 1½ inches in diameter and no mound of soil is present.
Eastern gray squirrels will bury and dig up nuts in the lawn and in mulched beds. Holes are typically 2 inches in diameter, shallow and there is no mound of soil around them.
Raised soil from an Eastern mole tunnel in lawn.
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension
Entrances to Eastern chipmunk tunnels are usually found in less conspicuous places such as near stumps, buildings, brush piles or log piles. They are about 2 inches in diameter, and typically have no loose or piled soil near the opening.
As moles create deep tunnels, or encounter roots, rocks or hard to compress clay soils in shallow tunnels, they push the excess soil out of the tunnel and to the surface. These so-called mole hills can be from 2 inches to 24 inches tall and are volcano shaped. Over time, they may flatten and become a bare area. Moles primarily feed on beetle larvae (grubs) and earthworms.
Ground hogs have been known to visit vegetable gardens and help themselves to broccoli, carrot tops, and beans. They are active during daylight hours. Their burrow entrance is usually 10 to 12 inches in diameter and is distinguished by a large mound of excavated dirt.
A large groundhog den entrance. Soil piled near hole has mostly washed away.
Joey Williamson, ©2014 HGIC, Clemson Extension
Skunks & Raccoons
Damage from skunks and raccoons occurs at night. They dig holes in lawns and gardens, looking for grubs and other insects. The holes are typically cone-shaped and 3 to 4 inches wide, but the area disturbed may be as wide as 10 inches. Both of these rascals have been known to peel back newly laid sod.
Entrances to rat tunnels are also found in less conspicuous places such as near shrubbery or wood piles. They are as large as 3 inches in diameter.
Damage to newly laid turfgrass sod by raccoons.
Joey Williamson, 2016 HGIC, Clemson Extension
Armadillos eat mostly insects, earthworms, and spiders. They are active from sunset to early morning hours and will root in lawns, vegetable gardens and flower beds, looking for food. Holes are typically 1 to 3 inches deep and 3 to 5 inches wide, but the disturbed area can be as wide as 3 feet. Their burrow is up to 15 feet long and has an entrance that is 7 to 8 inches in diameter. Recently, armadillos have be sited as far north in South Carolina as Anderson and York counties.
Lawn Pest Control
Eliminate beetle larvae (grubs) in the lawn, which may be fed upon by moles, skunks, raccoons and armadillos. There are many brands of grub killers sold in a granular form that can be spread over the lawn and watered in. The most efficient time to treat is during early July when the grubs are small and close to the surface. Grub treatments that contain contact insecticides will last about 2 weeks.
Grub treatments specifically containing the insecticide imidacloprid may be applied to the lawn during May. These imidacloprid products are systemic within the turfgrass and will last the entire season. The grubs are controlled as they feed on the grass roots. Follow label directions for use for rate, safety and instructions for watering in all granular products.
Moles and voles may be temporarily repelled from the lawn for about 2 weeks using a spray of castor oil to saturate the lawn. Many products are available as hose-end applicators to thorough wet the lawn being damaged, or as granular products, such as:
- Liquid Fence Mole Repellent,
- Natura Repellex Mole & Gopher Repellent,
- Motomco Tom Cat Mole & Gopher Repellent,
- Mole & Vole Stopper,
- Sweeney’s Mole & Gopher Repellent,
- Monterey All Natural Mole Repellent,
- I Must Garden Brand Mole & Vole Repellent,
- Bonide MoleMax Mole & Vole Repellent,
- Ortho Mole B Gon, and
- Dr. T’s Nature Products Whole Control Mole Repellent.
Mole may be controlled within their tunnels with poison worm baits that are inserted into actively traveled tunnels. These baits contain bromethalin, which will work within 24 hours after being eaten to kill the moles. Examples of brands are:
- Motomco Tom Cat Mole Killer,
- Victor Moleworms Kill Moles, and
- Sweeney’s Kill Moles Poison Moleworms.
Follow label directions for use, including the determination of which tunnels are actively used by the moles.
The SC Department of Natural Resources (DNR) does not allow the trapping and relocation of trapped animals to another location because of animal and human disease considerations, such as rabies. However, if the landowner has a large piece of property, the animal can be released further away from the home on the landowner’s own property. If this is not an option, then the trapped animal must be killed, and then buried or bagged and disposed of in the garbage. There are many brands and sizes of wire cage traps, such as those by Havahart Traps, Comstock Custom Cages, Tomahawk Live Traps, Catch & Release Live Animal Traps, Kage-All Live Cages, JT Eaton Live Animal Cage Traps, and Petrum Humane Animal Trap Cages.
Voles can be caught using apple slices as bait in the wire cage traps, or in rat snap traps baited with apple slices and placed near their holes.
Chipmunks can be caught in rat snap traps baited with peanut butter. Both squirrels and chipmunks can be baited into wire cage traps with sunflower seeds or peanut butter. Squirrels may be repelled by the use of sprays containing capsaicin, such as:
- Scoot Squirrel Repellent
- Bonide Go Away! Deer & Rabbit Repellent
- Hot Pepper Wax Animal Repellent
- Squirrel Away
- Havahart Critter Ridder
The Havahart Cridder Ridder product label also lists that it repels chipmunks.
Groundhogs, raccoons and skunks may be caught using larger wire cage traps. Use pieces of cantaloupe, sweet corn, or lettuce to entice groundhogs into the trap. Traps may be baited with watermelon, sweet corn, bacon, wet cat food, fish or any cooked fatty meat for raccoons. Skunks can be baited with sardines, canned cat food, bacon or bread with peanut butter into wire cage traps. Some trap brands are available with solid sides to prevent the person from being sprayed through the cage during removal. However, it may be advisable to hire a professional to remove animals, such as raccoons and skunks which are capable of transmitting rabies. Havahart Cridder Ridder (containing capsaicin) also lists on the label that it repels skunks and raccoons.
Armadillos damage lawns as they feed on earthworms and insects in the turf. Wire cage traps can be used to capture armadillos, but baits are not typically used. Instead, the best locations to set traps are along pathways to armadillo burrows and along fences, buildings or the side of the house where the animals have traveled. “Wings” can be made using 1 x 6 inch boards to funnel the animals into the traps (i.e., in a V-shaped arrangement). Sweeney’s Mole & Gopher Repellent (containing castor oil) also lists on the label that it repels armadillos. Avoid touching armadillos because in the Southern states they may be carriers of Hansen’s disease.
For more information about specific nuisance wildlife control, please see the The Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management.
For assistance in removal of nuisance wildlife from private property, there is a current list of professional nuisance wildlife control operators (NWCO) at the SC DNR website. Once on the website, search for NWCO companies by county listings. These companies are in the business of wildlife control, and like most businesses, do charge a fee for their services.
Does it make sense to buy worms and release them into your garden or lawn? When you buy something, you usually keep it. However, European Night Crawlers are a type of worm that stays where the food is. Like free farmhands, these worms will hang around your property and improve the soil. Good soil leads to nutritious vegetables and fruits, blooming flowers, and green lawns. How does a lowly earthworm improve the soil? Why buy worms when wild worms live in the soil? How is releasing worms different from composting in a bin? And how can you encourage the worms to stick around?
How Worms Improve the Soil
Worms have been digging into the earth for more than 500 million years. Humans are just 200,000 years old, and we started farming a mere 50,000 years ago. This entire time, earthworms have been breaking down waste organic matter, aerating and fertilizing the soil. They help create soil itself.
When vegetation dies, its nutrients are locked in. The waste organic matter needs to be broken down into usable components such as nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, etc. Otherwise, new plants could not reuse these nutrients. Microorganisms and fungi get to work, causing the waste vegetation to begin breaking down. Worms then eat the material. In a worm’s gut, the food is digested and mineralized. Valuable soil-friendly bacteria from the worm’s gut hitch a ride. The worms excrete “castings” (worm poop). These castings are a perfect fertilizer for living plants.
Plant roots also need water and air. The worms eat the dirt, digging tunnels. Like tiny plows, earthworms turn the soil and reduce compaction. Digging tunnels aerates the soil — allowing air and water into the ground. Good growing soil has large pores as airspace, and small holes for holding water. Soil that holds water properly give the plants enough moisture, but releases excess moisture. Worm castings are resistant to degradation. They tend to keep their shape, thus contributing to soil aeration. Worms castings appear on top of the soil and in the soil.
As a bonus, worms leave a thin layer of mucus in their tunnels. This part of the soil has more nutrients than surrounding soil.
Adding European Night Crawlers to the Soil
Dig up a shovelful of soil, and you will find worms. The United States has about 100 native species of earthworms, and several alien species have also thrived here. The better the soil is for growing, the more worms you will find.
When you begin cultivating a new patch of land, it may contain earth moved from another location. Worms do not appreciate disruption. They may have died or moved on. The soil may have been treated with chemicals that reduced the worm population. In new construction, the builders may have filled in with subsoil and clay, not topsoil. Most new gardens and lawns can benefit from a fresh dose of European Night Crawlers.
Additionally, gardeners and groundskeepers are always looking for a leg up. Even well-established gardens can see improvement from a few sacks of European Night Crawlers (Super Red). Just order Super Reds from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. Healthy soil needs 5 to 10 worms per square foot of surface area. For example, 250 worms will handle 25 to 50 square feet. This rule-of-thumb applies to both gardens and lawns.
Before adding worms to the garden, till the soil and dig in some organic matter. For an established lawn, apply organic fertilizer as a top dressing. Try animal manure, kitchen scraps, mulched leaves, or grass clippings from a chemical-free lawn. This yummy food will be very tempting for the new worms. They will be so busy eating, they will forget about the idea of wiggling away.
To add worms, place them on top of the soil on a dry day and they will dig down. Once they are comfortable, they will reproduce. If conditions remain right, they and their descendants will aerate and fertilize your garden for years to come.
European Night Crawlers are ideal for releasing into the soil. They process organic waste back into elements that feed plants. They also break up the soil, providing air and water. They are excellent fishing worms. And they can be confined to a composting bin to make concentrated organic fertilizer. You can order them online at Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm.
Note: Their smaller cousins called “Red Worms” are better for composting in a bin.
When deciding to apply various ways to care for the garden, we sometimes go for the easy and quick but inorganic method.
So, a lot of gardening experts at present are encouraging green-fingered Brits to bring back the humble earthworm into their gardens and take advantage of their aid.
Earthworms naturally plough the soil and burrow tunnels to provide proper aeration for your plants’ roots. It also makes water penetrate the soil easily, lessening the need to dig often.
To know how to encourage earthworms into your yard, here are effective ways to attract them and maintain their number.
6 Simple Ways to Encourage Worms in Your Soil
At present, around 16 species of earthworms inhabit the UK. They are a familiar sight to British gardeners as these slithering animals can aid in a lot of gardening tasks.
Worms also eat decaying plant material but don’t damage growing plants, so by having some in the ground, the soil will end up becoming a lot healthier.
And though they enhance soil quality, earthworms don’t stay in extremely acidic soils or yards that are prone to waterlogging. So, its time to convert your garden into an eco-friendly space and invite more worms.
1. Test soil
Organically-rich soil is what earthworms love. So, start testing your soil and ensure that it is high in nutrients and has a neutral pH level to encourage more worm life.
2. Prepare soil
To prepare your soil, you can allow fallen leaves and petals to accumulate on its surface. You can also add mulch or bury kitchen scraps in it.
To do so, dig about 10cm-deep holes in various spots around the yard, then fill them will fresh food scraps such as vegetable peelings before covering back up.
3. Water soil
Make sure to water your plants regularly because earthworms love moist soil. Aside from plants, make it a practice to hydrate the soil itself to create a desirable habitat for worms.
4. Don’t dig
To prevent harming the earthworms, try to lessen your amount of digging. It shouldn’t worry you in terms of aerating the soil because these garden critters will do the work for you.
If you must dig, however, use a garden fork, not a spade.
5. Be organic
To avoid killing the earthworms, opt for organic weed killers or pest repellents instead of store-bought, chemical-laden pesticides, fungicides, or other toxic substances.
6. Worm shop
If these techniques fail, it is never a bad thing to order garden worms online. To put them in the soil, simply dig a few shovel-deep holes around the garden and place them there.
Then, re-cover the holes with soil and water. Make sure to maintain a worm-friendly garden afterwards to keep them in your yard.
More than ever, our planet today needs more eco-friendly initiatives. So, aside from growing plants, use your humble garden to save earthworms and other forms of wildlife, reduce plastic waste and conserve more water!