Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden - Chinese proverb

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

ABC Wednesday 4 - G is For...


... Gathering earthworms

I'm feeling a little like I'm following in the footsteps of Darwin again at the moment as I'm using my garden as a laboratory AND studying earthworms. I'm taking part in OPAL's Soil and Earthworm Survey: this is an initiative set up to celebrate biodiversity and people's partnership with nature, something that's right up my street.

They're planning a number of scientific surveys in which schools and the general public in the UK can take part. The first of these is earthworms and my study pack arrived a couple of weeks ago. I have booklet detailing what I have to do, an earthworm identification key (put together by those lovely people at the Field Studies Council), a magnifying glass and some basic soil testing equipment. I'm surveying both my garden and allotment: I'm particularly concerned that my garden's earthworm population might be a little on the low side as I rarely see them when I'm digging.

As well as digging a little pit to test my soil and look for worms, I also need to survey any other microhabitats within 5 metres of my chosen patch. Here you can see some of the many earthworms which occupy my compost heap. Most of them are juveniles (as the survey expects), but those which are large enough to use the key further, come out as compost worms (Eisenia veneta) or brandling worms (Eisenia fetida), both of which are usually found in compost heaps. Now all I have to do is to keep them still, so I can measure them!

The survey is on from now until May and you can still take part. They aren't sending out any more packs like mine, but the link takes you to where you can download the survey pack and earthworm identification guide. All you need to add are a couple of packs of mustard and vinegar, a couple of pH testing strips, plus a plastic ruler and you're fully kitted out to take part! I'll be uploading my results onto the website very soon and seeing how they compare with others in my area and nationwide. Scientists at Imperial College and the Natural History Museum are also very interested in seeing the results.

The OPAL website is well laid out and packed with information - well worth a look. I see they're also concerned about bee populations at the moment: something that should be of concern not just to gardeners, but to us all because of their vital role in food production. I've just clicked through OPAL's link to the Save Our Bees website which is launching a bee survey to coincide with the start of National Science Week on Saturday.

News hot off the press!!! The RHS seed trial this year is mange tout and sugar snap peas - yum. If you'd like to take part, you need to look pretty sharpish and go here. The first 200 to sign up will be given their seeds by Thompson & Morgan. I was too late for the free seeds for last year's radish trial, but I joined in anyway.

Click here for other Glorious ABC Wednesday contributions.

28 comments:

  1. I know a Small Boy who would love to come help you out with your worm digging!!

    Enjoy.

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  2. What could be better than playing with worms

    An Arkies Musings

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  3. We didn't have many earthworms either, when we moved here, so I bought 100 from Wiggly Wigglers - an easy no-dig way to improve the soil! Now we have thousands of them - I accidentally cut one in half every time I put a trowel in the ground, and there are worm-casts all over the lawn ...

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  4. Its been raining for 3 days straight and the earthworms are all over our sidewalk.
    Interesting post.

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  5. How do you measure a wriggling worm? What an interesting project, good luck.

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  6. Fascinating post. I alwasy know when the worms are out by the amount of bakcbirds that appear.

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  7. You guys have all the fun and you have roundabouts, too! We do have earthworms, but I am not measuring them;-) gail

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  8. A very interesting post. I am always overjoyed at finding earthworms in my soil, and my grandchildren, in particular, are fascinated by worms. Good "G" post.

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  9. I have a ton of them floating in the melting snow and rain - Interesting post and I surely enjoyed reading it...

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  10. My goodness! Worms already? My soil is still frozen!

    MY ABC Wednesday post is at
    More of Me - EG

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  11. We must have lots of worms for we have lots of molehills. Interesting survey. The measuring part will take some effort me thinks ;-)

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  12. I have got to have a go at that! Started digging out some new borders last week and as Juliet commented I ended up with twice as many worms as when I had started, poor chap's I didn't mean it.


    Word verification: mincr
    I am not :o(

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  13. Interesting as always VP!

    xoxo Tyra

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  14. Fun, educational, and environmental--what more could you ask from a project? :-D

    I await the results!

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  15. Very interesting, VP, but I think I'll just wait to see your results. Being a former wormaphobic, I have achieved a kind of peaceful co-existence with the earthworms in my garden. I'm glad to see them, but we leave each other alone:)

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  16. Well done VP, I hope you find more earth worms than you thought. I am finding more worms as I amend the soil in my garden. I am sure I started off with none, I wonder where they come from!

    I have sent my email to the RHS for the pea trial. I hope to grow some sugar snap peas in my new veg plot anyway.

    Best wishes Sylvia

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  17. I can't dig at the moment, because of my gammy shoulder, or I would take part! I know we have worms, but how many and what type I have no idea!

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  18. This looks really interesting. My knowledge about worm varieties is Brandling and 'Other'.

    When I moved into my house there were no worms in the garden. I get very excited when I see them now and tell the rest of the family . . . and about how I am improving the soil . . . and they are about as interested in what I have to say about soil as they are in blogging as when I witter on about blogging. (Hmmm.)

    I tried sugar snaps once - and not one single one came up.

    Never had much luck with peas.

    Esther

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  19. My worm survey kit arrived lat week much to the amusement of my boys. Do you know if there is a deadline for doing it?

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  20. Thanks for this snippet of information VP. I will download the survey pack and identification pack. I have noticed more worms at the allotment than in my own garden. Just wondering how to keep a worm still ? I suppose there must be a technique :)

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  21. Tickle them under their chin and they are putty in your hands.

    Sorry only joking - can't imagine many things more difficult, there is of course putting tights on an octopus ...... do I feel a meme coming on? The 20 most tricky things to try?

    My word verification is killeer which I doon't care for much and I hope it doesn't apply to your worms VP, but is is quite apt for the TV I'm watching, Davis Attenborough, Great Events! xx

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  22. I very much hope that you will also be playing the Bassoon to your worms.
    Perhaps, as we have evolved for a further 200 years since Darwin, you should try something a little more modern. A controlled experiment is called for: how do worms react to such different musical spheres as ABBA's greatest hits or Dubstep.

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  23. Hi _ ABCers, I'll come and visit your posts for today.

    Deb - I was thinking this was just the thing for Small Boy!

    Juliet - I have plans for something similar - spreading my compost this spring for starters, the heap's heaving with the things :)

    Gail - it's quite tricky to measure them!

    Dave - I didn't think you were! At least you've got loads of 'em on your plot :)

    Tyra - thanks.

    Susan - exactly.

    Rose - I wondered whether some people would find today's post a bit off putting, but they are our best garden helpers.

    Sylvia - brilliant, I hope you get in. Apparently the list goes off to Thompson and Morgan as soon as they've got the 200. Hopefully Mrs Be (Carrots and Kids) will be joining in with her school gardening club too.

    Esther - there's 26 earthworm species in the UK, with just 12 making up 95% of what's found. Or this survey may say differently...

    PG - the website say March to May for the survey to take place. In view of the cold weather at the moment it might be worth waiting a little while.

    Anna - great, you're joing in too!

    Maggi - that's sound like a great idea for a meme - I might bring that one out next winter, if you haven't done so by then ;)

    James - I was thinking of playing a selection from your varied taste in music ;)

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  24. Just got my confirmation back that I have made it into the 200 Pea people, or maybe we should be called Sugar Snappers! :o) Cheers for the tip off and good luck with them.

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  25. Dave - that's great news and I love your alternative name for the group. Sounds like Sylvia and Mrs Be have a good chance of getting in then.

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  26. Lovely worms! I had several conversations with them on the allotment on Monday, so this weekend I will take the worm identification guide with me! Great post VP.

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  27. Your post made me remember back when dh used to fish and we would dig worms for him. I love worms, don't know why. I enjoy finding them in the earth when digging, and I always make sure to cover them back up. Thanks for reminding me of something I enjoy.

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  28. TS - Thanks :)

    CurtissAnn - I do like it when posts spark off good memories for other people :)

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