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Thursday, Nov. 10, 2005 12:58 am

The worm's turn

Have you ever wondered what an earthworm thinks?

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Have you ever wondered what an earthworm thinks? I recently purchased a children’s book, The Diary of a Worm, for my son. The book is about the life of a young earthworm. As I read this book to my son, I found myself laughing hysterically. My 6-year-old didn’t understand all the humor, but he enjoyed the illustrations. The Diary of a Worm, written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Harry Bliss, would make a great gift for any gardener. Another great children’s book about earthworms is Wonderful Worms by Linda Glaser. This beautifully
illustrated, factual book teaches kids how worms benefit the soil.
These books enticed me to learn more about earthworms, and I visited a kid-friendly Web site devoted to earthworms, the University of Illinois Extension’s “The Adventures of Herman (the Worm),” www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/worms/index.html. “The Adventures of Herman” is the autobiography of Squirmin’ Herman the worm. Kids can take a wonderful adventure with Herman and learn about worm anatomy, the history of worms, and why worms are so important to us. European settlers accidentally introduced earthworms, most likely as hitchhikers in the soil of plants being brought to the New World, to North America about 350 years ago. Today, about 200 species of earthworms are found in North America, each with its own soil preferences. In addition to being good bait, earthworms are great for our soil. Having earthworms in your soil is a sign that you have healthy soil. Earthworms are underground farmers, responsible for many of the things that help our soil grow healthy plants. While feeding, they “turn” the soil, bringing organic matter, such as leaves and grass, from the surface and mixing it with the soil below. Earthworms leave behind valuable fertilizer through their castings (fecal matter). In addition, they naturally till the soil as they feed. As they burrow through the soil, they improve the soil structure and create channels through which plant roots can grow. Earthworms species range from 1 inch to 10 feet in length. The largest ever found measured 22 feet from end to end. An area the size of a football field may contain 50,000 to 1 million earthworms, capable of moving about 40 tons of soil. For a fun activity this fall, consider making a tasteful worm (gummy) treat. Although it takes a long time to build real soil, you can make a fun visual representation in minutes. Visit Purdue University’s Web site “Building Better Soil: Taste the Difference,” www.ctic.purdue.edu/CTIC/BetterSoilRecipe.htm.
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