The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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which works as gregjacksonedlp@gmail.com too.

Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
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Friday, April 29, 2016

More Earthworm and Compost Questions



One question came in from Facebook - what about a large supply of coffee grounds, pounds and pounds from Starbucks? Aren't earthworms crazy about coffee grounds?

Earthworms love just about anything organic, but they do not actually digest the material. They graze on bacteria that digest what goes into the earthworm's tubular system. The earthworm breaks down organic matter, with a crop or grinder filled with little stones, to make it easier for bacteria to attack the food they both need.

The earthworm is a series of rings of muscles with bristles. These bristles on the muscular rings move the earthworm smoothly through soil and resist being pulled out of the soil by birds or humans.

The earthworms produce Caltrate (TM) with their calciferous glands. OK, it is calcium carbonate, but I remember Caltrate more easily. The tiny kidneys excrete nitrogen compounds into the soil, and the castings leaving the earthworm form an ideal soil.

Big-eyed bugs are beneficial insects easily overlooked.

I have mold under my cardboard. Is that bad?
The idea behind the mulch, which God builds naturally under every plant and tree, is to:

  1. Provide organic products for the needs of the plant.
  2. Conserve moisture in the soil.
  3. Reduce weed competition.
  4. Attract beneficial bugs and birds to help the plant grow.

That mold is part of the decomposing process that can be enhanced with waste products, like:

  • Cardboard, newspapers.
  • Leaves and sawdust.
  • Wood mulch.
  • Animal manure, but not cat or dog manure.
  • Kitchen waste, minus meat and grease.

Mold attracts mold-eaters that digest it. Once digested, the mold-eaters are devoured. Every creature of decomposition is food for another, even the lowly slug. I once read that only ducks eat slugs, but that is not so. Various beetles eat slugs. Otherwise, slugs would overcome the world, just as bacteria would without the protozoa to keeps its numbers down.

Fungus is the champion decomposer, using its microscopic tube system to deliver the dissolved ingredients to plant roots. In turn, the plant roots offer carbon that the fungus must have to grow. God has not only engineered a fascinating system for building soil, but also manages it without our intervention. Sometimes God manages His improvements in spite of our meddling.

My favorite rose grower in a magazine wrote, "I keep putting chemical fertilizer on my roses, but they keep getting worse and do not produce. Should I go organic like my friends? They have lots of roses and never use chemicals at all."

Neither does Queen Elizabeth II, and her private gardens are a mecca for all wildlife.

So we try to balance the earthworm feast a bit, simply because its effect mixing and improving gets better with a tiny bit of help from us. For example, if we have access to rabbit, cow, or horse manure, that means addition ingredients - and lots of bacteria - for the earthworms to process.

As I told the person who IMed me, the wonderful thing about earthworms in clay is their ability to release even more nutrition from the clay to plants. Adding a load of organic matter will make the earthworms multiply and pull down the ingredients while making soil more amenable to digging, tunneling, and soil roots.

Organic matter holds water, sponge-like, and contains a wealth of compounds for the plants. A mix of organic additions will increase the array of these compounds, but one can go far simply with leaves, paper, and cardboard.

My unscientific formula is - one pound of organics (newspaper, cardboard, wood mulch, leaves) = one pound of excellent soil, due to earthworm digging and excretion. Therefore, I am always adding rather than taking away.

God adds to the soil over time by building up plants and trees that rain down material on the soil. The bio-mass increases as plants grow, penetrate the soil with their roots, rot back into the soil, and feed the creatures that helped give them nutrition in the first place.

Dill flowers and its cousins benefit
the insects that protect our favorite flowers.


Midland Experiment
I began organic gardening in Midland, Michigan, so I decided to make one small piece of land my earthworm paradise. I put all the kitchen trash in a small patch near the kitchen entrance. I kept putting grass, kitchen trash, everything, into that soil.

Two things happened. The first - the soil seemed to be almost all earthworms as they multiplied to process all the food. The second - the birds gathered in a tree overlooking that spot whenever I went out to dig. They chortled among themselves contently, looking forward to the extra food I was disturbing for their enjoyment. It became a favorite spot for them to eat, but they always left gifts behind to feed the survivors of their snacking routine.

This was repeated when we put children's swimming pools under the rabbit cages. We put soil and earthworms in each pool. The soil became a mass of well-fed earthworms, and this Rabbit-Gro was put in the gardens and replaced with less potent soil and an initial lump of earthworms to tend it.

The worms kept the area beneath the rabbits sanitary, and the worms were promoted to compost duties and garden chores.

Birds plant pokeberry for me,
and I grow it because so many birds enjoy the fruit.