The true essence of composters, worms have been on planet earth longer than dinosaurs, and play an integral role in the organic world.

It is very easy to forget that often hundreds of worms are under our feet as we walk over the earth, nonchalantly doing their thing and seemingly with the greatest of ease.

Oh to be a worm! Munching all day on food and digging. Sounds fun right? But let’s not forget they are also very hard workers. And for that fact alone we owe them a great deal of praise and respect.

But first, here’s some worm fun facts :

* Worms have no arms, bones, legs or eyes but have 5 hearts!

* Worms don’t have lungs and breathe through their skin.

* Worms are 90% water.

* The longest earthworm on record is 22 feet.

* Worms are cold-blooded animals.

* Baby worms hatch from cocoons, smaller than a grain of rice.

* Worms need their skin moist at all times; otherwise they dry out and die.

* Worms are hermaphrodites.

* There are over 6,000 different varieties of earthworms.

* Worms have the capacity to eat their entire weight in a day, but usually only digest half their body weight daily.

* Earthworms may regenerate parts of their bodies if needed if cut apart, but only if the damage occurs at their tail end.

* Worms usually live for about 2 years, but have been known to live up to 8 years.

There are two types of worms. Earthworms and compost worms. Earthworms are the guys who live deep in the earth – hence the name – about a metre into the soil. Whereas compost worms are surface dwellers and decompose the waste we humans create and place into our compost bins.

It’s a big mistake to put your earthworms in your compost bins, and vice versa your compost worms into your garden. Reason being: they both like different conditions, so will perish out of their ideal elements.

Earthworms tunnel deep into the soil and therefore bring subsoil closer to the surface, mixing it up with topsoil. They secrete slime everywhere they go, rich in nitrogen, which contain important nutrients for plants. The sticky slime aids the soil to cluster into particles in formations called aggregates. So whilst they are aerating the soil and providing nitrogen, they therefore bring nutrients to our plants. If worms had a CV, you’d list them as “Gardener’s Recyclers” and “Gardener’s Assistants”.

Worms being present in your garden indicate a healthy ecosystem. The more the merrier as the saying goes, but the more the healthier your soil is in this case: as more will definitely mean that there are microbes present in your soil. It indicates that there is a good balance of organic matter. They live deep in the soil, rise to the surface when they want to feed, wriggling to the top of the earth to create compost and then go back down again once finished.

Worms in the compost system eat up all our scraps and once the worm farm cycle is ready, gardeners add the worm castings from the worm farm onto the garden. Any non-decomposed matter present in these castings is gobbled up by the abovementioned earthworms, which come to gorge on any ‘leftovers’ the compost worms missed. They are a perfect tag team duo when in action.

Like all animals, their habitat is crucial to them. So be mindful that worms need food, moisture, oxygen and a good temperature. They will take a hike if their needs are not being met. Worm farms conditions can be adjusted to ensure this. So if you have worm farms, always be ultra observant to make sure your worms are happy. A good worm farm is moist but not wet (worms can drown), have enough food but not too much either – do some research on what is a good amount), and it certainly shouldn’t smell. A smelly worm farm indicates too much green matter and not enough shredded paper/leaves etc…the mix needs to be just right.

Ensure there’s no other occupants like spiders living in the worm farm – you can always flush them out with water if need be. Always have your worm farm in the shade all year round. In fact, pop it in a shed if you can, as a shed is an ideal condition for worms, as it’s generally a nice and dark environment, away from blaring sun.

Worms are fascinating and do our planet the world of good. Be aware of them, and nurture them all you can, our food and health/wellbeing depends upon it.