Thursday, December 8, 2011

December's Alphabet (V-W)

Continuing to work my way through the garden alphabet...

"V"
is for Violet


Last January for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, 
I wrote a poem about this little African violet.  

Back then she was just a wee little thing, 
the offspring of a violet I got from my grandmother many years ago.


But now my little violet is all grown up and blooming :-)



"W"
is for Worms


Did you know these interesting little facts about our friends of the soil...

Worms have five hearts, but they have no lungs.  They breathe through their skin, which is why the soil must remain moist in order for them to survive.  They prefer cool, moist soil in the range of 60 to 80 degrees.

Worms need lots of oxygen, too.  Have you ever seen a bunch of worms on the sidewalk after a hard rain?   They are drowning down in the water-logged soil, so they are coming up for air.  The only problem with that is UV light can be deadly to a worm if exposed for more than a minute or two.

Worms have little bristles on their segments to help them move through the soil or to grip the soil when a predator is trying to yank them out of the soil for a tasty meal.  Worms also have a gizzard, so they need grit in their environment.

Worms are hermaphrodites, which means they are both male and female in each worm.  They lay eggs, but two worms are needed to fertilize the eggs.

You know that pinkish band toward the end of a worm?  
That is called the clitellum.


This band, or clitellum, is found toward the head end of the worm.    Two worms will lie head to head and secrete mucus and exchange sperm through their clitellums.  The worm then backs out of the band, and as it does so, it injects its own eggs and the other worm's sperm into it. When this band slips over the head of the worm, it forms a cocoon from which the new worms emerge.

In the picture below do you see the little yellowish spot toward the end of the worm to the right of center?  This is the clitellum about to slip off the head of the worm!


These little yellowish BB-sized ovals in the picture below show a couple of worm cocoons. 


Each worm will produce about four cocoons per week. 
  
Worms live four to five years!

If a worm is cut in half, 
only the part of the body that has the head will survive.

Worms neutralize the soil and get rid of pathogens in the soil.  Worms are so beneficial to our soil.  And all they ask for in return is a little moisture, a little oxygen, and some food -- a/k/a garbage.   Worms can eat a couple pounds of kitchen scraps per week!


There are different types of worms: 

Night crawlers live in permanent vertical burrows that reach 6 to 12 feet underground!  They are great bait worms.   

Field worms or true earthworms live in the top 18 inches of soil and make complex horizontal burrows working the top layer of soil.  These are the type of worms that we most likely will find in our backyard compost piles.   

Red worms or "red wigglers" live in the top 6 to 8 inches of leaf litter on top of the soil. They break down organic matter and produce wonderful earthworm castings that are great for fertilizing our plants.  Red wigglers are the worms used for vermicomposting.

If you'd like to learn more about vermicomposting, click here.

Stay tuned for the Alphabet's End @ Year's End...

Toni :-)

10 comments:

  1. Oh how I wish I could grow African Violets. I never seem to have any success with them. Your offspring is looking quite lovely.

    As for worms, there's an abundance of them around here sometimes, particularly during and after a heavy wet season. I see lots of earthworms.

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  2. With bated breath, I wait. But I did enjoy the worm info. As a former science nerd, I knew about the five hearts of worms, but I was unaware that my nightcrawlers were such tunnelers!

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  3. Great photos of the worm cocoons and the clitellum slipping off the one worm! I'd read about that before but never seen photos!

    Ever since learning that worms were coming up to the surface after a rain because of being "drowned", I've developed the habit of rescuing any I see on a sidewalk or other large flat surface by picking them up and putting them back onto the nearby lawn or garden. People must think I'm nuts, but it makes me feel a little bit better.

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  4. Hi Toni,
    first time to your blog and enjoyed it very much!
    cant wait to visit again!

    glimpsesofglory-karen.blogspot.com/

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  5. So much about worms!! Thank you. I'm always thankful when I come across them in the soil. Didn't know their reproduction habits...that was interesting. I'll look more closely next time I see one!

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  6. Toni, I love your African Violet, too. There is something wrong with my house (it can't be ME) though, for some reason I have relatively no luck with violets or many houseplants at all. I have some coleus cuttings rooted that are horizontal already in the kitchen window. Sigh. Maybe they're just tired.

    I was fascinated by the worm info, little did I know there were so many different kinds. I always feel sorry for them when they are out on the road after a heavy rain, too.

    Always a pleasure to visit you!

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  7. What interesting facts about worms - I didn't know most of this. Encouraging that they produce four cocoons per week! I just love it when I find a worm in my garden!

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  8. I agree....very interesting worm facts, but I don't think that will help my squeamishness!

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  9. Your violets are beautiful! I used to have so much better luck with them at my old house, but they just don't like it here in Ohio I guess. You asked if I have a wonderful Thanksgiving with my family. Well, the answer is no! I work at a popular retail store, so we have Thanksgiving by ourselves, then I went in to work overnight. Ugh!

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  10. They live 4 to 5 years! WOW! How much kitchen scrap is ideal to add to garden per week without inviting other pests or having smells?

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