A Worm's Tale

Presumably called tiger worms because of their stripes, not their size or ferocity

Mark has been having fun with tiger worm jokes. Tiger worms are what you commonly have in your worm farm and they are voracious devourers of vegetative waste. But we found in Radio New Zealand’s archives an interview from last year where Kim Hill interrogated her gardening guest on a range of topics including aforementioned tiger worms. Said guest was badly out of her depth although she knew a smidgen more than Kim (who is clearly no gardener) so she survived on a degree of bluff. But the suggestion that you want to try and keep your tiger worms in your worm farm and that if they escape to your garden they may eat your root vegetables (as in, they may have eaten Kim’s missing radishes) had us snortling in derision. Yes snortling – that is a combination of snorting and chortling.

Mark has taken to issuing warnings. Round up your tiger worms now and corral them back to the worm farm. Tiger worms are so-called because they have jaws with sharp teeth. The reason why you should never put meat in your compost is because the tiger worms develop a taste for it. Haven’t you heard about the elderly gardener who tripped and fell by her worm farm and all they found was a skeleton after the tiger worms had finished? Licences are about to be issued before you are allowed to have tiger worms on your premises and an inspector will ensure that you have them suitably housed and restrained.

The bottom lines are that while tiger worms are entirely suited to worm farms, they can be found elsewhere in the garden. Worms only process dead and decaying matter, not living plants. They have no teeth and jaws to chomp into your root vegetables. Slugs, snails and weevils will attack your plants but the faithful garden worm will not. There are many different types of worms and some, like the tiger worm or Eisenia foetida, are designed to accelerate the process of composting. Others prefer to live deeper in garden soils and these are the ones who help to aerate the ground by burrowing. A garden full of worms is a sign of good soil health and to be valued. If you spot the somewhat striped tiger worm in your garden soils, it is more likely to be an indication that you have a humus-rich layer of mulch on top.

I am sure it is a hard enough life being a worm without being accused of eating the vegetable crop. It is, by the way, apparently a myth that if you cut a worm in half, both halves will survive. They merely wriggle and die. While a worm can survive losing a bit off the end of its tail, it is not quite as resilient as many of us were brought up to believe. Oh dear, I wonder how many humble earth worms we gardeners sever in their prime or are we liberating them from life’s mortal coils?