Ask Gardenerd: Where Should the Worms Go?

brassica sprouts

A question came into Ask  Gardenerd that I hear often: “My standard compost bins have been populated with worms – I think red worms? Not sure where they came from but they are busy and happy. Should they go into the garden along with the compost, or do I need to keep them in the bins?” ~~Geri Bollman

Thanks for such an intriguing question. Let’s take a look at the options.

Red Wiggler worms in a worm bin.

First, if you didn’t add red wigglers to your compost bin, then the critters present are most likely a native species from the soil beneath your compost bins. They tend to move into wherever a food source is located. If you did add red wigglers to your compost bins, then that population appears to be thriving.

In either case, it’s generally fine to move worms from compost bin to garden soil. Earthworms lay eggs in the soil and when they hatch you’ll have a new batch in the compost that is left behind. Your garden will benefit from having nutrient producers (in the form of worm castings) in their midst, plus they will aerate the soil for you.

Red wiggler worms
Red wigglers in a worm bin

Not All Worms are Good

In certain cases, moving worms is a bad idea. There are some imported species of worms (specifically the jumping worm) that, having migrated into wooded areas in Northern United States, are destroying forest ecosystems. Red wigglers are not among these destructive types. Neither are the native worms in your soil.

So basically…move them or leave them, it’s up to you. Given that you said you have a lot of wigglers in your compost bin, they will repopulate the bin on their own. If populations are low, you might consider tossing the worms you find back in the bin as you sift the compost.

Thanks for writing in. I hope this helps.

Do you have a question for Ask Gardenerd? Send us an email and we’ll chose one to answer in an upcoming blog post.

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