Despite their many varieties and habitats, potted plants share one important characteristic. It is possible for soil to become infested with various worm-like creatures, either by attracting animal carriers or cross-contamination when planting. The good news is that worms, in general, are beneficial to soil health! There are actually some worms that cause havoc to your plants and some that aren’t worms at all. The quick guide reviews worms and worm-like insects you may find in potted plants, how they can be identified, and what to do if you notice one.
In order to get started, we would like to take a closer look at the worms that you would want to see in your worm farm. Most people imagine the familiar earthworm that improves soil health when they hear they have worms in the soil. You should also pay attention to other types of worms involved in decomposing organic matter in the soil and facilitating aeration and aeration.
Earthworms or Red Wigglers
It is beneficial to have every kind of earthworm in your pot, but red wigglers in particular are highly beneficial. As they grow to a length of 2 to 3 inches, they are the ideal size for pots of smaller sizes. In addition, these also make great additions to compost bins for speeding up waste breakdown and naturally enriching the soil.
Keep them alive by adding small scraps of compost materials to the top 2-3 inches of the pots whenever you see them, it’s part of supporting their lifecycle. In return, they will create a nutrient-rich waste that improves soil aeration, prevents compacting of the soil and enables plants to uptake moisture.
Bacterial and Fungal Nematodes
It’s hard to tell nematodes apart, but they look like a small, round white tube but there are many different types of them – some of which can harm your soils. Yet, there are more than 30 beneficial nematodes, many of which are practically microscopic, so various tests must be used in order to determine if they are helpful or harmful.
There is a good chance that nematodes are not a problem. Beneficial nematodes sometimes tolerate insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizers well and do not become wiped out accidentally. By purchasing nematodes as drench or spray, you can add them to your soil, as they will help control parasitic insects, and have the benefit of mineralizing your soil solids for plant nutrition.
We shall explore below why your potted plants might be suffering from a bad nematode if you are unable to determine the reason why.
Bad worms aren’t really worms, but rather look like worms. They can ruin your potted plants causing havoc. If you see these worms, or if you see their destruction, you need to act fast to eradicate them. Plants in pots have such a small surface area, destructive worms can easily get out of control and destroy your plants from the roots up fairly quickly.
Grubs (Grub Worms)
There are a wide variety of beetles, and their larval form is known as grubs, and the presence of grubs is of paramount importance. This type of worm could be of different sizes depending on which species it comes from, but they all look the same in appearance and are curled into a c-shape with six legs towards the head.
During the first month after hatching the eggs, the larvae feed on organic matter in the soil, but it won’t take long for them to start eating the roots of the plants in the pot. This destruction is usually rapid, taking the plant only a few days to wilt and die.
The insects will also overwinter in pots before emerging as adults in the spring, which are then able to eat the foliage of the plant. Turn your potted soil and aerate it every spring to make sure all larvae are killed. In addition, if you notice poor growth during the growing season, you might consider digging up and searching for grubs. The good news is that beneficial nematodes break beetle life cycles very quickly so that you can make sure your soil is free of grubs- so do you soil naturally with these beneficial creatures.
Parasitic nematodes have characteristics in common with their helpful counterparts, and are small enough to be practically microscopic. Plants with fungi that live amongst the root systems will spread and destroy your roots in a matter of minutes, leaving death and destruction behind. Though they are small enough not to destroy the entire plant, they can kill parts of a plant and cause brown patches of decay, decay, and decayed material. In addition, you may see stunted growth, or even an absence of growth.
You can prevent them by having a well-drained soil, mixing your potting soils well each fall, winter, and spring to bring lingering survivors below the surface to die, and mulching your beds with organic matter to control nematode populations in the spring.
These creepy crawlers or worms aren’t bad or destructive all the time. If you see either of these in your potted soil, you don’t have to worry about them, regardless of how creepy they look. You can’t seriously move them unless you absolutely feel the need to. In fact, they’re more helpful than anything else.
Enchytraeids Enchytraeids are white earthworms that look like tiny white baby birds. They come in large numbers. Gardeners can often become concerned about their sheer population when they turn over a shovelful of writhing mass, but don’t worry, they are actually beneficial and will not harm your plants.
In short, they will speed up the soil composting process and help in adding nutrients and aerating the soil. It is recommended to take them out of the soil and find other areas to live. Please be aware that if they overpopulate, they will compete directly with beneficial worms like the red wiggler for food.
If viewed from a distance, millipedes might be mistaken for an earthworm on account of their long, blackish or reddish brown bodies. However, these insects have many legs, hence the name, and are often seen crawling around looking for moist, dark environments. Because of this, they tend to breed in containers with water, so it is possible to find them directly under your pots, around your pots, or even inside the pots.
Moreover, they will also contribute to the decomposition of organic matter for soil health — making them more helpful than anything else. These insects are harmless to humans and cannot bite or sting. However, they can become creepy if dropped or brought indoors accidentally.
If you come across any worm-like creature in your potted plants, or even your garden for that matter, they are most likely beneficial. You don’t need to be concerned about the critters you may find while digging in your potting soil unless you notice something harmful, such as an obvious grub, or you are concerned about an ailing plant.
Improved soil and healthy growing environments are improved by the presence of earthworms, beneficial nematodes, and even millipedes.