Rose gardening tips for growing healthy roses: Dig a big hole

Beautiful rose garden in Kent.jpg

When digging a hole for your roses, size matters and is a key factor in giving them a great start.

Whether you’re planting container roses or bare-root roses,  you will need to dig a hole that is both wide enough to accomodate the root structure. Having your hole deep enough is paramount to good drainage.

Give at least three feet of space between your rose bushes when planting to allow for room to grow as your plants mature.

rose gardening tips for growing healthy roses

10 Mental Health Benefits of Gardening

cowen landscaping in kent

Research has shown that spending time outside is good for our bodies and our minds. I’m sure you’ve experienced these benefits: After feeling stressed out or bored indoors, you step outside and your spirits lift.

This article was written by Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D. for Psychology Today.

cowen landscaping in kentOne great way to spend time outdoors is to garden. My dad always had a garden when I was a kid, and now I understand more about what drew him to it. I’ve always enjoyed being outside and gardening, but it took on special significance for me when I was recovering from an extended illness. As I began to recover, I felt compelled to greatly expand my garden beds and the things I planted, even though I was still struggling physically and mentally.

The experience seemed to accelerate my own healing. It felt like even as I was building the garden, it was helping me come back to life. One day as I stood in the afternoon sunlight and looked with amazement at all that had grown, I felt my own strength that had returned over the same stretch of time.   

This personal experience along with numerous studies about the positive effects of time outside made me curious to explore the many benefits of gardening.

Recently I discussed this topic on the Think Act Be podcast with professional gardener Joe Lamp’l, creator of joe gardener®.

Here are 10 benefits of gardening that emerged from our conversation:

1. Practicing Acceptance. Most of our suffering comes from trying to control things that we can’t. The more we can accept the limits of our control and the unpredictability of life, the more peace of mind we can find—and gardening is a great way to practice. “Every day is one more reminder from Mother Nature that I’m not in control,” Lamp’l said, which he finds helpful as a self-described “control freak.”

I learned to practice acceptance in my own garden as the first baby lettuces were ready to harvest in mid-April. I had looked forward to spending time in the garden with my family, but when my 4- and 8-year-old daughters asked if they could help me harvest the lettuce, I was less than enthusiastic. What if they “messed up” my carefully planted garden? What if they broke off the stem instead of a leaf?

Thankfully I managed to get over myself and welcome them into the garden even with the possibility that they could break something. I realized that a “perfect garden” could wind up being a pretty lonely place, which wasn’t my idea of perfection. 

Acceptance in the garden or elsewhere doesn’t mean giving up, of course. We bring our best efforts to what we can control, and we let go of the rest. With gardening that means “preparing the best environment you can possibly make for your plants,” said Lamp’l, and allowing nature to take it from there. Your garden (like your life) is in bigger hands than yours. 

2. Moving Beyond Perfectionism. If you’re prone to perfectionism, you’re probably well aware of the costs. Trying to make things perfect can lead to frustration, missed deadlines and opportunities, and strained relationships. It can also lead to not even trying to do something, with a mentality of “why bother if it can’t be perfect?”

Given the lack of control we have, gardening can be a good antidote for perfectionism. No matter how carefully you plan and execute your garden, there are countless factors you can’t predict—invasions by bugs, inclement weather, hungry rodents. Years ago one of our neighbors had a beautiful garden growing until a neighboring resident sprayed weed killer on a windy day, damaging many of my neighbor’s vegetable plants.  

Gardening offers an endless supply of these kinds of “neutralizers for perfectionism,” as Lamp’l called them. He confessed to being a perfectionist himself and knows firsthand that “pursuit of perfection is a waste of time—especially in the garden. So don’t bother!”

3. Developing a Growth Mindset. The inability to garden perfectly is actually cause for celebration. Psychologist Carol Dweck developed the distinction between “fixed” and “growth” mindsets, and gardening is a great opportunity to develop the latter. With a growth mindset, we assume that we’re constantly learning. When something doesn’t work out the way we had hoped, we view it as a learning opportunity rather than as a “failure.”

We can even look forward to our mistakes. “I love making mistakes,” said Lamp’l, “because I look at them as a chance to learn something new. Through those mishaps, you can understand what happened and why, and you can be empowered to relate that learning to new things.” So more mistakes just mean more learning and more growing.

I certainly make my share of gardening mistakes and find a growth mindset to be so helpful. For example, this season I experimented with a seeding method that I didn’t do quite right and ended up with plants that were overcrowded and nearly impossible to disentangle when it came time to put the seedlings in the garden beds. My initial reaction was to feel stress about needing to “do it the right way,” and then I realized all I had to do was the best I could do, and I would learn something for my fall planting. 

I’ve experienced that quick connection myself when meeting other gardeners, and there’s so much to talk about—not only the nuts and bolts of gardening but the emotional and spiritual connections we can experience with our gardens. “It’s a collective effort,” said Lamp’l, “and we’re all better together when we share our experiences.”  

5. Connecting to Your World. Gardening provides a connection not just to other people but to our world. Many people feel that connection in a visceral way when they eat food they’ve just harvested. “We all have an innate connection to the earth,” said Lamp’l, “and that connection manifests itself when we consume what came from the ground—which is where we came from and where we all end up.” 

Having a garden really means having a relationship with the plot of ground you’re tending. Since I’ve gotten more into gardening I’ve had to be much more aware of the elements: the first and last frosts of the season, how much rain we’ve had, the temperature, where sunlight falls throughout the day. Gardening also connects us intimately with the cycle of the seasons.

And as Lamp’l described, it’s easy to feel “like a parent” to one’s growing plants. “You nurture the seedlings and do everything you can for them,” he said, “and then it’s like you’re putting your babies in the soil”—much as we might nurture a young child who eventually heads out to meet the world. “They don’t call it a ‘nursery’ for nothing!” Lamp’l continued. “I put a lot of care and emotion into the garden.” 

These studies have found evidence that being in green, or even being able to look out on a green landscape, is linked with better recovery from surgery, less anxiety and depression, better stress management, and many other positive effects. 

The nice thing about a garden is that it can be right out your back door. And while you could just as easily spend time sitting in your yard, you’re much more likely to be outside consistently when the work of a garden requires it. 

7. Being Present. Mindful presence is tied to a long list of positive outcomes, like relationship satisfaction and less emotional reactivity. The garden can be a protected place where we practice being where we are and actually doing what we’re doing.

Lamp’l described finding his “Zen moment” in his garden, where he tunes in to his experience. For example, while he generally loves to listen to podcasts, he doesn’t when he’s in the garden. “That’s sacred time for me,” he said. “When I’m out there weeding, I want to hear the birds. I don’t want to hear anything else. It’s a quiet time, and I relish it.”

I often find that centering effect in my own garden. Just last night after heavy rain I sat in my garden in the dying light of the day and took in what was around me. It was striking how quickly I felt a sense of ease.  

The movements are varied, too, which may mean fewer repetitive use injuries compared to more structured exercise. “When I do my weeding, I’m on my belly, on my butt, lying on my side—doing a lot of things you probably do in a yoga class,” he said. “I can give up my gym membership.”   

9. Reducing Stress. Not surprisingly, time in your garden can be a great way to release stress. There’s something about feeling the life all around you, the warmth of the sun, the soil in your hands. As I sit in my own garden these days I see rainbow Swiss chard and lettuces shaking in the wind, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries ripening, and feel the breeze as clouds move across the blue sky. 

Just don’t forget to spend time simply being in your garden. There’s always the next thing to do, as Lamp’l pointed out, so take time deliberately to step away from activity and experience what’s around you.  

10. Eating Healthfully. Last but not least, a garden can yield the freshest and healthiest foods available—the types of food that can have a significant impact on our mental health. For example, two studies showed that dietary changes can be an effective treatment for depression. 

Studies in this area tend to find benefits of the “Mediterranean” (and similar) diet, which emphasizes consuming minimally processed whole foods—exactly the types of food that your garden will yield. Plus there’s the added benefit of knowing you played a role in growing the food.

Image result for gardening

How to Get Started

Ready to start a garden of your own? Here are six quick tips that Lamp’l recommends for beginners.

Just start. Decide that you’re going to get started, even though you don’t know how it’s going to go or even exactly what you’re doing. “Try it, and so what if you fail?” asked Lamp’l. “The worst that will happen is you’ll learn something. And that’s worth the price of a plant, every time.”

Start slow. Lamp’l noted that it’s easy to get excited when starting out and plant too much, which ends up being hard to keep up with. As a result, you could end up feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. So get started, but don’t overdo it. You can always add to your garden over time. A simple first step is to grow something in a container that you can put close to your house, so it’s easy to take care of and enjoy seeing every day.  

Focus on healthy soil. Successful gardening starts literally from the ground up, according to Lamp’l. “Soil is life. When you focus on that, good things happen.” He strongly advises gardeners to avoid synthetic chemicals and “start feeding the soil with organic material.” That can include compost, the “single best thing you can add to the soil because there’s so much in it,” and anything else that nature provides, like shredded leaves, shredded bark, or aged manure. 

Grow what you like. Choose fruits and vegetables to grow based on “what you want to eat or what you like looking at,” advised Lamp’l. “Grow something that’s easy and that grows quickly, like a radish or lettuce.” The ease and quick reward will be motivation to stick with it. 

Know your plants’ needs. “Learn something about the plant before you stick it in the ground,” said Lamp’l. “Read the plant tag so you know if it likes sun or shade and wet or dry, and do your best to give it the environment it wants to thrive in.” After all, plants can’t move themselves, so it’s up to us to “put the right plant in the right place.” Your plants will reward you for it. 

Pay attention to your plants. Spend at least a little time in your garden every day observing what’s happening. That way you can “be proactive when problems arise and can circumvent potentially bigger problems,” said Lamp’l. Besides, there’s really no downside to spending time in your garden, given all the benefits discussed here. 

The full conversation with Joe Lamp’l is available here: How to Renew Your Mind, Body, and Spirit in the Garden.

Can compost be used as mulch? What is the purpose of compost?

Can I use compost as mulch what is the purpose of mulch

Here’s a question about mulch asked by Dexter Roona.

Can compost be used as mulch? What is the purpose of compost?

Mulch reduces moisture evaporation, moderates the temperature of the soil, reduces compaction of the soil, suppresses weeds and should eventually break down and become part of the soil.

So, in answer to your question of can compost be used as mulch, it depends on the type of compost. If the compost you wish to use is has the traits described above, then yes, you can use compost as mulch. However it’s unlikely that it will perform as well as mulch. I would recommend you staying away from chipped or shredded mulch and try using composted mulch.

Here’s an interesting article about composted mulch.
Which is better for plants, chipped mulch or shredded mulch? – Cowen Landscapes Landscaping & Gardening Services in Maidstone

Do YOU have a question for Cowen Landscapes? Send us a message, we’d love to hear it.

Nicotiana Paniculata: An ornamental plant with many uses.

Nicotiana Paniculata: An ornamental plant with many uses.

Nicotiana Paniculata tobacco plants horn worm history.

Tobacco has been used by humans for thousands of years. It’s been used for medicine, rituals, gifts and pleasure; just to name a few of its many uses. In 1492, when Columbus landed his ships on the North American continent, he was greeted by Native American tribes who gave him gifts, including tobacco, which he brought back with him to Europe. Native Americans have been growing tobacco since at least 6000 BC.

Nicotiana Paniculata tobacco plants horn worm history.

Rodrigo de Jerez was one of Columbus’ shipmates who brought tobacco back with him when he came home. As one of Europe’s first smokers, Rodrigo’s neighbours were so terrified when they saw smoke coming out of his nose and mouth, that they had him arrested by the Holy Inquisition and he was imprisoned for 7 years! By the time he was released, smoking had already become popular. By the 15th century, sailors were planting tobacco at nearly all of their ports and by the 16th century tobacco was being used in nearly all European countries.

You can carry on this tradition; growing tobacco plants for your own personal use. This can be rewarding and can save you money over the cost of store bought tobacco, not to mention the satisfaction that can be achieved by cultivating and harvesting your own product. One type of tobacco plant in general, is the Nicotiana Paniculata. It’s an attractive plant with stems ending in green tubes, about an inch long with darker green tips. Its leaves are large rounded spade or scallop shaped and are bright green. This plant attracts bees and butterflies.

Nicotiana Paniculata tobacco plants horn worm history.

Like most tobacco plants, Nicotiana Paniculata can be easy to grow as it’s naturally resistant to many pests. Once they germinate, they are a weather-hardy plant, as well. Starting to grow tobacco is a relatively straight forward process. Once you have acquired some tobacco seeds, germinate them indoors and then transplant them outdoors or into your greenhouse after the last frost. Growing tobacco indoors using plant lights is also an option. If you are worried about damaging or poisoning the soil, you could consider using large pots to grow your plants in. If you do plant them in the ground, you should rotate them, making sure not to grow tobacco in the same place each year. There are very few pests or animals you need to worry about when growing tobacco. One you may encounter is the Hawk Moth and the Hawk Moth pupae; aptly called the Tobacco Hornworm.

Nicotiana Paniculata tobacco plants horn worm history.

Tobacco plants are not completely helpless when it comes to pests either. When caterpillars do begin to feed on the plant, a chemical in the bug’s saliva reacts with chemicals released by the plant. This chemical reaction acts as a beacon to the offending insect’s predator, the Geocoris, or “Big
Eyed-bug”. Here’s a very interesting article in ‘Discover Magazine’ about this evolutionary defence mechanism. You should take caution if you grow tobacco where animals may graze or come into contact with it, as tobacco plants can cause illness or death in many domestic animals; such as pigs, goats, sheep, horses, etc. Children exposed to high levels of nicotine from wet leaves may require hospitalisation. Is it legal to grow tobacco in the United Kingdom? Do I need to pay taxes or duty on home grown tobacco? Although tobacco is a highly regulated product in the UK, it’s usually only after it’s been harvested. It’s absolutely legal to grow tobacco for your own personal use in the United Kingdom. However, once this tobacco has been harvested and dried, things become a bit more complicated. According to www.gov.uk/guidance/tobacco-products-duty#products-duty-isnt-payable-on, you generally need to pay duty on taxes to the HM Revenue and Customs as soon as the products become liable to the duty, or, as the government defines: “reaches a smokeable condition during manufacture”. So, according to the government, once your leaves have been harvested and dried, ready for a pipe or rolled into a cigarette they become taxable. Just something to consider if you’ve decided to grow your own tobacco.

Have you grown tobacco plants? We’d love to hear your tips, stories and see your photos. Please share in the comments section.

This article and many other horticultural articles can be found on https://cowenlandscapes.co.uk

Good luck and happy planting!

List of some herbs to grow inside the home.

indoor herb garden

Low Bamboo LED Grow Light Garden
Modern Sprout Brass Grow-Anywhere Growhouse

Between the convenience of having flavourful herbs on hand whenever you need, and the satisfaction that comes with knowing you grew them yourself, there are lots of reasons to consider starting an indoor herb garden. Imagine seasoning your fresh tomato sauce with a few leaves of freshly picked basil, sprinkling a pinch of cilantro in your homemade guacamole, or tossing a sprig of rosemary on your roasted vegetables. As idyllic as it sounds, though, these little herbs pose big challenges for the aspiring indoor gardener. Most require at least six to eight hours of bright light each day and enough water to thrive – but not so much water that their roots will rot.

Here’s a list of great herbs that you can grow right in your home!

Lemon Balm

Grow lemon balm plants for a single year for best flavor. Plant it indoors in the fall, grow indoors through winter, then you can plant it outside for spring and summer.

Chives

Chives grow almost anywhere. Harvest them at the base (like cutting grass), no more than one third of the bunch at a time.

Mint

Growing mint indoors may be the best plan for most of us. Containerizing mint keeps it from growing all over the yard and garden. All varieties are suitable for indoors.

Parsley

If you choose to start parsley from seed, soak it in warm water to crack the seed coat before sowing it.

Basil

Use the smaller globe types of basil for indoor growing. Many of the larger types are too large and will cause space problems.

Bay Laurel

Also known as bay leaf. This shrub can get quite large if left unpruned. It works well indoors through the cold months, but performs best if kept outdoors in warm weather.

Cilantro

Cilantro is short-lived by its nature. Start a succession of seedlings at two or three week intervals to keep a supply going all the time.

Thyme

Thyme is adaptable to pots as small as four to six inches. Simply repot it from a nursery plant, or divide a larger plant that has grown outdoors. Like rosemary and sage, it is easy to propagate from cuttings as well.

Lemongrass

Lemongrass can be grown from seed, purchased as a starter plant, or propagated in water from the fresh herb in the grocery store.

Oregano

Oregano is easy to propagate from cuttings or by division. Take a few cuttings at the end of summer and root out in a cup of water. Fresh oregano is much milder than dried. Use it at the end of the cooking process so that its flavor is not lost.

Rosemary

Take cuttings of outdoor rosemary at the end of summer to grow indoors through winter. Start with a four inch cutting from a branch tip, strip the lower foliage and stick it into potting soil. Cover with plastic to retain humidity as it roots.

Sage

Buy a starter plant or start it from cuttings off an established plant. Simply snip off the growing tips from a plant outdoors and stick them in a pot with good potting soil. Keep the cutting moist and it will root in a few weeks.

Kaffir Lime

Kaffir lime is another woody plant used for its foliage. As with bay laurel, give it outdoor time in the summer if possible.

Mileece is a sonic artist and environmental designer who developed technology to hear the sonic song of plants.

Mileece sonic artist music from plants

In this episode of Sound Builders, we went to Los Angeles, to meet with Mileece. She’s a sonic artist and environmental designer who’s developed the technology to give silent seedlings a portal to their own sonic expression.

Channeling a plant’s sentience into an instrument is no obvious feat. Mileece’s background as an audiophile and programmer dovetailed to turn a garden into an organic medium for music. She pulls this off by attaching electrodes to leafy limbs, which conduct the bio-electric emissions coming off living plants. The micro-voltage then gets sucked into her self-authored software, turning data into ambient melodies and harmonic frequencies.

It’s simply not enough for these green little squirts to just spit out noise. All this generative organic electronic music must sound beautiful, too. As a renewable energy ambassador, Mileece’s larger goal behind her plant music is to enhance our relationship with nature. And if plant music can have a pleasing aesthetic articulation then hopefully we all can give a greater damn about our environment.

While some may see the paradox in an organic medium generating electronic music, Mileece does not. She sees this as a symbiotic relationship, a vital one, and one that hints to a larger relationship she’s been trying to unify, which is that between humans and nature.

Cycle the Vineyards tours launched for Kent vineyards and wine lovers

Drinking win in Kent UK

English – and Kentish – wine is flourishing, with record harvests and millions of bottles produced.

At the 2018 International Sommelier Awards, English and Welsh wines won more awards than Champagne for the first time. And Champagne house Taittinger has also invested in land in Kent to plant their own vines.

Despite all the accolades, English wine is still somewhat under-appreciated by Brits.

Cycle the Vineyards tours by Will Males
Cycle the Vineyards tours by Will Males

But an entrepreneur from Kent has launched Cycle The Vineyards, to be one of the first to guide small groups on tours to a selection of English vineyards – by bike.

Will Males aims to help cycling and wine lovers get to know the wines better through guided wine tastings and winery tours, as well as enjoying the scenic road biking routes of the South East.

The two-night Wine Garden of England tour stops at four vineyards that are part of the Wine Garden of England group. As well as being able to taste their wines, guests will be provided with food pairings, from platters of local produce for lunch at Hush Heath and Gusbourne Estate, to five and six course meals at Squerryes Winery in Westerham and the Swan at Chapel Down, Tenterden. As an added touch, dinner on the first night of the first tour on May 15 will welcome guests into Squerryes Court – home of the eighth generation of Wardes to live there.

Hush Heath Estate near Staplehurst is one of those involved
Hush Heath Estate near Staplehurst is one of those involved

Will, founder of Cycle The Vineyards, said: “We wanted to create something that was more hands-on for guests than your typical wine tasting, so we have worked with the vineyards to create some really exciting experiences on the tours.

“From a ‘sabrage’ masterclass at Chapel Down, to disgorging your own bottle of Gusbourne’s sparkling wine, as well as a private dinner at Squerryes curated by the head chef and their Master of Wine, our tours will be filled with unforgettable moments,” Will added.

The first two tours will run from Wednesday, May 15 to Friday, May 17 and Tuesday, June 26, to Thursday, June 28.

There will be two further two-night tours and two four-night tours running later in the summer.

Prices are from £1,250pp. To find out more go to cyclethevineyards.com

To find out about the Wine Garden of England, which celebrates Kent wines, go to winegardenofengland.co.uk

This story was written by Angela Cole acole@thekmgroup.co.uk for
https://www.kentonline.co.uk

3 Tips on planting and how to stop plants from wilting

Planting tips keep plants from wilting

Here are three quick tips from Blossom on Instagram to make your plants grow healthy and fast while preventing them from wilting.

  1. Use an ice cream cone
    In the short video, a dry wafer ice cream cone is used to place seeds inside to help them grow. After the seeds have blossomed, the cone is then placed into a larger pot outside where it will eventually naturally decompose. It acts a biodegradable seed starter and will help flowering plants. 

  2. Growing green onions in an empty egg carton
    The next brilliant tip is to regrow green onions in an empty egg carton, instead of throwing them away. Turn the egg container upside down, pierce a small hole in the top and place in the ends of the green onions. Ensure there is water in the bottom and watch them grow overnight. 

  3. Rusty nails can help revive plants
    Not sure how to put your old rusty nails to use? This trick is an easy and smart way to save your plants, using something as simple as an old metal nail. Simply place rusty metal nails with water into a bottle and leave for a few days until the water has turned a brown-like colour. Then pour the water onto your wilting plants and watch their leaves revive again. The rust releases iron which is crucial in helping to nourish dying plants.

Earthworm research spurs farmers to act

biodiversity earthworms farming biology science

A study of England’s farmland has found key earthworm types are rare or absent in two out of five fields and has led to the majority of farmers affected vowing to change the way they farm.

The results indicate widespread, historical over-cultivation, and may explain observed declines in other wildlife, such as the song thrush, that feed on these worms.

The #60minworms project was the first comprehensive worm survey concentrating solely on farmland and was carried out by farmers themselves – 57 percent of whom said they would now change their soil management practices as a result.

The scientist behind the survey, Dr. Jackie Stroud, a NERC Soil Security Fellow at Rothamsted Research, said: “Earthworms are sensitive and responsive to soil management which makes them an ideal soil health indicator. The aim of this research was to find a baseline of farmland earthworm populations that would be useful and used by farmers to assess soil health now and in the future.”

Biologists categorise earthworms by ecological role—with surface dwelling and deep burrowing worms the types most sensitive to farming practices, whilst the topsoil worms are generally unaffected by over-cultivation.

Earthworms perform a number of useful ‘ecosystem services’, and high numbers of earthworms have been linked to enhanced plant productivity.

This new citizen science project published today in the journal PLOS One, has revealed most fields have good earthworm biodiversity – meaning an abundance of all three types of earthworms were seen.

In Spring 2018, the average field had 9 earthworms in every spadeful of soil, with top fields having three times that number. One in 10 fields had high earthworm numbers of more than 16 worms per spadeful.

However, the study also revealed that 42 percent of fields had poor earthworm biodiversity – meaning either very few or none of the surface dwelling and deep burrowing worms were seen.

The absence of deep burrowing worms on 16 percent of fields is concerning, says Dr. Stroud, because they are ‘drainage worms’ with vertical burrows that aid water infiltration and ultimately helps combat waterlogging.

“The deep burrowing worms have slow reproduction rates so recovery in their populations could take a decade under changed management practices. In fact, we know very little about earthworm recovery rates.”

More than 1300 hectares were surveyed from all over England for the project, including fields managed under arable, potatoes, horticulture and pasture.

Earthworm research spurs farmers to act
Deep burrowing worm. Credit: Rothamsted Research

Each farmer volunteered to dig 10 regularly spaced pits across their field to make the observations, and an identification guide allowed them to allocate any sightings to one of the three main types of earthworm.

The success of this pilot project has already led to a much larger study, which recently concluded, says Dr. Stroud.

“Working with farmers led to the redesign of the pilot survey, culminating in a shorter, more efficient field assessment and a co-created earthworm identification guide, to help improve farmer confidence in earthworm monitoring.

“These improvements were well received, with farmers all over the country spending an hour of their time digging five soil pits and assessing their earthworm populations in the Autumn.”

Empowering farmers to survey their own soils would save about £14 million in soil health monitoring if rolled out nationally, she added.

Healthy Soils were not a headline indicator for the draft DEFRA 25-year plan for the environment, so the DEFRA policy aspiration of achieving sustainable soils is currently unclear.

Despite this, soil health is widely regarded as vital for both farming and the environment.

Dr. Stroud said: “Decisions made above the ground, whether by farmers or policy makers, influence the billions of earthworms that are engineering the soil ecosystem below the ground.

“Earthworms influence carbon cycling, water infiltration, pesticide movement, greenhouse gas emissions, plant productivity, the breeding success of birds and even the susceptibility of plants to insect attack.”

However, she added, as earthworms are sensitive to various farming practices, including tillage, rotations, cover cropping, organic matter additions, and pesticides, we need to do more to look after them.

“Crucially, working together with farmers, we now know typical earthworm numbers in agricultural soils and between us have developed a quick method for ongoing monitoring. Many farmers have reported they plan to survey again this Spring following benchmarking their fields last year.

“Soil health is complicated, but the path to doing things differently has to begin somewhere.”

This story is by by Rothamsted Research for https://phys.org