Over the next few weeks Earthworm Watch are inviting members of the public to take part in a survey to find out how healthy the soil is in the UK. Earthworms are extremely important to UK soils because they keep the soil healthy by mixing dead plants, oxygen and water.
In the pack I got an information sheet which had a 20cm ruler on card, a worm identifier and a soil type chart. The pack also included the survey booklet, two sachets of vinegar, two packets of mustard to mix with water and a pair of rubber gloves.
At least two study sites need to be chosen. For example grassland, flower bed, lawn or woodland. A 20cm by 20 cm and 10cm deep hole needed to be dug and the soil piled on to a plastic bag. This is to make it easier to search through the soil for worms.
Once all the worms have been found, mustard water (the mustard powder and 500ml of water) is poured in to the hole and after 5 minutes any more worms that appear are put in to a separate tub.
The first site I chose was my lawn, where we found 8 immature surface feeding worms and 4 adult surface feeding worms. No more worms appeared after adding the mustard water.
Then second hole was in the flower bed, which was ten metres away from the first hole, this was slightly more successful with 8 immature surface feeding worms and 5 adult surface feeding worms. After the mustard water was added we found 2 adult surface feeding worms.
The third and final hole was in woodland and we didn’t find a single worm either before or after adding the water.
The second part of the survey was to check the soil type by the following ways
- Seeing if you could roll a handful of soil in to a ball.
- Adding vinegar to a handful of soil to see if it fizzed.
- Squeezing a handful of soil to see how moist it was.
- See if you could roll some soil in to a sausage shape without it breaking.
- Then if you could make a sausage, could it be rubbed smooth.
- Finally check the colour and shade of the soil against the chart.
Results are then sent to http://www.earthwormwatch.org