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22 www.GardenBargains.comWildlife WatchSome people find worms a little squeamish but a healthy population of earthworms means a well cultivated soil without the back-breaking digging. We take a closer look at just how the earthworm gives a helping hand.Earthworms are vital in moving compost and other organic matter down to 'where the plants need it'. Therefore any keen gardener will always encourage a healthy earthworm population. Their activity is one of the major benefactors of good soil structure while digging using machinery or hand tools is one of the major destroyers. In fact, we should only dig over soil to alleviate the occurrence of soil compaction from human traffic, or to remove weeds. Earthworm activity will create adequate aeration and movement of compost from the surface to below without destroying soil structure.Their burrows allow air and water into the soil, improving the strength and vigour of plant roots. These cavities enable roots to move more easily through the soil. As worms burrow, they pass soil and plant matter that has been digested in their body leaving these in piles known as 'castings' on the ground surface. This is an excellent fertiliser for plants, often farmed and sold at premium prices. Along with these benefits they also encourage birds such as Thrush into your garden that feed on slugs and snails. Earthworms really are a gardener's best friend!EARTHWORMSAre Nature's Top Soil Scientists!!! 23In the gardenDid You Know??If there are 500,000 earthworms burrowing into an acre of soil they can create a drainage system equivalent to 2,000 feet of 6 inch pipe!