Gardening with invasive worms

Disclaimer for all gardeners – there are no beautiful flowers, lush shrubs, or stunning trees in this post. 🙂

Last week was our first Master Gardener refresher course, and it was packed. I guess all the Master Gardeners in NH felt the same way I did and were excited to even talk about gardening.

The most memorable topic was Invasive Earthworms in the Northeastern USA and the Horticultural Industry presented by Josef F. Gorres, Ph.D, University of Vermont in Burlington. Dr. Gorres traveled six hours round trip in order to speak to us.

Photo courtesy Vermont Invasives

Photo courtesy Vermont Invasives

The Amynthas Agrestis or crazy snake worm has been around for many years but is now being recognized in the Northeast as an invasive organism.

Plant materials originating from the Far East are suspected of having brought it to the US. One of the big questions is whether Amynthas Agrestis is attracted to municipal leaf mulch, compost, and wood mulch or do they travel with it.

They are feeding on leaf fall in our forests in the Northeast creating compressed areas of castings where nothing will grow. In Vermont, they have destroyed roots of plants and trees including some Sugar Maples which are the main source of sap for maple syrup.

It was first reported in New Hampshire last year when the owner of an organic nursery sounded the alarm after seeing the devastation in one of her greenhouses.

In Connecticut, their abundant castings are being blamed for the demise of lawns while Pennsylvania has reported that a Hosta producer lost the majority of their crop. Lady Slippers have also been reported to succumb to the compressed castings.

Even if you are a proponent of pesticide use, there is not one known to eliminate just the crazy snake worm.

We have been asked to be on the watch for this worm and notify our local Cooperative Extension office if we find any. Have you seen this crazy snake worm in your garden?

To those of you gardening, enjoy. To those of us still surrounded by white, may the melt begin soon. 🙂

If you’ve ever had any interest in a Master Gardener program, here is a link to our local information –  UNH Cooperative Extension.

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Additional Information on the Amynthas Agrestis:

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About Judy @ NewEnglandGardenAndThread

Master Gardener who enjoys gardening, quilting, photography, and traveling.
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13 Responses to Gardening with invasive worms

  1. As a novice gardener, I always thought worms were “good” for the garden. This sounds terrible. I worked with the USDA for years as they inspected cargo coming into the USA and the challenges they went through looking for “bugs” that were known to cause crop devastation. I will be watching my hosta! I guess it pays to KNOW where you are getting your mulch and soil from.

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    • I can’t even imagine the inspecting process. But, you’ve got it right on – you need to know who you are buying from. He suggested moving pots around at the nursery to make sure there weren’t any castings under the pot.

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  2. Joyce says:

    Interesting. I hope this infestation can be curbed before it destroys too much more. How discouraging to have an entire crop lost after you thought you hosted optimal growing conditions.
    Like you, I look for the slightest sign of spring. The sight of seed packets lined up alongside gardening tools at the grocery store really put a bounce in my step this weekend!

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  3. Grandma Kc says:

    How devastating. I thought all worms were good worms. I sure hope they find a way to get this under control. Fingers crossed for you.

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  4. well even though i know that most worms are good for soil they all give me the heebie jeebies !! 🙂

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  5. How bizzarre to think that worm castings could be harmful! Hope someone figures out how to control these guys.

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  6. This is interesting. I, too, thought worms were good for the garden. Good luck steering clear of these. Getting things to grow in Colorado is so very difficult for many reasons that don’t even include invasive worms. (I just may have to ask your advice as we get closer to planting time; my thumb is so darn black and I’m determined to at least turn it gray… maybe even a pale, pale green of some degree.)

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  7. Barb says:

    I had no idea! I live in CO and am always overjoyed to see the worms when I can finally turn the soil in May. This gives me the shivers…

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  8. I don’t know about this particular worm, but I do know that exotic works are causing problems in woods around here by consuming all the leaf litter.

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