The Estate Wormery

feeding our soil
Words by: Kerry Searle

Jerry the gardener at Delaire Graff Estate tending to the Estate wormery

Good soil is fundamental to the health of what you grow. At Delaire Graff Estate, this important job falls to a humble team, a group of earthworms living in the Estate’s wormery.

Of all the creatures found in bountiful organic fields, compost heaps and farms, the earthworm is perhaps the most desirable. These small organisms are the tireless builders of soil fertility and the greatest contributors to the increase of soil richness and health. Earthworms are said to be the ‘intestines of the earth’ and, much as their human engineer counterparts, they change the shape, structure and functionality of their environment, helping to stabilise the ecosystem as they move through it.

In soils heavily populated with earthworms, as much as 30 tons per hectare of soil and organic matter pass through their systems annually, creating nourishing castings as they leave a trail of small passages for the movement of air and water.

Plants cannot directly absorb the nutrients they need from organic matter, such as fallen leaves. This matter needs to decompose and transform into elements that can be taken up by a plant’s root system. Digestive acids act upon natural matter passing through the earthworm, releasing small amounts of organo-mineral complexes, including potassium and nitrogen, which plants can now absorb. These nutrients improve the soil’s fitness, benefiting the health of vegetation.

In the Estate wormery, there is a nutrition factory that never sleeps, continuously recycling and transforming the organic leftovers from the kitchens and the Estate into valuable nutrients for the greenhouse, gardens and vineyards. Organic compost and fertiliser is absorbed by plants at a slower rate than those chemically created, resulting in a healthier garden for longer.

‘Feed the soil’ is a mantra for organic farmers because a fertile, mineral-rich soil translates to nutrient-rich, flavourful food. Earthworms are an asset to any garden, for these ecosystem engineers possess an essential ability to restructure and enrich the earth.

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