A story of a gardener and a Jumping Worm infestation
I first found Jumping Worms (Amynthas species) in my compost pile in July 2021, then a few more in random vegetable beds and woodchip paths throughout the summer. I can attest to the dismay such discovery brings; a heart-wrenching worry about the future of my beloved garden. My way of working through the feelings has been to dive into research, looking for data on what changes to expect and actions to take, especially connecting with other gardeners to find out about their experiences.
The bottom line in all the sources I’ve consulted is that we don’t have great research-based answers for Jumping Worm control YET. What we do know about worm biology provides some suggestions on things to try, but there are a lot of unanswered questions. Observations from people—gardeners like you and me—with Jumping Worm infestations can provide important clues.
Some of the reports are indeed alarming.
A healthy bed of foxgloves collapsing with barely any roots
Arborvitae leaning as soil mixed with worm castings isn’t strong enough to hold the roots
Vegetable seedlings that don’t grow or thrive
All of these make me itch to do something—ANYTHING—to get the worms out of my yard! But I know that it's important to use research-based and scientifically-tested solutions to make sure that they are safe for the plants, insects and animals that visit my garden.
Learning to Live with Worms
Connecting with some gardeners who have long-term experience, I realize that managing Jumping Worms is a mindset adjustment as much as a set of actions to take.
I contacted with Olga, a three-year veteran of worm management who has found and destroyed thousands of worms in her Vermont woodland, in an attempt to slow forest floor changes and erosion. She started with a style focused on eradicating and now is leaning towards ways of co-existing with them while feeding the soil to retain the nutrition needed for the plants.
Martha in suburban Chicago tells me her six-year Jumping Worm infestation seems to have declined. After the first explosion, she continues to have a successful garden by observing and addressing the needs of individual plants, with a focus on natives.
From the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Erin shared that they have documented Jumping Worms on the property starting in 2018 and suspect they have been present for decades. They have been adapting cultural practices, such as limiting the use of bark mulch. Their flowers, fruits and vegetables continue to grow well despite the infestation. The Arboretum is also hosting research with the University of Minnesota to study potential control methods that could make it easier for home gardeners and foresters to protect against Jumping Worms.
Influenced by these conversations, I’m reminded that gardening has always been a research project, each season trying out possibilities, making observations, and adjusting practice based on the results. Working through the addition of jumping worms is the next stage of the adventure.
For those who would like to contribute their experiences to the overall research underway, consider joining the University of Minnesota Jumping Worms Project or contribute to the Extension Jumping Worm Report. We can make a difference if we work together!
Ramsey County Master Gardener Volunteer
University of Minnesota Extension provides information about the emotional impact of finding jumping worms in your garden and how to cope at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1dsnPTQyPyT9eWzjN3Ikesc7eTprE6y8lmyyWVDlaE9U/edit?usp=drivesdk.