The growers of Organic Winegrowers New Zealand celebrated the spring equinox with a new ritual: counting earthworms.
Our humble friends the earthworms may go unseen much of the time, but organic growers know that these creatures are important allies in the quest for great wine. Worms incorporate organic matter into the soil, making the soil more nutritious for plants, and they also make it easier for plant roots to access air and water.
Spring is a good time to count earthworms, as the soil is still wet but not too cold. To count worms in your vineyard or garden, simply dig a 20cm by 20cm wide and 20cm deep hole. Place the sod on a surface to count worms by gently crumbling the removed dirt. Record number of worms and replace the soil where you got it.
If you're count isn't as high as anticipated, don't fret - in the coming weeks we will share tips from Dr Nicole Schon of AgResearch on what you can do to encourage soil health.
OWNZ intends to make the worm count an annual event so that growers can track their own vineyard health and see how their own soil compares to others. Our aim is to inspire more thinking about how vineyard practices may affect earthworm numbers.