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Don Kinzler, Published April 18 2014

Fielding questions: Earthworms, night crawlers indiciate health

Q: Do you have any suggestions for getting rid of earthworms and their mounds of dirt? Would power-raking be too hard on the grass? Or would aerating be better for leveling?

The worms do a good job of aerating, but eradication would be preferable.

– Norm Bergh, Moorhead

A: Earthworms and night crawlers in your lawn indicate that it’s healthy. They are constantly digging tunnels through the dirt, which allows air and moisture to reach grass roots. These worms feed on thatch, helping to reduce its buildup and produce fertilizer that is so incredibly rich it is even sold in stores.

Unfortunately night crawlers create small mounds called castings that leave the lawn bumpy and unpleasant to walk on. Power raking in spring after grass has dried out a little more will help level the soil. Core aeration followed by power raking has also been successful.

During summer, water the lawn deeply and less frequently to encourage worms to stay farther below the surface.

As in the past, I couldn’t locate pesticides labeled for use on night crawlers. But if you treat your lawn for grubs with Sevin insecticide following label directions, nightcrawlers will be reduced. For best results, apply in evening because worms come to the surface during cooler nighttime hours.

Q: Seven years ago I was given a Norfolk Island pine as a retirement gift. Other than watering, I have not added anything to the original soil, which is in about a six-gallon container.

The tree is healthy and growing, although slowly. Should I add anything to the soil to maintain its health?

– Charles Wells, Moorhead

A: After seven successful years, you and your plant are well adjusted to each other.

Norfolk Island pine is a tropical evergreen native to the south Pacific. The ideal indoor climate is bright and cool, with daytime temperatures ranging from 60 to 70 degrees and slightly cooler at night. It will adapt to bright indirect light, but the plant will look its best with a few hours of direct sunlight daily. Rotating the plant weekly keeps it from tilting toward one side.

When plant growth is most active in spring and summer, feed with a soluble fertilizer for indoor plants. Fertilizing in winter isn’t usually beneficial. Being tropical, Norfolk Island pines love an increase in home humidity.

Because your plant has been in the same soil for years, it’s time to add some fresh. Use a peat-based quality mix such as Miracle Gro, Shultz or an equivalent greenhouse potting mix. Rather than a total shocking repot, carefully scoop out just a portion of the upper old soil and add new without disturbing roots. Water well immediately to settle the soil.

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at ForumGrowingTogether@hotmail.com. Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.