Worms: It's warmer down below

by Richard Jones

I dug a hole in the garden on Sunday, not for any gardening purpose; the hamster had died and we were having a short funeral ceremony.

Two earthwormsI dug a hole in the garden on Sunday, not for any gardening purpose; the hamster had died and we were having a short funeral ceremony. Digging deep holes in my East Dulwich garden is always a problem. About 25 cm down I usually meet rubble where some previous owner has thoughtfully laid a path or hidden some building debris. If I get through the crushed brick, a further 10 cm down I meet solid London clay. With a frozen crust, I thought I'd have a task before me.

The ground was not as hard as I feared. The really sharp cold of last week had lifted slightly and the soil was not frozen solid. In fact it was nearly as friable as normal. We just don't get hard winters in London any more. As we lowered the small cardboard box, which previously held cereal bars, but now carried a more sombre content, I was pleased to see the earthworms were still active down below.

Of course, I should not have been surprised. Even though all else seems to have vanished from the garden because of the cold, a few centimetres down into the soil and the temperature is more or the less the same as it was months ago. I'm sure the worms are just as active now as they are in the summer, just a bit deeper.

Looking back through some photographs I found one, shown above, which was taken some years ago. It was during December, yet these two were still up for some early morning love-making.

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Gardeners' World Web User 15/01/2009 at 17:29

My darling pet hamster also died on Sunday, and my family and I were all very distraught about his passing into the next life. We too dug a deep hole to bury his elegant coffin in, and I also observed the strange goings on of the pink earthworms with buried below his grave. They are such funny things, so long and pink and slimey, I am quite afraid of them myself!

Gardeners' World Web User 19/01/2009 at 20:41

My husband was digging his veg patch last week quite deeply and unearthed a small sleepy toad much to our surprise. We didn't know whether to put it back in and cover it up or what, so in the end it hopped over to the log pile. As the next night was v.cold, I fear we might have killed it. What should we have done?

Gardeners' World Web User 20/01/2009 at 00:17

well dat is verry good to see and sorrry to hear about ure hamsters

Gardeners' World Web User 20/01/2009 at 00:19

and i was digging my self in my allopment up in north yorkshire nd as i was digging theye must of been hundreds of then theye kept on popping up nd a few blackbirds kept flydown eating them all as we wa diggin

Gardeners' World Web User 20/01/2009 at 09:23

Reply to Liz. There is not much you can do when unearthing something buried deep. You will never be able to recreate the exact texture of the soil around it and I suspect that if you had re-buried the toad, you might have entombed it for good. Toads are pretty tough things and although the night may have been cold, the log pile would have given some shelter. It probably scraped out a new hideaway under the wood.

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