Earthworm soil mixing - a simple classroom experiment

Easy experiment to see soil mixing by earthworms

1 litre glass jar or similar clear-sided container, or an old double glazing window (see below)
400 ml sand
400 ml garden soil
5 earthworms
dark paper or cloth to go around sides of jar

1. Moisten the soil and the sand
2. Place the sand in the bottom of the container and flatten
3. Place the moistened garden soil on top of the sand
4. Place a few leaves on the surface
5. Place the worms on top
6. Put the covering or cloth around the sides of the jar.

If you have a lid make sure there are perforations to let in air. Moisten the surface of the soil to prevent it drying out. Lift the cover from the sides and you will see how the progress of the worms tunneling mixes the soil with the sand until both are completely mixed.

worm soil mixing experiment 1

Above is the inside of a double-glazed window. The space between the two panes of glass is about 1.5 cm. The top part of the sealed unit has been drilled out (my husband asked me to mention that this was far easier to do than he thought). Then I rinsed it out with freshwater to get rid of the debris left from the drilling.

All of the above should be done by adults as the unit is quite heavy.

soil mixing by worms

Next I put some garden soil in the bottom. This is a messy business, and is easier if one person holds the glass while the other pours the soil in. Also it is easier if you use dry soil. When you pour in the soil it forms a hill, but this can be flattened slightly using a thin stick or ruler, or you can leave it for the worms to do.

After that I poured in a layer of sand, any sand will do, but if you use sand from the beach it should be well rinsed first.

Then I repeated this until it was about 3/4 full.

soil mixing by worms

Then I put in some fallen leaves. I did this in November, so it was easy to find leaves, however if you do this when there few fallen leaves you can use fresh leaves. Just make sure you have a selection of different types, and not too many evergreen as these are tougher.

Then I put some moss. This is not really necessary, but there was some lying around that the blackbirds had hauled out whilst looking for insects, so I used it.

Next I poured in some water. I poured it in slowly and waited to let it trickle down before pouring in more. I stopped when the wetness had reached the bottom.

Finally put in the worms. They will start to tunnel within minutes, especially if it is a sunny day.

Now all you need to do is cover the sides with dark material, or you can push the whole thing in between two bookshelves as I did. The worms will tunnel away from the light, so if you don't do this you will not see their tunnels.

Then once a week have a look at what they've been up to. Even better is to take a photograph and compare the progress.

Every now and then some more leaves can be added, and some water gently dribbled on top.

wormery after 1 month

Above you can see what has happened after just one month.

Related pages