Garden Basics with Farmer Fred

217 Jumping Worms Update. Donate Your Excess Garden Harvest

August 05, 2022 Fred Hoffman Season 3 Episode 217
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
217 Jumping Worms Update. Donate Your Excess Garden Harvest
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

GB 217 More Jumping Worms! What to Do with Your Extra Fruits, Vegetables

Jumping worms! Unlike red wigglers or earthworms, jumping worms are not garden good guys. They’ll  consume a lot of your mulch, leaving behind pellets that are not good for your plants or your soil. And jumping worms are spreading. America’s Favorite Retired College Horticulture Professor, Debbie Flower, has updated information on how you can thwart the jumping worms.

What are you going to do with all the summer fruits and vegetables that your garden is producing? Besides canning, dehydrating and freezing, you can donate that extra produce to a food bank or food pantry near you, to feed the hungry. It’s easy, we’ll tell you how.

We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory. It’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. And we will do it all in about 30 minutes. Let’s go!

Previous episodes, links, product information, and transcripts at the new home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred, Transcripts and episode chapters also available at Buzzsprout.

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GB 217 TRANSCRIPTION More Jumping Worms! What to Do with Your Extra Fruits, Vegetables 

Farmer Fred  0:00  

Garden Basics with Farmer Fred is brought to you by Smart Pots, the original lightweight, long lasting fabric plant container. it's made in the USA. Visit slash Fred for more information and a special discount, that's

Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good gardening information, you've come to the right spot.  

Farmer Fred  0:32  

Jumping worms! Unlike red wigglers or earthworms, jumping worms are not garden good guys. They’ll  consume a lot of your mulch, leaving behind pellets that are not good for your plants or your soil. And jumping worms are spreading. America’s Favorite Retired College Horticulture Professor, Debbie Flower, has updated information on how you can thwart the jumping worms.

About now, you might be asking yourself, what am I going to do with all the summer fruits and vegetables that my garden is producing? Well, besides canning, dehydrating and freezing, you can donate that extra produce to a food bank or food pantry near you, to feed the hungry. It’s easy, we’ll tell you how.

We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory. It’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. And we will do it all in about 30 minutes. Let’s go! 


Farmer Fred  1:37  

We like to answer your garden questions here on the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. A lot of ways you can get a hold of us, you can leave an audio question without making a phone call via SpeakPipe. Go to speak on your computer or smartphone and leave us a message there. You can call us over a normal phone phone line 916-292-8964. You can also leave a text message there, maybe pictures as well. 916-292-8964. No matter how you reach us, do tell us where you're from, you can make up a name. I don't care about that. But we do care where you live because all gardening is local. You can also email in the question to Fred at Or fill out the contact box at The question today comes from Sacramento. Let's give a listen.

Sarah in Sacramento  2:30  

Hi, Fred and Debbie. This is Sarah from Sacramento. My question is about jumping worms. I've heard they're very destructive. And unfortunately, I recently found three in my yard. So I'd like to know a little more about them. My question has three parts. First, how much of a concern are these worms for the home gardener? And second, is there anything I could or should be doing about the jumping worms? Should I kill the worms when I find them, or just leave them be? And third, I keep reading that their castings deplete the soil? I'm wondering if that's actually true. And if so, why are these worms so different from other types of worms which are generally good for the soil? I have heard the jumping worms eat organic matter really quickly. So could I offset this by simply adding a lot more mulch? Any other advice for me? Thank you so much.

Farmer Fred  3:16  

Jumping worms. Yes, indeed. We've tackled this topic before here on the garden basics podcast, but the jumping worms are jumping all over the place. Debbie Flower is here, America's favorite retired college horticultural professor, and golly now we have them in our own backyard, Debbie. 

Debbie Flower  3:32  

Yeah, that's unfortunate. Right. 

Farmer Fred  3:35  

And one of the primary ways they spread is through fishing bait. If you go to a bait shop, you may see see worms intended for fishing, and they go by a variety of names, like jumping worm or Asian jumping worm or crazy worms or Alabama jumpers, or snake worms. Don't buy them. And if you do buy them and you have bait left over at the end of your little trip, get rid of them, put them in the trash. Yes, jumping worms, as the caller said,  they kind of destroy organic matter because they have a rather big mouthpiece.

Debbie Flower  4:14  

And super, super, super fast. And that's the problem. Regular earthworms that we're used to and maybe keep in our house to consume our kitchen waste also consume organic matter, but they do it much more slowly. And when the jumping worms consume all the organic matter on the surface of the soil, especially in forests or places around lakes or natural areas, then the  there is no organic matter on the surface of the soil that allows other plants, typically their native plants, in those situations, to establish and grow. And so it's causing fast destruction of the mulch layer  and is causing destruction of the native plants.

Farmer Fred  4:58  

And they live very shallowly. Unlike earthworms that tend to go vertically, the jumping worms tend to live horizontally. 

Debbie Flower  5:07  

yes, just below the mulch layer and on top of the soil, that's one way to identify them. If you find a worm there, along with their, their poop, their feces, their black and crumbled, it looks like coffee almost, then that's probably a jumping worm. They're also recognizable because they do jump. And they have a white collar that goes all the way around one end, close to one end of the worm itself, much like a Nightcrawler, which is also used as bait. It has a collar. But in the Nightcrawler, it's kind of a pinkish color. And in the jumping worm, it's a white color, and it is smooth, it doesn't have any ridges in it.

Farmer Fred  5:42  

It's interesting how it's spread rather quickly, it was first reported back in around 1950, 1960, in the United States, it started off in the east, jumped over to the central states. And that's where it has changed the soil composition there in areas where it is living, its soil composition changes so that the soil is more water resistant, actually,

Debbie Flower  6:06  

Yeah, the soil becomes more mineral, because they're not bringing the organic matter into the soil like an earthworm would do. They leave it on the surface. And they've already broken it all the way down, the mineral component of soil becomes greater, but an ideal soil will have 45% mineral and then about 5% organic. That 5% doesn't sound like much, but it makes a huge difference in the quality of the soil.

Farmer Fred  6:30  

The soil gets so crumbly, that it does improve water percolation, but way too much. 

Debbie Flower

Yeah, that's the problem there. 

Farmer Fred

And it's basically not helping your plants out, because it's destroying that matter before the microbes in the soil have a chance to work it.

Debbie Flower  6:48  

Right, it's not bringing it down into the soil. The healthy soil has a poop loop. And the bigger things that we can see, like worms, first eat the organic matter, they get what they can from it, they poop out there. And then the next level of organisms eats their poop and does the same thing. They do their pooping and the next level of smaller organisms eats their poop, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And each one releases something different into the soil that is beneficial for the plants. And we don't get that poop loop with when we have the jumping worms.

Farmer Fred  7:18  

Oregon State University has a lot of good information online on the jumping worms. I'll have a link to that in today's show notes. And they advise that the jumping worms and their cocoons can be transported via soil, compost or other organic materials. So you want to check all that stuff when you're transporting material from one property to another, or bringing home a new purchase. And check all soil and organic material, especially if you're buying it from a sand and gravel yard, to make sure that it doesn't have any in there.

Debbie Flower  7:51  

right. And if you're getting soil from a community garden, or organic mulching going on  where you live. And let's say you're using your blower or rake to collect your leaves and you put them at the curb or you put them in your Greenwaste can. However you do that, because you can collect the egg cases with it. And then it goes to the organic waste station or maybe it gets used as mulch somewhere else. And so it can be transported that way. So knowing what it looks like, and that it's very close to the surface, is good when you bring home a potted plant. You can do the mustard check.

Farmer Fred  8:27  

The mustard check. Do I need to break out the French’s on this one?

Debbie Flower  8:31  

Yes, you do. 

Farmer Fred  8:33  

Yeah, it's interesting about the fact that maybe your nursery is selling plants with those critters in them. Hopefully not. But check them before you leave, that's for sure. Oregon State advises to buy bare root stock when possible. Good luck on that. As more and more plants now are potted up before they even leave the wholesale nursery to make it easier for the retailers. If you do have the jumping worms in your yard and you know it, never share the compost, the mulch, the soil, or plants with a known infestation.

Debbie Flower  9:09  

Here’s the mustard check. It takes mustard and water, and you pour it on the soil. The mustard irritates the jumping worms and they come up. It irritates all the insects and they will come to the surface.

Farmer Fred  9:20  

So that’s why I don't like mustard.

Debbie Flower  9:23  

It's great for leg cramps. The proportions were written here somewhere.

Farmer Fred  9:28  

How do you use mustard for leg cramps? 

Debbie Flower

Just eat it. 

Farmer Fred

Oh, okay.  I thought maybe spread it on your legs.

Debbie Flower  9:35  

Oh, that'd be lovely.

Farmer Fred  9:39  

One other way to control jumping worms is to heat the soil. Jumping worms and their cocoons are unable to survive temperatures above 104 degrees Fahrenheit . Increasing soil temperatures above that threshold is one way to manage jumping worm populations. You can tarp sections of soil or compost that received direct sunlight or temporarily place soil in plastic bins and place that in direct sunlight. Oregon State also says to control jumping worms, you could perform a controlled burn. Don't do that.

Debbie Flower  10:09  

No, no, especially not in the West. But the mustard solution is this: you mix a gallon of water with 1/3 cup of ground yellow mustard seed and pour this slowly into the soil. It won't hurt the plants. But worms, even good worms, will come to the surface and you can check for the bad guys.

Farmer Fred  10:27  

How long does it take for the worms to come up?

Debbie Flower  10:29  

It's going to be pretty quick. If I had known this when I was a kid, I would have done it with my grandfather's compost pile because he liked to collect worms for fishing. That  just irritates them. You know, the mustard? 

Farmer Fred

What's in it that does that? The mustard?

Debbie Flower

 I don't know, specifically. 

Farmer Fred  10:50  

So again, that's 1/3 a cup of ground mustard seed to a gallon of water.  Dump that on your garden soil. 

Debbie Flower  10:59  

One way of bringing them in is having them come in, in a container plant. So if somebody was using compost as the mix, some grower was using compost as the mix, or they set the containers on the ground, which is a no no, there should be gravel, etc. under the pots. And the worms crawled in the drain holes, let's say, and you want to just be sure that you're not bringing them into your pristine garden.

Farmer Fred  11:23  

That's the other reason to check all containers. When you buy them at the nursery. Look at the bottom of the container for slugs.

Debbie Flower  11:30  

Right. It's a common place for slugs to hide, right, say, brush it off.  If you hire equipment, somebody to rototill ,don't do that very often. Maybe you're starting a garden or somebody is going to aerate your soil. Or if you're in the business and you're bringing in even bigger equipment that has tracks etc, or big tires, there should be language in the contract you want it to come in clean ,soil free, and leave clean. That way. Ii’s not bringing the worms to you, or weed seeds for that matter. And it's not taking whatever's in your yard to the next person.

Farmer Fred  12:05  

And what also goes, if you have jumping worms, check your shoes. Because you don't want to be moving them around the yard. 

Debbie Flower  12:10  

yes. So there's no particular control right now. There's no chemical, there's no one size fits all. So we have to be aware of them. We have to look for them. We have to do what we can to prevent spreading them

Farmer Fred  12:26  

The handout from Oregon State University is called, “Jumping Worms - a guide to identifying a new invasive species.” We'll have a link to that in the show notes and it has pictures of the worms. We will also have links to videos of the jumping worms where you can watch them jump, so you have a good idea of what you're dealing with. And yes, indeed they do jump. Jumping worms: they're jumping into a garden near you. So be on the lookout.

Debbie Flower  12:51  

Unfortunately, yeah. 

Farmer Fred

Debbie Flower. Thank you. 

Debbie Flower

You're welcome, Fred.


Farmer Fred  12:59  

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Farmer Fred  14:48  

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Farmer Fred  15:57  

Every day in every corner of the United States, children and adults are worrying about finding enough food to put on the dinner table, while 1000s of pounds of food are being thrown away from backyard gardens, from small farms, millions of Americans are unable to get enough fresh food to maintain proper health. The United States has a malnourished population that needs more than processed foods in order to thrive. So many incredible food banks, pantries and other hunger organizations are working tirelessly to alleviate hunger in our communities, but they consistently lack in donations of fresh produce. Luckily, you can help. By making regular donations of unused fresh produce to your local food pantry, you can be a part of the solution to increase the health of people in your neighborhood. And you can donate food that you grow or food that you buy. It's easy. The trick is finding the food pantry nearest you. And you can do that through an incredible site called We're talking with Gary Oppenheimer, he's with He's the founder. It's a unique, nationwide resource that is eliminating the waste of food, the outcome being a reduction in hunger and malnutrition. Along with an improved environment. There's something like 42 million Americans who grow food in home gardens, community gardens. And there are small farmers as well who could easily donate their excess harvest to one of over 8600 registered local food pantries spread across all 50 states. And Gary, I want to tell you, first of all, about my experience with your website, There is a page there where you can go and find the food pantry nearest you. And I set a search of a 15 mile radius around my house and up popped, I'm counting, 14 food pantries I never knew existed, including one that is within walking distance. And it's amazing how easy it could be for people who have an excess of tomatoes or squash or peppers or melons or fruit, where to take it to and how convenient that is. What was your inspiration, Gary, for starting

Gary Oppenheimer  18:15  

That's a great question. Actually. There are two things or two pieces of inspiration. One was I grew up with the idea of, "don't waste food". My grandparents always told me you know, finish what's on your plate. Kids are starving. So, not wasting food was always inculcated into me. But as an adult and a master gardener, I was growing more food than I can use. And I didn't want it to go to waste. My wife said, "You can't bring any more of this stuff in the house." And I struggled to find a place to donate the food to. It turns out, I found a battered women's shelter in my town. I'm in northern New Jersey. But when I had gone on Google to find out where there are food pantries, Google said the nearest one was 25 miles away in another city. And I had an epiphany in March of 2009 and I realized, wait a minute. This is an information problem. This is not a food problem. People aren't hungry because America doesn't have enough food, we actually throw away half the produce, it never gets consumed. The problem gardeners across America have always had was misinformation and missing information. The misinformation was what we were all told that food drives that you can only donate jars or cans or boxes, but no fresh food. We gardeners took away from that you can't donate the extra tomatoes. The missing information was where is a food pantry and what's a good day of the week and time of day to donate it? When I realized that this was the information problem, I realized the solution was a web based, internet based program that would both educate gardeners about their capacity that they can indeed donate food and to where to donate it near them. And the optimum day of the week and time of day. That timing is super important because if a food pantry, for argument's sake, was distributing food to hungry families on Sunday afternoons, the ideal time for you to bring it in is Sunday morning, which means the ideal time for you to harvest was a Sunday morning or Saturday night. So the food would go from your garden, to the food pantry to a hungry family in hours. Number one, the food pantry didn't have to buy refrigeration. And number two, the hungry family was getting food fresher than you and I combined. It's not a market. It's truly garden fresh food. And the whole thing came together for me during one four hour session on my computer. And seven weeks later, with the help of two volunteers in May 2009, ample harvest dot org rolled out and it's been growing in reach and impact ever since.

Farmer Fred  20:48  

We're going to be using a couple of terms here that people may get confused. I find it confusing as well. Maybe you can explain. We will be talking about food banks and food pantries. What is the difference?

Gary Oppenheimer  20:59 

Oh, this is a fun question. All right. For most of America, for all of America, a food bank is a large industrial warehouse type operation, around 200 of them in America. They're part of the Feeding America Network. And in these large warehouses, real large amounts of food come in and large amounts of food are then redistributed out to the local programs where hungry families go those local programs, or hungry families go. There are around 33,500 across America, and are usually called the food pantry and in some states, the food cupboard or food shelf or food closet. The exception, as far as I know, was Oregon and Washington, where those local programs also called food banks. And you said a little bit ago that I think in Sacramento, they're also sometimes called food banks. So in the vernacular and the common language of food banks, we were hungry family gets food but in the real system, there's a distinction and the reason I had to create ample harvest org was because when the food went from a food drive to a food bank, to a food pantry it took too long. But when it went from a food drive or my garden, for that matter, to a food pantry, it could happen in 15 minutes. So this was an architectural discussion. This is great for a linguistic nerds. But if people want to use the word Food Bank, that's perfectly fine, but I'll use the word food pantry just to be more correct.

Farmer Fred  22:27  

Ample is geared to a wide range of gardeners. You've got home gardeners, new gardeners, farmers and food producers, master gardeners and school gardens. And boy, I'm thinking about food waste, and all of a, school gardens. I wonder what they're doing with all that excess food that they're growing in their little school, especially when it may be happening in the summertime. And there isn't anybody there to harvest it.

Gary Oppenheimer  22:53  

School gardens. You're absolutely right. It's also camp Gardens by the way, but a school garden you've planted the stuff and then the kids are gone for the summer and who's harvesting. The camp had a garden and come the end of August or September, when kids go back to school, who's harvesting? So, they have the opportunity to also donate the food by the way, as do other places that don't think of themselves as gardens. You might have a golf course that has citrus fruits raining down, you might have a public park, for example. So there's lots and lots of opportunity for food to be donated from different places. The work we're doing is to enable as much wholesome, healthy, fresh, locally grown food gets to food pantries, because that not only reduces hunger across America, but it also improves the nation's health and well being. The healthier your diet, obviously, the healthier you are. I'll just give you one number which blew me away when I learned about it .Cisco Systems, the internet company, did an analysis of ample harvest org years ago. And it's online at ample harvest org slash study if you want to see it. And their analysis was, if every gardener in America knew that he or she could donate food, their surplus food; and, if every food pantry in America was on ample harvest org, was able to receive the food, the nation's health care costs would drop $58 billion a year.

Farmer Fred  24:24  

I always believe that the word pharmacy should be spelled F-A-R-M-A-C-Y. Why? Because healthy, home grown fresh farm food is one of the best ways to get your health back.

Gary Oppenheimer  24:37  

Absolutely. And when you think about two of the leading causes of ill health in America, our obesity and diabetes, which are both costly in terms of your own well being and costly in terms of just the medical care involved. Those are both diet-impacted diseases, you improve the diet, you reduce those diseases, you have a healthier and frankly, by extension, a wealthier nation.   

Farmer Fred  25:03  

One of the categories you have, that you're appealing to, is called New gardeners. But there's a subset of that, we were talking about before the interview, called the "accidental gardener" and they can also participate with ample

Gary Oppenheimer  25:18  

Yeah, I wrote a blog article about that earlier this year, the accidental gardener and people ask, well, what's an accidental gardener? Either you're a gardener or you're not. And I had realized that if you buy a house, and the house came with a fruit tree that somebody previously planted, apples, oranges, what have you, you may not think of yourself as a gardener if you don't get your fingers dirty and garden. But the reality is that every year the tree is raining down on you all this wonderful food, the apples and the oranges or what have you. And so I describe that person as the accidental gardener. That person, too, has the opportunity to donate the food. I was named CNN Hero in April 2010. The day I was named by cnn here, I received an email from somebody in the southwest, who said that before the prior year, before he'd heard of ample harvest, that he had thrown away 855 gallon drums of citrus fruit because he didn't know he could donate it. This is a huge opportunity for the country. And realities. We haven't even started tackling that yet. So the $58 billion number was based on the gardeners who know, that garden. Not the accidental gardener. So these numbers are gonna be subject to change. And I also want to give you one other number subject change. You started this with saying that there are  42 million gardeners in America. That's pre COVID. The data we're now seeing from our partners in the industry speaks to 58 million people, and it may well be growing higher as millions more people start their own gardens. And I strongly believe that when we get past COVID-19 most of the people who started gardening are going to continue to garden. That means more people gardening, and more healthy fresh food for the hungry families on a permanent basis. One of the things really important when you grow a garden and I have my own garden, you're growing it for your own enjoyment. And for your own family, you should be enjoying that food first. The food however that you grow, that's in excess of what you can use, or preserve or share with friends, should never be going to waste. That's the food that should be donated to a local food pantry. And that's whether you're a backyard gardener or maybe you got herbs going in a kitchen window or in a community garden, it doesn't really make any difference. And by the way, also the amount of surplus is not terribly important either. Don't feel bad if you only got five tomatoes to donate, donate the five tomatoes. It'll be commingled with all the other people with five tomatoes and 500 pounds of tomatoes, at the table. The important thing is that the food is eaten by somebody and nourishes somebody in the community. It's good for the community. Frankly, it's good for the planet because food waste is a contributing factor to climate change. And it's a wonderful way of people helping their neighbors in need, by reaching into their backyards when they can't afford to reach into their back pocket. Today, we are at work as you  said, in 50 states, in about 4200 communities. And today we're approaching 9000 food pantries which is about a quarter of America's food pantries, which is great. That means we have three quarters of America's food pantries yet to reach, engage in work with and work with those surrounding gardeners. So we have a lot of work ahead of us and your dollars certainly get us a long way towards succeeding on that.

Farmer Fred  28:36  

If you've got excess food, you know where to go ample will aim you to the food pantry nearest you. Gary Oppenheimer is the founder of ample Gary, thanks for a few minutes of your time.

Gary Oppenheimer  28:50  

It's my pleasure. Thank you very much, everybody, please stay safe. And while we do one final note, in these COVID times, we have guidance on the site for the gardener, on how to be COVID safe when they're both growing the food for themselves and making the donation of food. So when you come to ample harvest org, take a moment, read the couple of bullet points on there that'll keep you the food and the food pantry staff safe, so that the good you're doing really is good, and nobody gets sick. So thank you very, very much.

Farmer Fred  29:29  

If you are an organic gardener, especially a strict organic gardener, have you ever wondered, is chicken manure fertilizer really organic? Yes, the USDA and many state regulating agencies have OK’d chicken manure as an organic fertilizer, and that’s been true for decades. However, in the past 20 years, the majority of corn and soybean grown in the united states has evolved. It’s now grown from genetically engineered seed, for a variety of reasons. The GE-sourced corn and soybean harvest makes up the bulk of what’s fed to the nation’s commercial chicken flocks. Whose end product, literally, becomes fertilizer. Should GE manure be considered organic? And we will also explain the difference between Genetically Engineered and a Genetically Modified Organism, a GMO. There’s a difference. A big difference.

It’s in the next Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter, out Friday, August 5. Find a link to it in today’s show notes, or visit our website, Garden Basics dot net, where you can sign up to have the free Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter delivered to your inbox each Friday. Also at Garden Basics dot net, you can listen to any of our previous editions of the podcast, as well as read a transcript of the podcast episode you are listening to now. That’s at Garden Basics dot net. For current subscribers, look for the Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter on Friday, August fifth in your email. Take a deeper dive into gardening, with the Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter. And it’s free. Find the link at garden basics dot net. 

Farmer Fred  31:10  

Garden Basics With Farmer Fred comes out every Tuesday and Friday and is brought to you by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. Garden Basics is available wherever podcasts are handed out. For more information about the podcast, visit our website, GardenBasics dot net. That’s where you can find out about the free, Garden Basics newsletter, Beyond the Basics. And thank you so much for listening.


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