— Jenny Neill

Dunged: That Almost Spring Wormy Smell

It rained today, the first day of March, in Seattle. Shocker, I know. This morning’s precipitation felt more like a heavy mist than a moderate rain as I stepped outside to take a stroll. No breeze of any significance moved the droplets from their lazy drift downward. Too cool to call it warm, the courtyard air was comfortable and smelled like wet loam and earthworms.

Shiny, wet, earthworm.

Photo courtesy of Eva Ekeblad. Some rights reserved.

The lowly worm is one of my favorite harbingers of spring. Where I live now, it is rare for temperatures to drop low enough for long enough to freeze the soil. Despite that, those wriggly members of the Lumbricidae family tend to stay out of sight through most of winter having burrowed deep to stay warm. Those first few days when the mercury finally gets above 45°F, the worms return to the surface to the delight of many gardeners.

Acting as nature’s recyclers, these creepy crawlers speed the rate at which plant wastes return to being nutrients by aerating dirt and leaving trails of mineral-rich excrement in their paths. That’s just the kind of pooptastic processing my garden needs!