Red Wrigglers vs. Night Crawlers

I have been privileged to receive many interesting letters from readers of this column. Some of their questions are printed here.
Q: I buy night crawlers (earthworms) and put them around my plants. Do you suggest using them or is it a waste of time?
M. Norman, Encino A:The softest, most fertile soil I have seen was enriched with earthworm culture. The worms used, however, were red wrigglers, available wherever fishing bait is sold.
All the successful earthworm stories I know of in Los Angeles involve red wrigglers, which are shorter, skinnier and redder than the more frequently encountered gray night crawlers. These worms were let loose in a pile of horse manure, and it was actually the manure/worm mixture that was dug into the soil.
Earthworms, by the way, have recently come under attack in the British Isles by a flatworm. According to the Avant Gardener, this flatworm – imported by accident from New Zealand – “can dissolve an earthworm with digestive enzymes and consume it totally in just 30 minutes.” In Northern Ireland, they are expecting a one-third yield reduction in crops grown on soil where the nasty flatworm has taken hold. This is one disaster, however, that will not strike Los Angeles. The flatworm in question does not proliferate in hot, dry climates.
Q: Recently I bought a small Satsuma plum tree that needs to be pollinated by another variety in order to bear fruit. Will my peach tree serve this purpose?
– Alberta Spinoso, Sunland
A: Japanese plums (Prunus salicina), which include the Satsuma variety, cannot be pollinated by peaches (Prunus persica) because, although related, they are of different species. Different plant species – including different species of plums – do cross-pollinate occasionally, but such events are the exception rather than the rule. You must plant another variety of Japanese plum, such as Santa Rosa, in order to get Satsuma fruit.
Q: I have barrels of sawdust from a eucalyptus tree that was cut up with a chain saw. Would it be possible for me to use it for mulch around my fruit trees? I do not know if the oil in the eucalyptus would be detrimental to the soil.
– Kae Parker, Tarzana
A: To be safe, I would compost eucalyptus sawdust with steer manure before using it as a mulch. Turn the mixture every few days for a month prior to application. In a garden that I manage, plum trees mulched with fallen eucalyptus leaves produce enormous quantities of fruit.

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