By TESA GLASS
---- — MT. VERNON — Students visiting Brehm Memorial Library Monday celebrated Earth Day by learning about worms."Worms are very important to the soil," said Linda Clevenger, who presented the program and showed off her "Worm Hotel." "They work the soil under the ground, just like farmers work the top of the ground."Clevenger explained how worms did not exist in North America until the colonists came."The glaciers were miles thick in many places, so the worms were not there," Clevenger told students from Farrington Grade School and home school students. "When the colonists came over on big ships ... they brought seeds and pots of plants they were going to use for food. The worms were in those pots and in the seeds."Clevenger is a former Master Gardener who learned about worms as part of her training in the program."I stopped doing the master gardening due to (health) issues," Clevenger said. "I went to a worm symposium with another master gardener at one time about worms. I grew up on a farm and thought I knew about worms. But I learned a lot more."Some of her knowledge she shared with the students, such as what worms eat and how to start your own "worm hotel.""To live, worms need moisture," Clevenger said. "There are 2,700 kinds of worms, and in one acre of land, there could be more than 1 million worms under the soil."For her "worm hotel," which she also uses to create compost for flower pots and flower gardens, Clevenger uses a plastic storage bin with a lid and some pinholes poked along the top. She said she starts a "hotel" using finely shredded newspaper, which she mists with water."Just until the paper is moist enough to hold them together, but not so wet water sits in the bottom of the container," Clevenger said. Clevenger then adds food for the worms and the worms."Worms like any kind of vegetable," Clevenger said. "Do not put any meat in the box, whatsoever with them. You can put apples, bananas, a little bit of cheese, carrots — I chop the vegetables and fruit into smaller pieces."Clevenger said she puts a small amount of egg shells in as well."They need the grit to digest their food," Clevenger explained. Clevenger said for a small bin, she starts with about 75 red wigglers — but not night crawlers."Night Crawlers like to get out of bins and are hard to keep contained," Clevenger warned. "Just use regular worms from the back yard or some red wigglers."Clevenger said for those who want to start their own "worm hotel" expect some worms to die."It just depends on the time of year, and as some die, they lay eggs and new ones will grow," Clevenger advised. "They don't like bright light, so the best time to feed them or check on them is at night with a flashlight. They get under the newspapers and food and into the soil, so you have to dig a little to see them."Clevenger said if a gardener would like to use the compost from the worms to use, she recommends a three-month lead time and mix the worked soil in the "worm hotel" with regular potting soil.