As small as they are, soil microorganisms are the real giants
in your garden, and your garden soil
is swarming with billions of these microorganisms. This
“living-soil-life” helps keep your soil healthy, decompose organic
matter, replenish soil nutrients, form humus, promote root growth,
increase nutrient uptake, and breakdown of herbicides and pesticides.
These microorganisms include bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa.
play an important role in nutrient cycling by feeding intensively on
bacteria. Notice the size of the speck-like bacteria next to the oval
protozoa and large, angular sand particle.
Elaine R. Ingham (USDA) & Right Photo credit:
For soil organisms to increase and
thrive in your garden soil you need to provide food and a healthy
environment. The “food” can be provided
with organic matter, and the
best way a gardener can provide organic matter is in the form of compost
and cover crops.
How to Help Microorganisms Thrive in
- Minimize soil compaction. Seventy
five percent (75%) of soil organisms are found in the top 2 inches
(5cm) of soil.
- Provide a lot of carbon-based food
(organic matter) with green manure, mulch or compost.
- Maintain a moist habitat.
- Keep the soil oxygen content high
with organic matter.
- Do not let the soil go bare. Bare
soil loses moisture, increases temperatures, and lacks organic matter.
- Minimize soil disturbance. Use
minimal tillage or no-tillage to minimize destruction of soil organisms
and their environment.
- Use organic fertilizers only.
- Apply fertilizer
in small doses and when the soil needs it.
- Check the soil pH and modify it to
keep in a range of 5-8.
- Improve soils
with poor drainage.
your garden crops or
with mixed species planting.
Most important, consider your soil's
microorganisms as part of your complete garden ecosystem. These
microorganisms will actively decompose organic matter and replenishes
nutrients, ensuring soil and plant health.
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