The Key to Successful Gardening is to ‘Go Underground’
We have fully launched into the 3rd Agriculture Revolution and it doesn’t involve the plow or chemicals, but our understanding of the microorganisms in the soil. Just as with the human microbiota, plants are governed by their microbiota which we commonly call soil microbes.
The World of Soil Microbiology
The main characters in this underground world are millions of species of beneficial bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes – staggering numbers that defy comprehension. Consider the plethora of beneficial microbes contained in just a handful of healthy soil. Two thousand miles of fungal strands?! Nine billion individual bacteria?! Now think of your garden, lawn or plant containers and imagine how many microbes they contain. Unfathomable! If this information is new to you, that is completely understandable.
The Soil Foodweb
Our knowledge of soil microbes was very limited until the advent of the scanning electron microscope and in 1996, the fascinating work of Dr. Elaine Ingham (www.soilfoodweb.com). She built the first model of what we call The Soil Foodweb.
As you can see, the foundation of life is built on the shoulders of the soil microbes. Creation started the whole process and what a beautiful process it is. So remarkable, so intrinsic, so complex, and yet so simple. The plants know the importance of the soil microbes. Up to 80 % of the food a plant makes is given freely to the soil microbes, keeping them happy and close by – nourishing this symbiotic relationship. If you gave up to 80% of your paycheck to someone, surely you would expect some benefit in return…right? This is exactly what happens in the plant-soil relationship. The plants feed the microbes and in return, the microbes protect the plants from harm and enable them to grow healthier. This also happens with us humans via our own intimate relationship with the microbes that reside on our skin, in our eyes, in our gastrointestinal, respiratory and genitourinary tracts.
One of the most fascinating family of microbes is the Mycorrhizal Fungi group. Above ground, mushrooms are the most well-known members of this group. Below ground, they become part of the plant root system.
Even more incredible, is the communication network that microbes create underground, connecting each other with all the other plants in the eco-system. Our grasses, trees, tomato plants, flowers are all talking to each other via ‘The Wood Wide Web’ that microbes have created. This communication system is quite stunning and shows how truly intelligent Creation is.
Organics: Working with Nature for Our Benefit
In Organic Eco-System Management, we have a couple of sayings: ‘To the Soil, Do No Harm’ and ‘Feed the Soil and the Plant’. These principles are critical as we decide what fertilizers or amendments to put on our lawns, gardens, and food crops. When we say ‘Feed the Soil’ we don’t mean to feed the quartz or silica to the soil, but to the microorganisms that live there. Like proper feeding of the human microbiota, what you feed your plants and soil will determine the health of both. It’s so important to understand that you can’t have healthy plants without healthy soils.
Another great saying is, ‘You are what your plants eats’. This is critical for human health. Sadly, most don’t understand, or they underestimate the importance of this concept. Consequently, America is the sickest country in the world, leading other nations in rates of cancer, obesity, diabetes, dementia, celiac disease, heart problems – the list goes on and on. Most of the food that is available to us is of very poor quality. Poor quality food is one of the major reasons for chronic disease and early death. Please see how this is elucidated in this publication, The Lancet Report on how diet affects human health.
Advantages of Organic versus Conventional
The fact that plants and soil microbes need each other is a Natural Law. Through Natural Laws, Mother Nature takes care of herself. When we follow Natural Law – which organic practices do –everything is easier, safer and less expensive. It is a fallacy that organic practices are more costly than conventional practices. In truth, we can’t afford to not follow organic practices.
With organics, we are supporting the soil microbes which directly supports us. Up to 30% of the human microbiota are comprised of (or should be comprised) of soil microbes.
Healthy soil microbes build much larger (up to 100 times larger) root systems. This results in plants having much greater resiliency. They can find water and minerals more easily and more effectively defend themselves.
In addition to soil microbes building bigger plant root systems and an incredible communication network, they remediate toxic contaminates and improve the soil dramatically. Imagine your rock-hard clay transforming into loam! This will happen with healthy soil microbes. In loamy soil, plants thrive with the greater access to oxygen and water conservancy. This translates to significant water costs savings.
Bigger roots, healthier plants, better soil, reduced water use…WOW! What else can these little guys in our soil do? Healthy microbes will bring minerals to plants, manufacture fertilizer for the plants, fight weeds, destructive insects and disease. All this with just a little love and care.
In parting, here are some helpful tips to enhance the microbial health of your soil:
- Never use chemical fertilizers or chemical biocides (pesticides, herbicides and fungicides) on your lawn. They are dangerous to you and kill the good soil microbes.
- Apply humates or quality compost once a year. Nature Way Resources makes the best compost & mulch in the area.
- Only use quality organic fertilizers in your ecosystem. The best available is The MicroLife Organic Fertilizer Product line. Complete information can be found at www.microlifefertilizer.com
Quality is extremely important, and I want you to be very successful and very happy.