from Atlantic.com

I've been trying to nurture healthy soil microbes in my garden.  I like this article, which describes some of the thoughts about healthy soil.

"Not only do soil microorganisms nourish and protect plants, they play a crucial role in providing many "ecosystem services" that are absolutely critical to human survival. By many calculations, the living soil is the Earth's most valuable ecosystem, providing ecological services such as climate regulation, mitigation of drought and floods, soil erosion prevention, and water filtration, worth trillions of dollars each year."

My garden and lawn are messy, but they have a rich population of all sorts of creatures.  Sometimes I sit in the ground and watch the visible ones.  Interesting number of tiny pollinating bees, larger bees, earthworms, and other creatures.  Stop the herbicides in the lawn, and cut it fairly high, and tiny flowers start to grow and bloom within the lawn.  With added compost, the raised beds are productive and easy to maintain.

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Replies to This Discussion

Randall, I think the tunnels are so narrow and deep, there won't be any significant change at the surface level.  If that happens, I can fill in from the top;  The soil in the little mountains comes from such an vast underground system, I think stomping on the hills doesn't help me.  And the mower creates massive dust clouds and the dirt clogs the mower.  So I shave them off.

I don't mind them as long as I can prevent damage to garden crops. 

Thanks Sentient.  I finally read the whole article and have a much better idea of soil health or sickness.  I was especially interested in plants using mycorrizal filaments as extended roots along which warning signals can be passed to other plants so they can take precautions.

My soil modification for watermelons is taking much longer than I anticipated (as all things not tried before do), and a couple of days ago, I looked out at my piles of dried-out soil and I wondered what beneficial organisms besides earthworms I had killed, and how long it will take for them to recover.

This article indicates there are thousands of times as many organisms in the soil as I knew about.  I hope they all eventually repopulate my modified area from the surrounding soil, but I suspect it will take a year or more.  Maybe much more.

Because of that, and because I'm taking so long and getting the watermelon in late, I don't expect to see good results this year.  However, I think you're right about the earthworms finding richer soil and multiplying.  Probably applies to the other organisms as well, so I look forward to future years.

Spud, thanks for commenting.  I think the soil can recover, and it can happen fairly fast.  The fungi and bacteria seem to grow quickly.  I don't really know that.  I think mulches are helpful. 

I tried watermelons this year too, also too late.  One was an Idaho variety - seeds didn't grow.  Other is a small yellow watermelon.  Also a small cantaloupe from Minnesota.  If they don't grow, it's OK.  I have lots of other things growing.

Sentient, I appreciate your response.  Gives me a little more hope.

One watermelon variety out of the 4 that I tried didn't sprout either.  It was a seedless variety which are difficult to get to grow, so I hear.

What was the name of that Idaho watermelon?

Spud - Blacktail Mountain Watermelon.  I think it was from seedsavers.org

I looked again now.  The seeds have come up.  They are listed as 65-75 days, so maybe there is still a remote chance.

Glad to hear your seeds have come up Sentient.

Thanks for the Blacktail Mountain Watermelon site.  I'll try some next year.

Spud, by adding well composted manure and compost each year, the soil, with living organisms, continue to multiply. In my 38 No! 39 years since I started the manure and compost, my soil is so deeply organic, that amazing things happen that neighbors who do not enrich their soils do not have. 

I bought my 50' x 185' of land July 1, 1974. It first was a thicket of weeds, volunteer maples and horsechestnuts, 100 year old fruit trees that were badly infected; then to a vegetable garden grown in rows; then to the present form with trees, shrubs, perennials, and raised beds. If I live long enough and can get my energy back, I will be putting in more fruits and vegetables. The evolution of a garden is kind of a microcosm of changing needs. The one constant is the constant addition of humus.

Your preparation of removing soil from an area 10 feet in diameter and 3 feet deep, then replacing it with a mix in lots of course sand, organic matter and manure prepares the ground perfectly. Yes, a lot of worms are destroyed in the process, but the environment you provide will get better every year. Be sure to provide water to keep it from baking because manure hardens into concrete like texture. Keeping it moist will encourage reproduction of bacterial life. Too much water will drown them. 

Let the top soil dry out to within 2 or 3 inches then add water. A moisture meter helps with this task. If water sets on the surface, die off of worms occur. I grow my melons on mounds of soil, with a trench around the plant, maybe 2-3 feet from plant stock. Mulch heavily with dried grass clippings (which I don't have), pine needles (of which I have plenty), compost or straw. Seep water in slowly into the trench so that the water goes directly and deeply into the ground.  It doesn't take long to figure out the volume of water needed to do the job, and a timer can then be set for the time or a volume meter. 

A gardener grows soil; soil and microorganisms grow plants. 

I can't think of any activity that gives me more pleasure. The tastes, smells, sights, sounds, and feelings of the garden satisfies all my emotional needs and many of my physical needs. 

Joan, so glad you are here.  Perfect advice.     A gardener grows soil; soil and microorganisms grow plants.

And my thoughts exactly.  I can't think of any activity that gives me more pleasure. The tastes, smells, sights, sounds, and feelings of the garden satisfies all my emotional needs and many of my physical needs.

Daniel, I failed to read your comment until just now and very much like your philosophy of gardening. Sweet, simple pleasures, indeed. 

Joan, I like the story of your garden and how much pleasure it gives you.  I also get a great deal of enjoyment from gardening (although, after a month and a half of digging and mixing, that project is getting a little old).

I didn't know that worms die off when water sets on the surface.  That's probably why I see them on sidewalks after a heavy rain.

Also, thanks for the information about watering.

So far, I've planted one watermelon plant on one side of the modified area and it's doing great.  I've been collecting the rain water from my roof and watering it with that.  I put it on a mound 1.5 feet high so it has 5 feet of modified soil under it (I've dug down 3.5 feet in most places). 

Spud, sorry I missed your comment; i fell behind in reading my mail. Your strategy for the melon patch looks perfect and you should have good results. You put in a great deal of time and effort to prepare your ground. The earthworms and micronutrients will reward you grandly. 

A peat bog underlays my soil and so I have to be careful about over watering. My daughter lives on glacial moraines, sand and gravels, and has to water for short periods, frequently, the water percolates through quickly, taking the nutrients with it. 

When I lived near Kenai, Alaska, at an Army Receiver site, Wildwood Station, 1959-1961. We lived on glacial moraines, and the soils had been leached of good nutrients. Some Athabaskan Indians took me to the Funny River where it empties into Cook inlet. We gathered salty sea weed, took it by truck to the river and washed the salt off, then spread it to dry on the beach.  After a few days we took the dried seaweed to a patch of ground near our housing unit and spread it with about six inches of this smelly stuff. We also buried fish heads and scraps and I tilled it all in with a shovel, and grew huge cabbages and all kinds of vegetables. The natives had lived there for thousands of years and grew the most wonderful fruits and vegetables using this technique. Most of them had buried green houses with glass or plastic roofs. The soil was easy to dig into because it was all sand and gravels. 

Gardening is hard work, and it rewards gardeners who pay attention to soils. 

This is especially chilling

We are now at a point where microbes that thrive in healthy soil have been largely rendered inactive or eliminated in most commercial agricultural lands...


Thanks for the article, Sentient Biped.

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