The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rain Is Falling - Bacterial Growing

Charts cannot do justice to the complexity of
life in soil, but this is a start
Many people think of rain watering the plants and adding nitrogen to the soil. I think of rain as feeding the soil creatures that mediate life for everything in and above the soil. Bacteria need water to reproduce and help them do their work in decomposition.

Bacteria are everywhere. Few gardeners appreciate that they are crucial to the lives of plants, and fewer still have ever taken them into consideration . Yet no other organism has more members in the soil, not even close. In part, this is because these single-celled organisms are so minuscule that anywhere from 250,000 to 500,000 of them can fit inside the period at the end of this sentence.  

Lewis, Wayne;   Lowenfels, Jeff;  (2010-09-10). Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 546-549). Timber Press. Kindle Edition. 

When I tossed banana peels and coffee grounds on the vegetable garden mulch this morning, I noticed the rain falling, a welcome surprise. I was going to soak all the new seed already planted (peas and sunflowers) later today. That job is done already.

The peas are not a gamble. Looking ahead, the weather will be perfect for an early crop. I ordered 900 more seeds to extend the row to over 75 feet. Since the fence garden on Mrs. Wright's side will be watered by soaker hose, growth is inevitable, not matter what is planted there.

The sunflowers are a minor gamble. Some, perhaps many will perish on cold nights in February, but their row will be supplemented by the giant ones (15 feet tall) to be planted in March. Rotting plants and roots add to the bacterial in the soil.

Bacteria reproduce, for the most part, by single cell division; that is, one cell divides and makes two cells, they each divide again, and so forth. Amazingly, under laboratory conditions, one solitary bacterium can produce in the vicinity of 5 billion offspring in a mere 12 hours if they have enough food. If all bacteria reproduced at this rate all the time, it would take only a month or so to double the mass of our planet. Fortunately, soil bacteria are limited by natural conditions, predators (protozoa chief among them), and a slower reproductive rate than their laboratory cousins; for example, bacteria must have some form of moisture for the uptake of nutrients and the release of waste.

Lewis, Wayne; Lowenfels, Jeff;  (2010-09-10). Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 554-559). Timber Press. Kindle Edition. 

We began decomposing nutrition in the soil last fall, when we covered the new gardening areas with Jackson Mulch and raked leaves over the back garden area, where plants for hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies would dominate.

The warm non-winter means many leaves are still on trees. Some neighbors are just gathering their leaves and mowing or hauling them off. I counted 15 bags of them on the curb at one neighbor's home(!?). You will notice almost no leaves in mid-spring, because the eruption of soil life in spring will devour the leaves remaining.

Primary decomposers 
Despite their tiny size, bacteria are among the earth’s primary decomposers of organic matter, second only to fungi. Without them, we would be smothered in our own wastes in a matter of months. Bacteria decompose plant and animal material in order to ingest nitrogen, carbon compounds, and other nutrients. These nutrients are then held immobilized inside the bacteria; they are released (mineralized ) only when the bacteria are consumed or otherwise die and are themselves decayed.

Lewis, Wayne;  Lowenfels, Jeff; (2010-09-10). Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 564-567). Timber Press. Kindle Edition. 

Creation gardening begins with increasing the bacterial and fungi in the soil. They are the primary decomposers and should be honored, praised, fed, and nurtured in every possible way. I walked by the inorganic fertilizer at Walmart yesterday. What a stink! In contrast, natural amendments have an earthy, pleasant smell, because one of those microbes contributes that fragrance. The actinomycetes is the good guy.

A pleasant smell after the first shower is because of a group of filamentous bacteria Actinomycetes found in the soil. They grow well in soil when the conditions are damp and warm.
Someone wrote last night about the cause of good works. Roman Catholics mandate them, including them as one cause of justification (faith plus works). Calvinists write about obligation too - Barth - the gift is a demand. Luther saw the proper relationship as the good tree (justification by faith) necessarily bearing fruit.

The cause of clergy and laity being abused in the Synodical Conference is unbelief. Only apostates could be so evil while parading their glittering vices that they call sanctification.

Back to the garden. I would require gardening each year of seminary. "Here are $50 in seed, paid for by your tuition, and a few tools. Raise a productive garden and include that in all your sermons and essays. First prize is a call. Second prize is a manure fork. Third prize - a Thrivent job." (Apologies to the movie Glengarry Glen Ross)

Gardeners want a lively crop of earthworms to work for them, a worthy goal. To do that, they need to nurture their soil bacterial with mulch and compost.

Earthworms eat? Bacteria
What does a worm eat? Bacteria, primarily, which is why it should come as no surprise that soils with large populations of worms are usually bacterially dominated. Other foods are fungi, nematodes, and protozoa, as well as the organic matter on or in which these microorganisms live.

Lewis, Wayne; Lowenfels, Jeff; (2010-09-10). Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 1386-1388). Timber Press. Kindle Edition.