I was discussing Creation Gardening with one reader, via email, tonight. One topic was earthworms. Another one Teaming with Microbes.
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. How does a worm eat? It starts by pushing its pharynx out of its mouth and uses it and its prostomium to grab food and bring it inside its body. In the food goes, and strong muscles start to break it down into particles. Saliva is mixed in, moistening things up.
Lewis, Wayne; Lowenfels, Jeff; (2010-09-10). Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 1386-1390). Timber Press. Kindle Edition.
My other current reading book on Kindle is the bug book.
Though nonparasitic wasps like this yellow jacket (Vespula species) are capable of stinging, they are terrific predators, feeding their young with insect prey. This one is tearing apart a pest caterpillar.
Walliser, Jessica (2014-02-26). Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control (Kindle Locations 1096-1097). Timber Press. Kindle Edition.
A Cotesia wasp has parasitized this hornworm and the fully developed larvae have begun to emerge from the hornworm’s body to spin their silken cocoons. In a little less than a week, the adult wasps will emerge from the cocoons and fly off.
Walliser, Jessica (2014-02-26). Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control (Kindle Locations 1099-1100). Timber Press. Kindle Edition.
The partially read book that impressed me lately is Toad Cottages and Shooting Stars, by Sharon Lovejoy. I ordered that book used, for a total cost of $5 on Alibris.com. Toad Cottages suggests slug-eaters, so I am interested in that. I saw that develop last summer. The toad made a home near the water faucet, so he could stay cool, wet, and well fed.
Balance from Abundance
Walliser admitted that she lost interest in plants compared to the dynamic world of insects. Teaming with Microbes taught me to connect garden production to the foundation of all life - the fungi, protozoa, and bacteria.
Toad Cottages seems to unify both efforts with its emphasis on a wide variety of plants. We look at plants as providing beauty with flowers or food from the fruit of those flowers. Lovejoy looks at the abundance of insect life attracting by a wide variety of food for them, a replay of the ocean of life in the soil.
Once again, the predator becomes the prey. Every plant has its insect pest, but every pest has its airborne enemy in a family of wasps. Understanding this changes out attitude toward pests, since they really are food more than they are destroyers.
I waited for aphids on the roses last summer, and I did squirt two plants when I imagined some pests were on them. Walliser shows that killing the aphids means killing the parasitizing wasp eggs inside the aphid. We want those wasps to thrive to kill more aphids, carrying on the traditions of their parents. I stopped spraying anything after that, and the roses had almost no damage.
Abundance applies to numbers and variety. As each plant goes through its cycle, it feeds butterflies, moths, wasps, bees, grasshoppers, and other insects - not to mention spiders above and microbes below.
These ornaments of Creation arrange the balance on their own. They only want some sun or darkness, moisture and drainage, food and air.
|Robin, by Norma Boeckler|