|Fungi can trap and kill nematodes, dissolving their|
compounds to swap for the root's carbon credits.
Living the Fungal Jungle
All gardeners missed the real message of soil microbes until recently, when investigations of fungi, protozoa, and bacteria revealed the crucial role they play in delivering usable chemicals to plant roots. Fungi are decomposing champions that create tubes (hyphae) to dissolve organic matter on one end and deliver nutrition to roots (sometimes several plants) on the other end.
The long hyphae of mycorrhizal fungi help plants obtain nutrients and water. In return, the fungus receives exudates from the plant. These all-important root-fungi partnerships are known as mycorrhizae. (The fungi are mycorrhizal fungi; mycorrhiza refers to the relationship.) Somewhere between 90 and 96 percent of all plants enter into mycorrhizae. These are not trivial associations. Fungi produce powerful acids and enzymes that break down organic material, freeing tied-up nutrients, many of which are then moved to the host plant root. The plant, in turn, expends valuable energy and uses limited resources to make and deliver exudates to support the association.
Lowenfels, Jeff; (2013-05-07). Teaming with Nutrients: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to Optimizing Plant Nutrition (Kindle Locations 2165-2170). Timber Press. Kindle Edition.
Basics of the Earthworm
Creation (organic) gardeners, aimed at having the most earthworms per shovel. Some say that one earthworm per shovel is the standard, when digging. I find them tumbling out like acrobats at a circus, each time I dig, often on my hands and knees with a trowel.
Earthworms share this with other assets of God's Creation. They do not like:
|Diversity of Life - more earthworm biology.|
Darwin studied worms for 40 years, but missed their importance. He saw earth-movers, but we know earthworms are earth-moving soil improvers.
Many people are familiar with dew worms, which dig deep and do not cotton to earthworm farms. The main product of earthworm farms is the red wiggler, which is very active in the top foot of soil, where almost all roots - even tree roots - feed. I add red wigglers to every place where we live.
The earthworm is all muscle, with bristles to move it through soil in harmony with the muscle contractions. Its hard nose makes it easier to penetrate tough soil and has been known to burrow through asphalt.
Earthworms eat little pebbles that stay in the gizzard to grind soil. One benefit of earthworms is the creation of fine soil.
As many gardeners know, most plants like sweet soil, but there are some that like acid soil. Earthworms are unique in having calciferous glands that produce calcite from the calcium found in the soil. This sweetens the soil, which helps plant growth. Worms like sweet soil and make it sweeter.
This sweet (non-acid) soil makes chemical exchanges work better. Most plants love sweet soil.
Earthworms are shredders and mixers. One author called them "cows that graze on bacteria." In doing so they move bacteria around and concentrate beneficial organisms in their castings (manure). They multiply usable nitrogen and other compounds in their castings, and they excrete nitrogen compounds from their kidneys.
Worms can deposit a staggering 10 to 15 tons of castings per acre on the surface annually. This almost unbelievable number is clearly significant to gardeners: the ability to increase the availability of nutrients without carting in and adding tons of fertilizer is about as close to alchemy as one can get.
Lewis, Wayne; Lowenfels, Jeff; (2010-09-10). Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 1407-1410). Timber Press. Kindle Edition.
Earthworms move in when compost is done, so moving compost around distributes them and their egg capsules while providing food on the spot for their progeny. Darkness, moisture, and food will make them even more prone to reproduce.
Earthworms also love mulch. They cannot tolerate sunlight, so new worm purchases will dig down into the soil at once. Under mulch - or in compost - they will feed on bacteria and burrow through rotting organic matter. They like dead trees, logs on the ground, sawdust, shredded wood mulch, and newspaper.
Earthworms benefit soil, compost, and mulch by their constant tunneling, which aerates its surroundings and allows water to penetrate more deeply rather than run off. Earthworms work against soil compaction.
For example, worms pull mulch material into underground dens for shredding; the results are nutrient-rich worm castings, more worms, worm tunnels and dens, better water retention, and improved aeration. All manner of micro- and macro-arthropods are able to live in mulches, speeding decay, adding to the soil’s organic content, and attracting other members of the soil food web.
Lewis, Wayne; Lowenfels, Jeff; (2010-09-10). Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 2077-2080). Timber Press. Kindle Edition.
An earthworm will move its body-weight in soil every day, so its constant work will improve the soil in many ways, On one acre of pasture, earthworms will easily move one ton of soil per day. Why did when they do this so well? My mulched areas are always light, airy, and easy to dig.
The ancient Egyptians realized that earthworms did most of the work in working the soil after each of the annual floods of the Nile River. Thus - harming an earthworm was a capital offense - as it should be today.
Additional details about gardening with earthworms can be found in The Wormhaven Gardening Book - free PDF.
|God turns newspapers and wood mulch into roses.|