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Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:10-13 KJV

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Thirty Years To Grow - Tree Down in One Hour.
Teaming with Wood Mulch

We heard an unusual, persistent sound on this quiet block. I went outside - the Gardeners' tree was coming down. He was outside watching, so I joined him.

I appreciate trees, but not when they grow crowded and in the wrong place. This one was also raining debris on his collectible cars.

The crew took down the branches fast, cut the trunk into pieces, chipped the branches into a large truck, and loaded the loads into the owner's pickup. The son-in-law was getting the logs, and I coveted the mulch.

Summary - organic matter is good for the soil, great for the plants.

The boss heard I liked wood mulch so we discussed a way to get a load into my yard without it being a mountain. Midland Michigan would dump a load for free, so I once got a tuck-load of aromatic cedar, making one neighbor child say, "It smells like Christmas here."

I will get a small load of chips later, which will be great for the winter. Wood is knocked for soaking up nitrogen, which is a half-truth. Wood uses nitrogen as it starts to rot and then releases it into the soil. Long ago I read that adding wood products to the soil would make it more bacterial laden than any other process. I do not have chapter and verse on that, but I trust it is true. Bacteria is part of the process of capturing organic chemicals in the first foot of soil.

Commit to memory - earthworms are cows that graze on bacteria. Build the foundation for a large herd of earthworms and they will tunnel, aerate, mix, fertilize, and sweeten the soil. Earthworms will be fruitful and multiply to the extent they are fed.

Based on Lowenfels epic work, I would call wood products the ultimate fungus feeder. Bacteria are good but they are tiny and immobile compared to fungus. The fungal strands can simply dissolve wood and bark. Fungus travels great lengths to dissolve organic matter and deliver the needed chemicals - via their tubes - and moisture to plant roots. The plant roots offer up carbon credits, which fungus must have to grow, to get the materials they need to grow.

Bacterial alone can rot organic matter, but not as fast or effectively as fungus. When grass is piled up, fungus will attack at once to soften the cells. Bacteria will join the fun and build up heat, but that white covering is the first attack of fungus.

This fungus, trapping a nematode, shocked the Teaming authors.
The fungus engineered a spring trap to stop, kill, and - yuk - digest the nematode.
Dare we say - Creation?

While some fungi prefer the “softer,” easier-to-digest sugars characteristic of the foods that feed bacteria, most go for tougher-to-digest foods (mainly because bacteria are better and faster at grabbing and taking up the simple sugars). Fungi, however, win in the competition for more complex foods: they produce phenol oxidase, a strong enzyme that dissolves even lignin, the woody compound that binds and protects cellulose. Another characteristic of fungi is their ability to penetrate hard surfaces. Fungi have perfected apical growth— that is, growth at their hyphal tip. Apical or tip growth is an incredibly complex process, an engineering job akin to building a tunnel under a river and requiring great coordination of events. Even before electron microscopes, scientists identified a dark spot, the Spitzenkörper, in the tip of actively growing hyphae; when hyphal growth stopped, the Spitzenkörper disappeared. It seems this mysterious region has something to do with controlling or perhaps directing apical growth. 

During apical growth, new cells are constantly being pushed into the tip and along the sidewalls, elongating the hyphal tube. Materials for the growth of fungal hyphae are supplied to the advancing tip by the cytoplasm, which transports vesicles loaded with all necessary “construction” supplies. Of course, it is important to keep extraneous material from flowing into the hypha as well as out while this growth is happening. All the while, powerful enzymes capable of dissolving all but the most recalcitrant carbon compounds are released as the new cells are put into place. Think about it: these enzymes are powerful enough to convert lignin, cellulose, and other tough organic matter into simple sugars and amino acids, yet they do not decay the chitin cell walls of the fungi. 

Fungi can grow up to 40 micrometers a minute. Discount for the moment the speed, which is incredibly fast for such tiny organisms, and compare the distance covered to the movement of a typical soil bacterium, which may travel only 6 micrometers in its entire life. 

As with the death of any organism in the soil, the death of fungi means the nutrients contained within them become available to other members of the soil food web. But when fungi die, their hyphae leave a subway system of microscopic tunnels, up to 10 micrometers in diameter, through which air and water can flow. These “tubes” are also important safety zones for bacteria trying to elude protozoa: protozoa are considerably bigger than the tunnels.

Lewis, Wayne; Lowenfels, Jeff (2010-09-10). Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 867-885). Timber Press. Kindle Edition. 

Nematodes can be bad, like weeds, but the badness of the nematode, when dissolved, becomes a little dose of organic nitrogen to feed the roses, carrots, and beans. The weed when alive can create nitrogen compounds and mine calcium from the deeper layers of soil. When dead and rotting, that weed will feed the soil creatures that feed the roots.

The effort to fertilize the plant takes place at Vanity Fair, the marketplace where the root hairs meet the fungus strands for swaps. If the carbon-moisture-organic swaps do not happen there, they pass through to the water table. Thus the inorganic chemical salts make enough difference to get people hooked on them, but most of the chemicals go right through to the water table to pollute it, as the fertilizer bags concede with the big ZERO in the numbers. 10-0-10.

Insecticides and herbicides will kill and drive away the soil creatures that work together to form Vanity Fair, so - Vanity of Vanities - all is vanity when using toxins. They are also addicting, because gardeners must continue to kill when the previous toxins only make a temporary dent in the population of pests.

Sure - go crazy when roses get Blackspot. Soak them with fungicide because Blackspot is a fungus. That will clobber the fungus doing the real work and the microbes as a bonus.

"Let go and let God," according to the Twelve Step program for inorganic chemical addicts.


All things bright and beautiful, 
all creatures great and small, 
all things wise and wonderful: 
the Lord God made them all. 

1. Each little flower that opens, 
each little bird that sings, 
God made their glowing colors, 
and made their tiny wings. 

2. The purple-headed mountains, 
the river running by, 
the sunset and the morning 
that brightens up the sky. 

3. The cold wind in the winter, 
the pleasant summer sun, 
the ripe fruits in the garden: 
God made them every one. 

4. God gave us eyes to see them, 
and lips that we might tell 
how great is God Almighty, 
who has made all things well.