Ichabod explores the Age of Apostasy, predicted in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, with an emphasis on UOJ, Church Growth, and Emergent Church heresies. The antidote to these poisons is trusting the efficacious Word in the Means of Grace. John 16:8. Most readers are WELS, LCMS, ELS, or ELCA. This blog also covers the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the mainline denominations.
All Gardening Efforts Begin with the Wee Little Creatures
of the Soil
efforts to improve the soil disrupt its microbes and structure, killing and
driving away the life that makes it fertile, adding needless toxins while
having a paradoxical negative effect.
fertilizers have little effect on the soil’s fertility, but a powerful toxic
effect on microbes and larger soil creatures, while passing through into the
temporarily kill anything that moves, allowing the worst pests to come back without
the beneficial bugs that do the actual permanent work of keeping destruction at
repeat these errors and kill off the most powerful tool of decomposition and
fertility – fungus.
the chemical solutions have been applied and have done their damage, the
gardening centers claim the solution is – apply even more of the same toxins.
Walk through the aisles of bug killers and fertilizers and try to detect the
fragrance of spring. Instead, the odors well up and make a sickening stench.
If all life on land depends on the soil, then we want the
first 12 inches of soil, the root zone, to be as fertile, aerated, and moist as
we can. Fortunately, the Creating Word fashioned an intricate system of
dependencies that accomplish that goal. We can enhance that activity by doing
less, to let Creation do more, tilling the earth harmless as doves, wise as
serpents (Matthew 10:16.
Justus Liebig and NPK
inspired the chemical revolution in the 1840s, by measuring the impact of
nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) on plant growth – Justus
Liebig. His concerns were based on fears of famine, something he experienced as
a boy, but his later results, about problems with NPK, were overlooked and the
chemical fertilizer industry never looked back in regret.
asked her husband to fertilize the roses, my grandfather’s specialty. My uncle
reasoned that double the fertilizer would be twice as good and administered the
potion accordingly. Due to osmosis, the concentration drew the water from the
roses and killed them all. At best, the rose fertilizer would pass through the
root zone, having the same effect on microbes and larger creatures, and enter
to water table. Too much phosphorus in the water leads to many bad effects and
the chemical is much lower or even zero in commercial fertilizer at gardening
want fertile soil and would rather save money and labor in fostering that
change. In addition, the ideal is to keep those changes locked into the root
zone, and that can be done by reducing labor, costs, and soil-churning. Back to
nature really means honoring and observing God’s Creation in the garden.
Fungus and the Trap
teachers told us that humans are different from animals in our use of tools.
Animals do not use tools. And yet, one gardening writer was stunned to see a
photo of a fungus trapping and killing a nematode, using a triggering device to
enclose the creature. That began Jeff Lowenfels’ journey from professional
chemical gardener to toxin-free gardening - and publication of Teaming with Microbes.
In the old
days, before cell phones and grape-flavored apples, gardeners ignored the
microscopic creatures and bragged about their earthworm populations. Like Darwin
before any significant microscopic discoveries, we all knew about those tiny
microbes, but gave them little significance in our quest for the perfect
garden. But nothing compares to the lowly fungus in its role as a provider of
useful chemicals for the plant.
Soil Logistics, Better Than Walmart’s
of America is the logistics system, which allows goods from all over the world
to arrive at our stores and be purchased at low prices. The work of the fungus
is parallel to our logistics and yet works without our knowledge or planning.
We can only make it better or worse. Although microscopic, fungi have the
ability to extend their influence far beyond their initial size, by growing and
reaching out with the hyphae, growth tubes that end in a tip that can dissolve
any organic leftovers.
the tiny bacterium, small enough to fit 500,000 within the period at the end of
a sentence, cannot grow beyond its size and can only travel on a film of water.
The fungus can travel meters by growing, but it must have carbon to grow.
cannot makes its own carbon, but must have carbon. Plant root hairs provide the
answer to this dilemma, and that solution is so astonishing that every
gardener, sceptic, and atheist should consider this junction between plant and
soil, this Vanity Fair.
Therefore at this
fair are all such merchandise sold: as houses, lands, trades, places, honours,
preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms; lusts, pleasures, and delights of all
sorts…(Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress, Vanity
We now know that the root hairs signal for the ingredients
needed by the plant, various compounds and water, exchanging carbon in the
swap. The abundant carbon in plants is the medium of exchange and enables the
fungus to travel by growing, find the requested supplies and bring them back in
of soil contains yards of delicate fungal strands, so the folly of tramping
down soil or rototilling it should be clearly seen. Gardeners have known that
the soil becomes infertile by stepping on it, but the reasons why were not so
clear before this advent of fungal research. The seeds that fell on the paths,
in the Parable of the Sower, were easily snatched up because they could not
germinate and take root where foot traffic hardened the soil (Matthew 13).
not only powerful in its growth, but also in its ability to break down organic
matter. Bacteria make a start in decomposition, but fungus attacks the toughest
cells, like wood and bark, and reduces the complicated chemicals to ones needed
and demanded by the root hairs of the plant. The hyphal tip makes the fungus
similar to the giant subway drilling machines that cut through the earth with a
cutting and smashing device in the front.
Letting the Fungi Work
can allow the fungi work to feed their plants in several ways.
soil should be left undisturbed, as much as possible. Stepping stones in the
garden help prevent compaction. Avoiding the rototiller is also important, not
only for the fungi, but also for the soil creatures affected by being
love wood, so using log borders and shredded wood mulch will provide an
abundance of food for all soil creatures, fungi in particular.
fungicides (rose spray for blackspot) will spare the innocent bystanders that
will die, a problem greater than blackspot itself.
the fertilizer bags at the store and relying on organic methods will also have
beneficial effects on everything living in the yard.
Mind the Soil-Food Web
spraying with herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, and miticides; compacting
soil; removing organic material from lawns and under trees —all these human
practices affect the soil food webs in your yard and gardens. Once a niche is
destroyed, the soil food web starts to work imperfectly. Once a member of a
niche is gone, the same thing happens. In both instances, the gardener must
step in to fill the gap, or the system completely fails. Rather than working
against nature the gardener had better cooperate with it; and this, as we shall
see, does not require a lot of hard labor— not if the gardener understands and
teams up with the soil food web, letting its members do the work. Lowenfels, Jeff (2010-09-10).Teaming with Microbes: The Organic
Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition(Kindle Locations 1517-1520). Timber
Press. Kindle Edition.
of life seem insignificant, unless we are infected with them – strep,
pneumonia, etc. The ability of bacteria to multiply is phenomenal. One cell
can become 5 billion in 12 hours, but they are dependent upon water, both for
survival and movement. Since 500,000 bacteria can fit within a period at the
end of a sentence, a big trip for one bacterium is not impressive. Worst – or
best of all, bacteria serve as food for many creatures.
usually the first organism imagined when the subject of decomposition is
raised. Unlike fungi, they do not have a chemical drill to puncture tough
membranes and draw out nutrition. Instead, bacteria use osmotic movement
through their cell walls to obtain what they want. Bacteria and fungi share in
the chemical breakdown of organic matter so the root hairs can feed. The grass
clippings on the surface of a garden cannot feed plants directly, but once they
are attacked with mold and bacteria, then digested by earthworms, the final
product— an earthworm casting— is easily absorbed by the plant.
powerful in their numbers and contribute a lot to gardening:
(creating) nitrogen compounds that can be used by plants, since nitrogen itself
cannot feed the plant.
down the complex chemicals of organic matter so plants can ultimately feed upon
what was too complex to feed upon at first.
the simple sugars while fungi attack the complex cell material.
the earthworms, who turn their soil-organic matter-bacteria food into castings
perfect for plant use.
a vast amount of organic food in the top foot of soil, serving as a recycling
supply of nutrition for all creatures.
in the soil are much larger than bacteria. They can be seen with the naked eye
while an entire city population of bacteria can hide within the dot of an eye.
They have an unusual relationship, because the protozoa give the bacteria room
to grow by devouring many of them. If the bacteria grew without competition,
they would use up their food sources too fast and become a larger population
with far less to eat. This is counter-intuitive for humans, because the sight
of crowded grocery stores before a hurricane only drives more to empty the
shelves of food, water, Pop-tarts, and flashlight batteries.
becomes more apparent as we consider the relationship between the microbes. Fungi
and bacteria play large roles in the breakdown of organic matter for other
life-forms. The balance of nature we learned from science classes is really the
complex engineering of the Creating Word. Although that seems more apparent at
the larger scale of life, this balance is already essential and impressive
among the microbes. By eating the bacteria, the protozoa exchange and hold onto
the simple forms of organic matter. The primary ones of interest are the
nitrogen combinations that the plants need, but all the chemical combinations
are important and contribute to the health of the soil, the growth of plants.
Leaving the soil alone allows the microbes to flourish and hold a Fort Knox of
ingredients for plant life. The greater the biomass in the soil, the more water
and minerals are held in the top foot of soil where almost all roots feed –
even tree roots. Taproots dig much deeper and tree roots search below for
water, but most of the nutrition for all land life is in that top twelve inches
nematodes first awakened the Teaming with
Microbes author about relationships in soil. He saw a microscopic photo of
a fungus springing a trap on the nematode, to kill and devour its tiny visitor.
And yet, other fungi attract nematodes with a chemical lure and stun them into
staying for lunch. Nematodes add to the balance of soil creatures. They are
rich in nitrogen, the building block of protein and the green of the garden. They
feed on plants, bacteria, and fungi. Everything living in the soil is food for
another creature while feeding on other living things.
Two Wee Little Creatures of the Soil
includes microscopic life of many types, which are briefly summarized here.
are the most numerous creature on the planet, yet most people have never heard
of this little insect, which can barely be seen. Springtails feed on plant
decay and serve as food for other creatures. Since springtails feed on leaf
litter, their presence as food attracts higher level creatures, which also
serve as food higher on the menu. Leaf litter left alone will be attacked by
fungus, springtails, mites, and earthworms, so a pile of leaves will always be
a cafeteria for birds looking for those creatures and many more drawn to the
moisture, food, and shelter of decaying leaves.
are joint-footed (arthropods) and related to spiders. They have no qualms about
common arthropods, mites and springtails, are alone responsible for recycling
up to 30% of the leaves and woody debris deposited on a temperate zone forest
floor. Teaming with Microbes. p .
I have often
made the point that people talk about gardening without knowing the name of the
most numerous creature on earth, the springtail insect, which is all over the yard,
helping with decay and serving as food. Man-made cures for the garden have a
devastating effect on the entire soil food web: fungi, bacteria, protozoa,
nematodes, springtails, and mites. A poison aimed at a given pest or fungus
will eradicate the soil populations that manage one another so successfully, as
if they were engineered from the beginning to do so. The ocean of life in the
soil was not made to cope with manufactured fertilizer. Instead, God created something
designed to fertilize the soil and offer many more benefits, night and day –