One of my neighbors came over yesterday as I was preparing some slides for the microscope from samples that I collected from my soil and compost piles and the question of why verifying the microbiology in the soil is important to do came up. This is an important question so I thought I would discuss it today.
I explained to him that I could tell, just from sitting in my house across the street and looking at his lawn, that his soil microbiology was not correct because parts of it were starting to turn brown. He explained that it was normal this time of the year for the grass to turn brown unless he constantly watered it everyday. I looked at him and said: "if I could show you a way to have a lush green lawn all year long and never have to water it once or use fertilizer on it, would you be interested in learning about it?" Of course he agreed, who wouldn't?
Soil, either in your lawn, your vegetable garden, a farm field, or the forest, should contain an entire diverse ecosystem with a multitude of different living organisms in it. How healthy the soil is depends on how many various species of micro-organisms are living in the soil and what their populations are.
The only way for us to know this information is to take a sample of the soil and look at it under a microscope to verify it. You can either do this yourself, or you can send samples to a laboratory and wait for their results to come back. It is much easier and cheaper to just do it yourself, and you get the results immediately so you can start making changes right away. This is the method that I prefer to do.
If you are having to put fertilizers on your soil so that your grass or plants grow, your soil microbiology is off. If your grass turns brown in the late summer drought, your soil microbiology is off. If you have aphids and other pests in your garden, your soil microbiology is off. If you are having to water your garden, your soil microbiology is off. Along with a whole host of other symptoms of poor soil microbiology.
All of these things are not normal, and is evidence that the microbiological ecosystem in your soil is not balanced correctly. The only way to resolve the problem is to find out what is actually in your soil, and what is missing from it. Once we have those population counts of the various micro-organisms, we can then take steps to fix the situation and bring the soil ecosystem back into harmony.
The reason his grass turns brown during a drought and the heat of the summer is because its root system only goes down a couple inches into the soil. The soil under that is completely compacted and the roots cannot penetrate it. Grass roots should be going down a foot or more into the soil. The deeper the roots go down, the more drought resistant it is. Unless you are in an arid desert environment, all the water that the grass needs to grow all year long is supplied by the rain, it actually receives a lot more rain every year than the grass needs. As long as the roots go down deep enough to access it, and the soil is holding onto that water like a sponge as it is supposed to you should never have to water a lawn and it should stay lush dark green all year long.
The same goes for garden vegetables too. You should never have to add inorganic fertilizers to a garden. All that does is cause those water-soluble fertilizers to leach out of the soil the first time it rains or when you water the garden, which you also should never have to do. If the soil structure is not right to retain the moisture and the roots of the plants only go down a few inches as happens in most peoples gardens. Those plants are not drought resistant and constantly need for you to give water to them. If the roots went down several feet as they should and the soil was absorbing and holding onto the water like a sponge, you would never have to water the garden, it would receive all the water it needs from the rain throughout the growing season. Most plants should have roots that are at least as deep as the plant is tall. For shorter plants the roots will be at least twice as deep as the plant is tall.
All of the nutrients and minerals that the plants need should be supplied by the soil itself, from the micro-organisms living in the soil around the roots of the plants. As those micro-organisms die off and are fed on my other micro-organisms, tase nutrients are released into the soil for the plants. The plants also release sugars and starches from their roots to feed those micro-organisms in a symbiotic relationship. Each give to the other what they need to survive.
You should never have to add fertilizers to the garden, or use pesticides or herbicides. All of the problems that cause us to have to use fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides in our gardens can be resolved by nature simply by having the right balance of ecology in our soil. I dare you to go into a lush old-growth forest and find an aphid attacking a plant. You will not find them because those plants are resistant to aphids because of the ecology in the soil they are growing in. The same goes for your vegetable garden. If the soil ecology is balanced correctly, you will not have to deal with aphids in your garden because the plants will create their own defense against them from things they receive from the soil.
Once your soil ecology is corrected you will be able to grow healthier plants that produce larger yields and save a fortune on buying additional fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, save a lot of time and energy, and even have lower water bills. Remember the old saying, "Work smarter, not harder".
For decades we have been brainwashed by chemical companies into believing that we have to add their chemical fertilizers to our plants so that they will grow, and use their pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides to kill off things that will harm our plats when in reality, it is all a lie. Their chemicals are what is causing all of those problems our plants are having in the first place.
Who goes out to the jungle or the rainforests of the world and fertilizes those plants and applies the fungicides and herbicides so that the plants stay healthy? The answer is no one, and those plants are a lot healthier than the ones in our gardens. Nature supplies every single thing that our plants need to grow and thrive, if we have not destroyed the soil ecology. Once the soil ecology has been destroyed or is out of balance, we then have to substitute what the plants should be receiving from nature with expensive and often harmful additives.
To restore the normal ecology in our soil and get everything back into balance we first have to find out what is there and what isn't there. Then we will use compost teas, and compost extracts to add to our soil what is missing until it becomes balanced once again. We will adjust the type of compost tea or extract that we will be creating based on the results of the soil samples. We will have to do this several times over the next several months adjusting as we go to create teas and extracts that are just what the soil, and therefore our plants are needing.
In most situations, the bacterial counts are not going to be the problem, but it will be the fungal, protozoa, flagella, ciliate, and other micro-organisms that are either completely absent or in extremely low numbers. We make adjustments to the type or style of compost tea or extract that is designed to increase that particular type of microbiological growth. But it all comes back to knowing for sure what is actually there and what is not.
The type of microscope you use for soil microbiology is important. Here is the microscope that I use, which I purchased at Amazon for less than $250.
You need to make sure that it has a few basic components at a minimum. The microscope must have binocular adjustable wide-field eyepieces that are a 10x magnification. The additional magnification lenses down near the slide are called the Objective lenses. For the objective lenses we need to make sure that we have a 4x, 10x, and 40x objectives. Anything higher than a 40x objective is not used in soil microbiology. A 40x objective combined with the 10x eyepiece gives you a total magnification of 400 times. At this magnification you will be able to see all the bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and other organisms that hopefully, are living in your soil.
The microscope must have a bright built-in light that should use either a halogen, xenon, or LED bulb so that it is bright enough to illuminate all of the microscopic creatures that you are trying to see. It also must have an ABBE condenser which adjusts the iris of the light to cast shadows onto the sample allowing some things to be seen easier. As you adjust the ABBE condenser various things will come into view as the contrast changes that you were not able to see before adjusting it. This is really handy for soil microbiology because a lot of what we are looking at basically look clear, as the contrast changes it makes different things stand out more making them easier to see.
The stage is where you place the slide containing the sample. The stage need to have knob adjustments to be able to move it up and down, left and right, and front to back, all with very fine movements which allow you to scan across the sample as you count the various micro-organisms.
I also chose to add a 10 megapixel microscope camera so that I will be able to take still photos and video of the micro-organisms for future postings on this subject. I also have the ability with it to do livestreams with the microscope in the future.
This posting is getting a bit long so I will break it here. I only intended for this post to be a primer. I will do future postings to go more in-depth into the intricacies of soil microbiology and how to fine-tune compost teas and compost extracts so that we are going the soil what it actually needs at that time to get everything back into balance.
Until Next Time,
Aloha & 73