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#140 - Why Verify Your Soil Microbiology?

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.