In the middle of winter, the last thing you are thinking about is your soil. But now is a good time to start planning for spring and your plants are only half the story. As a farmer or gardener, you also have to think of what’s below the surface! Microbes, fungi and bacteria are abundant in your soil and it is important to keep them happy.
So why is this important?
Mycorrhizae fungi improve the soil’s structure by binding to the plant’s roots with multi-celled “webs” that they use to absorb the nutrients they need for healthy growth. These relationships between fungi and plant roots have developed over millions of years. There are hundreds of different kinds of mycorrhizae, each specially adapted to a certain type of plant. A rich diversity of microbes ensures the right ones are there to get the job done.
Bacteria play in important role in decomposing organic matter and others produce natural antibiotics that inhibit disease organisms. Many types of beneficial soil bacteria are able to absorb nitrogen from the air and when they die, they make the nitrogen available to plants. Some “nitrogen-fixing” bacteria form a symbiotic relationship with plants, living in tiny nodules attached to the roots. Peas and beans are two of the many kinds of plants that require nitrogen-fixing bacteria for healthy growth.
How do I encourage microbes in my soil?
- Organic Matter. This has been the topic of conversation among organic farmers and gardeners for a few years now and rightfully so. Compost, cover crops, manure, and so on are great sources of organic matter that feed the microbes in your soil. Beju Plant Food is a 100% organic and all natural fertilizer that can provide this nutrition as well!
- Don’t Compact. Avoid walking on your soil in the winter and as much as possible to allow the organisms to get air. Organic matter will help created “holes” in your soil as well that allow air to move through freely.
- Keep Moisture Consistent. Too much and too little are both issues for microbes. Make sure you have proper drainage if your soil tends to be wet or use mulch or cover crops it to retain the moisture if it tends to be dry.
- Warmth. Soil creatures are most active between 70 and 80 degrees F. Remove winter mulches in early spring to warm up the soil and revive the microbes.