Life Below the Soil

By Veralea Swayne, Garden Educator

DPP_0129Did you know there is a grand balancing act going on below your garden soil? Many living soil organisms are eating, excreting, dying and decomposing each day. They are interdependent and creating dynamic activity that is known as the soil food web.

Some of these organisms you can see, like earthworms and millipedes; others are microscopic, such as bacteria, fungi and protozoa. What do they each contribute to the show?

What Do These Creatures Contribute?

Arthropods, like pill bugs, shred organic matter near the top of the soil. Fungi can extend its hyphae many feet through the soil to bring water and nutrients back to plant roots. Bacteria convert organic matter into nutrients that plants can absorb through their roots. Bacteria exude a slime that holds the soil in aggregates, but it also keeps them from getting washed away as the rain percolates through the soil. Smart, aren’t they?

The plants growing in the soil actually ask for what they need from the soil food web, attracting the bacteria and fungi to their roots with carbohydrates leftover from photosynthesis. Check out these photos from our Soil Food Web: Field Study class for a glimpse at what can be discovered!

Curious About Other Critters in the Soil?

Get a closer look beneath the soil and learn more about the key garden players! Sign up for our fascinating, fun and hands-on class: Soil Food Web: Field Study on Sat., Oct. 29; 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

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