Healthy Trees Need Healthy Soil

Cantaloupe flourishes in garden

Soil helps cantaloupe to flourish.

If you see a healthy tree, it means healthy soil is helping it to grow and stay well.

Healthy soil is made up of lots of microorganisms, a big, long word. It describes one-celled organisms called microbes too small for us to see. You have to look through a microscope to see them. It’s hard to believe that they make up almost 60 percent of the living matter on Earth.

If you have a backyard garden and you take a teaspoon out there, scoop up a teaspoon full of dirt. That teaspoon will hold more than 50 billion microbes. Good grief! Each of those microbes help to make up the soil microbiome in your garden, all those microbes that keep your garden healthy.

If those microbes weren’t in the soil or if the microbes weren’t very healthy, your garden wouldn’t produce good vegetables and fruit. And nearby trees might not look so healthy either.

How do you make sure you have good microbes in your backyard garden soil? There are several ways. One is to plant different kinds of plants each spring. Each plant offers something a little different to the microbes. If you planted one kind of plant in one part of your garden last year, plant a different kind in that spot this year.

The microbes in soil live off of what the plant roots secrete. They are things such as sugars, enzymes, and other compounds that keep the soil healthy. In turn, microbes produce things that plant roots need such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.

If you use pesticides in the garden, they will wipe out some of the microbes. That won’t be good for the plants you are trying to grow. There are often other ways of dealing with pesticides. You can find ideas in magazines and books, online, and at your local nursery or garden center.

Since microbes usually live in the topsoil, which goes down about six inches, it’s best to disturb that soil as little as possible. Don’t till very deep, only an inch or two, if you till the soil at all. That will protect healthy fungi in the soil that help plants and tree roots stay healthy even in a drought when there is hardly any rain.

The more carefully and lovingly you take care of your garden soil, the healthier your plants will be. The trees that live nearby will be happy too, because their roots take in some of the nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and other things that healthy soil microbiomes produce.

You are making a positive difference by taking good care of the soil in your backyard garden. It’s hard to imagine that you are helping billions upon billions of tiny microbes in just one teaspoon of soil!

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