The Important Role of Soil Organisms in a Healthy Garden

The vibrant community of soil organisms that live beneath our feet are the unsung heroes of our yards and gardens. Below the soil surface, a bustling community of soil organisms tirelessly works to maintain the vitality of the living landscape above. These tiny creatures, including bacteria, fungi, earthworms and insects, play a pivotal role in creating and sustaining healthy soil, which is the cornerstone of a flourishing garden.

Soil Food Web (USDA NRCS)

As autumn sets-in we watch the leaves fall and our once lush and colorful garden wither and brown. We are witnessing a bountiful food supply delivered directly to soil organisms, courtesy of Mother Nature. As millipedes, pill bugs and actinomycetes decompose these browns and greens (and reds and yellows!), they turn them into organic matter, enriching the soil with valuable nutrients for our plants. Simultaneously, the organic matter is buffering the soil’s pH, improving soil structure, enhancing aeration, augmenting water retention and improving soil health. This cycle of life, where decaying leaves nourish soil organisms, leading to optimized soil health, directly impacts plant growth and the overall vitality of our gardens.

Homeowners can promote the well-being of soil organisms by avoiding excessive use of pesticides, which can harm these beneficial creatures. In fact, soil organisms contribute to pest control. Organisms, like predatory beetles and nematodes, feed on harmful insects, keeping pest populations in check, naturally. This biological control promotes an environmentally friendly and sustainable approach to landscaping.

Feed your soil organisms by mulching with organic materials, such as compost and leaves. Plant a variety of species in your landscape to attract a variety of soil organisms. This leads to a more robust underground food web, which results in a balanced soil ecosystem.

The contributions of soil organisms to healthy soil and a vibrant garden are invaluable. By recognizing the importance of these macro- and microscopic inhabitants and adopting sustainable gardening practices, homeowners can nurture a thriving and resilient landscape, teeming with life!