Soil care: The soil ecosystem has a decisive influence on the development of plants. Often ignored, but still fundamentally important for all plants: healthy and nutrient-rich soil. Even the small creatures should not be disregarded when maintaining the floor. What can amateur gardeners do?
Hardly any part of the garden appears as natural in our perception as the ground. This means that we tend to neglect this essential basis of plant growth. It is one of the most complementary ecosystems. Because the soil is not only permeated by the plant roots.
Living beings in the ground form a unit
“The floor is alive,” says Ina Sperl, author from Cologne. She explains that when you dig in the ground you can see springtails, woodlice, snails and spiders in addition to earthworms with the naked eye. “One teaspoon of intact soil also contains countless fungi, bacteria and microorganisms,” says Sperl. All these living beings form a structure.
In it, the organisms ensure that the organic matter that arises is decomposed, crushed and deposited in the ground. The dead matter consists of plant residues and always also of excrement, carcasses and parts of animal bodies.
That makes good soil
The activity makes the soil crumbly and loose. In order for the processes to run smoothly, a number of conditions must be met. Air is an important part of the soil because the oxygen it contains is essential for the metabolism of the organisms in the soil. That is why it is one of the most important instructions for gardeners that the soil is not compacted.
It doesn’t have to be heavy equipment, and the daily walkways and stepping onto the beds at work are detrimental to the soil structure in the long run. In particular, when a heavy ground is wet, it should not be stepped on.
It doesn’t make sense to work from a board to prevent soil compaction. Permanently integrated stepping stones also facilitate optimal care in the bed.
Plants know what they need
The soil ecosystem has a decisive influence on the development of plants. This has to do with the fact that the nutrients that are bound in the organic matter in the soil are made available to plants again by bacteria and fungi that are invisible to us. The plants secrete substances at the roots – so-called exudates – which attract bacteria to release the necessary nutrients.
What is fascinating is that the plants know what they need. In spring, when all signs point to growth, the plants primarily require nitrogen. If growth is gradually ceased in summer, then the consumption of potassium increases. If one compares this nutrient uptake on the basis of organic fertilization, one easily understands the disadvantages of inorganic fertilizers.
These are salts that are water-soluble and a dose of nitrogen with the diet of a darning goose. The plant can no longer differentiate, but takes in more nutrients over and over again.
At the same time, the salts form highly concentrated solutions with the soil water, which ensure that soil organisms die. Excess nutrients cannot be bound, but flow into the groundwater. The natural networks are completely undermined.
The right care for the garden soil
Maintaining the soil means promoting soil life. A crucial requirement is the renouncement of the use of poisons. Herbicides and fungicides kill soil organisms for a variety of reasons. The living beings would have to be there in their entirety for the processes to work.
Modern research into the soil shows that in the context of soil care, care must be taken to protect living beings in their stratification. The traditional digging of areas in autumn or spring is therefore not advisable. A thick layer of mulch also promotes the organisms in the earth, which are important for a loose soil structure.
Soil life: A thick layer of mulch promotes the organisms in the earth, which are important for a loose soil structure.
This ceiling of organic matter on the floor has other advantages. In the winter months, the soil life remains active longer because the temperatures do not drop as much. The mulch also prevents the top layer from being damaged by UV radiation. The erosion of soil by wind and water is prevented.
There are many different mulch materials available, the best being provided by the garden itself. It is important to use organic matter. I strongly advise against using foils, that any dried-up lawn clippings, leaves from the trees and green manure as well as natural growth of wild herbs are ideal for maintaining the soil.
Why the earthworm is so good for the soil
The activity of the earthworm is of particular importance in all processes in the soil. To this end, Oftring first considers the composition of the soil. The organic components make up seven percent. The remaining 93 percent consist of mineral parts and half of the soil pores.
Soil pores are half filled with water and half with air. These two elements are vital for soil organisms and plants. The stability of the soil pores results from the activity of the earthworms. They form stable clay-humus colloids. In this context, sandy soils are clearly at a disadvantage, as the fine clay components are missing.
Plants can also be stressed
The networks of nutrient uptake in plants have been particularly well researched in trees. The symbiosis between plant roots and mycorrhizal fungi has now also been proven in grasses and a great many land plants. This makes plants more resistant to stress factors.
Examples are the lower susceptibility of potatoes in storage to rot and the better smell and higher vitamin C content of strawberries.
The mushroom species are more or less specialized in the plant genera, which is why native plants are better adapted to the conditions in the garden. She recommends adding mycorrhizal fungi to support the invisible network.