Although soil bacteria and other soil microbes may seem a bit off subject, they are an extremely important part of the feeding process.
A bit like friendly bacteria in a human’s digestive system helps to digest food and keep us healthy (probiotic yoghurt etc. in the supermarket), friendly bacteria in the soil help plants absorb nutrients and keep them well fed too.
Soil bacteria may be divided into two types – friendly and unfriendly.
Friendly bacteria are aerobic bacteria and live in the area of soil that contains both air and moisture.
Many unfriendly bacteria are anaerobic and don’t require air (hence the name) and they live in compacted – water saturated soil deeper down in the earth.
This brings us back to a point that is often made: roots need air, and of course, so do friendly bacteria.
The other important point here is that over-watering also encourages the unfriendly type of bacteria, especially if drainage is poor.
Why are bacteria and other microbes so important in soil?
They help plants absorb nutrients by converting minerals into a form that plant roots can take in. The more friendly bacteria there are living in the root area, the easier it is for plants to absorb the nutrients they need. Also, friendly bacteria protect roots against unfriendly bacteria.
Compacted and water saturated soil encourages growth of bacteria that causes disease and poor root growth. This also has an effect on the crop – poor quality, slow growth, low quantity and ultimately the taste.
Types of organic additives that encourage friendly bacteria and other microbes include:
- Organic matter – fully decomposed organic material that has become humus, such as your own home-made compost.
- Liquid seaweed extract
- Fish emulsion
- Mycorrhizal fungi – there are also friendly fungi too!
- Effective micro-organisms – a mother culture is made or fermented.
These are just a few additives that can be applied directly to soil, or a mother culture made and diluted from that. Some of the above, such as the seaweed and fish emulsion can also be applied as a foliar spray.
The wetting agent “essentials wetter” contains friendly bacteria and the wetting agent is bio-degradeable.
It’s helpful in making sure that the entire root area has access to moisture – especially important when growing in containers.
There are many organic recipes that encourage the growth of friendly bacteria and other microbes in the soil.
A browse at Amazon or Youtube will provide a huge amount of further information.
Mycorrhizal fungi – friendly fungi
Fish emulsion – encourages friendly bacteria and lots of other microbes too – use mainly before flowering because too much of this stuff may cause blossom drop because of too much nitrogen.
Getting the timing right when feeding tomatoes is important in order to get the best results – knowing when to feed a particular nutrient can provide very quick growth and amazing results – even in a poor summer. I’m not going to mention the weather!!!