I've been trying to nurture healthy soil microbes in my garden. I like this article, which describes some of the thoughts about healthy soil.
"Not only do soil microorganisms nourish and protect plants, they play a crucial role in providing many "ecosystem services" that are absolutely critical to human survival. By many calculations, the living soil is the Earth's most valuable ecosystem, providing ecological services such as climate regulation, mitigation of drought and floods, soil erosion prevention, and water filtration, worth trillions of dollars each year."
My garden and lawn are messy, but they have a rich population of all sorts of creatures. Sometimes I sit in the ground and watch the visible ones. Interesting number of tiny pollinating bees, larger bees, earthworms, and other creatures. Stop the herbicides in the lawn, and cut it fairly high, and tiny flowers start to grow and bloom within the lawn. With added compost, the raised beds are productive and easy to maintain.
I agree with this idea wholeheartedly. My garden smells better, looks healthier, if I keep those chewing things down, and I am not afraid the kids and cats will get something that will hurt them.
diatomaceous earth works beautifully to get rid of slugs.
Ladybugs get the aphids,
Dave's Garden, has an excellent bug identifier at http://davesgarden.com/guides/bf/.
Eartheasy for Natural Pest Control, http://eartheasy.com/grow_nat_pest_cntrl.htmInsectipedia,
Top 10 Beneficial Bugs for the Garden, include photos with pests they keep at bay and plants that attract each.
It sometimes hurts me to till or even hoe the garden, for fear of beheading worms! Spraying for weeds isn't an option. I think the word for good garden health is "tilth". Ever hear of it? Hope all is well, Daniel.
I feel really sad when an earth worm dries up on the pavement. I keep a nice moist spot with freshly turned earth where I put the ones who are still wiggling.
I used to grow vegetables in rows, and now I have them in raised beds. The soil is so rich in compost and manure, all I have to do is give a little yank to get out even the deepest of roots. Except for garlic, I have to use a pitch fork because they seem to hang onto the earth tightly. I loosen them and then yank. It is garlic harvest time now.
I also feel pain when I kill an earthworm, and the last two weeks has been a lot of sad because I'm preparing soil to plant my watermelon in.
I'm removing soil from an area 10 feet in diameter and 3 feet deep, then replacing it while I mix in lots of course sand, organic matter and manure. What that process does to earthworms is very sad.
I thought I was the only sucker for earthworms.! A friend said he was surprised I hadn't started naming them. My compost heaps are full of them and I like to keep them there.
My raised beds are high in compost, and I do some composting in situ. As a result, they are teeming with earthworms.
A few weeks ago, the chickens got into the raised beds and went hog wild. No more little Jessica, Heather, Lorenzo, Jennifer, Edwin, Morgan, Taylor, or little Jesus. All eaten.
Still makes me a little sad to think about it.
I don't think you will have chickens running away from that fine box/table. You will know where to find them. I wonder if the eggs will taste any differently?
lol...on the worms names, Sentient. Especially little Jesus.
Randall, Joan, Spud - I feel the same way about earthworms! When I'm digging and find one, I gently place it in what I hope is an optimal spot for it to tunnel back under ground. I discovered in the raised beds, when I dig with a trowel, earthworms come out of the ground up to 6 inches away from where I dig. I don't know why they do that.
Spud, some earthworms might die but I bet more will multiply in the richer soil you have made.
Joan, thanks for the definitions.
I'm working on better tilth all around, especially in the raised beds. Not enough energy to construct new beds now, so the zucchinis and butternut squash went into a prepared area where I wanted to add another raised bed.
Back to making my own soil/compost mix in the future. Making a pile of soil with help from moles. Specifically, I take the wheelbarrow around the yard once a week, and slice off the mole hills. Those are nice and friable, crumbly soil. By removing the mole hills, they don't turn into the dust bowl when mowed. They are going into a pile next to the next raised bed. It piles up fast. That way, getting soil won't be a big project, when I'm ready to build the next raised bed.
Maybe I should ask the coffee lady to start saving grounds for me again. That adds a lot to the tilth and fertility.
Sentient, the trouble with "shaving off" mole hills is that eventually, the "roof" caves in, leaving a sinkhole! I stomped the runs down, get my lawnchair and shovel, and patiently wait. While I have trouble killing an earthworm, I feel no such remorse with moles! Or voles.