A single teaspoon of fertile soil that has compost added to it regularly contains an amazing 100million bacteria an astonishing 400 to 800ft of fungi threads (called hyphae) and millions of other microbes. Soils that receive only chemical fertilizers typically contain lower numbers of these beneficial creatures (Almanac& Pest-control Primer p41).
Isn’t this amazing! Looking at even a small handful of compost I cannot imagine that this amount of life could fit into a teaspoon. So what’s the benefit of all this microscopic life? They are the foundation of all that grows. Any plant you grow develops a mutually dependent or ‘symbiotic’ relationship with this microscopic life that ensures they will reach their full potential.It’s all hidden in the soil. Notice, I wrote soil not dirt. Dirt is what gets under your fingernails or what you track into the house when you’ve had a wonderful day in the garden.
Now soil, well that’s a different story, soil is a fine balance of life and death. Consider the leaves we all want to rake up–well DON’T DO IT. Mulch them with your lawnmower, or put them in the compost or in an area that you what to naturalize. To stay healthy the tree that produced those leaves needs them back. I realize you’re going to tell me that you’ve been cleaning up those leaves under your 60 yr old oak for years and that tree is healthy enough to live another 300yrs. Well it might out live you and your children but there will come a time when that tree has used up all the nutrients in the soil. Where did a lot of those nutrients come from–the leaves? All those millions of microbes break the leaves down to make new organic matter for the soil. In the process they return the nutrients bound up in the leaves back to the soil so the tree can reuse them.So how do pesticides come in to play? Within the fine balance of your soil the food chain provides the fertility. The bacteria, fungi and the millions of other microbes are living and dying right under your feet. Think of them as individual bricks, these bricks layer and knit together to form the strong foundation of healthy soil.
When pesticides are introduced the balance is upset. Groups of bacteria, fungi or microbes are killed or reduced. The result is an increase in other soil life upsetting the balance that has been working together successfully since before agriculture.
Soil health is not the only thing that suffers. Most pesticides have no natural mechanisms in the soil to break them down into harmless compounds. When you apply them even in small amounts they stay in the soil until they are taken by some organism and enter the food chain. Follow the food chain from soil microbes to worms and insects to birds. Check the web site of Pesticides and Bird Campaign at www.abcbirds.org/pesticides. Eventually the food chain leads to us.
So why are you putting your leaves in bag at the curb? Why not use your lawn mower to mulching them instead? Its less work, less time consuming and less cost. As for the pesticide use, why pay money to upset a balance that is working and will continue to work if you let nature replace what it uses each season. For other sites concerning pesticides type soil and pesticides, birds and pesticides or soil life into your search box.
The Ecochem site at www.ecoshem.com has some interesting items on it such as the following definitions:
- Herbicides: Used to kill weeds
- Insecticides: Used to kill insects
- Fungicides: Used to control molds and fungi
- Rodenticides: Used to kill rodents.
All pesticides have one thing in common, they are poisons designed to kill things and they have the potential to be harmful to humans if ingested in sufficient amounts.