Gardening Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day Soil

How do soil microbes influence nutrient availability?*


20180607A naturesafeknowledgecenter.comjpg.jpg
Tiny microbes in the sol perform a big job for plant health. Source:

There are hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of organisms in just a handful of soil. The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) June 1 Soils Matter blog explains the important role of soil microbes in freeing up soil nutrients for plants.

“Soil is rich with biological diversity and complexity that is not immediately apparent to the unaided eye,” writes blogger Caitlin Hodges, Pennsylvania State University. Soil microorganisms make nutrients available for plants in three ways:

  • “Recyclers” break down plant and animal matter. “They turn the world’s refuse into the building blocks of life,” Hodges says. “The maintenance of plant-life would be nearly impossible without these hard-working organisms.”
  • “Miners” work on extracting nutrients from rocks and minerals. They excrete a substance with “a special pH and other key characteristics specially formulated to bind and extract nutrients like phosphorus, calcium, and potassium.” Plants need these minerals for healthy growth.
  • “Refiners” are rhizobia bacteria. “These ‘nitrogen-fixing’ bacteria take inert nitrogen gas in the atmosphere (N2 gas) and convert it to the plant-available ammonia and other nitrogen-rich organic compounds,” Hodges says.

How can you get more of these microorganisms? Using crop residue, compost, and mulch, and planting legume crops, help create a thriving environment for these vital helpers.

To read the entire blog post, visit

*Article republished with permission from

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

0 comments on “How do soil microbes influence nutrient availability?*

Leave a Reply

Sign up for the Laidback Gardener blog and receive articles in your inbox every morning!

%d bloggers like this: