Gardening Ideas

Soil Critters for a Better Organic Garden – Everything You Need to Know

Soil critter
Written by Shiyamala

People often overlook soil critters for a better organic garden, but did you know that they can play a vital role in keeping your garden healthier? 

Soil critters break down organic matter in compost and ensure that every plant gets the necessary nutrients. They help improve the fertility of the soil and keep the organic plants alive. So adding soil critters to your garden is a crucial step to follow in organic gardening.

This blog post will cover everything you need to know about soil critters for a better organic garden. 

Let’s get started.

What Are Soil Critters?

Are potato bugs dangerous? If you are an avid gardener, it might be one of the questions you have. So what do you know about potato bugs and what they do? 

Primarily, potato bugs are soil critters that decompose dead vegetation and make the garden soil cleaner for your plants. 

Likewise, there are many other natural soil critters that help with nutrient cycling, plant disease suppression, and decomposing organic matter. 

While many think these critters are dangerous to their plants, they are not. Most of them are beneficial, and only a few can cause problems in the garden. 

For example, slugs and snails are common garden pests that feed on plants, while white grubs can damage plant roots. So you should keep a lookout for these pests and, if required, control them.

Soil critters are an essential part of a healthy ecosystem. They can provide the best organic garden soil, and encouraging them in your garden can help create a thriving environment for the plants.

Different Types of Soil Critters

Soil critters are an incredibly diverse group. They range from beetles and mites to earthworms and nematodes. And each of these critters functions differently in an organic garden project. 

Let’s explore the various types of soil critters and their role in a healthy ecosystem.

1. Bacteria

Bacteria is the most common soil critter in garden plants. You will find different types of bacteria, some of which can be extremely helpful for the garden soil.

These critters help decomposition and nutrient cycling and transform nitrogen into a plant-usable form. Nitrogen is essential for every plant to survive, so bacteria play a vital role in keeping them alive.  

2. Fungi

While most fungi are not visible to the naked eye, they are an integral part of the soil food web. These critters form a strong bond with the plants’ roots, helping them absorb water and nutrients. 

In return, the plants provide the fungi with carbohydrates and other essential nutrients. Technically, fungi share a mutually beneficial relationship with the plants, which is helpful for healthy plant growth

However, several types of fungi live in the soil, including yeasts and molds. Each type contributes to the decomposition of organic matter and the release of nutrients into the soil differently. Some types of fungi can also help to suppress plant diseases.

3. Protozoa

Protozoa are single-celled organisms that help to aerate the soil and release nutrients. They also help to control populations of harmful bacteria and fungi. 

However, unlike bacteria or fungi, these organisms do not live in large numbers in the soil. In most soils, there are just about half a million protozoa.

4. Mites

Mites help aerate the soil and improve drainage by digging through the soil and breaking up compacted areas. This allows roots to access water and nutrients better, resulting in healthier plants. 

While mites can be beneficial to plants, it’s essential to keep their population in check. If mite populations get too high, they can start to damage plant roots and leaves.

5. Nematodes

If you’re looking for a natural way to keep your plants healthy, you might consider using nematodes. Each gram of soil contains 10 to 5,000 nematodes. 

Nematodes are microscopic worms that live in the soil and contribute to its health. They help break down organic matter, aerate the soil, and control grubs and termites. 

However, some nematodes are also parasitic and predators. Parasitic nematodes usually feed off plant roots and cause damage, whereas predator nematodes prey on other soil-dwelling creatures. 

The Best Way to Get Soil Critters for an Organic Garden

There are several ways to get soil critters for an organic garden. You can buy them from a garden center or online retailer or attract them to your garden with a few simple steps. 

To attract them to your garden, start by creating a habitat that they will find appealing. Add some organic matter to your soil, such as compost or leaves. 

Then add some plants they like to eat, such as clover. Finally, provide them with a water source, such as a birdbath or shallow water-filled dish. 

You can also encourage soil critters to visit your garden by inviting other creatures they prey on, such as insects. It will give them a supply of food as well as an incentive to stay.

Once you have created an inviting environment, be patient and wait for them to arrive. With time and effort, you will soon have a healthy population of these helpful creatures in your garden.

Some Soil-Friendly Critters

There are many soil-friendly critters such as bees, earthworms, mantis, etc. They can make your plants healthier and more productive. Here are a few of the most popular ones:

1. Earthworm

Earthworms are perhaps the most well-known of all the soil-friendly creatures. They aerate the soil and enhance water infiltration and drainage, making your garden soil more receptive to plants.

2. Ladybugs

Ladybugs are beneficial insects that help control pests in gardens. They eat aphids, whiteflies, and other small insects that damage plants. In one lifetime, a single ladybug can consume up to 5,000 aphids!

While most ladybugs are orange, there are over a thousand species of ladybugs worldwide. Some are yellow, red, or even black.

3. Millipedes

Millipedes are known as thousand-legged worms, but they’re not worms. They’re arthropods, more similar to crabs and lobsters than worms. 

These critters prefer to live in damp habitats such as forests, gardens, and leaf litter and play a vital role in decomposing organic matter. 

4. Roly-Polies or Pillbugs

Roly-polies or pillbugs are mainly soil-dwelling bugs. They help aerate and mix the soil as they travel through it. Roly-polies are harmless to humans, and they have a significant impact on controlling pests. 

5. Potato Bugs

While it’s true that potato bugs can wreak havoc on your garden, they can also be beneficial in many ways. These little critters eat decaying matter, which helps to aerate and fertilize the soil. They also help control other pests by eating their larvae.

6. Ground Beetles

The ground beetle is a soil-friendly critter everyone should welcome in their gardens! These insects are excellent predators of many common garden pests, including slugs, snails, and caterpillars. Ground beetles also help aerate the soil and improve drainage as they travel through it.

7. Mantis

Mantises are predators that act as natural fertilizers. They are great for aerating and loosening up compacted soil. They also help to keep harmful insects in check. 

If you have a problem with aphids, caterpillars, or other garden pests, releasing a few mantises into your garden can help to solve the problem.

Key Takeaway

Soil critters are critical to a healthy organic garden. They help improve organic soil while also providing essential nutrients for plants. So by creating a habitat for these critters, you can ensure a thriving garden for years to come.

In this article, we have discussed the importance of soil critters for a better organic garden and a few common types of these creatures that will benefit your plants. 

So don’t be afraid to get dirty while organic gardening—your garden will thank you for it.

FAQs

1. Does potting soil attract bugs?

Indeed, it does. Like any other garden soil, potting soil contains various organic matters that can attract bugs. However, indoor potted plants are unlikely to draw too many pests and can deter a significant number of harmful critters. 

2. Are there any harmful soil critters?

Yes. There are many types of soil critters, some of which can harm plants and crops. 

One of the most common harmful critters is the root-knot nematode. It causes stunted growth, yellow leaves, and even death in plants. 

Other harmful critters include various types of fungi, bacteria, and viruses. These soil-borne diseases can be controlled with proper crop rotation and pesticides.

3. How do you keep critters out of compost?

You can use various methods to keep critters out of your compost. However, the most popular strategy is to keep the compost inside a tight-lid container and away from pests, bugs, or rodents.

For optimum ventilation, ensure the container you use includes tiny openings and drainage systems. Ventilation is a great strategy to keep compost safe from harmful bacteria and viruses.

You should also be conscious of the components you add to the compost. Avoid adding meat, bones, and dairy products to your compost. Stick to vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and other organic materials. 

Finally, ensure your compost is adequately aerated so that it doesn’t become too dense and compacted, attracting rodents.

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