Did you know that earthworm populations consume two tons of dry matter/acre/year, partly digesting and mixing it to form healthy soil. Total earthworm populations in no-tilled gardens on average are twice that of tilled gardens. Tillage creates a more diverse environment for these little animals. Tillage creates a greater fluctuation of day to night temperature and also brings earthworms towards the surface where they are subject to predators such as birds or fishermen.

Earthworms are incredible burrowers; maybe one of the best burrowers. This burrowing activity improves water infiltration and soil aeration thus causing a better environment for everyone.  

Fun Facts:

Organic matter is essential for healthy soil. Carbon in organic matter is the main source of energy for all soil microbes and is key for making the nutrients available to the plants. Here is a list of why having a high organic matter rate is important for your garden.

Provides a healthy carbon and energy source

Stabilizes and holds soil particles together which builds your soil structure

Supplies, stores, and retains key nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur

Improves the soil’s void space, which gives it the ability to store and move air and water

Contributes to lower soil bulk density and less compaction

Makes soil more friable, less sticky, and easier to work

Retains carbon from the atmosphere and other sources which is essential in reducing atmospheric carbon
Reduces the negative environmental effects of pesticides, heavy metals and other pollutants by acting as a natural filtration system

Improves soil tilth in surface horizons

Increases water infiltration rates

Reduces crusting

Encourages plant root development and deep root penetration

source: planetnature.com

Soil is a living ecosystem that supports many organisms in a variety of ways (think the soil web). Soil is more than a medium that we grow vegetables in; it is the medium that improves life. When we expose soil to the elements above, we are creating an environment that can be devastating to the micro-ecosystem that we are trying to create below. For these reasons, we must do our best to preserve the soil that lies below our feet.
Picturesource: ars.usda.gov
There are millions of microbes that live in conjunction with our crops and cover crops. In healthy soil we can find up to a million microbes in only one tablespoon. Like humans, microbes need food and a comfortable environment to live. When we expose soil to the elements above, we risk destroying their environment and, in turn, degrading our soil structure. The average raindrop falls at approximately 24 mph. Exposed soil can be rapidly degraded when hit with water at that high a velocity. When that raindrop hits the earth, any exposed soil has the potential to wash away. Exposed soil will have significantly fewer nutrients than that of protected soil. 

When we maintain a healthy cover crop and use cover crops as companion planting, we are ensuring that our garden area will prevent the erosion of organic material. We also know that when planting cover crops, we actually build organic mass, which is valuable for sustaining a healthy ecosystem.  Cover crops also add organic mass underground with their root mass. That root mass helps build the organic layer, allowing for your soil to hold moisture. When done correctly, increased organic mass and will maximize crop yields.

Picturesource: thebluegrassspecial.com
It is sited on NRCS-USDA’s website that by providing a good habitat for these organisms, we can increase residue decomposition and improve nutrient cycling by up to 25 percent. 

source: ars.usda.gov
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