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Activity of soil Inhabitants - 1

We have prepared these plastic strips (soil biodiversity probes) by loading the holes in them with a special mixture which is similar to the ingredients of a dead leaf. The rate at which this paste is eaten by the soil’s tiny worms, insects, bacteria and fungi tells us how active and valuable these soil inhabitants can be in turning dead plant material into minerals (natural fertilisers), that garden plants need.

Installing the probes

Use a flat-bladed BBQ skewer or a knife to make five holes in your garden soil and put one probe in each hole, with 4cm of the painted section above the soil. Gently use your fingers to compress the soil around the probe as best you can. These probes are most useful when we compare soils of different areas of the garden. Ideally, put two probes in the site with the richest soil, such as under some fruit trees, and the other two in the heavily cultivated area of your vegetable garden. The fifth probe should be used as an indicator by inserting it near the other probes in the ‘best’ site, i.e. the selected undisturbed site. Mark part of the coloured tip of the indicator probe with a small piece of tape to differentiate it from the test probes. Gently pull out the indicator probe every 3 weeks to measure rate of bait disappearance. When approximately half of the holes in that indicator have at least partially disappeared, it is time to remove all four test probes.

Project 1

Hold each test probe up to the light and count and record the number of holes which show any signs of activity. Use this measurement to compare the probes between the two types of sites selected above.

How Does Your Garden Grow Kit

This unique kit is based on research carried out in the Bio-Protection Research Centre at Lincoln University in association with the BHU Organics Trust and Kings Seeds. The kit will help you to discover a number of important things such as the acidity of your soil (slightly acid for potatoes, slightly alkaline for brassicas) and how to attract bees to your crops and ladybirds to eat your pests.

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