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Activity of soil inhabitants - 2

This technique complements the bait lamina probe method in Section 3. The idea is that when buried in the soil, the teabag degrades at a rate dependent on how numerous and active are the beneficial tiny animals, bacteria and fungi. The organisms mineralise organic matter so that the nitrogen in the original leaf structure is made available to plants. This method is most useful when we compare different locations in the garden such as under mulch, in the compost bin and in the soil of a well-worked vege plot.

Installing the tea bag units

Each dry teabag weighs approximately 2.6 grams and the complete bag unit (teabag, mesh, paper clip and string) weight is approximately 4.9 grams. Carefully bury each mesh unit, using a trowel, so that the paper clip end is 10cm below the soil surface. Leave some of the plastic string exposed so you can locate the bag in 3 weeks’ time. Record the location of the bag unit.

Project 1

Carefully dig up the bag unit and dry it either in a cool oven (up to 40° C), on top of your hot-water cylinder or on a sunny window sill. At this point, you have two options: 1) weigh the bag units individually and compare their weight with the original data; or 2) if your kitchen scales are not sensitive enough, carefully remove the teabag from its mesh, inspect it for decomposition and then classify these bags into no change, up to 10% change or >10% change. The greater the weight loss, the more effective the soil organisms are in breaking down plant material

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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