How to Test Garden Soil For Microbe Health Without A Microscope?

Soil microbes and microbiology is all the rage right now. Between Elaine Ingham’s theory on the soil food web and the newest Netflix series kiss the ground. Its no wonder most producers and gardeners are concerned with the soil health. With statements like “90% of the earths topsoil will be gone in no time”. It can strike a sense of fear into almost anyone that eats food. As a soil scientist I want to help put your mind at ease. With an easy at home soil microbe test nearly anyone can try.

I recently launched an entire ebook all about at home soil testing. Be sure to grab that if you were wanting to learn more about at home soil tests for your garden or homestead. The book goes through everything from structure, texture, pH, calcium carbonate tests, percolation tests, and everything else in between. Click here to grab yours.

Testing For Soil Microbes Without A Microscope
Testing For Soil Microbes Without A Microscope

Why Are Soil Microbes Essentially?

I’ll be doing a separate blog post on what each microbe in the soil does. For the purpose of looking at effects on the garden we need to understand nutrient cycling. Nutrient cycling is essential to the health of a plant and its all done by microbes big and small. The process of altering nutrients is needed not only for organic forms of fertilizer but also inorganic slow-release forms. Bet you did not know that!

What is Soil Nutrient Cycling?

A favorite line of most miners is “I make big rocks into little rock”, and that’s exactly what microbes do with organic material. The end result is very tiny “rock” of chemical compound plant roots take into their biomass via mass diffusion or passive transport and active transport mechanisms. Without the presence of the microbes, we are left with chunks of organic materials. Because microbes are so powerful in the break down of materials both organic and inorganic, we can actually test how active our soil is very easily.

How to Test Garden Soil For Microbe Activity?

The number one way to test for this is through the use of underwear, socks, t shirt or anything fibrous. I outline in my book about at home soil testing exactly how to go about doing this. Most importantly It contains cotton 30% or greater. Before placing the material in the ground be sure to take a weight or photo of the item so you can compare it to the after photos.

Once in the garden be sure dig a hole about ½ a foot in depth and simply put the sock or cloth in place. You may want to wet the sock if the soil is dry in that area just to give everything a head start. Fill in the hole and mark the area so it can be dug up at a later date.

You can take a look whenever you are curious, but a good rule of thumb is waiting 3 months. When you dig it up you can take the weight and compare it to the initial weights or compare what it visually looks like to the original photo taken prior to placing it in the garden.

Let me know in the comment how your soil microbe test results went! And don for get to check out other ways to help support the channel by clicking here.