Friends of the gardener

Photo Iowa State University Extension

The garden stake snapped off at the ground the instant the lawn mower grabbed hold of a loose thread of twine hanging from it. The stake had not long been in the ground yet the break was clean across the grain of the hardwood at its base. There it lay motionless beside the silent lawn mower as I contemplated my lack of caution in the moments before. 

I had seen the dangling thread and reasoned I was close, but not near enough for it to be caught in the spinning blades. I reasoned as I had on other careless moments. The silence following the noisy break became a loud reminder I was wrong.

Despite the rude break and the instantaneous yank from Mother Earth a worm clung to the rotten timber, and so did a few grains of damp soil. The square sides of the light timber post were flat upon the freshly cut grass waiting for my next move. The worm writhed it’s body toward the shady side resting on the ground.

The bacteria responsible for most of the damage to the wood remained unseen – by design. That is the role of microbes and fungi. They grow unseen in damp soil and silently fulfil their roles as decomposers. They have other important roles In the garden including as soil improvers. 

Fungi is slower to rot and invade wood but careful inspection showed the giveaway signs of fungi mycelium, or the white tread like structures of the invading yeast. These microbes had begun their role as soil improvers long before I tore the timber out of the ground.

From my over enthusiastic movement I had created a couple of jobs. My first job was to unwind the twine from around the blades of the lawn mower. I did this with some difficulty yet I was able to remove the treads of rope without resorting to cutting it away. My next job was to replace the broken stake with another to contain the raspberries to their patch. That done I continued to mow the lawn more carefully than I started giving myself time to marvel at the power of these secret friends of the gardener.

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