We gardeners usually try to keep critters bigger than an earthworm out of the garden. Birds like to peck seeds right out of our rows and berries off our bushes, while mammals make a meal out of tender plants and vegetables we’d prefer to harvest for ourselves. Snakes and other reptiles just creep us out! But when it comes to soil health, these furry, feathered and scaly friends play a beneficial role, too.
Animal waste of all kinds becomes food for the microbes in your soil; they recycle the nutrients and convert them to a bioavailable form that plants can use. The movements of these larger animals also moves microbes from part of the garden to another, as microbes attach easily to the bodies of larger organisms and fall off as they wander around.
Larger animals are also signs of healthy soil. Like smaller organisms, birds and mammals go where the food is. If you’ve got lots of birds around your beds, that’s a good sign that there are plenty of worms, larvae and arthropods for them to eat. These animals’ eating habits have benefits beyond the soil, too. Snakes help keep rodent populations in check, while birds feed on some of the insects that feed on your plants. Some birds even eat weed seeds before they can germinate.
And let’s not forget the largest garden critter of all – you! A thoughtful gardener is the most important big critter for the care and keeping of healthy soil. Avoiding chemical fertilizers, pesticides & herbicides helps microbial populations thrive. Limiting deep tilling prevents exposing anaerobic microbes to air, and burying aerobic organisms deep in the soil where air is scarce. Amending gardens with compost and other sources of humus improve soil structure and provide food for the entire soil food web. And of course, gardeners are the only animals capable of taking soil test samples and applying the proper Garden Maker Naturals fertilizer to address nutrient gaps for soil microbes and plant nutrition.