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I was asked while filming for Gardeners World, what relevance has all this for gardeners. I was also asked: "We've always believed that the gardeners' best friend was the earthworm, what do you say to that? I said: "Worms probably are gardeners best friend, but they have been joined by 12 quadrillion other little friends I said that we know worms build the tunnels,allowing small animals ways to move around and worms swallow and 'digest' soil. But it is the small soil animals that keep plants healthy and digest - compost - remains..

1. When you start with new build clay, as I had to , it is not enough to go and buy compost from the garden centre. This stuff is sterile - they have killed all the life in it, so it can be stored for ever. To get things going throw in a lump of leaves. Woodlands have.most soil animals and they are.much the same groups of creatures as all soils. So to get life into your soil, composting leaves is the best way. And some mown grass.

Raised bed
2. New build land can be compacted clay. This is what I had 3 years ago. like many other people when buying a new house. So I built raised vegetable beds, and added horse manure (down the lane, you just help yourself).  There were some worms, so you think that's OK, but there was still no sign of the workaday creatures, no ground beetles. no woodlice.  Sure enough when I checked for small soil animals, there were virtually none. No wonder things were moving so slowly..

3. Look out for  ground beetles and woodlice as they are a.good sign that there are creatures for them to live on. Ground beetle vomit over mites and springtails before eating them. Woodlice eat microorganisms. Here are a few other live indicators of good soil health.

4.The small soil animals probably make sense well known composting tip to "mix green and brown". The animals for 'green' will be springtails' - bringing in fungal spores while those for 'brown' will be oribatid mites. Together they make soil web in total.

It is this totality of creatures, along with fungi and bacteria that make up the life of the soil, and all are integral and play a crucial role.


Soil Animal Learning Programme: Bringing the Soil to Life 

By looking for and at the little soil creatures, much smaller than worms, and generally overlooked, we can get a glimpse into the dark recesses of the soil and work out what the creatures are doing...
In order to bring the Soil to life, we need to look the little creatures there - the ones we just cant quite see; they are mere specs. Can we take a look at them , and see what their role is - both in relation to the rest of the soil, but also in the wider environment.

But it is not good enough to just throw facts as if people will then become 'aware'. People learn better 'by doing'. In the process of learning to do something - identify, count, grow, we remember better. What we hear, we forget, what we see we remember, and what we do we understand. Using this, we develop skills standards so that we all know what we are talking about. We will follow existing national occupational standards - in the world of work (vocational).

You are the gardener stepping on the land.
Don't tread so heavily!!! There are thousands of small vital creatures under your feet. This is what you need to do...

Level 2
Propose a new Unit in City & Guilds Horticulture..
For Workers In Agriculture, Horticulture, Permaculture, Agro-ecology (another site I'm working on)

To Identify the main soil animals groups
To explain the roles of these animals in the soil
To recognise the importance of these creatures to healthy soil
Key words: List Identify Count 

1st Activity
Count worms. (Lancaster Uni) Pour Mustard seed to bring worm so surface. Identify (UCLAN key)
2nd Activity
Extract Mesofauna. Use tin cans light bulbs to extract. Identify - springtails, mites and nematodes
Recognise roles within soil food web..earthworm tunnels for mesofauna to move to keep roots healthy and break down dead leaves.

Main roles
How many in a sample
12 quadrillion in UK

Contribute to overall Soil Web....wot!

Level 3
Supervisors Representatives Campaigners Promoters
In Agriculture, Horticulture, Permaculture, Agroecology

Key words: Practices, Assess
Issues - Soil erosion loss of carbon..
To relate with present agricultural practices..
Arable pesticides no till ..

Level 4
Managers make policies,
Allocate roles and responsibilities
Organise learning for staff
Academically, 'Analyse' in Bloom's taxonomy in A level/ 1st year university