Living soil contains billions of living microorganisms that affect soil and plant health. These include bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes. A teaspoon of fertile soil can contain up to one billion bacteria. Bacteria help the soil decompose organic matter, retain nutrients in the soil, compete with disease causing organisms, and break down soil pollutants. Some bacteria help transfer nitrogen into the soil from legumes, improving soil quality. In our age of sterility and control, bacteria have gotten a bad name, but in truth all healthy ecosystems, including our own bodies, contain much beneficial bacteria. Provide beneficial bacteria with plenty of organic matter and you will have happy worms, dirt, and plants –which means a healthy and bountiful garden. Fungi, microorganisms that are slightly larger than bacteria, serve a similar function. They help decompose carbon compounds, making the carbon available to plants and soil microbes, and help retain nutrients in the soil. They bind soil particles into aggregates, making the soil more porous to air and water. They provide food for other microorganisms, compete with plant pathogens, and decompose some types of pollution. Open a rotting log and you can see fungi at work, their long white strands eating away at the decomposing matter. Fungi in the soil, however, are too small to see with the naked eye. One type of fungus is called mycorrhizae, meaning fungus root. These fungi form a symbiotic relationship with plants roots, improving the roots’ absorption of water, air and nutrients. In turn, the fungi receive sugars from the roots. Good soil containing lots of organic matter, water, air, and microorganisms leads to healthy mycorrhizal growth. Protozoa, another microbial soil ally, primarily eat bacteria, releasing the fertilizing waste product ammonium in the soil and simultaneously stimulating bacteria populations. They also provide a food source for nematodes, an unsegmented worm. Nematodes are primarily beneficial, though some feed on roots and can kill a plant. Beneficial nematodes feed on protozoa, bacteria and fungi as well as other nematodes, including the harmful varieties. Like protozoa, they also release ammonium into the soil as a byproduct of their feeding. They distribute bacteria and fungi through the soil as they travel through their earthy domain. Remember that the health of your garden does not solely lie in the hands of our earth allies. You must work just as hard as they do to reap the benefits of a healthy and prospering patch of land.
This Article was Adapted from Sacred Land by Clea Danaan
All Images from Google.com
Greater plantain (Plantago major) is a perennial herbaceous plant that is very common in the United States and Europe. It grows very well in compacted and disturbed soil such as along roadways and paths. The peculiar characteristic of growing in areas upset by humans led to the name of “White Man’s Footprint” in America.
This lovely plant is not only medicinal, but highly nutritious and has been used as food and medicine for millennia. It is a great source of vitamin A, C and K as well as calcium.
Mature leaves can be dried for later use in a dehydrator or by simply tying them in small bunches and hanging in a well ventilated area.
The Properties of Plantain: (See the Herbal Terminology Post for Definitions)
Analgesic, Anti-Inflammatory, Astringent, Demulcent, Diuretic, Expectorant, Hemostatic
Uses for Plantain include:
Medicinal: Helps with wound healing, sores, rashes, stings, diarrhea, dysentery, bladder problems, gastrointestinal ulcers, ringworm, and hemorrhoids.
Cosmetic: Used as an astringent to tighten pores and help balance oily skin.
Energetic and Spiritual: Plantain is an herb belonging to the element of Earth and is in tune with the planetary energies of Venus. It is used to promote healing when kept around the home and helps keep negative energies at bay when carried or hung around the house.
Rubbing the feet with plantain leaves is said to invigorate the body and spirit.
Culinary: The young tender leaves can be used raw in salads, but the mature leaves become very tough and should be prepared in a similar way to spinach.
Infusion: steep 1 teaspoon fresh or dried leaves in ½ cup of water. Take 1 to 1 ½ cups a day a mouthful at a time, unsweetened. This method is useful for diarrhea, dysentery, bladder problems and gastrointestinal ulcers. This method is also great for use as a toner on the face.
Poultice: mix 1 teaspoon of fresh or dried leaves with 1 teaspoon of bentonite or kaolin and enough water to form a paste. This paste can be applied topically to help heal wounds, stings, sores, rashes and even ringworm. This method is also great as a tightening mask for the face.
If you do not have clay available, simply chew the leaves until a paste is form and spread onto the afflicted area.
There are none known, but use with extreme caution during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Always check with a healthcare practitioner before beginning herbal treatments.
Information Pulled from:
The Herb Book by John Lust
The Master Book of Herbalism by Paul Beyerl
Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham
The Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia of Magical Plants by Susan Gregg
Notes taken on an herb walk in Boulder, CO with herbalist Cat Pantaleo
Images from Google.com