Gardens can be negatively impacted by animals large and small. Your garden is just as likely to be attacked by fungi and microorganisms as foraging deer and rabbits. Some of these microorganisms attack your plants through the air, some make contact through rain or the water that you give to the garden each day,others live in the soil itself. The airborne and waterborne microorganisms will be scattered and be mainly ineffective against the plants’ natural immunities. The microorganisms in the soil can be concentrated and deadly to your plants. These attackers must be identified and dealt with to ensure the health of your garden.
Things You’ll Need
Disposable protective suit
Iron pipe (1/2 inch by 24 inches)
2 lb. sledgehammer
1/4-inch diameter rebar
Test tube with rubber stopper
Slide with cover glass
Microbe identification reference book
Slide your hands into protective gloves. Step into the legs of the disposable protective suit and pull it up your body. Slip your arms into the sleeves of the suit, being sure that the cuffs of the sleeves overlap the tops of your gloves.
Place the dust mask over your nose and mouth. Pull the elastic band of the mask over your head and let it rest just above your ears. Squeeze the metal nose grip on the outside of the mask to hold it into place. Put your safety glasses on your face with the earpieces resting on top of your ears and the nose guard resting on top of the mask.
Hold the iron pipe perpendicular to the ground with the end of the pipe resting on the soil. Hit the top end of the pipe with your sledgehammer to drive it into the ground. Drive the pipe 6 inches into the soil. Push the top of the pipe from side to side to loosen it and pull straight up to remove it from the soil.
Push the rebar into the top end of the pipe and use it to press 1 teaspoon of the soil inside into the test tube. Add enough water to the test tube to fill it completely. Slide the rubber stopper into the open end of the test tube. Hold the stopper with your thumb and shake vigorously for 30 seconds.
Remove the stopper from the test tube. Slide the tip of the eye dropper into the tube. Squeeze and release the bulb of the eye dropper to take a sample. Place a drop of the sample onto the slide and put the cover glass on top of the sample.
Set your microscope to its weakest setting. Look into the eye piece of the microscope and adjust the mirror until the light in the microscope is at its brightest. Push the slide under the clips on the deck of the microscope. Look through the eye piece, make adjustments as necessary to get the sharpest view. Observe the microorganisms from your soil sample.
Compare the microorganisms that you see in your microscope with the examples in your identification guide. Take your time and positively identify each organism in the sample. Record your finding with pencil and paper.
Work gloves, a protective suit, a dust mask, and safety glasses must be worn to reduce, or eliminate, the chances that you will contaminate your soil sample.
Super Science Fair Projects: Microoragnisms in Soil
Local Harvest: Gardening Through a Microscope – Beneficial Microorganisms
Plant Path: Microbial Biodiversity