you ever noticed the rich smell of freshly turned soil? It’s
downright . . . well, earthy. Single-celled organisms
called actinomycetes are the source of this odor.
© Jim Deacon
Actinomycetes are fungilike bacteria that
form long, branching threads. You can spot them most easily in
compost—they look something like spiderwebs. The earthy
odor they produce comes from gases released as they transform
dead plant material into useful humus.
Actinomycetes are responsible for breaking
down the toughest of decaying materials in gardens and compost:
barks, fibrous stems, and even newspaper.
Who's in cahoots with roots?