may be made up of only a single cell, but bacteria are a garden’s
heavy lifters—they’re responsible for most of the
decomposition that turns organic matter into useful humus.
Have you ever seen a steaming pile of mulch,
or felt the heat generated in a compost bin? It’s bacteria
that generate this heat, a by-product of their digestion.
Besides making nutrients available to plants,
bacteria play another important role: They fix nitrogen;
that is, they absorb it from the atmosphere and convert it to
a chemical compound useful to plants. Some nitrogen-fixing bacteria
live free in the soil while others live attached to the roots
of leguminous (bean family) plants—which is why crops like
soybeans are sometimes planted on farmland to boost nitrogen
in the soil.
What's that smell?