Dirt is dead. Soil is different . . . soil is alive! Inhabited by millions and millions of microorganisms that bind clay, sand and silt together, soil forms a crumbly structure that holds water like a sponge and provides a perfect growing medium for plants. Read on for important-to-know facts about healthy soil.
Want more inside dirt on healthy soil? Click here to watch our first “Garden Bites” video with SFC Teaching Garden Coordinator, Ellen Orabone, who will talk a little bit more about soil health and the Classes in the Teaching Garden series.
Compost: Soil organisms are our composters. They eat wood, leaves, plants and other organic materials and, in the process, turn these materials into soil.
- Water retention: Bacteria and fungi, which are the foundation of soil ecologies, exude goo and create webs that bind soil into a crumbly structure containing pockets that store water. Without soil organisms, you get either dirt that is very compact and so does not absorb water or dirt that has no structure (i.e. it is loose and sandy) and so does not hold water.
- Aeration: The pockets created by soil microbes also store air, which is essential for plant growth. In addition, when larger soil organisms (e.g. arthropods and earthworms) move through the soil, they act as biological aerators.
- Nutrient retention and cycling: Healthy plants require a range of nutrients, including nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, but they cannot access these nutrients without bacteria and fungi. Many of the nutrients found in organic matter exist in forms not accessible to plants. As bacteria and fungi consume organic materials, they change the chemical makeup of nutrients into forms that plants can access.
- Disease suppression: Healthy soils contain a diverse range or organisms that out compete pests by eating them and by filling their niches. The healthier your soil, the fewer pest problems your plants will have.
Want to learn even more about this topic? Register for our Soil Health & Composting class on Sept. 3 »