Why soil matters!

A fertile and healthy soil is the basis for healthy plants, animals, and humans. Soil organic matter is the very foundation for healthy and productive soils.

Why is soil and soil health so important? Simply put, soil sustains life by helping plants to grow. It is also home to worms, beetles, bacteria and fungi, providing them with the nutrients they need to live.

Without soil, there would be nowhere to grow food that is the sustenance of life.  Soil contains food, water and air that is needed by plants to grow. The healthier the soil, the more nutrients a plant can take up. The healthier the plant, the better it is for humans and animals to eat. The quality of the soil ultimately affects the health of all people and animals.

What Is Soil?

Soil is made up of minerals, living organisms and organic matter. Minerals consist of rocks and bedrock that has broken down over time. Living organisms include a number of beneficial animals, such as beetles, worms and moles. Together with essential bacteria they help break down the organic matter making it accessible to plants. Organic matter is decaying material such as rotting leaves, animal waste and dead animals.

Maintaining Healthy Soil

It is essential to maintain healthy living soils, by caring for our soil properly, we can ensure the longevity of both animals and people. Life is a Garden encourage you to the following to maintain healthy soil: Avoiding the use of chemicals that create an imbalance in the soil. The long-term effects of some chemicals may kill off unwanted pests, but they may ultimately destroy living organisms that are essential to the creation of healthy soil.

  • Using compost in your own garden can help to replace nutrients necessary for healthy soil. Compost is easy to make from leaves, dead plants and vegetable waste from the kitchen. Garden plants and living organisms in the soil will benefit from compost. You can include most decomposed organic matter (e.g. compost, worm castings, leaf litter, aged animal manure, grass clippings etc.)
  • Apply a mulch to your soil, preferably organic mulch such as wood chips, straw etc. Mulch is used to retain moisture in the soil, suppress weeds, keep the soil cool and make the garden bed look more attractive. Organic mulches also help improve the soil's fertility, as they decompose.

Adding organic matter to your soil works to improve both soil structure and nutrient content. In light, sandy soils it works as glue, binding particles together to improve its ability to retain moisture and nutrients. Conversely, it opens up heavy clay soils so they can drain more easily. But no matter what your soil type, it will truly benefit from regular applications of organic matter to feed and sustain the plants grown in it.

Organic matter in soil can absorb and store much more water than can inorganic fractions. It acts like a sponge, taking up water and releasing it as required by plants. In our water scarce country this is a benefit which should be taken very seriously.

So next time you think of  adding something to your soil, think about the long-term effect and creating a balance in your soil. Creating a climate for your plants and edibles to thrive. Soil Matters!

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