In a recent talk with one of my best friends we realized that she didn’t understand what soil is. Dirt is what she kept calling it and dirt is all she thought it is. It is common to call it dirt, so common that the true meaning is lost and that can spell disaster for a garden.
Basically dirt is a collection of mineral particles, rock broken down by wind, water and ice. By itself it will support some very hardy forms of plant life. After all even the Gobi Desert has some grasses and bushes. But try to grow corn or cucumbers there and you will be sorely disappointed.
So what is soil? We begin with dirt, but soil is so much more. A large part of soil is organic matter, animal and plant remains in various stages of decay, along with water and air which supports billions of micro organisms and insects. All of this is necessary to support plant and animal life.
These seemingly insignificant life forms provide an indispensable service without which you cannot have a decent chance of growing a pollution free and nutrient rich food source. Take worms for instance. Worms work their way through the soil munching away on the soil and their waste, often called castings, is the optimum food for plants.
Then we have soil fungi, algae, molds, bacteria, just to name a few. They all contribute to a healthy and nutritious “soil” which in turn make for healthy and nutritious plants. When we eat the fruits and vegetables from these plants we, in our turn, get improved health and a feeling of “well being.” AND if we participate in this cycle of life we get a tremendous sense of satisfaction and pride, not to mention lots of free food.
There are five main types of soil or “loams” and knowing what soil type you are dealing with can make it easy to grow health giving plants. And I am all about easy. We will take on these loams in the next few essays.
From our family to yours in good health.