Healthy Soil. Healthy plants. Healthy people.
Healthy soil is critical to all life
“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”
Soil health is key to a sustainable future
We need to restore our living soils for a sustainable and healthy future for the seven billion people on the planet. In a handful of healthy soil, there is more biodiversity in just the bacterial community than you will find in all the animals of the Amazon basin.We need these tiny partners to help build a sustainable agricultural system, to stabilize our climate in an era of increasing drought and severe weather, and to maintain our very health and well-being.
Scientific advances have now allowed us to take soil organisms from an eco-farming niche to mainstream agribusiness. Studies show that there will also be major savings from reduced need for chemical fertilizers and irrigation due to more efficient up-take of minerals and water. This also means fewer toxins and pollutants, particularly nitrogen fertilizers, leaching from agricultural lands into our public water system and rivers.
What is the “Soil Food Web”
Healthy soil is a powerful and complex ecosystem that supports microorganism, plants, animals, insects, humans and the planet. An incredible diversity of organisms make up the soil food web. They range in size from the tiniest one-celled bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa to the more complex nematodes and micro-arthropods, to the visible earthworms, to insects, small vertebrates, and plants. As these organisms eat, grow, and move through the soil, they make it possible to have clean water, clean air, healthy plants, and moderated water flow. Soil organisms prey on crop pests and are food for above-ground animals.
Advantages of an optimally functioning ecosystem of soil microorganisms:
Gardening and farming organically has huge benefits to humans, animal, plants and the environment. It can do most of the gardening work for you – saving you time and money. It protects plants against pest. Pests like to attack weak plants. Monitoring for pest and fighting pest saves lots of time. Preventing pests extends the productive life of the vegetable pants and gives larger harvests.
Nutrient dense soil supports nutrient dense plants and healthier humans who get the nutrients their bodies need to stay healthy. Eating organic food means human avoid the chronic diseases cause by nutrient deficiency and toxins. Our Healthy Diet Healthy Life workshop will explain this new science on May 30. Organic methods avoid garden and lawn care chemicals can be harmful to humans, pets, wildlife and waterways. Plus, human contact with healthy soil and nature improves overall health. New science shows that some healthy soil microbes are essential for a healthy human directive system.
Soil bacteria and fungi serve as the "stomachs" of plants.
Just as the microbes in the human body both aid digestion and maintain our immune system, soil microorganisms both digest nutrients and protect plants against pathogens and other threats. They form symbiotic relationships with plant roots and "digest" nutrients, providing nitrogen, phosphorus, and many other nutrients in a form that plant cells can assimilate.
These fungal filaments not only channel nutrients and water back to the plant cells, they connect plants and allow them to communicate with one another and set up defense systems. The fungi colonize the root system of a host plant, providing increased water and nutrient absorption capabilities while the plant provides the fungus with carbohydrates formed from photosynthesis.
Mycorrhizae is the scientific term for this symbiotic relationship between fungi and plants that you sometimes see listed in the ingredient of organic fertilizers. Endomycorrhizal fungi penetrate the cell wall and ectomycorrhizal fungi stay outside the cells.
Healthy soil tips for organic farmers and gardeners:
Protect loose granular structure and avoid compaction. Raised beds are best. Never kneel or walk on you edible beds.
Promote soil drainage and evenly moist soil. Never over water. Learn the ”finger test” for soil moisture.
Soil color should be dark from organic matter.
Cover you soil with dense leaf mulch to retain moisture
Organic matter is a great source of slow-released plant nutrients. It encourages structure development by holding soil particles together like glue. It also attracts beneficial organisms, which also help develop soil structure.
Applying organic matter to feed plant and soil microbes every fall and spring. Organic leaf compost rich in nutrients is best. In the fall applying a 2” layer of composted manure from organic dairy cows gives a powerful boost to soil microorganisms.
Use the best organic fertilizers for general soil heath that include 100+ minerals, vitamins, natural plant hormones, natural plant stimulators, essential sugars/amino acids/carbon and protein plus billions of beneficial microorganisms, Mycorrhizal Fungi and food for microbiology. Deep Roots store sells an organic fertilizer we call Soil Alive that restores soil microorganisms along with the their nutrients and foods.
Add biochar once to the soil of a new bed to support health microbes and retain water
Cover your soil in winter. Naked soil is vulnerable to wind and water erosion that leads to soil and organic matter loss, reduced water infiltration, and structural loss.
Cover crops like clover and vetch provide additional nutrients to your soil. They can also be tilled into the garden bed before planting in the spring.
Keep moisture in the soil with dense leaf mulch. A deep raised bed (15-20 inches)allows room for 3 to 4 inches of dense mulch. The mulch becomes rich compost in time.
Compost tea is a critical component to an ecological system of soil and plant health. It adds the essential microbes that allow all the soil ingredients to work together at maximum benefit to each other soil and plants. Ideally Apply it 3 time per growing season. You can brew t yours with compost tea it.
Support soil in healthy lawns and decorative landscaping using organic methods that prevent pests and disease.
Natural lawn care includes watering correctly, mowing high, using natural non-toxic products. applying nematodes, supporting native insects, over seeding annually, adding compost, aerating turf, applying biochar, applying compost tea
Why biochar is an essential part of healthy soil?
Biochar is an ancient soil amendment from Amazon civilizations. Carbon in decomposing plants which would otherwise escape into the air as greenhouse gases, can be sequestered by the biologically active charcoal in the soil. The charcoal is colonized by billions of microbes, fungi, earthworms, and other creatures which produce carbon-based molecules that stick to the charcoal, gradually increasing the soil’s carbon content. Every ton of this biochar in the soil is capable of capturing and holding at least 3 tons of carbon.
Biochar used in modern agriculture is spreadable organic fertilizer for lawns and organic garden beds that supports healthy soil microbes that feed the soil and the plants.. Sustainable, natural, and safe healthy plants start with healthy soil. Biochar mixed with compost and nutrients helps plants thrive by improving the efficiency of your soil.
The biochar added to the initial soil of a bed remains in the soil to increase fertility and water absorption while decreasing nutrient leaching. Biochar reduces water needs, aerates soils and reduces compaction, buffers pH, and increases nutrient uptake by roots. The biochar provides permanent homes for microorganisms, reduces the possibility of disease in your soil and captures and holds carbon in soil, thus reducing greenhouse gases. As the bacteria thrive so does the natural process that makes your plant grow.
If you use Deep Roots Super Growth Garden Soil blend, 10% biochar is already mixed into the soil. The biochar Deep Root sells has been “charged” with microbes by storing it with organic compost for a few months.
Core Gardening method reduces watering
Using the core gardening method creates better soil. Not only does the core hold moisture for your plants, but it also loosens the soil up. In the process, the soil begins to drain better. This is ideal for plants. They all like loose soil where they can easily stretch their roots.
By using the core gardening method you can go weeks without adding water to your garden. There is no waiting period to plant when applying the core method. You create a sponge of weathered straw down the middle of your raised bed. You do this once a year and avoid the hassle of watering many times during a drought. This is the definition of simplicity in gardening.
Since the materials in the core have already begun to break down before you apply them, you’re in the clear to plant as soon as you’ve completed adding the core. When you use other methods to retain soil moisture like hugelkultur, you have to wait for the logs, wood chips or straw to compost before you can plant.
The simple steps: Collect discarded straw used for decoration at Halloween and Thanksgiving. Let the straw start to decompose over winter. Dig a trench down the middle of our raised bed and fill it with straw to create a sponge. Add some composted manure to the straw because extra nitrogen is needed while the straw decomposes. Cover the straw with your normal soil and thoroughly “charge” the straw with water. The bed is now ready to add seedlings and seeds.
Human health is directly correlated to soil health.
The mass destruction of soil microorganisms began with technological advances in the early twentieth century. The number of tractors in the U.S. went from zero to three million by 1950. The "Green Revolution" was driven by a fear of how to feed massive population growth. It did produce more food, but the food it did produce was progressively less nutritious as the soil became depleted of organic matter, minerals, and microorganisms.
Just as we have unwittingly destroyed vital microbes in the human gut through overuse of antibiotics and highly processed foods, we have recklessly devastated soil microbiota essential to plant health through overuse of certain chemical fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides, pesticides, failure to add sufficient organic matter (upon which they feed), and heavy tillage.
Half of the earth's habitable lands are farmed and we are losing soil and organic matter at an alarming rate. Studies show steady global soil depletion over time, and a serious stagnation in crop yields.
So, not only have we hindered natural processes that nourish crops and sequester carbon in cultivated land, but modern agriculture has become one of the biggest causes of climate instability. Our current global food system, from clearing forests to growing food, to fertilizer manufacturing, to food storage and packaging, is responsible for up to one-third of all human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions. This is more than all the cars and trucks in the transportation sector, which accounts for about one-fifth of all green house gases globally.
Building your own healthy soil takes time and effort
We encourage new gardeners to use new healthy soil in raised beds that already have the best ingredients to support a flourishing microorganism soil ecology. You can be confident there are no toxins or weed seeds that make gardening harder. They don’t have to worry about how their land was treated at earlier times and what toxic remnants it still contains.
But there are ways to build healthy soil that are cheaper but are more work and take a lot longer. Most local nurseries sell inexpensive soil testing kits that will give you a good idea of what is in your soil. Once you know what’s in your soil, you can amend it using compost or a variety of organic products found in your local nursery.
Lasagna gardening and hugelkultur beds (are two other ways to build your soil while knowing exactly what is going into it. These methods take more effort and time to mature than simply pushing seeds into the existing soil, but will ensure that the vegetables you plant are growing in healthy, organic soil.