Do you think about soil much, or is it just something you walk around on, or maybe try to grow something in?
If you’re already a keen gardener and have had fruit trees or a vegie patch for a while, you’re probably already aware of how important soil is, and (like Hugh caught smelling rainforest soil above) may even love the smell, look and feel of rich, fertile soil.
However you’re yet to start growing your own food but don’t have much experience with soil yet (maybe you’ve just moved to the country, or finally retired), healthy soil might be something you’ve heard is important, but you don’t really know what that means yet.
Soil is so much more than most of us realise—for example, did you know that one-quarter of the world’s biodiversity lives in the soil!
How incredible is that?
Rather than being an inert, dead thing, it’s actually a thriving community of more microbes, worms, arthropods and other insects than we can even imagine, let alone count.
That is, if you’re looking after it properly!
Treating your soil badly by using chemicals, allowing compaction to develop, letting it get waterlogged or too dry, or consistently removing organic matter without replacing it can all create conditions that don’t help your fruit trees and other plants to thrive, and in fact encourage diseases to get established.
So, what to do? Well it’s pretty simple. We love busting the myth that “it takes 100 years to make 1 cm of soil”, because in fact if you do the right things, you can build healthy soil much faster than that.
The keys are:
- Consistently add organic matter to your soil (i.e., anything that used to be alive: compost, manure, mulch and worm castings are the most common)
- Add microbes to your soil, and then feed them regularly. Compost, compost tea, or worm juice are easy ways to add microbes, and they love to eat organic matter, liquid fish, and liquid seaweed.
- Have a wide range of different live groundcover plants under your fruit trees.
It’s also important to make sure there’s enough water (but not too much), and that the soil gets enough oxygen.
If you’re not sure whether your soil is healthy, we wrote a course just for you!
There are LOTS of techniques available to help you take these key actions in your garden. One of the most useful (though least understood) is by having a worm farm, which is much easier than most people realise!