For the Love of Soil: Understanding its Importance and Protecting its Health

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Soil is our earth’s living, breathing skin

and it is important we keep it healthy

Soil is our earth’s living, breathing skin ​and its important that we keep it healthy!
Hey there, fellow soil enthusiasts! I have to admit something – I’m a soil nerd, and I’m proud of it. Back in college, I was on the soil judging team, and I absolutely loved every minute of it. There’s just something so fascinating about the way soil is composed of minerals of different sizes, and how the combination of those minerals determines the soil texture. When classifying a soil into a taxonomic group, soil judges take into account many factors, such as the parent material (the geology or rock that formed the soil layers) and where the soil is located on the landscape. It’s like a puzzle, and I loved putting all the pieces together!
Given its vital importance, I’m ecstatic to see that soil is finally getting the world spotlight it deserves — as a critical living ecosystem.

Soil health is essential for sustaining life on Earth, serving as the primary medium for plant growth, which, in turn, supports food production and provides habitat for countless species. Healthy soil is rich in organic matter, nutrients, and beneficial microorganisms, which promote plant growth and resilience. It also has good structure, allowing for adequate air and water circulation, which is essential for plant roots to absorb nutrients and water efficiently.

Unfortunately, soil health is facing significant challenges, including erosion, the excessive use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides in modern agricultural practices, and soil degradation due to urbanization.

But there are ways to nurture and protect this vital resource for current and future generations. For example, implementing conservation agriculture practices, such as no-till or reduced tillage, cover cropping, and crop rotation, can help reduce erosion, increase organic matter content, improve soil structure, and enhance overall soil health.

Organic farming practices that avoid synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides can also promote soil health, as can composting and recycling organic waste.

As for me, I’ve seen these principles put into practice by local flower farmers, especially the farmers that are members of Chesapeake Flower Exchange.

All of our members use compost or composted manure to add organic matter to the soil; we use natural types of fertilizer, and avoid chemical pesticides. Dilly Dally garden has used compost every year and built up her soil organic matter significantly, Tanglewood Farms uses biological controls like parasitic wasps to control pests. Many of our crops are perennial, meaning they grow from year to year. We also use no-till or minimum till practices whenever possible. Gill Hill and Bee Haven Flower Farm have steep ground and always plant across the slope to help reduce soil erosion. If it is important to know that the people who grow your flowers are environmentally responsible and protect their soil, consider buying from local farms like Chesapeake Flower Exchange that implement sustainable practices.

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 And remember, protecting and nurturing soil health is essential for the long-term sustainability of our food systems, ecosystems, and economies.

If you're interested in learning more about soil health, I highly recommend watching the well-made documentary Kiss the Ground on Netflix*.

Directed by Joshua and Rebecca Tickell, narrated by Woody Harrelson, 2022. Netflix. https://kissthegroundmovie.com/about/

Lastly, if you are an avid gardener, or just starting to plant a few flowers, I encourage you to think about trying some of these soil health practices in your own garden. 

Rototilling your beds year after year might seem like a good idea. There is often a benefit from the initial aeration that tillage provides, but the loss of soil aggregates from tilling ultimately reduces the oxygen available to these bacteria by creating compaction, and the mechanical action can damage the bacteria themselves and their habitats. Those microbes have an important place in the soil profile where they thrive. No till practices and using cover crops are great ways to promote soil health, so consider giving them a try. Remember, protecting and nurturing soil health is crucial for the long-term sustainability of our planet. Let’s all do our part to take care of this vital resource!

If you're interested in learning more about soil health, I highly recommend watching the well-made documentary Kiss the Ground on Netflix*.

Directed by Joshua and Rebecca Tickell, narrated by Woody Harrelson, 2022. Netflix. https://kissthegroundmovie.com/about/

One Response

    Jess Hayden

    September 16, 2023

    I would love to learn more about soil composition, sustainable planting practices and flower farming. Do you need a degree in Agronomy, or can a basic Biology degree give you a good start?

    Reply

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