Spring is here, and garden centers are brimming with plants for sale. As enthusiasts of natural beauty, we tend to focus on what we can see, which are the bright, beautiful plants above ground. But, have you ever thought about the abundant life that lives underground? “Living Soil” has caught on as an insightful term that describes soil that is healthy, robust, and “alive”. But what is meant by “Living Soil”?
Living Soil is made up of organisms, both large and small, that live in a symbiotic relationship with plants and their root systems. These organisms, which include bacteria, fungi, protozoa, insects, and nematodes, as well as small mammals, are critical to maintaining the fertility, structure, drainage, and aeration of the soil. It is important to feed these organisms in the soil, which in turn, feed the plants.
How do we keep our soil, and subsequently our plants, robust and healthy? Just like people, soil needs to be fed a healthy diet. Also, like people, soil can get “sick” if not properly cared for, which can compromise its vital role in supporting the growth of healthy plants.
Let’s compare a Well-Balanced Diet to a Fast Food Diet for soil:
The benefits of healthy Living Soil are far-reaching and involve complex systems that are not fully understood. How plants form a mutualistic relationship with microorganisms is the center of current research projects. Microbes are essential for providing nutrients to plants, and plants, in turn, support the growth of these organisms. In an organic landscape, diseases and pests are diminished through natural mechanisms in this ecosystem. Another benefit to this system rich in organic matter is the retention of moisture, which reduces the amount of water needed. A well-nourished soil will help grow healthy plants, beautifully, and sustainably.
This spring, I’m looking forward to feeding the unseen living organisms underground. The health of my plants depends on them!