LOOKING AFTER THE SOIL BENEATH OUR FEET - CHARLOTTE
My whole life has been spent with as much time as possible outside. Gardening and enjoying the countryside has always been a way for me to escape the stresses of life, and breathing in the scents of flowers and freshly cut grass instantly help me to relax. Mowing the lawn drowns out the sound of emails coming in to my phone, and hours can be spent happily weeding flower and vegetable beds and tending to the needs of various plants. Nature has a way of taking you back to the simple things in life and appreciating all that is around you. My father loved his fabulous garden and was very proud of his vegetable beds. As a child I loved helping him sow seeds and pick fruit and vegetables, and I can now appreciate why he channeled so much energy and passion in to it all.
We can all take the soil beneath our feet for granted. Grass and weeds thrive in it, so surely all our flowering plants, shrubs, fruit and vegetables that we want to grow will do too? Think again. Soil is alive with organisms that need nurturing and feeding. They in turn help us to create healthy soil and the perfect environment in which plants can thrive. Did you also know that soil holds up to three times as much carbon as the atmosphere, with half of that in the first foot of the soil. So, how do we look after this vital ecosystem?
When considering what we need to do to ensure our soil is healthy, we need to look at the texture, the level of acidity, if it retains water well or if it is compacted, and does it have good levels of organic matter and organisms. If any of these factors are a problem, then we need to rectify them.
The texture tells us if we have clay, sandy or silty soil. We can then add organic matter as required, to help sandy soil retain moisture or alternatively to break up thick, sticky clay. If we improve the structure of the soil, then plants will have the support around them that they need to grow and develop a strong root system. If the soil is too acidic, then we need to add organic matter to bring it a more alkaline state.
We need soil to have air spaces so that all soil life including microbes, earthworms and insects can breathe. It also allows plants to have access to atmospheric nitrogen. If the soil is well-aerated, water can slowly flow through and deliver the nutrients required to the roots of the plants. Healthy soil will retain the water required to support the ecosystem and will allow excess water to drain away. To maintain these air spaces, we need to add plenty of organic matter and avoid compaction.
Looking after the living organisms in soil is crucial for plants to thrive. The organisms break down organic matter and release the nutrients back into the soil for the plants to absorb. Bacteria, protozoa, nematodes, mites and springtails all help by releasing nitrogen and nutrients into the soil. Fungi grow as long threads, or strands, helping to aerate the soil and unlock minerals and nutrients around the roots of plants. Finally, earthworms make castings that are 50% higher in organic matter than the soil around them, making nutrients more available for the plants. They also help to aerate the soil by breaking up compacted ground.
To support this ecosystem in a sustainable way, organic matter is key. Find out how Natural Grower plant feed and soil conditioner can help HERE