A lot of people ask me how I grow my healthy herbs, fruits and vegies at home. My simple answer is that I don’t grow plants, I grow my soil without digging and killing all the beneficial soil critters living there. I then strategically place the plants (using guilds and companion planting), mulch, water and that’s about it. When soils have lost their organic matter, they become exhausted soils. We have to return what we take from our soil in a regenerative manner. Whatever we plant and consume will consume from the earth, which in order for the cycle to carry on, we have to replace.
Functions of Soil
The most immediately apparent function of soil is a medium to support plant life. It provides support both physically and biologically. Physical support is provided by allowing the plant to grow its roots through the soil to hold itself in place. Biological support is provided by its ability to hold nutrients and water that the plant needs. It also supports other types of life as well. Microorganisms and insects live in the soil and they in turn aid plant life by helping to decay organic material and adding structure to the soil. The underground economy is one of the most dynamic economies where soil critters and microorganisms ensure there is no waste – ‘waste’ is converted into energy.
What Makes a Soil Healthy?
Healthy soil must be living and full of organic matter. Organic matter feeds all the other soil critters and microorganisms in the soil all of which are very crucial and bebeficial to the healthy growth of your plants by proving nutrients. Nutrients that should be available to the soil are; nitrogen (leaf growth), phosphorous (root growth) and potassium (overall health & fruiting). As well as the essential nutrients, there should also be trace elements like calcium and magnesium. The pH level of the soil refers to its acidity or alkalinity and each plant has its own preferred value range. Plants placed into fertile soil will grow to be very strong and healthy (that is if other conditions like light levels and climate are favourable as well). The other determiner of healthy soil is its texture. Adding compost or organic matter into your soil will make it dark and fluffy, which is what the plants love.
How to Create Healthy Soil
No matter what type of soil you have, the addition of organic matter will work wonders for its health. Organic matter is plant and animal residues in varying forms of decomposition. It will replenish the nutrients in your soil and improve its texture. You may have heard countless times about adding your leftovers and glass clippings to a compost heap. This is a great idea as your compost is the best form of organic matter. Compost in an advanced stage of decomposition (dark and without smell) and is magic for your soil. It encourages microorganism activity causing soil particles to clump together and form aggregates. The aggregates allows for spaces in the soil therefore increasing its drainage. This is especially beneficial for clay soils, which have poor drainage.
So, to make sure you have good healthy plants, start by investing all your effort into building up your soil into a rich organic dark soil. Once you have set the right foundation, your plants will thank you by flourishing, and you will be surprised how little you will be watering your plants due to the high water storing capacity your new soil will have.