Is your garden Soil or Dirt

by nixter

Is your garden Soil or Dirt  

Let us look at soil. To begin with, is it actually soil, or is it just dirt?

This makes an enormous difference.Plants grow in soil, not dirt.

Now, dirt, is just that, dirt – a bit of ground where very little has,or can be grown. This could be for myriad reasons. All those years ago, did Granddad decide that where the old incinerator used to be, would be a prime spot to put the new veggie garden? Having fires on top of it for donkey’s years will have made this dirt. Sterile at that.

However, many things may have been grown and produced since then, but not without the assistance of copious applications of water soluble chemical fertilizer – or heaven forbid ‘super-phosphate’. Probably looked like something out of one of those old 1960’s glossy magazines; razor sharp edges, newly turned beds showing bare earth, not a scrap of mulch to be seen – too messy! Strict rows of each individual crop – no untidy mixing up of varieties.

Goodness! Things sure grew with a bit of the old ‘super’! Very true, but – chemical fertilizers make the cells of plants expand, to an almost critical point. In this extended state, these cells are full of water and/or air. So, the produce you are eating, is actually false food.Sort of like buying a loaf of bread that’s hollow.

The chemical fertilizers that appeared after world war two, were like ‘jack-and-the-bean-stalk’ stuff – so much less work than all that mucking around, tilling the soil and getting dirty and look at the SIZE of these things!! Well, no one could have known any better – this was the new modern world we were entering, where food was plentiful and cheap.

You can certainly eat this produce (that’s what is in the supermarkets), but as for calorific content, and actual sustenance – it is severely lacking. Part of this is due to the fact that the plant has been ‘forced’, and hasn’t had the opportunity to take up the nutrients and trace elements it actually needs for normal growth. Looks great, tastes bland.

Anyway, back to the soil. Granddad’s passed on and the next gardener decides to go organic.The first attempted crops will probably fail – small, stunted plants without any vitality; at the very least they are not going to look like Grandad’s did. This is because the garden is just dirt. There is no existing organic content to be had.

Sadly, this is where many would-be organic veggie growers chuck it in, naive to the fact that a bit of chicken manure, and a bit of mulch, are only small elements of the whole picture. If Granddad had had some sort of conception, and against all common reason, had decided to ‘go organic’ one season, his plants would have all failed, if not died outright, without the contiguous application of the beloved soluble fertilizer.

In order to have ‘soil’, as opposed to ‘dirt’, one must view the entire garden as a living entity. A biomass, a biological mass of living interconnected and associated entities; whether they be macro-organisms like worms and beetles,micro-organisms like bacteria and viruses, or fungi. An organic garden should be evolution on a molecular scale. The mulch and manure that were applied to one crop, including the remnants of that crop, now partly decomposed, become the base to initiate the evolution of the biomass.

Some bacteria, feeding on the spent plant material, will attract organisms that feed on them and their debris, like fungi; which in turn attracts organisms that feed on fungi, whose debris then feeds the bacteria again. As this molecular mass of waste, called seed compost,builds up with the subsequent applications of mulch, manures and plantings, other organisms are attracted also, nematodes, various insects, worms – all of which, in their turn are consumed by some other organism – adding to the mass.

Slowly, incrementally, the biomass builds, worms transport soil,bacteria and trace elements around the garden; deep-rooted plants plumb the depths for trace elements, which are then deposited higher in the soil as that plant decomposes, making these elements now more readily available to other plants; in turn releasing them back into biomass for some other organism.

The greater, or more evolved the biomass in soil becomes, the greater the number of plants that can be incorporated into the garden, and in turn returned to the soil, continuing the cycle.

Provided that a garden is added to with organic material, during and after each crop, and re-planted with a diversity of plants and herbs filling any spaces (no bare soil), it will only get better over time -like a stew.

An important rule to remember is – that which comes out of a garden, must be replaced, in some form.So, if you have just dug up all the potatoes, replace that crop with an equal weight of mulch and manure. Balance is what we are trying to achieve.

Interestingly, an organic garden never reaches critical mass. It is never going to increase enormously in bulk, nor slowly encroach on your house and attack you one night.A balanced organic garden has its own highs and lows, when one organism or element becomes too profuse, this then triggers a population increase in whichever organism feeds on it, and so on, until balance is re-established.

Having stated that critical mass is never reached, I should state that rather, self perpetuation is reached instead. By this I mean that, when a good balance is reached, the garden produces enough raw plant material, animal manures and debris, ultimately returned to the garden,that it perpetuates itself.

Yes, this is, initially, a lot of work, depending on your definition of ‘work’. However, the rewards are many; self satisfaction, for a start; healthy, ‘real’ food; exercise; a new found appreciation of the wonder of nature, to mention a few.

So, what is your garden? Soil, or Dirt?

Help your garden grow with

Gardening All-in-One For Dummies

“God almighty first planted a garden: and, indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures.”
–Sir Francis Bacon

National surveys show that gardening has become the most popular, least exclusive hobby nationwide. From the balconies of Manhattan to the patios of Malibu to the backyards of Chicago, anybody with a few square feet of earth is doing their best to make their little corner of the world more gracious and beautiful. And the best thing is, you really don’t have to be born with a green thumb

List Price: $ 29.99

Price: $ 14.99

Find More Gardening Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.