Article by Bob Dailey, Master Gardener
Soil: A Living Layer of Earth
The soil in your garden and landscape should be a living layer of earth. That’s not a platitude – it’s a fact. It should be packed with microbes. A teaspoon of good soil should contain literally billions of beneficial bacteria, thousands of protozoans, and miles of mycorrhizal fungi. Billions of bacteria and miles of fungi? In a teaspoon? It may sound like fiction, but it’s true…if you have good soil!
These organisms and more complex lifeforms, such as earthworms, create a soil food web, devouring small bits of organic matter in the soil, and converting it into nutrients. Then plant roots can take in those nutrients to produce leaves, stems, flowers, fruit, and seed. Good healthy plants can fend off disease and destructive insects. However, the absence of these microorganisms and larger organisms such as earthworms results in compacted, lifeless soil. Lifeless soil, of course, cannot sustain life.
Solving the compacted soil problem
A recent non-scientific study in one Gulf Coast community not only indicated that “take-all patch” was typical in the sampling but that all the lawns tested had compacted soil. In fact, a sampling trowel broke during the testing because the ground was so hard.
The absolute best way to give your soil life again is to simply add organic material. You don’t need complicated chemicals and fertilizers. You don’t need “inoculants.” You don’t need humates. All you need is simple organic compost. In fact, good organic compost contains all the required microorganisms to inoculate soil and also contains nutrient-rich material. Compost will not only decompose slowly but will also feed all the tiny animals that live there.