The Answer is the Soil
“Soil is the foundation of life. Its health determines the health of the plants and trees that grow in it, and they in turn determine the health of the animals and the people who eat them and their fruits” - Pat Coleby
The answer to many problems we face today is indeed in the soil. It’s the health and vitality of your garden soil that is the key to plant health. All plant ailments are corrected by first correcting the soil. In fact, all human ailments should also be treated by starting with correcting the soil where your food comes from.
Our soils are the foundation of life. Soils should be revered and nurtured. Our conventional agricultural systems are destroying our soils to the point that there is hardly any topsoil left. What is left is lifeless and devoid of available minerals and nutrients. The soils are poisoned with chemicals, and then ploughed (blown away) with heavy machinery in a desperate attempt to get air into the compacted soil. The food only grows because they are fed artificial fertilisers. And most of our food comes from these farming practices!
“The worlds soil is being eroded at least 20 times as fast as it can regenerate” – New Scientist
Our soils should be alive. They are amazing living systems. Each handful of your soil needs to be teeming with life. This living system recycles plant and other organic matter quickly and efficiently, eliminating impurities and toxins and turning the rest into nutrient rich plant food. Good soil has structure that allows oxygen (life), water, and plant roots to penetrate. Your soils should have high levels of organic matter that stores nutrients and minerals, and acts like a sponge, soaking and holding up excess water. Good soil is your largest rainwater collection device!
So before doing anything else in your garden, start by improving your soil first! Get it healthy and vibrant, and then plant out organic fruit and vegies. Learn all you can about soil. Read about soil and compost making, browse the internet, get your hands dirty and examine your soil, invite your friends over and talk about soil! Conduct soil tests, most of which can be done at home for free.
At Happyearth, the soils we inherited were a medium clay with moderate amounts of organic matter. Fifteen centimetres below this top layer is heavy clay with no drainage capacity. In heavy rain, water runs straight off the block. It's a fairly typical soil you would expect to see in most backyards in Wollongong.
Check out soil improving techniques for advice on how to improve your soil and what we've done at HappyEarth.