Death, with all its loss and grief, creates the soil, the womb for life to seed, to take root, to thrive and flourish. Each day, my family and I live because something once alive transfers its energy into our own bodies. And someday, our own bodies will break back down into the dust, providing for whatever life comes after us. On this carefully, lovingly fashioned earth, death and life are not two separate beings but are instead two sides of the same coin. – Catherine McNiel, All Shall Be Well
Soil is the most vital component of our gardens. Everything depends on it.
As gardeners, we would do well to consider ourselves caretakers of the soil. Taking care of the plants themselves is a distant second, because–given the right, healthy soil–most plants can take care of themselves.
How can we take good care of the soil we have been given? Here is one way:
It is one of those ironies of the garden, but often we can do better by doing less.
- Dig and till less: tilling, especially, is sometimes necessary when breaking new ground quickly, but it can also cause the soil to compress and can disrupt the natural, healthy life of the soil
- Use fewer chemicals and salts: too many chemical fertilizers give a short-term illusion of abundance, but once that season’s annual flowers have bloomed their hearts out, our soil is left depleted and–sometimes–even poisoned
- Remove less natural vegetation: don’t discard fallen leaves: chop them and use them as mulch; don’t yank out dead annuals: cut off their tops and leave the roots to decompose underneath the ground