Way (way!) back when I went to landscape gardening and architecture school in Germany, we were taught that soil is a substrate to keep plants upright, that plant food comes from a bag and plant protection from a spray nozzle, and that good topsoil is no good for building structures on (well, more or less).
Not all of what I learned was wrong, but it was certainly woefully incomplete. Incredible as it sounds, soil health and ecology was not a mandatory subject at the time.
Thankfully, this has changed quite a bit since the mid-90s. The Berlin Free University’s Institute of Biology for example published an excellent podcast series on Life in the Soil on the occasion of World Soil Day, December 5th, 2020.
(And isn’t it interesting how human nutrition is finally beginning to assume its rightful place within the field of human medicine? Healthy soil, healthy food, healthy people — it’s beautifully simple.)
When I arrived in Canada and studied, first composting in Calgary and then organic land care with Gaia College in Victoria, the full impact of synthetic and toxic fertilizers and pest control products on the soil ecosystem (a layer on average mere inches thin, yet feeding the world!) hit me hard. For a while, I became quite disillusioned: “We need the soil — but the soil doesn’t need us!”
But over time, my perspective has changed. Quite possibly, the soil does need us — as in, it needs everyone from home gardeners and farmers to university scientists with a desire to learn, act on, and then teach others about the astonishing, interconnected, life-sustaining systems of the living soil.
This includes you and me! All working together to support that which supports us, one garden bed at a time. It will not take a lot of money or effort — after all, lots of effective soil amendments are plentiful and free — just knowledge, time, dedication, and love… Are you having goosebumps right now?
If you’re inspired, and want to dig deeper, check out the Soil Foodweb Schools’ upcoming free webinar series, Farming With Fungi with Dr Adam Cobb, Dr Elaine Ingham, and Nicole Masters alongside “a whole gang of fungal folks”. The four part webinar starts on Tuesday April 11, 2023 and continues on April 20, 26, and 29.
Hope to see you there!