An exuberantly healthy soil is the cornerstone of a sustainable garden. The virtues bestowed by a living, fertile soil are legion. When we pack the growing earth with organic matter, via thick mulch, self-renewing roots, and buried debris, we’re beckoning the industrious workers of the soil. Worms, tiny beetles and mites, bacteria, fungi, and a host of helpers arrive to feast on the offerings and on each other. They churn and tunnel and munch and spawn, chiseling minerals from rock and humus, all the while loosing a veritable avalanche of fertility to be shared with plants. The plants themselves shelter, feed, and are nourished and protected by whole communities of soil life in a mutually beneficent partnership. A vast commerce of shuttling minerals, sugars, acids, antibiotics, hormones, and all the molecules of life connect this thousand-species hive together. For the price of a little mulch and a bit of care, rich and extravagant empires can be built beneath the earth, empires that will funnel their wealth upward to plants and in turn to insects, to birds, to all wildlife, and to people as well. In the ecological garden, we do all we can to broaden this river of flowing fertility, and we start with the soil.
Feeding the soil engages us in a partnership that benefits all. By applying the techniques and point of view offered in this chapter, the base of life’s pyramid- the abundance of the soil- becomes broad and sturdy. Life builds on life. Whatever we plant in this rich earth will have a far greater chance of thriving; whatever we hope to feed, whether wildlife, ourselves, or perhaps just our senses, will be deeply nourished. And serendipities we never hoped for- a surprising new wildflower, a rare butterfly, or sturdier plants that bloom longer, fruit heavier, and grow in tough conditions- will grace our lives almost daily. –Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture
How do you feed and nurture your soil?