Let’s talk soil
We take a closer look at the vital importance of the soil beneath our feet.
It’s one of the most underrated features of our natural world: 95% of food production depends on it, it’s a key player in flood prevention, and it even helps mitigate climate change. Yet soil is under siege on all fronts, from pesticides to artificial lawns.
For green-fingered readers, the fact that soil is home to a vibrant range of creatures will come as no surprise. But beyond the earthworms and insects in your vegetable patch, there’s a lot going on beneath the surface that’s not always visible to the naked eye.
In healthy soil, a flourishing ecosystem of microscopic organisms such as fungi and bacteria are working hard to promote plant growth, recycle nutrients and improve soil structure, which in turn increases its capacity to hold water and stave off flooding. To support all of this in your own garden through the winter, consider protecting areas of bare soil from the elements with green manure or mulch.
If the mention of manure has you thinking soil protection is an unglamorous pursuit, think again. Earth regeneration charity Dirt, founded by model and activist Arizona Muse, is ‘making soil sexy’ to shine a light on the not-so-chic practices of chemical-intensive agriculture, while pointing instead to farming methods that promote biodiversity and restore the balance of nutrients in soil.
Even if you’ve never set foot in a garden centre, there are plenty of ways to support the cause. Using food waste recycling services is a great way to contribute to less chemical-intensive farming, as the waste product is often used for compost-like fertilisers. And make the most of your purchasing power: look out for products with Soil Association organic certification, to champion soil-friendly businesses while reducing your own exposure to pesticides.