How to Grow: Protecting the Soil

“Essentially, all life depends upon the soil. There can be no life without soil and no soil without life; they have evolved together.” That was Charles Kellogg writing in the USDA Book of Agriculture about 100 years ago.

There’s a new appreciation of our soils underfoot, especially as we search for ways to slow the pace of global warming. Soils and plant roots can capture carbon from the atmosphere and hold it in the soil for decades. Soil is also a living entity upon which all life depends. This view can change our gardening practices to be more soil friendly.

It’s estimated there are more microbes and living organisms in a teaspoon of soil than there are people on the planet. Soil is life. Without healthy soil there are no plants and without plants there is no life. So, what does this mean for cleaning up and getting your gardens ready for winter? I have a few tips.

We should feed and protect our soils. No soil should be left uncovered in winter. Grow living ground covers and cover crops or add organic mulches, such as hay, chopped leaves, straw, chopped plants and bark mulch. Covering the soil helps prevent erosion from wind and rain and protects and feeds those essential microbes in the soil.

We should consider using no-dig gardening techniques. I just wrote a book on No-Dig Gardening which will be coming out in December. No-dig doesn’t disturb the natural soil structure so roots and plants can grow strongly and the soil organic life stays healthy. I’ll be talking more about no-dig gardening this winter.

Excerpted from Ct Garden Journal on Ct Public Radio

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