As a young, happy newlywed 18 years ago, I was thrilled to have a house and a yard to tend for the first time! In particular, I loved planting pots of flowers each season, to set upon the steps leading up to our Chicago-suburb bungalow - it always added a welcoming touch. Pansies in the Spring; impatiens or petunias in the Summer; and mums in the Fall. I also enjoyed saving money, and I was extremely resistent to the idea of buying Dirt each season for the flower pots - I mean, c'mon, it was dirt! Who buys dirt when the pots are already filled with dirt? (Did I mention I was young? And naive?)
That kind of logic got me through the first year. The 2nd year, without any additional, fresh Soil added to the pots, the flowers languished after about a week and flopped over and dried up! No amount of water or sun/shade changes revived them. I never attributed their failure to thrive to the old, dead dirt I was using! (My sister tipped me off the following year!)
Plants need good soil to grow - soil that's fertile, balanced with vital minerals and active with micro-organisms. After a few seasons, the dirt in my flower pots was depleted of its nutrients and could not support life. We need life in order to support life! Seems pretty obvious how critical this little factoid is in retrospect.
In home gardens and flower beds, it's relatively easy to cultivate rich soil using organic gardening methods, like composting and crop rotation. There are myriad other ways to enrich and create good garden soil - see links below.
But imagine... just imagine for a second... the thousands upon thousands upons thousands of land dedicated to conventional agriculture across the globe. And imagine how degraded and depleted the soil must be after decades of planting the same crops (mono-cropping) in the same fields, year after year after year. What do you think farmers, who typically eschew organic methods, do to force things to grow in their dirt? That's what we'll talk about next week...
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Soil / Organic Gardening
The Dirt on Soil / About Garden Soil
Building Garden Soil / Vegetable Garden Guru
Make Your Own Potting Soil / Mother Earth News
Garden Soil Tips / TLC
Soil Health Indicators / Rodale Institute
How to Create Good Gardening Soil / Expert Village