Did you know that soil is alive?
That’s right – the healthy soil we find on the forest floor and in well-tended gardens is actually a living, breathing, eating organism.
Before you picture a giant soil monster living underground, let’s take a closer look at what is right under your feet.
Why do we talk about soil so often if our goal is to care for trees?
Just like humans, healthy trees need a wide variety of nutrients to thrive. Since we can’t just give trees a hearty salad or gummy vitamins, where do these nutrients come from? They come from rotting stuff like leaves or compost or wood chips that are the foundation of healthy soil.
So what is healthy soil? Let’s look at the basics:
- Healthy soil starts with material like leaves or compost or wood chips.
- This material rots and is broken down into food for microscopic creatures.
- Those tiny creatures are food for larger creatues, such as earthworms.
- Each of these interactions unlock nutrients for the tree. For example, after earthworms eat, they leave waste behind, called worm castings. Worm castings are full of amazing nutrients that can be easily absorbed by tree roots.
When this process is complete, tree roots can access the nutrients found in leaves, compost, or wood chips. But this only works if your soil includes all of the components needed to break down the whole material.
This is why it is so important to feed your soil.
Without all the rotting stuff and the tiny little creatures working together, your tree doesn’t get the necessary nutrients.
If you want to think about this process another way, think about your favorite meal. Then think about how inedible it would be if it were just the raw ingredients. Just like soil, we need to have a specific list of ingredients, processed in a certain way for food to be edible.
For example, let’s swap out rich, healthy soil with a rich, healthy lasagna. Close your eyes and imagine a homemade veggie lasagna hot out of the oven complete with gooey cheese and buttery pasta. That lasagna is delicious, healthy, and full of nutrients.
What would it be like if that soil -- I mean -- lasagna, was unprocessed? Now close your eyes and imagine the raw ingredients that go into lasagna. A plate piled with stalks of wheat, an unripe tomato, and a raw egg is not edible. We can only get nutrients out of the cooked lasagna in the same way that trees can only get nutrients out of healthy soil.
Trees are only as healthy as their soil. If you don’t feed the soil, your trees won’t be healthy. Healthy soil, happy trees.