Healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy you

If you’re eating a diet consisting of mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans & lentils), you’re off to a good start. That being said, depending on where your food comes from, you may be missing out on crucial nutrients. The health of your food (and ultimately you), begins in the soil in which your food grows.

In the farming world, there’s a saying that goes “Feed the soil, not the plant”. This short simple bit of wisdom is essentially the entire point of this post. I read the book “The Soul of Soil” by Joseph Smillie and Grace Gershuny while working on a certified organic farm in North Carolina several years ago. It transformed the way I thought about growing food. The authors’ point is that in order for a plant to be healthy (and provide nutrition to humans), the soil must be healthy first. A farmer, or gardener, should focus on developing healthy soil that will provide nutrients and a fertile growing environment for the plant. 

Soul of Soil.jpg

So what is healthy soil and how do you get it? Well to start I’d say that healthy soil is soil full of minerals, microorganisms, and more. It’s part of a dynamic ever-changing underground ecosystem. Interestingly soil is also a part of the greater ecosystem including animals and humans. A squirrel runs through a garden bed, snacks on some lettuce, and becomes part of the ecosystem. A gardener or farmer works in the soil and becomes part of that ecosystem.

Healthy soil is:

  • Slightly aerated: Certain microorganisms require oxygen to function, therefore hard clumpy soil should be avoided.
  • Retains water: This is especially important in times of drought when water is an even more precious resource.
  • Filters pollutants: Pollutants are absorbed by the soil, sometimes consumed by microorganisms, and ultimately stopped from entering groundwater.
  • Contains beneficial microorganisms: This bears repeating as these microorganisms add so much to soil, transforming it from dirt to a substance that’s alive!
  • Retains carbon: Healthy soil acts as a carbon sink, pulling excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and holds it. This is extremely important in our current state of climate change.
  • Contains key plant nutrients: Plants require nitrogen, carbon, and phosphorus to survive. Healthy soil stores all three, along with numerous other elements plants need to thrive. Plants are free to take what they need from the soil, as they need it.

Healthy soil leads to healthy plants, which are more drought and flood tolerant, better equipped to defend against disease, require less pesticide application, and are more nutritious. Tune in next week when I explore the research behind nutrition density in organic plants. You’ll better understand the link between healthy soil, healthy plants, and a healthy you.

 


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