Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Download
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
1Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Understanding Soil

Understanding Soil

Ratings: (0)|Views: 140|Likes:
Published by Timber Press
An excerpt from "The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook" by Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman (Workman Publishing).
An excerpt from "The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook" by Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman (Workman Publishing).

More info:

Published by: Timber Press on Apr 25, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

04/25/2013

pdf

text

original

 
C h a p t e r
The Soil
Anyone cAn recognize A fertile soil.
Its color is darkbrown to black, with a moist look; its texture spongy; its smell earthy,redolent o spring, musky and wholesome. It looks alive. Our awarenesso soil is instinctive, rom knowledge acquired in ages past, then wiredinto our DNA and connected to our sense o well-being. We trust ertilesoil to grow the quality o ood we want to eat. Seeds sown in it spring to lie and grow vigorous plants, with vibrant colors. They produce oodbountiully. And we know that when we eat that ood our bodies will benourished as they were meant to be.Few soils a gardener begins with are ertile enough to ulllthat promise, but all o them can be made so. The process is simple—it’s a lot like cooking.
 
1 0T h e S o i l
the nature of soil
to understAnd soil better,
 let’s start with the popular parable “StoneSoup.” This is a simple tale o soldiersreturning rom the Napoleonic Wars. Asthey passed through a poor peasant villagethey were able to get a meal by telling theinhabitants they would eed them stonesoup. Ater placing a stone in a large kettleo water over a re, and claiming thatwas sucient or the meal to come, theyproceeded to hint that maybe a pinch o parsley, some carrots, a ew potatoes andsuch would make the stone soup taste just that much better. Little by little, theinitially reluctant villagers volunteeredto donate one or another o the suggested“extra” ingredients. The result was a delicious communal meal enjoyed by all.
WhAt soil is MAde of
building fertile soil
is a little likemaking stone soup, because every soilstarted out as stone or rock. Whether thesoil particles in your backyard are now thesize o sand (the largest) or silt (smaller)or clay (the smallest), or, as is usually thecase, a mixture o the three, they wereall originally, and still are, rock. Overpassing millennia the rocks have beenslowly reduced to their present particlesize through the eects o reezing andthawing, the erosive action o wind andwater, and the grinding o glaciers. Thetype o rock the particles originally camerom infuences their eventual size anddetermines their mineral content.Those particles by themselves won’tdo much or the garden, but add thesecond key ingredient in soil—water—andthe process begins. Not too much water,as with a real soup, but just enough tokeep the rock particles consistently moist.Excessive water keeps air rom being able to enter the small spaces betweenthe particles, and it’s important or airto enter. Air is the third key ingredientin soil. With those three—rock particles,water, and air—soil ormation is o andrunning. For the earliest living organismson our planet, that was enough, or theywere able to survive by extracting mineralnutrients rom rock. But as they died anddecomposed, their remains began to add a ourth key ingredient: organic matter. And that’s the living earth under youreet. It is tempting to reer to soil as having our
simple
components. But just as withmaking soup, even a ew additions, whencombined, become something greaterthan their sum, a complex blend o favors.Luckily, you can enjoy that soup withoutknowing what chemical reactions make itsmell and taste so good.The same goes or soil. As long asyou concentrate on adding more o thatessential ourth ingredient, organic matter,to the stone, water, and air you startedwith, you can create a ertile soil withouteven knowing how it happens. The wholerange o benets you get rom the organicmatter in the soil is only just beginning tobe understood and ully appreciated byagricultural science. But we do know thati we ampliy organic matter, plants willthrive. This is true or recent additionso organic matter, such as the roots o the lettuce you just picked, which were
Building fertile soilis a littlelie making stone soup,because everysoil startedout as stoneor rock.
 
T h e S o i l1 1
the life in A heAlthy soil:ba    w  a paw    a ma, ’ m w a a  , aa , mp wa, mak  aaa  pa,a maa a , m . M a    ak,    a w’  p w m.
let behind in the soil and are starting tobreak down. It’s also true or the older,biologically stable, well-decomposedorganic material we call
humus.
soil is Alive
the story gets even better.
Inyour garden there is a th componentthat arises out o all these parts, the mostimportant one o all: soil lie. It’s not aningredient like rock particles, water,air, and organic matter, it is the
 force
 that ties them all together. A marvelousliving world exists under your eet and itmakes the living world aboveground seemalmost empty by comparison. The Britishscientist J.B.S. Haldane is reported to havesaid, jokingly, “I one could conclude as tothe nature o the Creator rom a study o creation it would appear that God has aninordinate ondness or stars and beetles.”Beetles are, in act, 20 percent o all knownliving organisms. And once you begin tolearn about lie in the soil, you wonder i Haldane might have better noted a million-old greater ondness or soil dwellers ingeneral. It has been said that i you includeboth the ones we can see with the nakedeye (such as earthworms, ants, and beetles)and those that are only visible under a microscope (like bacteria and ungi), thereare more living creatures in one cup o ertile soil than in the whole o the worldabove ground.The sheer mass o soil creaturesis as impressive as their numbers. Anacre o rich pasture land, the produce o which is sucient to eed a 2,000-poundsteer grazing aboveground or one entireyear, harbors a weight o creaturesbelowground equal to that o the steeritsel. The lie processes o those soilcreatures within the matrix created byour our original soil ingredients are whatprovide the ertility to grow the grass thateeds the steer. Soil microbiologists spendtheir careers identiying, counting, andcategorizing these organisms into amily,genus, and species, and observing howthey interact with one another and withplants. But the home gardener can benet
A n  t s
M   i   
l   l   
i    p  
d  
  g
  r
 o
 u
n
d
 
t  l  
 s
 o
   i
   l
 
    M
       i
       t
   e
      n
      o       d
      u
         l
      e
      s
 
     c
    o
   n
       t
   a
    i
  n
   i
  n
 g
 
 r
h
z  
o  
i  
u  
m  
 
b   
a     
c      
 t    
 e
 r 
 i    
   a
  e
  a
  r
  t
  h
   w
    o    r
   m
 
   P
  r
 o
 t
 o
z
o
 s
 o
i
l
 
b
t  
e  
r  
i   a  
  s
 o
 i
l
 
A
a  
e  
b   
e  
n  
i
c
 i
 a
   l
 
  n
  e
   m
     a
          t
      o
       d
      e
s  
i  
l  
 
f  
n
g
 i

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
scribd
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->