It saddens me to admit that the prevalence of seriously problematic soils appears to haveincreased dramatically over the previous few decades. Despite the proximity of internationaltensions, the world seemed a considerably safer and altogether more stable environment when Istarted gardening in my teens and early twenties. Perhaps this misrepresents the reality. It mightbe more accurate to suggest that certain issues were once described in concrete terms, withoutthe numerous complexities and differences of opinion which are routinely encountered in thepopular media of today. Like everyone else, I¶m confused and disturbed by the reports on globalwarming, climate change, and species decline. When I look at my original notes for this section,I¶m aware that I intended to separate problem soils into two distinct categories. Problem soilsdetermined by geographic and environmental factors versus those which are distinctly caused bysituations of adverse human influence. If it is true that we have irreversibly upset the stability of our global weather patterns, my attempt to differentiate these two categories should perhaps berevised.
In most cases, problem soils will be characterised by the influence of extreme geographic or climatic conditions. They may also be contributed to by human impacts such as structuralerosion, overly intensive agricultural practices, and industrial contamination. Newly released landdevelopments are often criticised for their soils which seem incapable of supporting a garden.Modern subdivisions may include unstable tracts of wetland and those which have beeninappropriately reclaimed using cheap and readily accessible fill materials. As modern urbanregions expand toward and beyond their planned boundaries, another relatively common practiceinvolves the rezoning of previously agricultural and industrial land into residential allotments.
The soils of reclaimed agricultural lands may suffer from a range of problems such as erosion,salinity, severe nutrient deficiencies, and toxicity related to agricultural chemicals and other treatments. Depending on its previous use, reclaimed industrial land may contain soilscontaminated with unacceptable levels of toxic metals, hydrocarbons like diesel oil, and chemicalsubstances which remain potentially harmful for many years. Such irresponsible land practicescan result in entire neighbourhoods without gardens. Several years ago I happened to visit oneof these reclaimed suburbs and was astonished to learn of the thriving local trade in plastic andartificial plants. I was driving on a wide road with a pink sunset behind me. Everything seemedsurreal and unfamiliar. I tried to imagine what it would be like for the parents who built plasticgardens for their children to play in.
Local knowledge is invaluable