When a local farmer was recently interviewed about his agricultural practices, his response centered around the health of the soil. If you have healthy soil, the plants do their part well. Healthy soil makes healthy plants that contribute to healthy people and as recent research reveals, a healthy planet.
Healthy soil is soil that is full of life, live plant roots as well as fungal mycelium, macroinvertebrates, protists, and bacteria. This interconnected community not only help each other thrive, they exude substances that help make the soil act like a sponge able to absorb and retain water essential for growth. Healthy soil can help stabilize our agricultural lands during this time of changing weather patterns. Healthy soil also has great storage capacity for carbon, carbon that was removed from the atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere acts as a greenhouse gas contributing to the rising global temperatures. Carbon dioxide taken in by plants becomes food that fuels the living world as well as is a major component of life’s physical structures.
In the fall of 2020, the class of 2026 noted that the plants in our community garden did not look great. Further exploration revealed that the soil was also hard packed on the surface and yet dry and dusty when a plant was pulled out. This was the second harvest of the garden in its new location. Not much organic matter had been worked into the newly made beds. These observations set the class on a path to make a difference.
In the fall, the class planted cover crops to build up some organic matter. This spring, our life science lessons in ecology focused on the cycles of matter and how different agricultural practices either contribute to climate change and its effects or help mitigate climate change by regenerating the soil. Students put into practice no-till methods of preparing the soil for a new season. They aerated the soil and worked in a good amount of compost. (Thank you, campus compost contributors!) They prepared vermicompost bins and inserted them directly into the garden beds. Upper school garden gurus helped by installing a new archway trellis for nitrogen-fixing peas and beans to climb. Two of the shadiest beds have been inoculated with oyster mushrooms. What effect will these efforts have on the growth of this year’s crops? Stop by the garden (behind Logan House) periodically to see what comes up and flourishes!
There is a plethora of information and inspiration for building healthy soil. Check out Kiss the Ground for a newly released documentary, at kisstheground.com. When we care for our soil and choose food grown on farms that use regenerative agriculture practices, we contribute to a healthier planet.