For the love of soil

Let’s just pause and observe the above photograph.

Ah, a  beautiful sight. Can you smell it? Healthy, rich, living soil.

I thought I’d kick off this blog with a post about soil as when it comes down to it, building, enhancing and maintaining healthy soils is one of the main aims of my work here at Tap o’ Noth Permaculture – it’s literally the foundation of the whole project. And let’s face it, without soil we’d all be in trouble.

I have found myself in a lucky position as the condition of the soil on the farm here wasn’t in a bad state to begin with. The property had not been ‘worked’ for some time and had been left to do it’s own thing which, in this climate, is to start turning the once grazed fields back into woodland. One of the first things I observed as I walked around the site was the abundance of biomass – growth – wherever I looked. Elder trees growing strong, wild raspberries, blackcurrants and gooseberries spreading here and there, nettles indicating fertile land. To some this would be a nightmare with all these ‘weeds’ growing in abundance, but these wild trees and plants were indicators to me that the soil beneath my feet was alive and fertile and wanted to grow food. I could almost feel the fertility with every step, the ground soft from years of leaf litter and growth and die back of seasonal plants. Sure, there were some areas of erosion and compaction, but overall the site had heaps of promise.

Over the last 18 months I have begun setting up intensive zone 1 food gardens in areas close to the house (zone 0) which, until a team of dedicated workers (family, friends, two extremely motivated chickens and myself) set to work, was lawn and a south face sloping area of rough field. I won’t go into the design or construction of these gardens in this post but will say that, after a year of heavy sheet mulching with cardboard and generous applications of organic matter (chicken and duck manure, straw, leaves, comfrey tea etc), the soil in the vegetable beds is looking great with heaps of earthworms, organic debris and those beautiful delicate strands of white mycelium. And  if my eyes were capable of seeing micro life, I bet I could see the soil teeming with all the beneficial bacteria, protozoa and other soil food web inhabitants that help keep the soil healthy and alive.

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