by Mariana Valencia
Healthy soils are essential for healthy plant growth. Soil microbes have a two-way relationship with plants: Plants feed the microbes who then fertilize the plants. Then plants provide nutrients to animals and plants and animals provide vital nutrients to humans. It’s a whole life cycle!
Healthy soils are the foundation of human nutrition. In order to grow our food, we need healthy ecosystems that support a landscape that is more resilient to the impacts of natural hazards such as drought, fire or flood. Not only that – healthy soil helps to regulate the Earth’s climate and stores more carbon than all of the world’s forests
combined. Healthy soils are fundamental to the survival of every living thing.
However, many of the land management practices like using man-made fertilizers may not be such a good idea. Fertilizers have drastic side effects in the long run. Using too much of fertilizers in the soil can modify the fertility of the soil by increasing the acid levels in it which can provoke eutrophication. Fertilizers contain substances like nitrates and phosphates that in excess become toxic for the aquatic life, increasing the excessive growth of algae in the water bodies and decreasing the levels of oxygen. This leads to death of fish and other aquatic fauna and flora.
The nitrogen and other chemicals present in the fertilizers can also affect the ground waters and waters that are used for the purpose of drinking! You would be interested to know that studies reveal that the use of lawn fertilizers and pesticides can cause health risks like cancer and chronic diseases in humans, especially in children.
To avoiding using man-made fertilizers and keeping your soil healthy you should follow 4 basic principles:
- Keep your soil covered, which means mulch. If you mulch well, you almost don’t need to modify the soil anymore with fertilizers because the mulch takes care of most of those needs.
- Keep it moist. Maintaining a consistent moisture level is critical. If it does not rain and you don’t water the soil regularly, an easy way to make sure you keep that soil moist is, again, using mulch on it.
- Feed the microbes. Adding compostables like vegetable peels and ground up seeds of any kind will really kick things into high gear. Sugars are also great for boosting bacterial life.
- Seed with life. Here’s a great way to get things really growing quickly for you. Head out to a local forest and harvest some forest floor soil and leaf mold to spread under your mulch in the garden. It’ll be full of all sorts of helpful organisms and will seed your garden soil with lots of life if you’re going from somewhat dead or lifeless soil.