Well, I’ve had a ripper weekend – delving deeply both in soil and books about soil. I knew I would not be able to stay long above the woodchips!
I’ve been lent (from the kind folks at UWA) a brilliant book on Soil Biology, which, once I had:
- got the hang of how to read it (as a summary of soil research performed to date – including the potential gaps in science’s understanding);
- “googled” every second word to understand the content; and
- listed every different creature referred to (and their primary, secondary, etc…. function in the soil) so as to set up a “further research list”,
– it made me realise I need a plan of attack!
Where to start when there is such a mountain of information and angles of almost obsessional interest is the first question I need to answer. The ultimate aim being not to run out of enthusiasm (both mine and yours) before running out of new information!
So here we go – The Plan:
1) What is Soil? – A very, very high level look at (a) The Components of Soil (e.g. Mineral Particles, Air, Water, Organic Matter (Sub components – organisms, roots, humus…); (b) The Soil Profile; (c) The Soil Food Web
2) What are we aiming for in our Soil and why? I’ve never met a mission statement that did not require a gazillion sub points to give it meaning…..so put simply – Let’s keep on producing to meet our needs with the minimum input from outside our home/yard environment by appropriately supporting and utilising the soil system as it evolves.
Let’s call that our Mission Statement! So what does that mean?
In a very long-winded nutshell: We want to encourage co-operation between the soil fauna, flora and the non-living entities so that we can increase fertility, productivity and even provide excess (to return to the system) in an energy efficient manner. Then, let’s ensure this increase is not depleting the system as a whole or producing waste products which are not incorporated back into the system – therefore minimising what we need to add (and spend) on an ongoing basis and into the long term.
(Likely this will be covered in all the below points, but no harm is spelling it out so we have it clear in our heads with a discussion.)
3) Plants and how they work with and in the soil. (E.g. nutrients required, key needs, things I never knew …. and why a balance of these is essential)
4) Outline each component and, if appropriate, sub-component (E.g. Key particulate categories in Soil – Sand, Silt and Clay – what’s the difference, what does the proportion of each mean (i.e. role do they play) and is there a trend across Perth?; Nutrient and Trace Elements – including signs of deficiencies seen within plants, etc)
5) Outline/summarise/recap key relationships –
Some of these are fascinating – roots releasing chemicals to change the soil to attract the fauna who repay them by “delivery” nutrients in a form the plant can absorb. Nature is pretty ingenious when it comes to solving problems.
6) Other external factors influencing the soil – climate, slopes, time, etc
7) What else do we need to know about or might just be curious about? (E.g. Soil pH, colour indicators …)
8) What can we do the assist our soil develop the balance/healthy relationship of the components (i.e. to achieve our aim – maintain production without depleting resources for the next season). E.g. Techniques – Mulching, composts, Plants to start and develop soil with, re-mineralisation and addition of trace elements, etc. Resuscitation of the soil.
9) Taking a step back, get our heads out of the soil and look beyond focus on the soil balance – For example – physical water retention / erosion reduction by deflecting run-off on sloping blocks or in a more rural setting.
10) Now that we know all that … where do we start within our own backyard, front yard (under utilised!), etc
11) How does this fit into Permaculture? … We’ll have a high level look at the Ethics and Design Principles to see where they sit and use Soil Resuscitation as an application.
(And, as a bonus, we’ve just invented a new buzz phrase! Soil Resuscitation – breathing life back into the soil. I have always regarded it as a good philosophy, when approaching a topic you know nothing about, to create a buzz phrase (preferably then turn it into an acronym – SR) and look shocked when more knowledgeable folks have not heard of it…..payback time! Although, to be completely honest, all the gurus I have met regarding soil have done nothing but take my lack of knowledge as an opportunity to help someone.)
Anyway – back on topic – I’m sure the above plan will evolve and I apologise for not actually telling you anything in today’s blog, but in spelling this step-by-step plan out makes me feel more comfortable with a methodical approach, more inspired with just a taste of what is to come and excited about where I (and hopefully you too) will end up.
To close, there is a great group of photos doing the rounds that the moment- an oldy (okay so it was new to me! Learning gardening humour too!), but a goody….. “Spring is coming. I’m so excited, I wet my plants.”
Soils Plan Step (1) out this week – lets get started on the old SR! Wicking bed info blog partially completed! Weed Series – the benefits of specific weeds – Episode 1 is being drafted as we speak! The future is so bright!
Until next time…