“What we do to the soil we do to ourselves.” – Wendell Berry
Did you know that one teaspoon of healthy soil contains a billion living organisms? That’s right, the topsoil is more crowded than a freeway at rush hour. Most inhabitants are bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes we cannot see. But they are all there working symbiotically with plant roots to create our garden’s fertility and ultimately the nutritional content of our food. That’s why studying the chemical and biological health of the soil is so important. Last week we introduced more than 100 second graders to the science of soil. We began in small groups discussing who or what touches soil (earthworms, plants, seeds, water, farmers, groundhogs, frogs, etc.) and what each stakeholder’s needs might be. Then we collected soil samples from our raised beds and used test kits to determine the pH and the current levels of Potassium and Nitrogen. Where we found deficiencies, we mixed up targeted organic materials and worked them into the soil to prepare for our next planting. It was a fun day of scientific analysis and a great reminder that soil is so much more than meets the eye.