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A Primer on Creating Soil

A PRIMER ON CREATING SOIL

Good agriculture depends on good soil. The problem over the past 10,000 years of our human attempt to live off the land (and especially during the last sixty years or so), is that crops take nutrients from the soil, and without proper husbandry, soil fertility will deplete. The “pseudo-solution” offered by the Green Revolution has been to import petroleum-based fertilizers to make up for our lack of stewardship of the soil´s fertility, though the negative effects and rampant unsustainability of that approach are well known.

Every agrarian culture around the world has developed their own systems for trying to maintain the balance between our human need for food and the soil´s need to be replenished. From “night soil” being applied to rice fields in China, to leaving large patches of land fallow to naturally recuperate, to actively incorporating animal manures, agrarian people have known that their livelihoods depend on the continued fertility of the land.

What follows are a few simple suggestions on how all of us can participate in the ongoing work of creating the fertile soil upon which all of our lives depend.

THE COMPOST PILE

The compost pile is a necessary part of every homestead and every garden. It is by far the easiest way to recycle kitchen scraps, grass clippings, leaf litter, and even your dog´s poop into rich, fertile soil that will add fertility and fecundity to every garden bed. Making compost is simply the process of providing the necessary conditions so that the millions of microscopic organisms can feast on your leftovers. Like lasagna gardening, it is basically the process of stacking up in layers a variety of different organic materials to allow them to decompose.

While there is no “recipe” for making compost, here are some general guidelines:

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