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Updated: May 17, 2021




Your soil is the foundation of your garden and soil health is your most important asset. But sadly it is easy to get lost in the noise of too much information when it comes to improving your soil. Today, I am going to help you break through that noise and get straight to the facts about soil health! Let’s get Growing!!


What is Soil Health?

Soil Is Your Foundation


Soil is the foundation of every garden, every forest, every living thing on this planet. You can read all the gardening books, and study your property for that perfect location, but without good soil, you will have nothing. I know that sounds extreme, but it is the cold hard truth. Soil holds all the nutrients your plants need. The type of soil will tell what kind of plants you can grow, how much you will need to water, what kind of weeds you will be battling, your pest situation, and I could go on for another few pages. Soil is the most important part of your garden and how you treat it is the next most important part.


What I mean is that if you have great soil and add a bunch of unneeded fertilizer you will be hurting it and not helping the soil. And I will share with you the story of how I did this myself. Extra nitrogen will lock up vital nutrients from your plants. And on the other hand, if you have unhealthy soil and plant anyway, you will be wasting valuable time and money. In both cases, you may tell yourself I don’t have a green thumb and this gardening thing is just not for me. All of these troubles can be solved by understanding the fundamentals of your soil and also by understanding one great quote by Elliot Coleman.


“Almost any soil can be made productive for growing crops, the difference lies in the effort need to make it so.”


The Importance of Soil Health


I am sure, just like me, in the beginning, you feel that soil health is very important and that it's something you should be working hard to improve in your garden. But, you also feel frustrated because while trying to learn exactly what you should be doing you instead found just too much information to wrap your head around. There's so much varying information from different experts. One expert says that this thing is the most important thing to put in your soil and another expert says no don't listen to them it's this thing.

All of this indecision about what to use and who to follow and where to even begin, may make you feel like you are unqualified. That you need to get someone else, to tell you exactly how to fix your soil and that you can't do it yourself. But, I am here to prove you wrong.


You Are Your Own Expert


The reason those experts say different things and their exact ideas do not match up is that every single one of them is growing in a different situation. How can they possibly give the same advice when they are not looking at the same problem? And why does what the experts say not match with what your garden needs? That is because they're not growing in your garden. They are not looking at exactly what you are dealing with. That single fact doesn't make them an expert on your soil. It makes you an expert on your soil! Let me explain.


My Soil Story

My Soil Story


When I started building my garden, over 17 years ago, I did exactly that. I played the amendment guessing game. I knew deep in my heart with all this beautiful produce that I was pulling out of my garden, that the soil was using up nutrients quickly; I had no idea what I should be doing. I began to do research and just like you, I became lost in the overwhelm of too much information. I was also very hesitant about doing a soil test because it felt too hard. I thought a soil test would just add more information to an already too tall pile of information. I also felt a soil test was something an expert would do and I wasn’t an expert. But, I want you to see that when I started adding things to my soil it was not because I found out what my soil needed. But, I instead went off the new fad or what the experts were saying. I would read what one expert did and add that to my soil and some years things did grow a little better. But, by the next spring, I was on to what the next expert said. I read and jumped into what he said or she said and added those things to my soil.


About 5 years later, I realized that I wasn't helping my soil in any way. I was actually locking up nutrients and my garden was beginning to suffer. It wasn’t until I pulled my head out of all the things others said and concentrated on what actually was in my soil that I started to see real results.


When I looked closer at what was really going on I realized that I had put the cart in front of the horse. I had added things to my soil that were not needed because they were already there. My misunderstanding of what my soil needed and even what soil health truly was is what made my garden suffer. That's why, I wrote a book titled, Dirt: Finding the Solution to Building Soil Health! I want to break through the noise of too much information and give it to you straight! I want to help you understand what soil health is, how it is measured, and how this simple understanding will give you all the tools needed to be the expert, I know you can be!






Difference Between Soil and Dirt


Before we can start breaking down what soil health is, I think, we need to look at the fundamentals. First, what's the difference between dirt and soil. Second, what is the definition of health? And, lastly, bring them together to define soil health and how it is measured.

Soil is alive, it contains living organisms such as worms, fungi, insects, bacteria, and organic matter. It supports life with its naturally occurring nutrients and minerals, making it a perfect plant medium. It is a complete and self-sustaining ecosystem that consists of sand, silt, clay, and organic matter that makes up the soil type. The different sizes of particles create texture and structure which help with aeration and drainage.

When soil is lacking these things, then it is called dirt. Dirt is just something that doesn't quite support life because it doesn't contain life. Soil both contains and produces life. Dirt is made up of sand, silt, and clay and it may have some nutrients but it doesn't have the minerals, nutrients, or living organisms found in soil. It's not an organized ecosystem. There's no organic matter, humus, worms, or fungi and, as a result, dirt is more susceptible to runoff and erosion.

There are five factors that are important when it comes to soil formation: we have climate, microorganisms, landscape, parent material, and time. So you need to understand when you are looking at your soil, you and your garden are unique. You are the cultivator of this small little place that God made different than anywhere else in the world.


You Can’t Compare


With that said, You can not compare your soil to someone else's! You are dealing with a different climate or growing zone and different microorganisms because your soil type might be different. You will have a different landscape. I grow on a hill or slope. And you will have different soil types, my parent material is mostly clay. And as for time, I'm going to explain more about that in a moment.

Once I got over the fear of not being an expert. I did do a soil test. This soil test taught me so many new things about my soil that no other expert could tell me. I then used this information with other observations I was making in my garden. I have another story to share with you about how you can only be the expert of your own soil.


My Tomato Story

My Tomato Story


For the last few years, I have been dealing with blossom end rot in my tomatoes. I am sure you know that blossom end rot is caused by a lack of calcium. Tomatoes are full of calcium and the very tip of the tomatoes is where it is stored. So when a plant doesn't have the proper amounts of calcium this portion of the tomato does not develop right and thus rots. Now, to try to solve this problem I have done everything in my power to add calcium to my soil. I have placed eggshells in the holes before I planted my tomato plants. I have sprayed my tomato plant leaves with Calcium Bicarbonate in hopes that it would be more quickly absorbed. I have even diluted milk and poured it at the base of all my tomato plants. All of these things did not work.

Another cause of blossom end rot is sporadic watering. Plants need a constant soil sludge to adsorb micronutrients and watering is what makes this sludge. The theory is that if you water too infrequently the sludge is not always available for the plant to absorb the calcium it needs. So, I put my watering on a strict schedule and because my tomatoes are grown in my mobile greenhouse I could do this because the rain was not an issue. But that didn’t even work!

In fact, this year when I tried all of these things and I had no success. It wasn't until I went back and looked at my soil test and realized something. My soil test told me my soil had plenty of calcium and that everything I was doing wasn't working because of something else that was lacking in my soil. Now, remember plants can survive and even produce fruit when there is an imbalance of nutrients. The problem is that fruit can suffer if there is not a balance, aka Blossom End Rot.


My tomatoes were suffering from a calcium deficiency, not from the soil but because another nutrient was not being met so the plants didn’t have the ability to gather all they needed.

When I looked deeper at my soil test I found the key for my tomato plants was nitrogen. Because my tomato plants were lacking nitrogen all they could do was stare at the calcium sitting in the soil. Nitrogen is one of the big three when it comes to nutrients. Life just does not function well without it. So, as a result, once I started spraying my tomatoes with natural fish poop, that is high in nitrogen, the blossom end rot disappeared. All the fruit that developed after my change in tactics was beautiful.


Now that we understand what the differences are between dirt and soil. We can look at more definitions of health.


What Is Health


Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.


What is Soil Health


So, if we combine those two definitions then soil health is the state of the soil being in sound physical, chemical and biological condition, having the capacity to sustain the growth and development of plants.


What Is Soil Health?

How Is Soil Heath Measured?


There is a little bit of controversy between scientists as to how soil health should be measured. Some believe it's the things that the soil produces, like our tomatoes in our vegetable gardens. Do they produce a lot of tomatoes or does the plant grow tall but have very little fruit?

The other way is by looking at the organisms in the soil. What are they doing? Are they multiplying? Are they struggling to live? Are they breaking down the nutrients in the soil and making it readily available for the plant?


But some, like myself, believe that is a combination of both.


We have to look at the soil as a whole. We have to look at the soil organisms and how they're doing as well as what the soil is producing.


Another reason soil health is so controversial is that every area's soil is going to be different. They can’t compare the soil health of the Amazon to your backyard. It would be like comparing the health of a 90-year-old man to the health of a 15-year-old boy. They're going to be different and there's no way we can measure one against the other. Because a 90-year-old man is not going to be able to do what a healthy 15-year-old is going to do. We have to look at them differently. The same with your soil. If your garden has just been developed it is going to be in a different stage of life than a garden that has been nurtured for the past 15 years. So there are so many different aspects to measuring soil health but the most important thing you need to focus on.


Recap


Your soil is the foundation of your gardener, your homestead, and your healthy family. All the food you eat from chicken to asparagus depends on the soil to grow.


You have to be the expert of your own soil. And you as that expert can learn more about what others are doing in their gardens but you have to remember that what they did may not work in your garden. And you have to take the information from your soil and what your garden is telling you before you implement any new ideas or amendments.


Soil is a living organism. And soil health can be measured in two ways, by what your soil produces and the activity of the microorganisms in your soil.


And remember what Elliot Colemen said, “Almost any soil can be made productive for growing crops, the difference lies in the effort needed to make it so.”


Thank you for joining the journey, Pray, Just Plant!


Soil Is Your Foundation 00:48

The Importance of Soil Health 03:08

You Are Your Own Expert 04:20

My Soil Story 04:56

Tips and Tricks- Turning Your Compost Pile 09:11

Difference Between Soil and Dirt 10:12

You Can't Compare 12:12

My Tomato Story 13:47

Growing With God- Psalms 56:3-4- 18:18

What Is Health 19:56

What Is Soil Health 20:57

How Is Soil Health Measured 21:13

Recap 24:22


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