The Earth has a thin outermost layer or skin and that skin is soil! Whether just inches thick or a few feet thick, soil functions to keep the planet in balance. Furthermore, it is amazing substance--a complex mix of minerals, air, water, countless organisms and decaying remains of once-living things. To say soil is the foundation of life is an understatement. Soil has a profound importance for human life. Soil supports communities of living things, it helps farmers grow crops, it creates a foundation for our buildings and hold clues to past cultures. And believe it or not, healthy soil is alive. There are more micro-organisms in one teaspoon of soil than all of the people on earth. They may be tiny, but the organisms in healthy soil help filter contaminants and provide food for other organisms.
Healthy soil can also help clean our surface waters. This may seem counter-intuitive, especially knowing that sediment is the #1 pollutant of our waterways. Healthy soil, which is permeable and filled with beneficial organisms, has the ability to filter and clean water. Unfortunately, our urban soils are heavily compacted and in great need of regeneration. Rain water quickly rolls across the landscape, picking up pollutants along the way and carries those pollutants into local streams and Lake Erie without being treated. Healthy soil, which is more porous and loaded with beneficial organisms, allows water to percolate and helps filter out nasty contaminants.
So think about it this way: rebuilding our soils is a sustainable practice that is necessary. Healthy soils will be useful in filtering many of these potentially harmful substances, in addition to supporting plant and animal life and helping to clean the air we breathe--so many benefits from something that is always right below our feet.
Learn more about what you can do to rebuild your soil. Start by reusing those kitchen scraps for compost. Add mulch to your garden each fall. Consider more sustainable native plant species and cover crops that make the soil more porous. Join us as we celebrate the International Year of Soils, which is a perfect lead in to Sustainable Cleveland’s Year of Clean Water.
Do you want to be more soil conscious? Check out Symphony of the Soil. This is an artistic exploration of soil that will help you to better understand the relationships and mutuality between soil, water, the atmosphere, plants and animals. It was produced the by Deborah Koons Garcia, wife of the late Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. Click on www.symphonyofthesoil.com for more information. You will also find a wealth of information on Soil Health Awareness at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov.