Welcome to the International Year of Soils.
On Dec. 5 last year, Jose Graziano de Silva, the director general for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization deemed 2015 to be the International Year of Soils.
When I learned this, I said to myself, “this is an opportunity that is too good to resist.”
You see, I learned many years ago that over 90 per cent of my success in the garden hinged on one thing: the quality of the soil that I plant in.
It goes without saying that my golden rule for a productive garden is, by extension, at the root of our success as a civilization.
To kick off this topic, here are some useful statistics.
Use them to show off your soil knowledge while gathered ‘round the water cooler on Monday morning:
– It takes up to 1,000 years for a centimetre (about half an inch) of new soil to be made naturally;
– 33 per cent of the worlds soils are ‘degraded’ due to our negligence and misuse;
– 805 million people suffer malnutrition worldwide;
– Projected population growth requires that agriculture increase productivity by 60 per cent;
– 95 per cent of all food comes from the soil (reminder: most of the animals that we use for human consumption feed on plant life);
– Over one third of our food is wasted and over one half of all of our household waste could be composted to produce new soil;
– There are more living organisms in one tablespoon of quality soil than there are humans on the face of the earth (over 7 billion);
– 2 hectares/4.9 acres of soil are sealed under expanding cities every minute worldwide
The director general referred to soils as the “nearly forgotten resource” and called for more investment in sustainable soil management.
Clearly we need to pay attention to how we use our soil.
The purpose of setting one year aside to celebrate and educate is to get us to stop and think about the meaning of life underground and what it means to us.
So what can we do of a meaningful nature that will make a difference? I have some suggestions:
- I know, most readers are using their green bins diligently and some (though not the majority) have a compost bin outdoors that actually gets filled from time to time. I urge you to take the activity of saving raw, green material, like food waste and fallen leaves, more seriously. The idea of composting went ‘mainstream’ over 20 years ago. But our fascination with the conversion of raw, natural material into usable soil by way of the compost bin has not overcome all of the objections to it. I urge you to learn more and help all of us to be more diligent about this. Details at www.compost.org
- Plant a row for the hungry. For over 20 years, members of the Garden Writers Association (of which I am one) have been preaching the need for fresh garden produce at all food banks. There is an appetite for all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and herbs at food banks across the country. The idea is a simple one. When you plant your garden this coming spring, be sure to expand the food production capacity of it to include more tomatoes, squash, carrots, peppers, and potatoes than you need to feed yourself and your family. Give the excess to your local food bank.
- Learn from farmers. Good farmers understand that they do not nurture plants so much as they foster good soil. The foundation of farming is to take good care of the soil and it will grow a great crop. To this end, they add generous quantities of naturally decomposed animal manures and ‘green crops’ to their land. They put back more nutrition than they take out. To do the reverse (take out more than you put into the soil) is what my farmer/brother-in-law calls ‘mining.
on The News
by Mark Cullen