Soil Health

Soil is our greatest garden asset

An article in The Conversation highlights the importance of soils, (More than half of life on Earth is found in soil – here’s why that’s important, published: August 17, 2023)

While we patiently wait for more wildlife to come to our garden most of us don't realise that the soil we stand on is home to more wildlife than we can imagine. 

"A recent study has found that soil is home to 59% of all life on Earth, from an insect feeding on the soil surface to a tiny microbe nestled in a soil pore. This discovery crowns soil as the most biodiverse habitat on the planet.

The paper estimates that around 2 million species of arthropod (think insects and spiders) inhabit the soil – some 30% of all known arthropod species. There are far fewer species of soil specialists such as enchytraeidae (resembling mini earthworms) and oligochaeta (worms), with only 770 and 6,000 species respectively. That might not seem like a lot, but it still represents around 98% and 63% of these animal groups.

The variety of mammals living in soil is, by comparison, quite limited. Only 3.8% of mammal species are associated with this habitat. On the other hand, 85% of plants have their roots buried in the soil and around 43% of nematode (tiny worms) species call soil their home, or reside within the plants and animals that inhabit it.

However, the number of animal and plant species that live in soil are dwarfed by microscopic organisms. The researchers estimate that a mind-blowing 430 million species (or more than 50%) of bacteria and 5.6 million species (or 90%) of fungi have made soil their home."

Looking after the soil we have and adding compost and other organic matter will increase our success rate in the garden. Try to avoid buying in soil unless you really trust the supplier. It is easy to bring in weeds and other pathogens. One gardener we have visited ended up with soil that wouldn't grow a successful lawn others have been left to deal with years of trynig to remove oxalis, a weed with persistant bulbils that is hard to remove completely.

To protect our soil avoid compaction by parking on the lawn, avoid spraying chemicals as they not only kill pests they also kill or dmage the good guys. Don't sufficate the soil by using artificial grass instead of real grass or groundcovers and mow on the highest setting in summer to keep the lawn green to protect the soil.

More information

Here is a presentation  provided to Blackwood & Barry' s Reef Landcare Group, by Frank Carland, in February 2023.  We thank Frank for providing us this imformation to share with you. This presentaiton was funded by a community grant from Morrabool Council in 2022.   Soil Health presentation