Can Plants Build Healthy Soil?

In part three of our series on regenerative principles for soil health our topic is: maintain living roots. The first couple of principles were: minimize soil disturbance and protect soil surface. The other two principles are: companion planting and animal integration.

Plants play an amazing role in healthy, living soil. It would require constant inputs on your part in order for soil life to thrive apart from plants, just as it would require constant inputs on your part in order for plants to thrive apart from soil life. The reason for this is because of the symbiotic relationship between plants and their microbiome.

Plants produce compounds such as sugars that they release through their roots to feed their preferred microbes. In exchange, the microbes respond to signals from the plants and work through the soil food web to bring nutrients and water to the plant according to the needs of the moment. Most nutrients that plants need are in most soils, but the microbes make them bioavailable to the plants.

If you plant in dead soil, you’re going to have mediocre results. Living soil is teeming with life that helps your plants thrive! Do you want living soil that’s always ready to spring into action whenever you want to plant your favorite edibles? Then maintain living roots for as much of the year as possible.

Succession planting is a great way to maintain living roots by replacing each plant with another as the first is harvested. You not only keep the soil alive by constantly feeding it, you also provide a steady supply of produce to feed the people you grow for. With living roots feeding the soil, it also improves water infiltration and retention.

What’s your next step?


Chris Stevens is the founder of Sabbatical Ranch and Resilient Agriscaping in the mountainous highlands of Arizona and is available for virtual consultations worldwide. Want to save enormous amounts of time and money instead of wasting it on trial and error? It all starts with an Initial Productivity Assessment & Consultation customized to your landscape.

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