Does Your Soil Need Protection?
This article is the second in a five-part series on regenerative principles for soil health. The first principle that we talked about is: minimize soil disturbance. Today’s principle is: protect soil surface. The other principles we’ll cover are: maintain living roots, companion planting, and animal integration.
Plants thrive in living soil. If you want to grow healthy plants, you must grow healthy soil life. One handful of living soil has more living organisms than all the people on earth! Most soil creatures are microscopic, but other beneficial organisms are bigger (eg. earthworms). All living organisms have some basic needs similar to ours: food, water, and shelter.
Any number of things can harm soil life. For example scorching sun can kill, wind erosion can carry it away, torrential rain can both compact it and wash it away, and excessive weight (eg. walking on it) can compact it and destroy structure. There’s other things that can destroy soil life, but you get the idea.
Proper bed design with clear trails and distinct beds is a good place to start protecting your soil. That way nobody is tempted to step in it. You also want the soil life in your planting beds sheltered all year round. The two best ways to do this is with mulch and plants.
Mulching with material that was once alive is ideal because that material will break down over time, feeding your soil life. Straw is a popular choice. So are wood chips, which don’t break down quite as fast. Compost can also be used. Really, pretty much any organic material works as long as it doesn’t have chemicals in it that will kill soil life.
Plants and soil life were made for each other! They have an amazing symbiotic relationship that we’ll talk more about in this series. But on this topic, plant leaves provide helpful shelter from the elements for all of the life underneath them. They are an ideal way to protect your soil.
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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