Dirt is dead

By Dee Anne Downing

Hearing folks refer to “soil” as “dirt” affects me like fingernails on a chalkboard. Just to confess, I am a reformed “dirt” user.

Ask some organic farmers what they grow and they reply, “Soil”. “It’s the soil silly!” I said to myself, once I started figuring out that many of the problems we faced on our jobsites began in the soil. So now, instead of looking, say, at the insect infested canopies of trees and reacting with insecticides, I now look to the soil for direction.

Do you remember what healthy soil smells like? Next time you are near an undisturbed forest (and when no one is looking, of course), sneak behind a tree. Reach through the forest humus and scoop a bit of soil with your fingertips. Gently inhale. That is what all soil should smell like. That is life.

One handful of healthy, living soil contains hundreds of millions of beneficial bacteria, protozoa, fungi, centipedes and many more organisms that provide the foundation for everything that grows.

Bacteria, fungi and many insects are mostly friendly and it behooves us to work with them not against them.

How does this translate to you and your yard? Your job is to protect these beneficial organisms. Let them work for you.

1 Bare soil kills. Protect your soil from direct sun. You can do this
with almost any organic matter, like leaf litter, pinecones, straw and wood mulch.

2 Sustain soil moistness, not wetness.

3 Stop using conventional petrochemical-based pesticides
and fertilizers. This creates chemical dependence because they kill the beneficial organisms I mentioned earlier.

4 Roots and beneficial microbes need oxygen, so try not to step
into planting beds.

Creating abundance in your landscape and garden starts by creating abundance and diversity within your soil. Do everything you can to protect those little ones in the soil. They make up the “living” part of soil.

Dee Downing, Red Ant Works, Inc. is a licensed landscape contractor operating in Summit County for
17 years.
redant@xmission.com 435.640.5488

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