By building healthy soil using eco-logical approaches, we can stop applying mulch, compost, and other organic and biological fertilisers, although these inputs can help us get started. We alter how we manage our gardens and farms to rely on natural inputs. These are organic materials produced right where we need them by our plants, livestock, and other living organisms.

While most soils don’t show the customary signs of soil degradation – erosion and compaction, we still struggle to grow strong, pest and disease-resistant plants and nutrient-dense food. And when the weather turns bad we have trouble growing anything at all!

Our soils are not in good working order. We need functioning soil ecosystems to grow robust plants that yield wholesome food. Healthy soil is essentially soil with a functioning ecosystem.[1][2]

Diagram of a soil ecosystem - Learning from Nature

How did we loose our Healthy Soil?

Our soil ecosystems have fallen into disrepair because, by maximising plant growth for human and livestock consumption, our soil organisms have had a lousy catering service. The menu has been limited, portions small, and the service unreliable! We’ve deprived the microbes and other soil organisms that manage and operate our soil ecosystem of the food supplies needed to do the work for which they have had billions of years of on-the-job training!

Photo showing how not to build healthy soil

Not much growing here to feed the Soil Organisms

What’s the Solution?

The solution is straightforward because it’s eco-logical!

  1. Instead of depending on mulch, compost and biological fertilisers and minerals, we use them initially to tackle deficiencies that may otherwise limit plant growth.[3]
  2. We manage our veggie gardens, orchards and fields to grow an abundance of plants and use livestock of all shapes and sizes to help recycle the wealth of plant biomass in our soils to supply our soil organisms with a generous diet – root tissues, root exudates, and organic waste materials (ie. leaves, other plant tissues, animal remains, and manure).
  3. We grow a diversity of plants to diversify our community of soil organisms and for as much of the year as possible to supply our soil organisms with a consistent food supply.

Our plants get five-star catering directly from our soil ecosystem rather than via intermittent and often inadequate inputs supplied by us. We grow healthy plants less vulnerable to pests and diseases, and wholesome food for us, and our livestock! We can leave our spades and tractors in the shed, giving the job of making good soil structure to the experts – our soil organisms!

Lots growing here to feed Soil Organisms

There are many different ways to do this. The trick is using regenerative practices that work well for your climate, other growing conditions and what you grow.

Support with Building Healthy Soil

Watch the Learning from Nature video on building healthy soil –

Thumbnail for video on building healthy soil

Recommended articles –

  1. What is Healthy Soil?
  2. Compost and Biological Fertilisers – Are they Regenerative?
  3. Grow Food – Eco-logically
  4. Principles of Regenerative AgricultureClick here to watch video

Get practical advice to repair your soil ecosystem –

Front cover Gardeners Build Healthy Soil
Front cover Farmers Build Healthy Soil

References – How to Build Healthy Soil

[1] Wendy Seabrook, 2021, What is Healthy Soil, Learning from Nature

[2] Wendy Seabrook, Growing Nutritious Food Requires Functioning Soil Ecosystems, Learning from Nature (

[3] Wendy Seabrook, 2022, Compost and Biological Fertilisers – Are they Regenerative Learning from Nature

Featured image © Wendy Seabrook

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