Building healthy soil using eco-logical approaches, we get off the treadmill of applying minerals, fertilisers, compost and other organic inputs (although they can help get us started). Instead, we design our gardens and farms so we can rely on the inputs from organic materials produced by our plants, livestock and other living organisms.

Most soils in our farms and gardens don’t show the customary signs of soil degradation – erosion and compaction. But we struggle to grow strong, pest and disease resistant plants and nutrient-dense food. And have trouble growing anything when the weather turns bad!

Photo man diggingThese problems are symptoms of soil that is not in good working order.

To provide the ecological services crucial for growing vigorous plants and food providing lots of nutrients we need functioning soil ecosystems. [1][2] Healthy soil is essentially soil with a functioning ecosystem.[3]

Our soil ecosystems have not been in good working order for so long that we’ve largely forgotten about the FREE ecological services they naturally provide.[3] We cultivate the soil and apply compost and other organic inputs as substitutes for these ecological services. As the underlying problems have mounted up, our costs have increased, and we are more likely to get problems from pests, disease, flood, drought and other extreme weather.

How did we get into this Predicament…?

… By designing our gardens and farms to maximise 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!

Our soil organisms haven’t been resourced to do the work for which they have had billions of years of on-the-job training!

Not much plant biomass growing here to feed the soil organisms

And how do we get out…?

The solution… is simple. It’s eco-logical! Giving our soil organisms a better diet.

Design your garden or farm to provide a generous, diverse and preferably consistent food supply to your soil organisms. Then you can rely on the inputs of organic materials produced by your plants, livestock and other living organisms. And get off the treadmill of substituting with never-ending, back-breaking and time-consuming applications of mulch, compost and other organic inputs.

Many different techniques are available, and you can develop your own! The trick is using eco-logical principles to focus your effort on what will make a real difference and will work well for your circumstances. By this, I mean choosing the best regenerative practices for what you grow – veggies, fruit trees, cattle, or alpacas, and your climate, soil and other growing conditions.

One-size-fits-all solutions aren’t eco-logical!

Get everything you need to know on building healthy soil eco-logically with these publications from Learning from NatureFront cover Feed plants without Fertilisers

Front cover regenerative gardening

Front cover Ecological Farming Handbook

References

[1] Wendy Seabrook, 2019, Eco-logical Farming Handbook, Publ Learning from Nature

[2] Wendy Seabrook, 2019, Eco-logical Gardening Handbook, Publ Learning from Nature

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

Featured image © Wendy Seabrook

Image of barn © Markus Spiske

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