How Nature Builds Soil, and You Can Too!

red-wigglers-in-compostWhen I study how nature builds its soil, here’s what I see.

In the fall, trees drop their leaves to the ground.  As they accumulate, different organisms go to work breaking them down including worms, nematodes, beetles, bacteria, fungi, and more.  Old branches fall from trees to the ground.  Fungi goes to work breaking these down, along with beetles, and other critters.  Birds, squirrels and other creatures sitting on branches drop their waste on top of this all adding a nitrogen component.  Other animals leave their waste to break down.  All of this goes into building fertile soil for the offspring of these trees and other plants to grow in.

Humans, on the other hand, go to great lengths sometimes to build soil,  making compost, adding amendments and fertilizers, tilling, turning, forking…you name it.  We work hard to build our soil while nature has a whole team of soil builders in place to do the work easily.  Why do we work so hard to do this?

What if, we just followed nature’s lead to build our soil.  How would we go about duplicating that?  Here’s how I would do it in my garden beds.

First, in the fall, I would gather as many fallen leaves as I could.  Then, I would run them over with my lawn mower to mulch them into finer pieces.  I’d gather a little farm animal poop from a local farm or neighbor with these types of animals.  A cow, goat, sheep, horse, donkey, llama, whatever. Then, if my beds didn’t already have them, I would inject them with some red wiggler worms from my worm bin. Next, I would take some of that manure and mulched leaves and lay it on top of the beds about 6′ or so deep. Then I would wet it down good and wait for nature to go to work.  The worms would start coming to the surface at night to grab the organic matter and start breaking it down.  This breakdown would continue throughout the fall and early spring seasons, so by the time the spring planting season came, most of it would be broken down into nice fertile soil, full of nutrients including nitrogen, worm castings, and other goodies to make your plants thrive.  I could also add into the mix all of my kitchen scraps to give my worms some treats.

Building soil nature’s way sounds like a great idea.  I think I’ll try it this fall and see what happens.  I’ll let you know how it turns out!