Garden Soil

by Carolyn Allen

"It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it..." Don't you love the wisdom that lurks in folk sayings?

So just what IS dirt's job? We know that it holds moisture and nutrients and provides a structure for roots to support plants. And it is also home to insects and even some vertebrates in various stages of their lives.

But what is dirt's role in our atmosphere?

Thanks to Amy Kaplan, author of "Web Women"...who has been spending just way too much time digging in her garden recently...:-) we now have the lowdown on dirt.

Ohio State University has concluded that tilling and cultivating dirt in fields and gardens...and construction sites, etc. is actually a bigger factor in global warming than emissions from cars and industry.

Soil contains massive amounts of carbon, and messing with it causes excessive aeration and heating...and speeds up the breakdown of organic matter -- which in turn, releases carbon from the soil as carbon dioxide.

The simple solution...leave those fall leaves where they lay! A blanket of composting material on the soil surface keeps the carbon in the soil where it can be recycled into new plants. Mulching has made sense for a long it provides you with a ground-level oppportunity for taking life easy!

Pile on the shredded bark, the leaves, tree trimmings and expired flower and vegetable plants that fill up your garbage can and landfill. Use a chipper-shredder, or your lawn mower...or well- sharpened pruning shears to cut that treasure of life down to bite size!

Mulch has a bit of science to it...but it's not hard to learn. It takes more interest, patience and frugality than anything else. And the result is that you have fewer weeds growing between your prize plants; the soil stays 10 to 15 degrees cooler, you keep carbon in the soil to fertilize your plants... It also decomposes slowly to provide time-released organic fertilizers for our plants at the same time it loosens the soil by increasing the humus content in the soil layer.

Carolyn Allen is a Backyard Naturalist. You can reach her at Visit her web site "" at or subscribe by sending email to:

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