Love soil that gives life

One of the participants at the Thrive composting workshop, Joy Hudson, adding the dry brown leaf layer to the compost pile at the Hout Bay International School.


Man is an end in himself, so is the soil an end in itself.

It is extraordinary to realise that we are “soil” – we come from dust and we go back to dust, our hearts, minds and bodies are made from that dust. Some people mistakenly call it “dirt”. How little they hold themselves in esteem.

It is, therefore, of considerable importance to care for the soil – it is life. If you work the soil, you get “superfoods” for free.

A fertile soil resembles a fruit cake with a lots of different ingredients. It consists of particles of clay, silt and sand (about 45 percent mineral content), around 25 percent air, 25 percent water and the remaining 5 percent is made up of organic matter – dead plant and animal remains, fauna and flora (including root systems and earthworms) and legions of bacteria and fungi. These latter organisms make up the microbiome of the soil. The more microbes there are in the soil the better it is for the health of the plant, and therefore your health.

As with all living organisms, they need food, water and air to keep them alive. They get their food from organic matter which is put into the soil, by whatever means possible.

The more you feed the soil, the more fertile it gets, the yields of nutritious, mineral-rich foods are higher and we all gain from that.

So what do you feed the soil with? All the bio-degradable waste from your home and community. Paper, cardboard, peelings, pot scrapings, wood ash, old flowers, lawn clippings, dry leaves (it’s autumn now), eggshells, feathers, bones, sawdust, manure from chickens, horses, seaweed, fish waste and so on. Microbes eat these foods and produce a mass of jelly-like humus which has some amazing properties.

Humus help to hold water in the soil, holds the nutrients and slowly releases them when the plants require them. Slow-release fertilisers, they are.

These same microbes help to protect plants against pathogens, stimulate growth and improve soil structure. You may not be aware that your gut microbiome is the same as the microbiome of the soil. Eating soil from your garden may not be so bad for you after all – you are replacing the microbes in your gut with those from the soil. Human faeces consist largely of dead bacteria.

We are changing the world one garden and one person at a time. We are changing the soil in which people grow their food, teaching them how to eat the food they plant while it is fresh, raw, mineral-rich and nutritious. Our soil plays a major role in the great web of life on earth, let love and look after it well.