D. Lopez, This Week in the Garden | A few dirty tricks 

Healthy soil equals a healthy productive land. The issue of soil, it turns out, is everyone’s business whether you are a gardener or not.

The treatment of soil is mostly overlooked on a daily basis. Gardners, its time we lead the way by educating others. Here are some thoughts.

“Soil extinction is not just another ecological challenge. It is an existential threat. If we do the right things now, we can significantly turn this situation around and regenerate the soil in the next 15-25 years,” insists Sadhguru, global leader of Save the Soil Organization. In his toolkit he provides supporters with fast facts to push for change. For example, one teaspoon of soil contains more living organisms than there are people in the world. And, 95% of the food we eat comes from the soil. Good reasons to examine our habits.

On the micro level, an individual can change up a few things that will have helpful outcomes.  Remember if you change only one thing, it can add up over the course of a year. Every year of  adding new habits can be an act of creating a more elegant and health-conscious lifestyle.

Reduce plastics. Plastic is a currently indestructible substance; it is not as recyclable as was first promised. It shows up in the soil, in the bloodstreams of humans, in insects and oceans. Support companies that use glass bottles and cardboard packaging.

Hang on to your leaf litter. Leaf litter is not only a shelter for critters, its the best mulch, insulator and root protector for your plants. Relocate it to another area of the garden, if you  have a patch of lawn you want to showcase. Leaf litter has many nutrients and organisms. It will decompose well with direct soil contact.

Gopher dirt is gold. When the gopher brings up lower level soil, the mound dirt can be used to  create a microbe plug somewhere else. For example, if there is poor drainage in one area of the  garden, I will create a hole and plug with the gopher’s loose dirt. No poisons or other offensive  tactics are used against the gophers. I have been known to put an upside down wine bottle  into the hole and tap on it. The gopher wont return for awhile. Should the gopher dig too close  to a plant, look out for curly leaf symptoms, air has entered a chamber close to the root ball. Packing the hole with milled dirt will heal it.

Deep irrigation. Watering from the top layer of soil can produce an undesirable situation in  summer months. The soil will want to create a crust with heat. Emulating a light rain early  morning or early evening will keep moisture longer. Clay water-stakes or clay underground oyas  disturb the soil the least.

California plants that grow in clay soil: Wild lilac, Yarrow, California poppy, Pink honeysuckle,  Penstemon heterophyllus, Showy penstemon, Coyote mint, Arroyo lupine, Coffeeberry, California redbud, California sagebrush, California fuchsia, Toyon, California buckeye, California buckwheat, Narrowleaf milkweed, Oregon grape, Creek dogwood, Blueblossom, California flannelbush, and Coyote brush to name a few.

Composting and worm bins. Fellow gardeners can be generous. Consider old fashioned trades of lemons for worms if you don’t currently have a system set up. In some areas food  composting is now allowed in your weekly green bin service. If purchasing soil amendments,  stick with organic preparations such as sphagnum peat, wood chips, grass clippings, straw, compost, manure, biosolids, sawdust and wood ash. Avoid lime, vermiculite, perlite, pea gravel  and sand.

Drive less. According to science magazine “How Stuff Works,” there are about 2.7 million miles  of paved roads in the U.S. of which 94% is covered with asphalt. Asphalt is the residual waste  product of processed oil. Asphalt raises heat temperatures, and releases fumes along with cars. Plan outings more efficiently with fewer errands per day, per week and per month. All these fumes eventually settle affecting air, water and soil.

Stay on the trail. When you see signs on your hikes and cycle paths, please abide. Restoration  work can take years. Some plants propagate by spore systems and are fragile when first  emerging. In my forest garden we leave fallen limbs for consciously decomposing matter on  the forest floor. Plants make their own compost.

Finally, soil degradation is a natural process but has been accelerated by human activity. Farming processes, deforestation, animal grazing, intensive cultivation, pollution and  construction work. It is top soil that provides most of the nutrition for bacteria and fungi to  bring fertility. We humans are over manipulating this layer adversely. According to Andy Lopez, aka The Invisible Gardner, there is a remedy. As a teacher, consultant and member of various  boards in horticulture, he has solutions and products as part of his life work at www.invisiblegardener.com.

A few dirty tricks worth examining.

Contributed by local news sources

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