The theme of this year’s Earth Day is Restore Our Earth. Regenerating and rebuilding healthy soils is a key part of the work needed to restore biodiversity and fight climate change. It’s something everyone can get involved in and benefit from, starting right outside their back doors.
Garden soils are, or at least they should be, living ecosystems packed with microbial life, dead and decaying organic matter, earthworms, plant roots and fungi. In some gardens this isn’t the case. Over the years, digging and pesticide applications have taken their toll on the microbes essential to cycling carbon and soil nutrients. But this doesn’t have to be the end. With some simple techniques we can rebuild soils to produce rich, fertile ground to grow our plants in. And in a changing climate, with all the challenges that brings, we can grow more diverse and resilient gardens while at the same time helping to draw down some of the carbon from the atmosphere and lock it away beneath our feet.
Healthy soils are one of the most biologically diverse habitats on Earth. Just one teaspoon of soil can be home to more living organisms that the total number of people on the planet, one teaspoon! Protecting soils is more important than ever.
A study published a few years ago compared soil quality in the urban allotments of Leicester with that in the farmland surrounding the city. The allotment soils were found to have higher carbon and nitrogen content than agricultural land, suggesting that the techniques used by allotment holders to manage their plots were maintaining soil quality. The gardeners among you may well be thinking this study is stating the obvious – we’ve known for a long time that regular additions of organic matter, in the form of compost or well-rotted manure, are essential to keep soils in good heart. But the point is that the allotments in this study demonstrate there doesn’t need to be a trade-off between food production and the other ecosystem services a healthy soil offers… our gardens can be beautiful and productive, enhance local biodiversity and contribute to the fight against climate change. That may sound like a lot to ask from the small patch of land outside of your house, but when you multiply the impact across millions of gardens, the potential is enormous.
Find out more about Earth Day 2021 and get involved here.