Healthy Soil Can Eat My Shorts

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Your mom told you to always told you to put on clean underwear in case you were in an accident (I never understood this because there's a good chance if you're in an accident that bad your gitch will be dirty afterwards anyway).

The Soil Conservation Council of Canada and other groups interested in soil health. want you to filth up your panties in a challenge they're calling "Soil Your Undies." The challenge is meant to check the health of your soil and is quite simple. You just get a pair of 100% cotton underwear (white briefs aka tighty-whities are the preferred type), take a before photo and bury them in your field, paddock or garden where you want to check your soil health.

Healthy soil contains a large mass of microbes, earthworms and other decomposer biology.

After 60 days you dig up the underwear and take an after photo and post both pics to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #SoilYourUndies.

In healthy soil with diverse biology there will be little left but elastic after the 60 day time period.

If we actively work to improve our soil using organic and "no-till" methods the rate of decomposition of the underwear should improve as well.

If your soil doesn't meet the challenge this year then you need to step up your regenerative methods before next year to increase soil fertility.

A few ways to improve your soil are:

  • Increase the soil organic matter by using compost or mulch.
  • Plant cover crops, root exudates from cover crops feed bacteria and fungi, bacteria feed nematodes, earthworms and protozoa. These in turn increase levels of plant available nutrients, in particular nitrogen.
  • Don't till or plough your soil. In nature dead plants and animals fall on the surface to decompose and feed the soil biology- we should emulate nature for the best results.
  • Avoid using synthetic fertilizers- these are salts and dehydrate soil biology and can even prevent efficient water uptake by plant roots if over applied.
  • Start now learning to compost and/or vermicompost. Healthy compost contains an astonishing number and diversity of microbial life.
  • Long term soil fertility is the result of constant decomposition and recycling of "dead stuff." In nature soil is never bare. Forests drop leaves, branches and dead animals to be recycled, in grasslands stalks and stems die, fall to the ground and a new generation grows through the old. Where we farm or garden and remove crops and "waste" we must replace the organic matter consistently. Leaves, grass clippings, garden waste, food scraps, spent brewery grains, wood chips and coffee grounds are just a few readily available materials that can be composted and returned to the earth to promote and sustain soil fertility and health.

Larry Shier