Current events have gotten people thinking about growing their own food to increase their resilience. At SymSoil we believe that investing in soil health is a way to reap benefits now and to sustain those benefits into the future. Healthy soil is alive with microorganisms that cycle nutrients and water to benefit plant life and, by extension, us. The name of the game is increasing the number and type of beneficial microorganisms in the soil and providing them a good home. A diversity of soil lifeforms increases the resilience of the system.
Here are eight actions you can take to improve the health of your soil now and for the long term. Check out the full webinar replay “Rapid Soil Building for Emergencies and Beyond,” for more in depth explanations on these topics from experts Peter Hirst, Director of Co-Product Development at SymSoil; Cuauhtomec Landeros, Vice President Science & Operations at SymSoil; and Brian Vagg, Soil Biology Consultant at Sprouting Soil.
1. Add organic matter. Whether you use purchased or homemade compost, this soil amendment increases soil water holding capacity and provides food for important soil microorganisms. These organisms, as a complete community are known as Soil Food Web, or the Soil Microbe Biome.
2. Apply biologically complete compost. Bacteria, Archaea, Fungi, Amoeba, Flagellates, Nematodes and Microarthropods all play unique rolls in maintaining fertile soil that nurtures plants. Elsewhere on this site, you can read about each of these 7 types of life. Most commercially available composts contain primarily organic matter and have few microorganisms. Using an amendment like SymSoil Robust Compost or SymSoil V50 that contains a wide array of microorganisms enhances or re-seed your soil’s microbe biome with the full range of life needed to feed the plants (AKA nutrient cycling).
3. Apply compost extract. Compost extract can be made at home with simple supplies like a plastic bucket and a nylon sock. Used as a soil drench, it’s another way to introduce beneficial microorganisms into your soil system. Be sure you start with compost that has a full range of biology. Check out the webinar replay for more details.
4. Incorporate biochar. Biochar is a type of charcoal used as a soil amendment to provide “housing” for microorganisms and to catalyze their metabolic activites. According to SymSoil’s Peter Hirst, “You can [make biochar] yourself at home with any burn that you’re currently doing in your fireplace, in your backyard fire pit, in your chiminea, in your Weber grill,” by building a top lit fire. Check out Peter’s recent presentation for more details on the DIY approach.
The Local Carbon Network, an initiative of All Power Labs, has high quality biochar for purchase. Note that raw biochar speeds up and enhances compost, but biochar MUST be conditioned before adding it to a garden or farm field. If it is not conditioned through a composting or other process, it out compete the plants for nutrients and resources, often killing the plants.
5. Keep soil covered. “One of the most detrimental sources of [soil] compaction comes from rain,” said Brian Vagg in his webinar presentation. Compaction reduces the amount of airspace and hence, aeration, required for healthy soil and plants. Using a “green” (a.k.a. living) mulch like a cover crop, or a “brown” mulch like wood chips or straw, cushions the impact of rain, among other benefits.
6. Minimize tilling. Turning over and mixing the soil breaks fungal hyphae and destroys the aggregated soil structure so important for nutrient and water flow through the system. You may need to do some digging to set up your garden, but after that, let biology work to form those aggregates!
7. Grow a diversity of crops. Having many different types of plant roots in the soil promotes a more diverse array of soil life. This includes both plants grown as cover crops as well as for food!
8. Reduce the use of chemical inputs. Many fertilizers and pesticides can negatively impact the natural connections between the beneficial life forms that would otherwise work together to deter pathogens. Only using chemical inputs as a last resort allows the ecosystem in your garden to become more resilient and self-sustaining.
About SymSoil® Inc.
SymSoil is a soil health company with products and services for regenerative agriculture. We have a science team with 35 years of experience in the area of soil health and are focused on solutions to growers problems based upon a deep understanding of the complete soil microbe biome. The biocomplete soil food web provides the right food to the plant roots, improving plant health, and making food more nutrient dense and flavorful, the way nature intended.
SymSoil has products and services for growers using regenerative agriculture methodologies which improve profitability. Its flagship product, SymSoil® RC (Robust Compost) is a complex community of soil microbes, which includes in excess of 1,000 species, covering broad biodiversity of bacteria, fungi, amoebae, and other protozoa, beneficial nematodes and microarthropods. SymSoil was named one of 2019’s AgTech Companies to Watch. Accredited Investors can learn more about SymSoil as an impact investment here.