Soil is the base for all plants and trees. It is also the home of a rich and secret underground life.
So we need to take care of it. Here are the main two reasons why trees need a healthy soil:
– to grow roots easily
– to be able to thrive in good conditions.
In this blog post, we will share what are the key elements to prepare a good soil for your Miyawaki mini-forest.
The insight of Terra Preta
“Terra Preta” is a black dark soil from the Amazonian forest. It is extremely fertile and was developed by native tribes. It is usually surrounded by infertile soils. It shows that this healthy soil is the fruit of human activity.
It is believed to have been developed between -2800 and 500. By civilizations before Christopher Columbus.
The analysis shows remarkable content of:
– organic material
– pottery parts
It has a high carbon content and a high activity of microorganisms. It is a gold resource due to its incredible fertility.
Apparently the native tribes cleared some patches of land there by burning some parts of the forest. And then use this land as a dumpyard, putting all their organic waste on that specific spot.
It is a source of inspiration for us in the preparation of the soil of our Miyawaki mini-forests but with different means :).
The goal is to get a dark, healthy soil like this for our trees to grow well.
What makes a good soil?
To grow plants in a healthy way, you need a dark, smooth, loose soil.
The good indicator is the dark topsoil that can be found in a primary forest: humus.
A good soil has:
– a high content of organic material, to support soil activity
– a high porosity (high percentage of void), it is not compact and allows air to circulate
– a good capacity to retain water, to keep moisture and avoid erosion or water runoff.
With these basics set in place, you may get an incredible soil life with microorganisms, fungi and hard-working earthworms! As explained in a next part, earthworms will provide a positive feedback loop thanks to their galleries, making your soil airy.
In terms of percentage organic material, the color of your soil is a good indicator. To make it simple: the darker your soil is, the better it is!
All of this is needed for our plants to grow well.
C, N, P, K ? What is that?
These are main elements that you need in your soil to get a healthy growth of your plants.
– C is Carbon: nourishes the life of the soil, as a source of energy.
– N is Nitrogen: makes plants grow, in particular with healthy leaves.
– P is Phosphorus: promotes the development of the root system and regulates flowering and fruit processes.
– K is Potassium: plays a role in the regulation of the vital functions for strong plants.
But, in a 80/20 Pareto effort, if there is only 1 thing to focus on, it is the Carbon! First we should focus on charging our soil with organic matter to increase the content of Carbon.
Carbon is good for us!
When it’s in the ground, not in the air…
As CO2 in the air, we know it has a dramatic effect on climate change. So we need to pay more attention to the sources. But also to the potential sinks of carbon to mitigate it.
Soil is the second largest carbon sink in the world, just after the ocean. Plants, trees, forests and other living organisms capture carbon. Then they transfer it to the soil.
Now here comes the good part!
Carbon is the building block of all known life forms. It is used as an energy source by organisms involved in the decomposition and mineralization of organic matter.
Carbon is a central element of soil fertility.
So it could clearly be a win-win deal.
By restoring more vegetation where possible, we could balance the carbon cycle and:
1) remove more carbon from the atmosphere
2) recreate healthy soils and secure local food chains
The tree/soil system seems to be very effective in this effort. From now on we need to reduce our carbon burn rate. And think how much more useful carbon is to enrich our soil.
So let’s keep the carbon in the ground and not in the air, for a healthy future!
Soil is made from 3 major components. There is a simple way, with your hand, to define the main element:
– if it is crunhy, it is sand – if it is soft, it is silt – if it sticks, with the possibility to mark a fingerprint in it, it is clay.
Based on that, you will know the feature of your soil and define what to add in your soil for water retention and perforation of the roots.
We also add humic amendments such as dried manure, mulch or raw plant residues to increase the organic matter content to feed our soil life. We share it with fauna and micro-organisms for their mineralisation work.
On our site inspection, this is always the big question: have we succeeded in reproducing Nature’s healthy soil?
And when the answer is YES, you can feel it when you step on it. It is a soft and humid ground.
Like you might experience in a jungle.
Under the thick layer of mulch, you discover a dark topsoil, full of life.
The organic materials brought back the necessary carbon.
Earthworms are quite active.
The micro-organisms do their work of mineralization.
The nutrients are there.
Everything is in place for our trees to grow well.
Earthworms, your silent ally for a healthy soil
They will work for you for free, with no complaints.
They will contribute to your own personal goals.
They won’t ask for any salary increase from HR.
I just speak about earthworms in your plantation!
The presence of earthworms is one of the good indicators of a healthy and regenerative soil.
As in any effective collaboration, it is a win-win contract.
We add cow dung to the soil. Providing organic matter and carbon to our Miyawaki forest.
Earthworms from all over the neighborhood are attracted.
Then the earthworms do their magic work.
Mix the soil layers and create tunnels. With air, water and soft soil for the roots of our trees.
Earthworms are one of the Key Success Factors.
Like you, they are part of the ecosystem. Each member will make a valuable contribution to work together and rewild our future.
Earthworms will mix the layers of soil for you. They will make the connection between the different layers of soil. Travelling and working between the underground deep layers towards the topsoil, and vice-versa.
If your piece of land has an army of earthworms, you will not have even to mix the organic matter. If you let long enough to the earthworms, they will do the work for you. With no tillage or mechanical work, you won’t have to burry your organic matter. It will save you time and money and preserve the microbiology of the soil.
Afterwards, earthworms will also do the work of mineralisation. They will transforms organic matter into water, mineral salts (N, P, K) and CO2, useful for the plants growth.
From now on, you have all the basics you need to prepare your soil for your plantation.
So go for it!
You will learn by doing and discover that if you set the right conditions with your soil, Nature will help you to do the remaining work.