Soil Biodiversity and why it’s important
Written by Angus Stewart
Soil is a complex and fascinating substance, and understanding a few things about the biodiversity of soil is important for creating healthy and fertile gardens. Soil is made up of organic and inorganic components. The inorganic parts are the rock and mineral particles and the organic parts are the humus and decomposing organic matter. These organic components of the soil are important for maintaining good soil health, as they improve its structure, aeration and nutrient content. In this article, we’ll be focusing on the biodiversity of soil, why it’s important, and some simple and sustainable ways to maintain and improve it.
The organic parts of soil help to support a diverse community of organisms, such as bacteria, fungi, insects and worms. These organisms are involved in decomposition and regeneration processes occurring in the soil, breaking down organic matter into nutrients and minerals available to plants. Organic matter in soil gradually decomposes and some of it becomes humus, a dark, amorphous substance with a uniform texture and stable structure. The most common type of humus found in gardens is called mull, which is mainly made up of organic carbon. This carbon helps to increase airflow in the soil and circulate nutrients and water to plants. Mull can be made through composting and is a great all-round soil conditioner, as it also provides a beneficial environment for micro-organisms.
Almost all soils can be improved by adding organic matter, and it’s important to keep replenishing this to maintain healthy soils, especially if you have a container garden. There are quite a few simple ways in which you can add organic matter to your soil in order to improve the quality of it:
Whether you have a large back yard or a small outdoor space, there are many different composting systems to choose from. Once you find the right one to suit your needs, you can begin composting kitchen scraps. Over time, the scraps will break down into rich organic matter, which can then be used in the garden. Adding broken down compost matter to your existing soil will improve your soil quality.
Owning a worm farm is a wonderful way to increase soil biodiversity in your garden. As the worms chew through your kitchen scraps, they produce worm castings. Worm castings are extremely nutrient rich and you can harvest these from your worm farm for use in the garden. You can also harvest a liquid known as ‘worm tea’ from your worm farm. Worm tea is rich in beneficial microorganisms, some of which can help to combat certain plant diseases and pests in the garden.
Wood Chips, Raked leaves or Straw
Rather than putting leaves into the green bin, you can put them back into your garden! As they break down and return to the earth, they will provide the soil with nutrients. Alternatively, you can place any organic material such as wood chips or straw into your garden beds.