2015: A Celebration of Soils

Written by Julie McGuire, Master Gardener

To celebrate the 45th Earth Day on 22 April 2015, Julie shares some news about the International Year of Soils.

In celebration of the 2015 International Year of Soils, MGNV presents you with some ‘punny’ soil jokes:

Q: How did the princess worm find her prince?
A: By kissing lots of nemaTODES.

Q: What did the worm eat for lunch?
A: Humus!

Q: What did the detective plant say to his partner?
A: Let’s dig deeper; we’ve got to get to the root of this decomposition.

Bad jokes aside, it is easy to forget that the ‘dirt’ under your feet provides essential nutrients and water to plants. The truth is that soils are the foundation of agriculture and a good garden. Without protecting our soil, we’ll all be in trouble, as this animated video by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations illustrates:

The United Nations designated 2015 as the International Year of Soils to increase awareness and understanding about the important role soil plays in food security and ecosystem function. During an impressive lineup of almost daily events, people around the world are learning about healthy soils.

9 Fascinating Facts about Soil

  1. Generally, desirable soil in good condition contains approximately 50% solid material and 50% open pore space (also called air and water space). Most of the solid material in soil is composed of different-sized mineral particles, with the particle size varying by region and geological conditions. The remaining part of the solid material is made up of organic material, such as plant and animal matter in varying stages of decomposition.
  2. Soils sustain plant and animal life below and above the surface – learn more here.
  3. Most soils have four distinct layers under the soil, including organic matter, topsoil, subsurface, and subsoil. The horizons look different from each other, have different textures, and varying structures. You can learn more about the four layers here.
  4. Soils regulate and partition water and the osmosis of soluble substances (solute flow).
  5. Soils are an essential part of the biogeochemical processes, such as the nitrogen cycle. They help filter, buffer, and more to maintain our ecosystem. Nitrogen is necessary for all life, but most atmospheric nitrogen is not usable by living things until it is fixed by soil or otherwise processed.
  6. Soils store and cycle nutrients. Plants need 16 elements for normal growth, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
  7. Correct composting can result in a valuable nutrient and humus (organic matter) source for any garden. Want to learn more about composting? VCE has that covered here.
  8. Soils provide support for structures such as houses, roads, trees, and plants.
  9. The National Cooperative Soil Survey identifies and maps over 20,000 different kinds of soil in the United States. Most soils are given a name, which generally comes from the locale where the soil was first mapped. Named soils are referred to as soil series.
Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 2.46.20 PM

Photo: Eco Kids Corner

How healthy is the soil in your garden? The best way to find out is with a soil test analysis. Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) Master Gardeners staff the VCE Horticulture Help Desk and host Plant Clinics, where soil test kits are available. The results of the soil test analysis help guide gardeners to the appropriate next steps and amendments for your soil that can make your garden or lawn a success!

Remember that this weekend you can participate in a variety of Earth Day events throughout Alexandria and Arlington. MGNV will at Ben Brennan Park on Saturday morning to answer all your gardening (and soil) questions.

About michelledmccarthy

Expert researcher, editor and digital communications professional.
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