24th October 2022

Soil is something we don’t think of much unless we are a gardener or a farmer.  But it is crucial for the life of our planet, and we are learning how to look after it better.  Soil is not just earth and a few worms.  It is full of life.  In fact most of the wildlife in your back garden is in the soil, and a teaspoon of soil holds more life than there are people on this planet.

Much of this life is microorganisms including bacteria which breakdown waste organic matter and turn it into compost.  Without them not only would our soils not be fertile but we would drown under a sea of fallen leaves.  There are networks of fungi mycelia that also break down organic matter.  More than that, they form a network that surrounds the roots of plants and trees and nourishes them, helping them absorb water and nutrients, stimulating root growth and protecting them from some diseases.  They also bind the soil particles together that increases the amount of water it can hold.  These and other organisms are disturbed by deep digging or ploughing so farmers are now encouraged to practice ‘min-till’ – minimum tillage, drilling new seeds direct into the soil without ploughing first.   

Soil is important for decomposing waste, for holding water to prevent flooding, for storing carbon, and of course for having the structure, organisms and nutrients that will grow healthy plants. 


There’s no dirt
like earth,
no rubitinyourfingers richness
that will grow me a green tree,
no other matrix
of microbe, mouldered leaf
and stone,
honeycombed with water and air,
furrowed by worms
for plunging roots.

So easy to despise
as dirt
the dust that forms our food,
that moors our bodies,
that links us to deeper mysteries –

the slow time of centred rock,
the cold holding of hot memories,
the love and lure
of dark gravity
as it pools and congeals
in whirls of magnetic coupling.

And spinning alone in space
with a jewelled face
our earthplanet,
twirling the sun
in a silent dance
to lift my soul

if I notice
what lives beneath my feet,
if I remember
what lies beyond the skies.