What Makes Soil Healthy? The ABC’s of Soil Health

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In this post, we will give you the big picture of what soil needs to be healthy and grow nutritious plants and animals – The ABC’s of Soil Health.  Whether you grow plants in pots on your balcony or farm thousands of acres commercially, applying these principles can significantly improve your soil.  The ABC’s of soil health are:

A- Air

B- Biology

C- Carbon

We first learned these foundational principles from Back To Your Roots.  They are helping home gardeners and farmers across Canada to restore health to their soil very quickly.  Their work is based on the research of Dr. Carey Reams.  Let’s take a look at the ABC’s of soil health.

A- Air

Soil has much the same needs as people and animals do.  We all need air, water, and food.  The most critical need is air.  Just like people, the life in the soil (microbes) cannot live long without air.  Until soil has adequate air, there is not much else you can do to improve your soil.  The top layer of soil that contains air is called the aerobic zone.  Plants’ feeder roots grow in this zone.  How do you know how much air is in your soil?  Learn more about the aerobic zone in this post HERE.  **LINK**

B – Biology

Biology refers to the microbial life in the soil.  Microbes are responsible for transferring minerals from soil into the plant.  They are also responsible for converting sugars from the plant into carbon which is stored in the soil.  The more variety in soil microbes, the healthier your soil will be.  Microbes also clean up a lot of toxins in the soil.  How do you know what the microbial life is like in your soil?  Learn more about soil biology HERE.  **LINK**

C – Carbon

Carbon is what makes soil black.  If you have learned about the most fertile land in the world, it is usually in places that have black soil – parts of the Canadian prairies, terra preta in South America, farm land in Ukraine.  Carbon serves as an ideal home for microbes to live in and it holds water.  The implications of carbon in the soil are HUGE.  How can you get more carbon in your soil?  Learn more about soil carbon HERE.  **LINK**

So, why does this all matter?

When the soil has sufficient air, biology, and carbon, what will you see?  Here are some benefits you will observe in the soil and plants when the ABC’s of soil health are in place.  Click on each one to learn more:

  • Drought Tolerance and Flood Tolerance
  • Reduced Pest Pressure and Little-to-no Disease
  • Increased Nutrient Density of Food
  • Reduced Need for Inputs (save money!)
  • Superior Soil Texture (well-flocculated)

The ABC’s of soil health are applicable to all growing and soil situations.  Whether you live in an apartment with a balcony garden in pots, farm thousands of acres commercially, grow pastures or orchards, or just have a suburban yard that needs some extra soil love, you can apply these principles and see great results within just a few years.  The folks who diligently apply the ABC’s of soil health almost always see significant improvement in what they are growing, often in the first growing season.


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