Soil is very fragile, but history shows that humans have successfully known how to create and maintain fertile soil for centuries. Perhaps we have gotten too good at it, shown by large scale industrial farming, which often uses practices that actually ruin the soil, such as using “chemical fertilizers, dehydrated chicken manure or high-nitrogen blood meal can burn tender root hairs, and tilling or plowing destroys soil texture, disturbing the layered web” (Doreen G. Howard for Mother Earth News).
Doreen G. Howard for Mother Earth News provides this list of simple steps for soil fertility:
1. Minimize plowing, tilling, and digging
2. Regularly use compost, grass clippings, leaves and other organic mulches
3. Always keep soil covered with live crops or at least an organic mulch
Other excellent resources are Fatal Harvest and The Fatal Harvest reader by Andrew Kimbrell, which depicts the contrast between large scale industrial farming and the biodiversity of organic farming in both photography and a series of essays. For a more how-to guide that can be carried out on any scale of ecological gardening, check out Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. Their is a focus on building and maintaing soil fertility, catching and conserving water, and growing seasonal edibles.
Here are the amazon links to both books:
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