APRC WinterSpring 2018 PlayGuide | 541.488.5340 | The Grove at 1195 E Main St, Ashland 24 Maintaining Your Soil’s Health: Supporting Soil as a Living Thing Soil as a Living Thing Soil is a magnificent living thing. It is composed of tiny, eroded rock pieces (and their associated minerals), thousands of microbes, beneficial fungi, decaying leaves and other plant matter and organisms, such as earthworms, nematodes and mites that live in the soil. Without soil, we would be without many of the necessities of life: clean air, clean water and food. Protecting Your Soil When soil is left bare, it is at the highest risk for erosion by wind and water, water loss by evaporation, nutrient depletion and compaction. Soil covered by plant matter, living and dead, and rich in organic material is protected from these threats. —Dump autumn leaves on your soil. Worms, beetles and other biological tillers will work the layer closest to the soil’s surface into the garden bed, supporting both the health of your soil and organisms that call it home. —Plant a winter cover crop that puts back into the soil what your summer crops take out: Nitrogen! Planting legumes, such as red clover, bird’s foot trefoil or vetch is a quick and easy way to hold your soil in place, reduce moisture loss and replenish an important crop nutrient without the use of synthetic fertilizers. —Winter is the time to dump your compost barrel or transfer some of that ever-growing compost pile into your garden area. Hand till or mechanically till the compost into the soil. Cultivating Soil Organisms Soil organisms thrive when they have food (organic material), shelter (healthy, rich soil) and water. To bolster your soils’ ability to support a healthy, diverse population of soil critters, introduce these practices: —Rotate where you plant each season. Rotating your plants keeps the diversity of critters and organic materials available to them, high. Take time each winter to plan where you will plant in the summer. —Reduce the amount and frequency of pesticide and herbicide application. If you must use them, use only on targeted plants and insects, and read the directions carefully. FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call Jackson Soil & Water Conservation District at 541.423.6159 Stop by our office in Central Point at 89 Alder Street, Mon-Fri, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Pick up a copy of our Urban or Rural Living Handbook Visit our website at jswcd.org Soil horizons are the layers of soil that exist beneath our feet. The top layer, the O Horizon, is where organic materials accumulate and begin decompostion into the next layer called topsoil. Topsoil is the second horizon and is the critical area for early seed germination and is the prime habitat for our soil critters. green living tips