By Kerri Tyler
Forget bread; soil is the staff of life – we couldn’t enjoy vegetables, fruit or meat without this rich substance.
“Not only does soil support all our food growing,” explains Tash Fletcher of Stroud Valleys Project (SVP), “it also stores carbon, helps prevent flooding, and is home to literally billions of tiny organisms that are vital for keeping the earth healthy.
“Soil’s in a bit of trouble though, with threats from climate change, alterations in rain patterns, and poor land management practices.”
You can pep up soil by creating leaf mould. Katherine Hallewell, who works with SVP at Prinknash Abbey, explains, “Leaf mould is one of the best things you can add to improve your soil. Simply rake up fallen leaves and give them a space to rot down, separate from your compost heap, either in a bay made of chicken wire or a leaf mould bag (a bit like a large string shopping bag!). Once rotted down – after two years – it can be used as a mulch, or you can dig it into the top layer of your soil.”
Katherine also suggests a quicker way to give soil a boost: “Using cardboard as a sheet of mulch is a good way to clear weedy areas while improving soil quality.
“The cardboard excludes light and prevents weeds from growing while retaining moisture and protecting soil structure. After a year, most of the cardboard will have rotted down; any bits that remain can be added to your compost, the area will be quite weed free, and you can easily winkle out any perennials that have survived the process.”
Another way to improve soil is to grow mushrooms: the living network created by fungi below the soil (the mycelium) pulls nutrients down and gives soil a good mix up – worms help with this process too! You can buy fungi-growing kits at SVP’s eco shop.
SVP is hosting a Soil Day on Saturday 3 December at Stroud Brewery – as well as speakers, there will be stalls and a chance to chat to experts. Visit stroudvalleysproject.org to find out more.