The United Nations has declared 2015 the International Year of Soils in an effort to raise awareness about the importance of soils for future food security world-wide. A General Assembly resolution says that soil conservation will also help all countries adapt to climate change, preserve essential ecosystems, alleviate poverty and promote sustainable development.
So what can we do here at home in our own backyards? You might want to start with one of the best books I've ever read on the subject.
In Building Soil: A Down-to-Earth Approach: Natural Solutions for Better Gardens & Yards (Cool Springs Press, 2015), author Elizabeth Murphy will help you kick-start your garden and give your flowers, vegetables, trees and shrubs the boost they need to thrive for months and years.
In a recent interview, Murphy, a soil scientist and gardener, says that in the age of industrial agriculture, "our intuitive knowledge of how to build healthy soils needs rediscovery." She's definitely in tune with the UN resolution, as she notes that "soil depletion and resulting environmental degradation results in famines, wars, and political upheaval."
At the back yard level, Murphy says that soil care is one of the most basic ways a homeowner can have a beneficial environmental impact. Communities with healthy soils produce their own food, reduce water pollution, sequester carbon and reduce the possibilities of floods and landslides, creating sustainable neighborhoods. Soils, gardens, and our world, she says, are living ecosystems, and "everything is connected and interdependent."
In her book, Murphy shows you how to recognize healthy soils, then offers a series of easy steps to help you get your own soil under control. And she covers all the bases: mulching, compost, weeds, fertilizers, organic matter, water, cover crops, you name it. Drawings, photos, sidebars and tables beautifully illustrate the main concepts and make it easy to refer back to what you need.
Anyone who gardens or who designs gardens will find this book a very valuable reference.