By Stacie Martin
Did you know soil is alive? Soil has living, breathing, biological activity and is home to many different types of organisms. Soil organisms include bacteria, earthworms, fungi, and even beetles and millipedes! They feed on organic matter and provide nutritious castings for the soil and plant roots. Soil composition, nutrition, and biological activity are essential to having healthy, happy plants.
This millipede is building soil! It hides in our prairie, eating grass and providing castings!
The fungi on this tree demonstrate how mushrooms can help break down woody material above and below ground.
The soil for the shrub beds is mixed with a nutrient-rich humus, which is similar to compost. Humus is comprised of decomposed leaves and plant material, courtesy of the soil microbes.
Soil Is Ancient
Soils formed over millions of years. They are a combination of weathered rock and decomposed organic matter. To simulate this natural process of soil formation at Gathering Place, a soil mixing site was constructed. Different types of soil were blended, tested, and placed. Our soils were created for specific areas in the Park. For example, prairie plants have sandy, gritty, well-drained soil to support the shallow-rooted wildflowers and grasses.
This photo above shows Gathering Place’s soil mixing site. There are different combinations of sand, compost, and soil mixed for different gardens. We have 19 different types of soil mixes at Gathering Place!
Many of the hills at Gathering Place were originally flat. They were built to add a different dimension, and of course, to run on!
After the soil was placed, landscape fabric was installed to prevent erosion. This landscape fabric holds up the base layer of soil on Riverside Drive in front of Four Seasons Garden.
Soil conservation is an important topic! Soil provides structure for agricultural crops to feed the world. Soil conservation is the preservation of soil in order to prevent soil from eroding into waterways and preserve the nutritious layers. To keep soil in place, we installed silt fence and coir logs during construction.
Silt fence (fabric) and coir logs (coco fiber) were installed around Peggy's Pond to prevent soil erosion into the pond.
Living Biological Amendment
At Gathering Place, we are always striving to maintain our soil with environmentally friendly practices. During construction, we engineered compost that required specific ratios of woody debris, fungi, roots, and bacteria. From the compost, we brewed a living biological amendment—a mix of aerated water and compost that adds bacteria, fungi, and microbes to the soil—which we then applied to many of the garden beds.
This photo above is of an engineered compost pile from before the Park opened.
Above is an example of how we brew our living biological amendment. It is a nutritious drink for the soils and plants!