Grow Your Own Medicine – Soil


Contrary to popular assumption…soil is not dirt!

Healthy soil is alive with helpful micro-organisms. Mim shares an extract of her gardening book, Grow Your Own Medicine to get you into your garden.


Soil is not dirt, a term horticulturists find deeply offensive. Soil is a complex system of minerals, air, water and micro-organisms. There are more micro-organisms in a teaspoon of soil than there are people on earth. Soil is alive and supports a vast but tiny ecosystem, so it behoves us to treat it with care.

The minerals in soil come from rocks, including granite, basalt, shale and sandstone, that have been ground down over hundreds of thousands of years. The bedrock determines the type of soil in your area. Soils can be graded into two main groups: sand or clay. A soil that is too sandy will cause nutrients and water to fall through too quickly; a soil that is too clayey is somewhat impervious to nutrients and water, and will not let them pass to the root system for a good feed. Clay soil also becomes waterlogged, depleting the roots of oxygen and setting up a perfect environment for moulds and other diseases. Most plants thrive in a nutrient-rich, well-drained soil that allows water and nutrients to trickle through to the roots, which in turn absorb them in order to feed the plant.

An easy way to identify the structure of your soil is to take a scoopful and place it in a glass jar with a tight lid. Add water to about 2 cm from the top, fit the lid and give it a good shake. After a couple of days the soil will settle into its components: sand on the bottom, then clay, and on the top the organic matter known as humus which is comprised of bits of decaying plants, leaves and microbes.