Good Soil Is More Than Just Dirt

“To forget how to tend the soils is to forget ourselves”. – Mahatma Gandhi

When a tiny seedling springs forth from the earth, it does so with all the promise of blossoming into a fruitful, healthy plant. If these saplings stand solidly in good soil, then you give them more than a promise – you give them life.

When you decide to place a seed in the ground in the hopes it will grow, do you wonder if your plant will get all the nutrients and nourishment it needs to help it yield its true organic potential? Does the soil just look as if it will do the job, or are you sure it can provide the 16 essential nutrients which the roots of your plants seek? Remember, what your soil gives your plants, is what your plants will give to you. Soil is more than just dirt, it is the essence of those green leaves, stalks and delicious fruits it helps bring forth. In other words, the success of your garden lies in the health of the soil.

Therefore, you cannot afford to plant in just any type of soil. When you turn over the soil with your gardener’s spade, can you smell the rich, earthy scent of good soil? Do the nutrients present in your soil make it dark and rich in color? This is the assurance that your plants are in good hands…uhhh…good soil.

The creation of good soil is done quite carefully. Soil is a combination of sand, silt, clay particles, water, air and microorganisms. Good soil is alive – it contains plant and animal matter as well as minerals. This is called humus, a part of soil that helps produce high quality, healthy plants. Good soil stores a lot of humus and organic matter to release to plants to sustain them. If the soil you are using is not rich in humus and organic matter, what is the soil nourishing your plants with?

If soil has not decomposed life, how can it create life?

The soil ecosystem is just as simple as any other – living and once-living organisms, such as earthworms, which exist in good soil, pave the way for plants to receive the nitrogen and carbon they need. The more organic materials you add to your soil, the more nutrients your soil has, which makes your soil more fertile. When it comes to good, bad and ugly soils, no gardener worth their soil is going to choose the bad or the ugly over the good, is he/she? You don’t want a soil that will rob your plants of the chance to be healthy and productive; you want a soil that can give your plants what they need.

Vegetables and fruits that are produced by trees planted in good soil are organic and mineral rich. These veggies are rich in essential vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting phytonutrients. They are low in calories, sodium, cholesterol, sugar, and saturated fat and help boost our immune system. Watery vegetables cultivated in good soil also provide a source of mineral rich water for humans. This means when you choose good soil to grow your plants in, you are choosing to garden, eat and live the healthy way.

You are also doing more than creating a healthier you; you are helping form a sustainable earth. How, you ask? Good soil helps regulate the earth’s temperature and many greenhouse gases. For example, soil removes the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stores it as soil carbon. It stores, conserves and filters our water. Together with plants, it keeps our air clean and provides the essential nutrients to our forests.

The Key to Soil Mastery: Become a Soil “Chef”

“No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” – Julia Child

Creating a healthy vibrant soil is akin to the art of cooking. Using the similarities in the craft of fine cuisine you will learn how to test and improve your soils, how to sweeten, spice, blend and mix amendments to improve the nutrient density and fertility. Become a Chef in your own garden and use this unique culinary approach to create soils that are catalysts for growing nutrient abundant edibles and vibrant, healthy plants.

To learn more join us for our seminar at the Northwest Garden and Flower Show Friday, Feb 9 at 5:45 pm / Rainier Room.

Purchase your tickets:

Visit our seminar page here for a map and more information about Hendrikus and Nirav. 

You Don’t Have To Be Martha Stewart To Create an Organic Garden


“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet.”  James Oppenheimer

Let’s get started!

Whether you’re gardening in a large or a small space, here are four easy steps to help you create a garden that’s hassle-free and can fit with any lifestyle.


Seems self-serving given the website, no? But in fact, nothing is more vital to developing a low-maintenance garden than healthy, organic soil. If the mountain of evidence showing that bad soil is destroying public health hasn’t convinced you, the fact is that healthy soil means healthy plants. And healthy plants get fewer diseases, won’t attract as many insects and will need less water. That’s less work for you. There are three elements to be aware of:

  • pH levels: Why care if your soil is alkaline or acidic? Because this affects your plant’s ability to absorb nutrients from the soil. The good news is that most plants will tolerate a wide range in pH. Levels can be tested by a nursery or with a home kit. If the pH level is below 6, the soil is too acidic and you need to add ground limestone. If the measurement is above 7.5, the soil is too alkaline and you need to add soil sulfur.
  • Nutrients: This is where you want to be especially picky. Plants take nutrition from the soil, some more than others. Peas and beans need less than, say, kale. Add slow release organic fertilizers to your soil to supplement deficient nutrients. The up front investment pays off: synthetic fertilizers only provide a short fix and need to be regularly reapplied. That means more work, besides the fact that they destroy the planet.
  • Composition: Is your soil silty, clayey or sandy? Pick up a handful of moist soil and rub it between your fingers. Roll it into a cylinder about an inch in diameter. If it feels gritty and immediately falls apart, it’s sandy. If it holds loosely together but crumbles when you poke it, it’s silty. If it sticks together, it contains mostly clay particles.



Assuming you’re crunched for time – and who isn’t – a beautiful solution that can be used in a kitchen, on a patio or even in an enormous back yard, is to define boundaries. It’s the quickest route to a surefire organic garden. With beds or containers you can control your borders and even the size of your plants, while saving yourself from crouching on the ground later.



Whether you want to grow veggies or flowers or houseplants, you’ll want to learn about the plants you intend to grow and determine what they need. If you try and grow things not meant for your climate, the plants (and you) will suffer (and attract pathogens). Also, different types of plants will do well in different types of soil. To a certain extent you can amend your soil, but it’s the same as above. Better to work with nature than against it.



Make the backbone of your garden perennial flowers that can take care of themselves. Globe thistle, hostas, peonies and Russian sage look good all season and don’t need staking, pinching or deadheading. Then you can add something showy and different every year. Or not!