Earth, Dirt, Mud … these are all words which are used to refer to that stuff in the garden that we grow things in.
Few people realise what complex material soil or topsoil really is. Farmers and growers think of topsoil as being the top 30 or 40 centimetres, and they rely upon it to provide for the needs of the plants or crops that they grow.
Of course, not all soils are the same. They owe their origins to a variety of things, and this one factor will determine which plants they are capable of supporting. Soil can be thought of as having a solid constituent, an organic content upon which soil organisms feed, a liquid one and a gaseous one, and it is important that soil is able to maintain these separate entities for it to remain healthy. It also contains a mass of microscopic life forms which act within the soil to break down plant waste. This activity gives rise to making nutrients available to plants.
The soils degree of acidity or alkalinity is also a major factor where the choice of plants is concerned. Many plants will not tolerate extremes of either alkalinity or acidity.
But, for any soil to be able to provide minerals and nutrients in the right balance, year in and year out, it too has to be looked after, and not, as in many cases, completely overlooked.
If you live in a modern estate, the soil in your garden is probably not the natural soil of the underlying ground. However, it will still need to be cared for. If you intend to grow vegetables or ornamental plants in your garden successfully, then you must look after your soil.