The soil we walk on every day is amazing stuff. With a little help from us once in a while, it can become magic soil.
What else can you walk on, drive over, saturate with water, bake in the blazing sun until it’s almost hard as a rock, cover with poop, shatter into a million pieces, allow to freeze and thaw dozens of times over one of our long winters, pulverize with a cultivator once it dries out in the spring, and know you made it turn out almost perfect? Sounds like magic to me.
Soil can be a mud hole that your vehicle sinks into up to the axels. Soil (clay) can be molded into bricks and bakes in an oven and used to create grand buildings. Soil comes in thousands of different consistencies and composed of hundreds of different minerals, organic compounds, trace elements, and bacteria and fungi.
At its worst, soil can be a horribly sticky, gooey mess, or an impossibly hard compacted barrier to root penetration and almost devoid of oxygen. At its best soil can be wonderfully loose and crumbly, easy to dig and plant into, and teaming with millions of healthy bacteria and fungus organisms that create an inviting place for plants to flourish.
In most cases, we can choose which kind of experience we will have with soil. If we are good stewards of the soil our gardening experiences are likely to be rewarding and pleasant. If in the fall of the year we break up compacted soil and allow the freeze thaw cycles of a Minnesota winter to finish the job of eliminating compaction by putting hairline cracks in every chunk, we have almost gotten the soil to prime condition. One of the last steps in restoring the soil is to allow it to dry in the spring, spread manure and till the soil just enough to bring it to a crumbly condition. Once this has been accomplished, the soil in your field or garden will most likely perform like its magic soil.
The real magic is just getting started. This happens when the neglected, compacted soil you used to have has been rejuvenated, and someone gently places seeds and covers them with soil. Within a few days and in the presence of a little moisture, the miracle of life takes place as dormant seeds spring to life and shoots that are both tender and strong burst out of the dirt.
To me it is always magic to participate in the rebirth of our frozen landscape into a vibrant web of life. Each and every spring it feels like a miracle all over again.
This year you too can experience the joy and satisfaction of nurturing the soil given to us by Mother Nature so that it becomes your own version of magic soil. A miracle waits in your garden.