Food comes from the soil, but where does soil come from?  That’s what I’m learning in my first reading assignment of the Training Program for Master Gardener Volunteers.  (The University of Wisconsin Extension Master Gardener Program provides extensive, free horticultural training to people,who in turnshare their training for gardening-related projects that benefit the community.  How cool is that?)  This is a nation-wide program.  Check it out in your area.

Being called dirt should be the highest form of compliment, and should be used only when we want to describe something essential yet ephemeral because soil is easy to destroy and is formed a lot more slowly than we are using it up.

Soil comes from rocks that have disintegrated and decomposed, and that is not a project you can rush.  It takes eons of freezing and thawing, wetting and drying.  Soil organisms “speed” the process along and then contribute their tiny carcasses to the process.

If you want to know your soil, you need to know its parents.  In most of  Wisconsin the parent material is a heavy clay soil laid down in huge glacial lakes where the clay and fine sediments were the last particles to settle out of the water.  This  soil  was then ground up and shoved around by glaciers —  but my particular area in the southwest corner of the state is part of the Driftless area that was missed by the various glaciers moving through Wisconsin, so our soil here is formed from weathered rock and sediment from before the glaciers.  That makes it incredibly valuable stuff.

We all need to do everything in our power to take care of our soil, and luckily there are lots of resources out there to help us do it.

1.  Improve Your Soil by Raking Less

I’ve always looked at my fallen leaves as brown gold, and so does Fine Gardening Magazine.

2. 10 Tips of Making Better Compost

Even if you are an experienced composter, you may learn something that helps you make better compost faster here.

3.  Weird and Unusual Composting

This is the place to learn about composting Zebra mussels, old explosives, in case you needed to add to your compost trivia collection.

4.  Improve Your Soil with Cover Crops

Even small gardens can benefit from cover crops.

5.  Improve Your Soil with Biochar

This is a how-to from Mother Earth News on a soil-building technique that is more than 3,000 years old.

6.  Improve Your Soil with Worms.

Vermiculture, or Worm Composting is the next step for people who really want to process their old veggies into pure power for their soil.

7.  Five Things You Didn’t Know You Could Compost

This is a great composting blog.  Unlike the weird composting blog above, these are things we all can actually try at home.

8.  BuckleUp Compost

BuckleUp Compost can get you started with your own backyard system that  is environmentally responsible in every way

9.  Why to Compost Even If You Don’t Grow Vegetables

This is a very coherent exploration of the “Why” of composting from the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation–just to keep us all inspired.

If you have a great soil site,

please share it with me.  Let’s make this list a bakers dozen!

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