Everybody knows that "healthy soil" makes it easier to grow healthy plants. However there is a major flaw in the thinking of many gardeners about what makes soil "healthy". Too many falsely believe that the chemistry of the soil and right balance of nutrients is the key. Soil life is the key.
Most soils have all the nutrients they need. These nutrients are simply not in a form the plant can take up. In a similar way to how our digestive tracts need "probiotics", a healthy soil ecosystem is needed for the plants to take up the nutrients. One example of this in the key nutrient of Nitrogen, it is the N of NPK fertilizers. 80% of Earths atmosphere is nitrogen! The problem is this nitrogen is not in a form that the plants can use. The legume family of plants and trees however have a symbiotic relationship with a bacteria that is capable of taking atmospheric nitrogen and converting it to the form plants can use. That is why these plants can thrive in almost any soil, and a lot of them end up on invasive plant lists, because they grow so well with access to this key nutrient.
Unfortunately, many that try to grow things run into problems, and the attempted solutions end up waging war on soil biology instead of cultivating it. This is also a very similar with the treatment of human health and the lifestyle that would produce a healthy gut ecosystem. I'm pleased to see the growing trend of education in this area.
In my next post I'll talk in more detail about problems with current "quick fixes" and what other solutions are possible.