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Living soil is growing method centered on the biodiversity of the beneficial soil microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, archaea, algae) and soil animals (mostly compost worms, earthworms, rove beetles, springtails, mites, nematodes, protozoans) as the soil biota that help the plants to be healthy and productive for human purposes.

Soil is alive, so soil can also die. Basically, we should feed the soil first before the plant. Living soil can support the growth of the plants and a reasonable life-support system together with water and climate in our planet, the only one living earth in our galaxy so far. The first idea of feeding the mother earth has been developed by James Lovelock through the Gaia hypothesis since the late 1970s.

The Gaia hypothesis or principle (pronounced gai-uh, mother nature deity in Greek mythology) suggests that earth is alive. It is similar to the other living organisms and interacts with the surrounding inorganic environment to form a synergetic and self-regulating system that created, and now maintains, the climate and biochemical conditions that make life on earth possible. It is because earth or soil is alive, we should feed them to keep alive.

According to The Ecologist (February 2012), the journal for the post-industrial age, the ancient Egyptians valued mother nature. Cleopatra VII in the first century established laws protecting the earthworm for its useful toil of the fertile Nile Valley. A death penalty to the people who break the laws by killing earthworms during that time. It was reported by the National Geographic magazine (November 2009) that earthworm is the most influential species of all evolution on earth.

Creating living soil in the small scale for example in the pots, garden beds, greenhouses to support the growth of cultivated plants can be started by introducing the compost worms and fresh worm castings or vermicompost in situ or on site in the closed system. Vermicompost is rich in beneficial soil microbes, including plant growth regulators, plant hormones, fulvic and humic acids, and available slow-release nutrients.

The basic mix of creating living soil: One part fertile, friable or crumble soil, peat moss, coco coir, leaf-mold, etc. One part of aeration: lava rock, pumice, perlite, rice hulls, etc. One part of the high quality of compost or fresh worm castings or vermicompost. In addition, the application of the vermicompost tea on the aboveground plants for a special treatment regularly will speed up the plant growth and productivity and will reduce the plant diseases. 

The feeding to the system regularly is necessary to keep the soil and compost worms alive. Selected organic resources and vermicompost can be used to support the natural way of farming or organic farming. Organic mulching with minimum tilling may support the growth of the beneficial soil organisms and the healthy plants with less weeds and pests. Moreover, the application of the vermicompost will invite the native earthworms and other beneficial organisms to support the natural way of farming.

A living soil is a loving soil for the sake of the young generation. It is more than just dirt. The drawings are courtesy of Elise of the 3rd grade and Sophie of the kindergarten. The drawings can be zoomed to see details.

-Bintoro Gunadi