The soil is a vast kingdom beneath our feet, home to giant and minute earthworms, billions of bacteria and micro-organisms, spiders and ants, and wise, ancient stones. Rich black, sandy red, or pale and gritty, it is in the soil that life on land begins. But not all soil is the same—far from it.
The first step to getting to know a garden is to meet and appreciate the soil. The health of a garden depends on its soil. Just as a good house needs a strong foundation or a healthy child needs a stable home, a garden needs well-balanced, healthy soil.
Soil is a garden's immune system. Since soil builds a garden, and the garden brings health and healing to the gardener and the land, we begin our magic-making and world-healing in the dirt.
A few summers ago, I prepared a garden bed that had not been touched for years, a plot of mostly hard-packed clay. I turned over piles of the dark, slate-gray soil with my shovel. The sandy clay, granular but compact and moist, supported a few worms, including two behemoth night crawlers. Bits of charred wood and carbon specked the soil, perhaps remnants of an old burn. It smelled like a dripping cave, damp and cool. I felt a sense of the soil awakening, seeing sunlight for the first time in many years. I also sensed a curiosity from the soil itself and a willingness to explore the co-creative journey of garden-making.
In another bed in another garden, I met very different soil. Pale and gritty, the land had baked beneath the Colorado sun for years. Digging it was like scraping ice, hard and unyielding. I felt a mistrust from it, like a rattlesnake eyeing me askance. Beneath this top dry layer lay clay, stone, and bedrock, layers that would give my garden a hardy, determined energy.
Whether you have worked a garden space for years or you approach a new bed that you have never met, take time to get to know the energy, personality, and style of the land. This is the beginning of any sacred gardening partnership.
Excerpted from Sacred Land: Intuitive Gardening for Personal, Political & Environmental Change by Clea Danaan.