Inspired by LAUDATO SI’, the Encyclical Letter written by Pope Francis ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME



An Intimate Bond – Humanity and Soil

“The seed sown in rich soil is someone who hears the word and understands it; this is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.” (Mt. 13:1-23).

Soil forms the top 20cm of the earth’s crust and all life depends on it.  It contains minerals and rock particles, organic matter, liquids and gases.  Soil depends on organic living matter to stay fertile. 

Interaction with soil has proven benefits for our health and overall wellbeing, from food production and nutrient supply to enhancement of our immune systems and the supply of medications. Essentially, soil is an ecosystem with a myriad of interconnected parts, with each part influencing the other. Soil is healthy when all necessary parts are present and functioning which results in our health benefiting also.

Soil has many benefits for biodiversity. We have yet to discover many unknown species that help keep our soil fertile, but earthworms, ants, woodlice and many others work hard to purify and cleanse not only our soil, but the air and water contained within it. The micro-organisms contained within soil are vital to its fertility.  Microbes such as bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, viruses, etc. each have different characteristics and functions and interact with each other to keep the soil healthy.  We have all heard the saying, “You are what you eat!” Well, 95% of all food production has its origins in soil.  This makes us deeply connected it.  Our very bodies are made up of the earths’ elements

“Essentially all life depends upon soil.… There can be no life without soil and no soil without life; they have evolved together.” (C.E. Kellogg, 1938).

The quality and very nature of soil will be determined by its surrounding environment.  In optimum, mild conditions, nature can make 1cm of new soil in 200-400 years and that’s without growing anything in it.  In wet, tropical conditions, it can take 200 years to make 1cm. We are losing soil faster than we can replace it.  It is on this basis that we can say that soil is practicably a non-renewable source in one’s lifetime. There are four key types of soil: sand, silt, clay and loam.  Loam is considered the most fertile of soil type as it has a combination of sand, silt and clay particles.  The climatic conditions play a huge part in the type of soil you will find in a particular area.  Soil holds three times more carbon than the earth’s atmosphere. Looking after our soil is so important.  Every second, we lose a sports field-sized piece of land because we ruined the soil.  When we mistreat soil, degradation, erosion and compaction occurs rendering the soil to dirt, meaning, it has lost all of its natural and vital elements for life.  For more information on identifying and improving soil types, see

Compost on the other hand is the process of decomposing organic matter from domestic waste and garden clippings with the added benefit of reducing the amount of organic material going unnecessarily into our landfills. Greens are quick to rot, they provide nitrogen and moisture.  Browns are slower to rot.  They provide carbon and fibre and allow air pockets to form. Certain things should never be composted. For more information on what to compost and what not to compost, see The ideal ratio for carbon and nitrogen (C:N ratio: 30:1) is 30 parts carbon (browns) for 1 part nitrogen (greens) by weight. It is best to achieve the 30:1 ratio as microorganisms need a good balance of carbon and nitrogen to remain optimal and also to avoid nitrogen loss. To ensure the soils vitality, avoid using harmful pesticides and chemicals in your greens as these can kill off the microorganisms.  Setting up a Wormery system will allow you to use worm casts as a fertiliser which can be mixed in small amounts with potting mixes and spread as a top dressing around the bottom of plants. See for resources on setting up your own wormery.

The best way to add compost to soil is to simply place it over the top of soil, avoid mixing in.  When it rains, the water will wash all the nutrients in the compost down into the soil, and so replenish and enrich the soil by adding moisture and balancing the pH levels in the soil. For some good advice on how we can all do our bit to promote and facilitate composting, see

One of the most common question people usually ask is whether you grow plants with soil or compost or both.  The answer is all three.  The secret is in using an integrated approach and a variety of different plants that range from forming their roots in the top surface of the soil right down to the bottom of the soil.

There is much that we do not yet know about soil.  Working in collaboration with a broad range of skilled and knowledgeable experts across multi-disciplinary systems will be required to communicate present and future research findings to the broader public, who may not be aware of the challenges and opportunities that the earth and all of its inhabitants are facing.  A paradigm shift in how we approach nature, soil science and human health issues is required, a shift that takes into account the inextricable link between nature and creation.

“Nature is usually seen as a system which can be studied, understood and controlled, whereas creation can only be understood as a gift from the outstretched hand of the Father of all, and as a reality illuminated by the love which calls us together into universal communion.”

(Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’ 76)


Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ Encyclical on Care for our Common Home at

Setting up a Wormery at

Soil and Human Health at

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