Posted by & filed under Soil Biology, Soil Conservation, Soil Rehabilitation.

by Frank Gapinski

A couple of years ago whilst shooting the Food Forest DVD with Geoff Lawton he remarked how “only on edges do we get fertility” or words to that effect. At the time that phrase didn’t really make much sense to me but when you stop and think for a moment how nature creates soil, those words begin to ring true.

We hear a lot about soil degradation and soil erosion but we hardly hear about simple methods of building soil — the positive solutions we can go about to build fertility back into landscape.

According to permaculture teacher Geoff Lawton, the fastest way to create soil is in shallow lakes and ponds through anaerobic activity.

Organic matter is transformed into soil — but it’s a slow, natural process.

A decorative pond in your garden is more than just an ornamental feature or a place for frogs and fish to congregate. It can also be a soil creation mechanism as Geoff explains in this clip.

Soils getting created in the most unlikely places is something not many of us seem to notice, but it does go on silently day in and day out, usually in damp and dark places where the fertility of carbon and water is captured and held — the edge factor!

Apart from zinc-alum guttering, soil creation goes on in the most unlikely of places. Storm water drains and channels have some of the best soil found along the edges of culverts and overflowing creeks. Anywhere it seems where water can collect and organic matter be allowed to accumulate. It goes on silently drip by drip, leaf by leaf with the odd worm arriving to add his mark in his new home.

Originally we were going to include this clip in the Permaculture Soils DVD but we honestly ran out of space and time and there was plenty of other stuff we wanted to go through. There are faster ways to build soil and Geoff is confident that by harnessing a little moisture, nitrogen in the form of fertilizer and some carbon, you can actively make good quality soil in your garden and grow fresh food as well.

But spare a thought for edges – without them all that top soil would blow out to sea….


One Response to “Soil Creation on the Edge!”

  1. Excelsior Concordia

    I was present in several fields, back in 2009, with numerous farmers (conventional ones) which explained me (quite clearly) that when you calculate the average production of a certain parcel you exclude the first 3 “rows” (that’s the first 15-20 meters) from the edges of the parcels.

    I asked “why do you do that?” and they answered: “they are not representative”!

    I stopped my questions there but I still kept a very serious question mark about that particular situation and the reason was simple, very simple: on all edges of all fields, the vegetation (cereals, maize, sunflower, grass, you name it) was greener, bigger and the plants were robust while in the center they were of a pale color, weak and with of a much smaller height having fewer and smaller grains, seeds, flowers, leaves and stems.

    For the farmers the reason was correct, from an economical and financial point of view: the edges were pushing the average production much higher than what the center of the field represented and, on a long run, it was wiser for them to calculate the average production based on what the center was producing since it was much bigger in terms of surface and income relevance.

    From a neutral point of view, however, it was a disaster: they intentionally neglected the value of the edges …

    Now, reading what Geoff Lawton said (“only on edges do we get fertility”) I get the meaning of a very strong, profound and healthy truth about agriculture! We make artificial separations between what technology, efficiency and financial reasons tell us what to do, in this “ugly civilization”, while we conveniently forget, neglect or even statistically eliminate from the equation the very things that really matter in terms of sustainability, survival and care for the one and only Earth that allowed us to exist and flourish … up to a certain point!


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