It's All about the Soil



There is a lot to be said about the quality of the soil in our gardens. The soil supports all aspects of plant development and vitality. Artificial potting mixes used in greenhouses or plants grown hydroponically in nutrient rich water only give the appearance of stable development. Proper soil provides structure, nutrients and a system of interdependence between living organisms for development of strong healthy roots.

A good soil must be loose enough to allow roots to move in and through it. When soil is hard and compacted, the roots are constricted and do not grow properly, often curling back upon themselves in an endless circling. When this happens the roots are said to become girdled; the soil is squeezed out as the root wraps around itself, eventually eliminating its own means of support.

When a soil is too soft or porous, the root will quickly spread out wildly, making multiple thin roots, trying to stabilize itself in a shifting environment. The lack of deep roots often means there is a lack of proper nutrition with which to grow; the plant is not being properly fed and in addition will lose its footing.

There is also a need for a community of organisms, which I have termed earthworks, that includes worms, bugs, fungi and other microorganisms. This synergetic society of earthworks is necessary to break down plant waste and garden debris. It is this relational working together that keeps the soil useable and avoids stagnation.

A healthy supportive root system develops slowly and steadily, often in set stages of growth and rest. One stage of rapid growth is at initial planting when the existing root system has been disturbed and exposed to a richer environment. The soil is easily incorporated into the new life of the plant as the roots reach into it seeking food. During those times of rest, when visible activity diminishes, the steady development of roots continues in a less demanding and more stabilizing way.

The relationship of our roots in the soil of the Holy is much the same. We need a steady flow of that which feeds us and gives us life. We need a balanced soil to secure our roots, a soil matched to our individual needs—for a bog plant cannot grow in a prairie. We need a community around us to help breakdown the debris of life and turn it into something useable.

We have all seen it happen. A beautiful plant exposed to the radiance of the sun, withers. It lacked the roots to draw itself upright.

It doesn’t matter how much The Light shines on you, how often you are exposed to the miracle of God. If you do not have good roots, you will have only an appearance of the fullness of life.

Copyright 2012 Margaret Rose Realy.

Read more reflections and prayers by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl OSB, at Morning Rose Prayer Garden, on Patheos Catholic channel.


About Author

Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB lives an eremitic life and is the author of Cultivating God’s Garden through Lent, A Garden of Visible Prayer: Creating a Personal Sacred Space One Step at a Time, 2nd Edition, and A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac. A freelance writer with a Benedictine spirituality, Margaret has a master’s degree in communications and is a Certified Greenhouse Grower, Advanced Master Gardener, liturgical garden consultant, and workshop/retreat leader.

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