Friday, September 3, 2010

The Soil Bank

Photo courtesy Flickr

Topsoil was a hot issue as I paged my way through a fourth-grade geography book one boring Fifties afternoon in Mrs. Mooney’s class. The dust bowl was a living and menacing memory, a significant percentage of the population still farmed, and science fiction writer Robert Heinlein’s children’s classic Red Planet Mars explained the process of soil formation.

I never expected to flash back to concerns about erosion when I decided to homestead a stone’s throw from downtown Seattle, but every time I sweep the beautiful old gutter in front of the house, I get a lesson in soil building. The tiny, drought-resistant weeds that sprout in the paving grab and hold their gritty future as it drifts onto the bricks from traffic and construction. A single seedling will capture half a cup or more of soil in just a week or two.

Pulling seedlings make maintenance easier, lifting clods makes the front garden richer. Either way, the property gains.

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