Meet Mark Cullen

Canada's best known gardening personality, Mark Cullen believes that Canadians of all ages need to play more - preferably in the dirt. A best-selling author with over 400,000 books in print, Mark reaches over one million Canadians every week through various media outlets. He is Home Hardware's horticultural spokesperson and regularly contributes to various magazines, gardening shows and newsletters. With a familiar style that people can relate to, he delivers a message that is compelling, fun, informative and inspirational - all based on his organic approach to gardening. In his spare time Mark enjoys driving his Ford Model A - and of course he loves to garden.

Soil is a Living Thing

~ February 15, 2012

As a gardener I am acutely aware of the impact that my activity has on the soil in my garden. If I plant tomatoes in the same soil two seasons in a row I invite a host of unwanted disease and pests. If I don’t add compost and sharp sand to the perennial beds every second year the productive cycle of flowering and seed production drops noticeably. I have learned that if I do not ‘feed the soil’ the plants that grow in it will draw nutrients from it to the detriment of the soil itself.

Soil – or ‘dirt’ – is a colony of living things that are interwoven in their dependence on one another for survival. Leaves and trees fall to the forest floor to provide rich fodder of raw organic material that, as it rots, feeds the bacteria and insect life that converts it into something that plant life can use. Mycorhizae and a host of insects finish the job.

And so the cycle continues.
Our gardens do not generally benefit from rotting tree limbs or the fallen leaves unless we leave them there intentionally. All too often we blow our leaves into a pile with a power assisted leaf blaster and bag them up for the municipality to haul away. Does that make sense? No, I didn’t think so.

There are some people who argue that the most valuable natural resource in Canada is not oil or natural gas or even our fresh water. It is our soil. I agree with this group. Through reading and experience I have learned that our willingness to add to and enhance the quality of our soil, to ‘invest’ in it in every way possible, not only makes eminent sense but is a necessity if we plan on farming and gardening sustainably.

Perhaps you will think that there is very little that a gardener can do on a small residential lot or condo balcony to enhance and protect the soil that feeds us. Maybe so, maybe not. Truth is our attitude towards soil and the enduring qualities that it possesses when treated with due respect is an attitude that is rooted firmly at home. That should be good enough reason to soil-save if you ask me.