Our soil is made up of three major components: sand, silt, and clay. Although these compounds are all similar chemically, the particle size makes all the difference. If you were to fill a jar with soil and water and shake it, you would see these particles settle with sand on the bottom, silt in the middle, and a thin layer of clay at the top. Sand and silt are larger particles, and they are also more abundant in our soil. They give the soil texture and help with root support. They also allow moisture and oxygen to be closer to the roots. “Sand and silt are structural items that allow the soil to be aerated and moisturized,” says Cathy Seamans, head of our research department. When it comes to clay, the particles are smaller, as well as the amount in the soil. Cathy explains clay’s importance in soil, “clay is sandwiched like plates and traps nutrients in place for the plants to use.” There is more to soil than physical components, however.
Plants are not the only life found in our soil. There is another element as well, and that is the biology of the soil – living and non-living organic matter. A wide range of life can be found, and everything has a purpose. Cathy states, “From bacteria to moles, these critters provide something for the soil.” Bacteria act as recyclers, and other microbes act to keep bacteria numbers in check. Going up in size are the invertebrates in soil, including rotifers and nematodes. These animals also act as recyclers as they break down dead plant material to fix it into nutrients that a living plant can use. Mammals that inhabit the soil often burrow into the ground, and this frees up the soil and provides better drainage and structure for our plants. “Everything has a job, whether it is dead or alive,” says Cathy.
At the end of the day, soil is what creates our plants, and therefore we respect our soil greatly. Every small component of the earth matters. The Chef’s Garden is placed on some of the world’s best soil, and we ensure that it stays that way. Through cover cropping techniques, study of soil biology, and use of technology, we make certain that our vegetables are the best from the ground up.