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Dirt or Soil: What’s the Difference?

I am sure every Australian who has gardened at some stage will have experienced the backbreaking joy of digging a hole in dry hard dirt. Dirt is a combination of sand, silt, clay, minerals and even man-made fill (if you’re really lucky). It is often dry, dusty and compacted, making it quite lifeless and extremely difficult to work with.

Soil, on the other hand, has the raw materials of dirt. However, it contains vital micro & macro-organisms and organic matter, both of which enable it to retain moisture and support plant life. Microorganisms in the soil break down the raw materials of dirt, making nutrients and other goodies bio-available for plant roots to take up. This builds plant resilience to disease, stress and climate fluctuations, aiding overall plant health and development (just like microbes do for the human gut). This is one BIG reason why we believe in the Food2Soil process and product as much as we do. Not only is it 100% natural and organic, but we are also using waste products to turn dirt into soil, which can be used to grow food for us to eat; what’s not to love?

Eroding the Myths & Misconceptions of Soil

Now that we have a pretty solid idea of what makes soil different from its less-lively counterpart, let’s take a quick look at some common questions and queries regarding all things soil:

What Is Soil Made Of?

Soil is the top layer of material covering the earth’s surface and is formed from the erosion of rocks. It is made up of minerals, organic matter, air, water and most importantly living organisms (such as fungi & bacteria), all of which constantly interact with each other.

How is Soil Formed?

Soil is formed over time from the breakdown of rocks through weathering and natural erosion. Water, wind, temperature change, gravity, chemical interaction, living organisms and pressure differences all help break down the parent material. Soil is mostly made up of the elements oxygen, silicon, aluminium, iron and carbon.

Why is Soil Important?

Soil is our life support system and vital for our wellbeing. Soil is essential for 95% of global food production, purifies our water, protects us against flooding and combats drought. Soil also contains vast levels of biodiversity, is the largest terrestrial store of carbon and is therefore crucial to regulating climate.

What Causes Loss of Soil Nutrients?

Nutrients are lost from soil due to natural causes and human activities. Common ways nutrients are lost are; soil erosion, runoff, leaching, monocropping and the burning of crop residues. Changes in the pH of the soil, caused by the use of acidic and chemical fertilisers, can also affect soil nutrient loss.

What Causes Soil Compaction?

Heavy machinery, foot traffic, digging in soil when wet and overworking the soil can cause the soil to compact

TOP TIP – How to Soften Dirt For Planting

Soil that is dry, sandy, and/or compact is often referred to as dirt. Dirt is the lifeless form of soil, it is void of beneficial microbes that aerate and circulate nutrients in the soil. In addition, when soil is compacted air pockets are squeezed out and it is harder for plant roots to grow and for moisture to pass through (water may pool on the surface and the plant can suffocate).

You can do a simple test and put a long screwdriver into the soil and if you can’t push very far, you have compacted soil.

Dirt is often very difficult to dig for planting. Adding any organic matter, such as hay, clippings, compost or animal manure plus Food2soil will help soften it over time. However, if you need a quicker response powdered gypsum can be applied and watered in. You will need to apply organic matter into the soil as a long term solution. Food2Soil applied monthly is a good way to bring life back to dirt.

A Common Question: Do Plants Eat Dirt?

Plants do not eat soil/dirt, however, they use the minerals and compounds in soil to grow. Plants absorb nutrients they require from the soil through their roots and it is the ‘life’ in soil (bacteria, fungi, nematodes etc) that enable this process (they can also use what they can extract from the air and through their leaves). This is why biologically-alive fertilisers like Food2Soil are essential for plant health, because they feed directly through plants, and indirectly, through feeding the soil which enables plants and soil to work in unison, creating better harmony, resilience, and overall growth. Explore the Food2Soil website to discover more ways in which Food2Soil will help turn your dirt into usable soil.