Soil forms the foundation for edible and ornamental plants. Most individuals don't pay much attention to the dirt under a sidewalk, in a garden bed or along the roadway. Gardeners, landscapers and farmer examine soil quality carefully to ensure the health of their plants. Soil is used for many practical and decorative applications as an integral part of growing environment.
Crop and Plant Production
Soil serves as the home for an untold number of plants, vegetables, trees, shrubs and flowers. Gardeners and farms typically plant in the uppermost layer of soil, called the topsoil. Topsoil contains rich, organic material that fosters plant growth with nutrients and proper water drainage.
Erosion Control and Filtering
Soil protects grades and elevations with thick-banded layers of different sizes of particles. It acts like a binding material to prevent runoff during a heavy rain. Healthy soils capture a great deal of water that percolates deeply into the lower soil layers. Like a sponge, soil reaches a saturation point that restricts further water absorption. Soil also filters nutrients throughout the layer column to minimize the density of any one nutrient or toxic material. The natural material works as a storage medium for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, three essential components that produce healthy foliage and flowers on plants.
Deep in every pile of dirt, there is a small ecosystem hard at work. Plant matter decays, microbes nibble on the organic material and earthworms stir the soil with every movement. The health of a soil ecosystem depends on the constant provision of new organic material, microbes and soil particles produced from parent rock material. Topsoil, the essential material for planting crops, cannot form without a healthy soil ecosystem working hard to break down organic and inorganic materials. Soil sustains the life of the tiny ecosystem as well as animals and human life.
Support for Structures
Soil serves as the basis for millions of structures around the world. The firming and compression qualities of soil allow builders to tamp it down to form a cement-like foundation for building homes and businesses. Builders use soil to level indentations or to create unique landscape features such as berms or ditches. The key to successful soil use in building lies in creating a stable foundation for the structure that withstands exposure to weathering and human use.