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Soil 101

SoilA great way to teach kids about gardening is to get their hands dirty on day one. Begin by asking them what they already know – many may be surprised to learn that soil is a whole lot more than a pile of dirt!

•    Soil is composed of both nonliving and living materials. This includes broken down rock, as well as organic matter made up of decaying plants and animals. Water and air are also key components of soil.

•    The combination of these materials help support plant life by providing them with nutrients, water, and air. Soil also keeps plant roots secure in the ground.

•    Soil is filled with many living creatures, all of which are responsible for keeping the soil healthy.

•    The most common living creature in soil is the earthworm. Earthworms create tunnels in the soil, aiding the flow of air and water. They also eat from decaying plant materials, which pass through them and enrich the soil.


hintssmallGarden Hint. After brainstorming about soil with your students, review the Types of Soil chart. Have the kids dig a small hole about 6 inches deep (they can use garden trowels, or their own hands!). Then tell them to scoop up some dirt from the hole with their fingers, and squeeze it in their fists. When they loosen their grip, does the soil crumble or stay together?

Compare your garden’s soil to the list of soil types. In which category does your soil belong? What can be done to amend the soil and make it ideal for growing plants?"

For activities on soil exploration, please see Soil Sleuthing and Soil Investigators