Whether you work in a garden or in an office, everyone deals with dirt at some point in their day. From washing fresh produce, kicking mud off your boots, or even just watering houseplants. You might even think that your garden is just FILLED with dirt. We talk a lot about dirt and soil here at Purple Cow Organics, and a lot of folks tend to use those terms interchangeably. But here’s the thing: Dirt isn’t soil. When you clean lettuce and see some brown bits at the bottom of your sink, that’s dirt. Soil is a complex ecosystem that is present in our everyday lives. It makes life on earth possible, so it’s obvious why it’s so important!
Many people think of soil and dirt as the same thing, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. When you plant a garden in dirt, what happens? Your plants might develop and grow for a short time, but you will quickly see signs of deficiencies. Stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and decreased yields are all signs that your soil, might not actually be soil. Even after adding fertilizer to try and support your garden’s growth, plants are unable to support strong root growth when they’re growing in dirt. When you grow in soil, plants explode with life. Not only are your yields bigger, but your produce tastes better and contains more nutrients, making them better for you!
Now, we’re down to the nitty gritty. Soil and dirt aren’t the same. So what is the ACTUAL difference between dirt and soil? It sounds like a simple solution, but the real difference between soil and dirt, is biology. When we talk about ‘biology’ we refer to the billions of living organisms that are present in each handful of healthy soil. These organisms perform many important roles in your soil including breaking down organic matter, aerating the soil, increasing soil’s water-holding capacity, and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. On a large scale, these benefits can prevent flooding and erosion, as well as runoff into local waterways. With more healthy plants sequestering carbon in the soil, healthy soil can also actively combat climate change! The beneficial microbes in our soil directly affect the health of our plants by digesting minerals and nutrients, and making them available to your plants!
Microbes come in contact with every input your plants consume. Soil that contains diverse beneficial biology supports plants by making a complete spectrum of nutrients available. This is where the living element of soil is so important! When your soil contains little to no microbes, or only has a limited number of species, your plants can’t take in the essential nutrients they need.
There are many ways to support and rejuvenate the biology in your soil, even allowing you to turn dirt back into high quality soil. Adding compost is the gold-standard, since it not only returns biology, but it provides rich nutrients and organic material to improve overall soil quality. Activated Compost not only adds in diverse biology and organic matter, but is also inoculated with a rock and sea mineral complex, amending your soil with a complete spectrum of essential micronutrients and trace minerals. You can also try a liquid biological, such as our Purple Cow CX-1, to add broad-spectrum biology in an easy-to-use liquid concentrate, and return quality to your soil.
The true difference between soil and dirt isn’t just in the name. When we describe soil as a living ecosystem, that’s exactly what it is. There are millions of species of microbes, bacteria, and fungi, that are present in healthy soil. These organisms create a shifting, living, environment that works with your plants to grow heathier produce and richer soil. Though dirt may contain the minerals and organic material that’s present in soil, without the living element of soil, plants can’t thrive.