The Deets on Dirt

The Deets on Dirt

Soil is more than just dirt for your plants. Join us on a whimsical journey below the surface with a subterranean specialist who’s just full of “dirty” little secrets.

It was a lovely spring morning and the golden hair of an impatient sun began to filter into the garden. I took my cup of coffee and started walking to enjoy the sweet aroma of the flowers around me.

Suddenly I felt the earth crumble beneath my feet — I was falling into what seemed like quicksand in the middle of the garden! I tried to grab something, anything, but I could not. For a moment everything went dark. I closed my eyes and quickly opened them when I heard a voice.

“What kind of insect are you? You are very ugly,” said the slimy specimen, peering up at me.

“I'm not an insect, I'm David Abrego,” I answered, “and I was enjoying my garden until I fell into this hole. Where am I, and who are you?”

The critter promptly replied that he was Lumbricus terrestris, better known as the common earthworm. Before I could say anything, he began telling about the importance of maintaining healthy soil that’s rich in nutrients so plants can thrive.

I was intrigued as the earthworm explained how after feeding on plant material and eliminating it, it becomes minerals and nutrients for the soil. And how when he moved about the soil, he created tunnels to help oxygenate the earth.

“We work day and night to make this soil fertile and healthy, so water and oxygen can be filtered,” the creature continued. “Our family of fungi and bacteria help break down organic matter and make it accessible to plants.”

It was then that I realized the significance of tending to the soil in our gardens. All of our actions — compacting it, contaminating it, saturating it with water or even letting it dry out completely — can negatively impact the millions of microorganisms living in it. Even more harmful, he said, are chemical products like insecticides or fertilizers, particularly when they’re not used correctly.

We started talking about soil structure and texture when a clamor caught our attention. It was a giant beetle with menacing claws charging us! Terrified, I fumbled for roots around me, trying to climb out of the hole…

That’s when I heard the voice of my beautiful wife saying the alarm had sounded twice and it was time for me to go to work.

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David Abrego

About our expert

David Abrego

David Abrego is a conservation consultant for SAWS. David, a native of Panama, likes to spend his time surrounded by plants and fruit trees. So if you can’t find him at home, he’s probably working in a greenhouse. David is also an arborist and an irrigation technician.