“Fairy tales make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.” ~ G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
Note: urban soils and the bags of “soil” you buy at the local nursery are not real soils. Soil is the cover made up by different layers that we find in different ecosystems: depending on many interactions (time, climate, water, wind, etc.) and the parent material (type of rocks that originated the soil), the layers will have different thickness and would be more or less rocky, containing more or less from certain minerals.
This soil can have a higher percentage of clay, sand or silt and even the amount and quality of the organic matter will vary.
There is a reason you find different plant arrangements and ecosystems in different soils: what grows there would depend on the type of minerals, porosity, water and nutrient retention capacity and other factors affecting the soil, and they will as well interact with the soil, changing and shaping it.
The urban “soil” found in yards and patios is usually top soil and may be contaminated: it was most likely removed when the area was urbanized and many different things may have been dumped and buried on it. You may not find the same layers or “types” you’d find in a “virgin” soil such as a forest, a grassland or a meadow. For urban soils you may also want to test the toxicity of the soil or create raised beds in order to avoid contamination as much as possible…taking into account that contamination and pollution are now a world-spread phenomena affecting all our soils and watersheds.
The soil you buy from the stores is most likely a soil “made” by a company, farm or person and may contain different particles but will not be or behave as “virgin” soil, it is more of a “growing media” than a “soil” and its quality and value will vary depending on what is made of or what’s its origin.
All starts with observation: of your soil, your garden, your life and what you are made of.
When it comes to observation of the soil, we want to fully understand what we have:
The questions above will give you the “innate” part of your soil: what it is and how it looks like, how it behaves, when and where…
You can easily extrapolate this exploration to anything you are observing: from your own emotions and character to your thoughts and behaviours. You can apply observation (and similar questions) to your house and each one of the systems in your life (click here for more detail in exploring systems)