So much is going on. Out of sight, but never far from the minds of gardeners.
Yes, that’s right! I’m talking about the underworld of the soil.
I’ve written before about how crucial my worm farm is to this process. How I’ve been rewarded for the efforts that I make to recycle, compost, re-use and to avoid all things not organic. This is in part why my garden flourishes.
What I wasn’t aware of, was the importance of fungi.
A great fan of podcasts I recently listened to a good one. Dr Brian Pickles – Lecturer in Ecology University of Reading and Dr Alison Pouliot – Ecologist and ANU Honorary Fellow, were among those included on a Big Ideas panel at the WOMAdeliade, festival, in Australia recently, talking about the ‘third’ kingdom’ after the kingdoms of flora and fauna – it’s fungi!
While we’re all familiar with mushrooms and the other kinds of fungi that grow above ground, I knew less about the fungi working beneath the soil to feed plants by breaking down organic matter. I found even more fascinating that fungi also serve as a vast underground communication network to connect plants and microbes. Fungi hydrate and feed the plants and in turn the plants trap carbon to feed the fungi in a symbiotic relationship.
It confirms what gardeners have always known; communication and collaboration in all forms, are a crucial part of the natural world, no less for us humans.
Any worthwhile self-development course emphasises the importance of communication, of connection. And when I began this post I had inter-communication in mind. But it occurs to me as I contemplate the fungi analogy, how important intra-communication is. The kind of self-reflection our busy lives rarely privilege. The invisible, less apparent but essential kind that happens beneath the noisy surface chatter of our lives.
This might mean practising meditation or simply the quiet reflection my garden evokes. I cannot imagine being without a garden, whatever form it might take. A garden gifts me with the physical, emotional and psychological space to just ‘be’. To muse on, and commune with, something far greater than my physical reality.
If a healthy soil is full of death, it is also full of life: worms, fungi, microorganisms of all kinds … Given only the health of the soil, nothing that dies is dead for very long.