283: Elizabeth Murphy on The Importance of Healthy Soil.

Understanding the living matrix that affects the quality of our food.


Elizabeth has a passion for growing food which led her to a master’s degree in soil science from University of California, Davis, where she researched soil’s organic matter storage and a farmer’s ability to improve it.
She was a faculty instructor for Oregon State University Extension’s Small Farms Program, where she taught and consulted with gardeners and farmers about best management practices to build healthy soils.

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Since 2006, Elizabeth has owned a half-acre garden in southern Oregon, which she considers her laboratory for experimenting with sustainable soil management and gardening practices for landscapes and vegetables.
She is the author of Building Soil: A Down to Earth Approach and currently, she lives in Tacoma, Washington..


In This Podcast:

Having been drawn to the wonders of soil quality early on, Elizabeth Murphy has studied this living matrix in great detail.  She wants to make soil care an intuitive concept that all growers have. Today she shares some of the basics and with us including the make-up of soil, why cover crops are important and a few important DOs and DON’Ts of creating healthy soil. 

Listen in and learn about:

    • Working on farms early and connecting early to the quality of soil
    • Getting her master’s degree studying soil
    • Wanting to make soil an intuitive concept by shifting perspectives
    • Distilling the hands-on academic experience
    • Soil grower’s foundation – a section the is pertinent without overloaded with details
    • Soil as a living matrix and understanding the make-up
    • Texture as a composition of soil that affects the characteristics of soil
    • No recipe for bringing unhealthy soil back to health – it is more of a paradigm shift
    • Air, water, food, and shelter as key ingredients to health
    • Four components of soil broken down
    • Feeding soil through organic material, and keeping the food in the soil
    • Cover crops as an essential way to keep soil alive during down times
    • Cover crops vs green manure
    • Capturing and fixing nitrogen without the expense of chemical additives
    • Returning a cover crop to the system
    • What inspired her to be drawn to soil which drives all life on the planet
    • How she is a lazy gardener
    • The key element of growing organically is not using pesticides
    • Some do’s and don’ts and some common misconceptions
    • Do get a soil test to learn if there is a glaring deficiency in your soil
    • Do promote beneficial organisms – Don’t use pesticides
    • Do add compost and organics – Don’t expect the supply all the nutrients they need
    • Do till when there is a real reason – Don’t till without understanding why
    • Do keep plants growing – Don’t let your soil sit bare

As well as:

Her success – A hakurei turnip that she grew this year

Her drive – The impending global crises with our population increases of food security, climate change, environmental quality, and how these are affected by soil quality

Her advice – Just plant cover crops!

Books written by Elizabeth:

Building Soil: A Down-to-Earth Approach: Natural Solutions for Better Gardens & Yards

Elizabeth’s Book recommendations:       

His Dark Materials Yearling 3-book Boxed Set by Phillip Pullman

How to reach Elizabeth:     

Website:   DirtSecrets.com

Facebook: Dirt Secrets

UrbanFarm.org/BuildingSoil


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