Photo courtesy of Gabriel Jimenez at Unsplash.com.

Gardeners have always known, down to their bones, that getting down and dirty in the soil is good for you. My grandmother was a staunch believer in the beneficial, calming effect of pulling weeds and digging in the garden when she was angry or frustrated with life.

Pulling weeds, digging up plants, planting new plants and seeds, mixing in good compost to a new landscape bed – these are joys that bring gardeners into intimate contact with soil and all the abundant life within. Gardeners love that smell of good fertile soil. As do nature lovers of all sorts. Hikers love the earthy smell as they tromp through the woods – especially after a nice rain when the fragrance is especially fresh and sweet.

What causes the aroma that we are experiencing? Much of it is bacteria. Good bacteria. Healthy soil is a complex ecosystem containing a great biodiversity of species of plants, fungi, animals and bacteria. And much research is being done to identify and learn about the thousands of species living under our feet.

Scientists are now suggesting that a fatty acid found in the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae may alleviate stress and stress related disorders in humans. Gardeners have always known there was something about the soil that was good and healthy for us. Now, we have the science to back it up!

Happy Gardening!

Mary Salinas

Residential Horticulture Extension Agent for Santa Rosa County

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