40 Tons of Life in One Acre of Soil: Treehugger Article

Good to see Sami Grover from Treehugger posting a story on Geoff Lawton’s Permaculture Soils DVD. Its created quite a lot of interest and comments on Treehugger and YouTube as people start to realize the actual dynamic, volume, weight and bio-diversity of living life in a healthy top soil. Harnessing these little organisms to toil for our benefit is something not a lot of people give much thought to and it should make us think twice about spraying pesticides thoughtlessly. As Geoff says and we preface the film with his quote, “It’s not the soil itself – Its the soil life that is the most important element.”


Our friends on the Permascience YouTube channel have posted a clip taken from the Soils DVD of Geoff explaining the life in the top few inches of soil. Its been incorrectly formatted so the picture looks a little squeezed up but still watchable.

Geoff Lawton tells the story of learning to mulch on his property years ago before he discovered the secret to soil creation. He was struggling with mulching his field and was doing all the usual traditional things, throwing straw about and using a drip irrigation to water his crops when the irrigation pump broke down.

It was a hot humid day – the sort of day when everything goes wrong for you. The pump had broken down and needed attention. Exhausted and angry, he decided to not take his usual long walk around the perimeter of the field but to directly cut a path straight to the pump by walking up and over a large clump of wild lantana growing in the middle of his property.

Frustrated, angry and exhausted to let nature beat him he scrambled precariously up and over the lantana. He was determined to get to the pump fast.


Lantana is made mostly of dry branches with the green foliage covering the top and sides. Its usually open underneath. Geoff walked over the branches but it couldn’t support his weight – he tripped and fell in.
He crashed deep into the lantana crashing through the broken branches and landed on his back. His arms hit the dirt underneath.
He wondered if he had broken any bones? He seemed fine. He noticed one hand was buried in a some thick black stuff. He lifted up his arm and looked at the humus in the palm of his hand.
It was better soil than the sort he was making. How was this possible? It was a pivotal moment in his life that eventually led him on the road to Permaculture.

“I decided to read every book on compost that I could find.” said Geoff. Compost became his obsession. At one stage he had 18 piles all boiling away and then noticed a peculiar thing.

The Kookaburras would descend in the early mornings and live above the treetops on his farm, swooping down on stray field mice that were attracted to the compost piles. Their droppings were evident at the base of the trees. These droppings stimulated the decomposition process. Nature was making soil.