Tottori's Soil Quality

Here’s something that might be of interested to anyone in Tottori with a little bit of private dirt that they’re interested in using for something besides hosting weeds.

This morning’s Asahi Shinbun had an article ranking the Earth’s soil in six categories, with sub-divisions of some of these. There are probably copyright issues that would prevent me from reproducing the article here, and it was hours ago when I read it, so I’ll try to recap the main points to the best of my memory. There were representative photographs of each gradation, which went something like this:


A ßThe world’s richest loam, the kind into which you can just drop a seed and watch it sprout


C ßIt starts to clump up around here




G ßThe world’s worst, driest, hardest, deadest dirt, good for nothing


One point of interest was that eastern and western Japan were divided into two distinctly different soil compositional categories. Within that, the quality you can expect varies from place to place.


As it happens, what we have here in our garden—yard, really, it took a ton of effort to transform it into a productive plot—falls into the C category. It surprised us to find that what we have to work with is relatively good—after all, the previous owners of our house used the earth outside as a rubbish dump, and every time we dig we exhume war-era tin cans, bricks, pieces of tile and pottery, and all kinds of debris. The most useful things we dig up are boulders, which I like to carry over to the rock wall and pile up to make it higher.


But on second thought, it really shouldn’t surprise us all that much. Most of the soil that covers the earth is pretty useless for agriculture. Take into account that three fourths of the globe are covered in water, and subtract from the remainder the portion that is desert, frozen tundra, or otherwise accessible, and it makes a person really grateful that we’ve been able to survive on the meagre amount of loam we have left to us. (Don’t waste your food, kids!)


(Now and then I encounter some climate change hopefuls who point to supposedly positive changes such as a longer growing season in Canada. They need to be reminded that the soil in hitherto uncultivable regions is still a major obstacle—most soil in areas that have seen little traditional farming tend to have rocky, poor quality soil in addition to agriculturally adverse climates.)


During the very long Golden Week, a relative came by with a petrol-powered plow and turned over all the soil on our plot, saving us tens of hours of work. In the process we cast out many kilograms of stones and clumps of mostly clay. The overturned weeds simply dried out after a few days without rain, and the entire garden is now planted. Now we know that those claylike clumps can just be trampled upon and eventually cycled into the general soil. After a few more seasons of churning up the beds, removing more debris, and adding more compost, the soil quality might even move up a letter.