How Food Grows: Soil

Part 2: Soil

The secret ingredient to delicious and nutritious food. While it might seem mysterious and can be easily overlooked, understanding the health of your soil will set you up for success.


  • Check the health of your soil by checking for earthworm activity.
  • Add poultry manure pellets or seaweed dust to boost the fertility of your soil, if you haven’t added other organic fertiliser earlier in the year.
  • Prepare fine, deep soil to sow carrot seeds in directly.
  • If you don’t have a bed ready for your seeds yet, get some carrots started in empty toilet roll inserts.
  • Sow peas directly into the soil.
  • If you don’t have a bed ready for your seeds yet, try sowing peas in an old container to grow for shoots.
  • Keep watering all your seeds and seedling to keep each one moist. Don’t let them dry out, but water gently and regularly to avoid letting them get sodden.

Top Tips

  • Don’t be daunted by horticulture lingo or gardening lingo. All you need are seeds, soil and something to put them in.
  • Don’t be worried if your first 6 seeds haven’t germinated yet. French beans and lettuce are likely to take longer, and others may take longer if they were sown too deeply.
  • Living, organic soil has a much broader range of nutrients than most soil in commercial agriculture. Taking the time to understand what makes soil healthy will pay off in the long run.
  • Earthworms are a great indicator of soil health. If you don’t find any in a square metre, feed your soil with some organic fertiliser.
  • The size of a seed matters again when sowing directly into the soil. Peas are more forgiving while carrots are quite temperamental.
  • Mark out drills and trenches when sowing directly into the soil as they are there to stay.

Helpful Resources is grateful for the support of our Growth Fund partners Social Innovation Fund Ireland and The Department of Rural & Community Development, whose funding has enabled us to promote and disseminate this online course, engaging thousands of people in How Food Grows.​