As every good organic gardener knows, healthy plants need healthy, living soils. In fact, one acre of soil can contain as much as 40 tons of life—all working together to maintain what's known as a soil food web.
So how do you tell how healthy and happy your soil is? Well, you look at it.
In this short video from the always entertaining Growing Your Greens, John Kohler explains what to look for as you dig into your soil. From earth worms to fungi, there's plenty of visible animal and plant activity you can see that should serve as an indicator of a healthy, living soil. Besides the worms and the fungi, I might add that color and structure can tell you an awful lot.
The darker your soil, generally speaking, the more organic matter it is likely to contain. And if you pull up a plant, the roots are well-spread out, and the soil comes crumbling away—then you are doing something right. If the soil comes up in hard clumps and/or the roots are stunted, you may have a problem. (You can also look for water gathering on the soil surface as a sign of compaction.)
If they can green an arid, salty desert, then you can revive an abused or neglected backyard plot.