rot
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dirt vs soil

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Went over the question of dirt versus soil in another forum. I wasn't quite satisfied with the end result.

Does any one really care?

Is there a difference?

Is dirt just displaced soil?

One has an organic component and the other doesn't?

Your thoughts please.

Thanks in advance.

Ref:

[url=https://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/34205/title/Science_+_the_Public__Dirt_Is_Not_Soil]Science News[/url]

[url=https://www.nytimes.com/1991/07/04/garden/a-gardener-s-world-do-you-toil-in-the-soil-or-dig-in-the-dirt.html]NY Times[/url]
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rainbowgardener
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How about dirt is what comes in with me and gets tracked all over the carpets and soil is what stays out in the garden? :)

Otherwise I haven't really made much difference between the two, except that soil has the connotation of being more precise, therefore being what gardeners talk about. So dirt is what is just there, soil is what we tend.

But there is (untended) soil in forest, so I think probably it is about organic matter. Soil has a healthy combination of organic and inorganic materials and is unique to different areas (like forest soils vs other types), while dirt is generic and may not have much organic material or health.

Interesting question, that I hadn't really thought about!

PS. I wrote the above before I read your links, so it's coincidence that some of the ideas are the same... But I enjoyed the links!

rot
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Thanks for the consideration

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I had to scratch my head before. The assertion that was made on another board was that dirt was soil tampered with by humans and with organic matter. After the guy who made that assertion argued the point several times it occurred to me that that was his definition and not necessarily anyone else's.

I'm still kind of curious now how others distinguish, if at all, between the two terms.

Thanks for considering the question and the reply. I have to go along with your line of thinking.

to sense
..

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-...-

:idea:) The author is very sharp who ever she is and she should give herself more esteem. My own understanding was accurate.
You can solve all your problems in a garden/laboratory.

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Dirt = Soil Soil = Dirt. Same thing in my opinion. I just looked up the definition of both words and they are basically the same. Of course there is some soil that has more organics in it but it's still dirt just better dirt.

my to sense

just reread this and that's what RG said. So ditto there. Also see she posted before reading as well.
:lol:

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In the horticultural world we have a saying, "Dirt is what you sweep off the floor. Soil is what you grow things in."

It has always sufficed for me... I think of it in the same way we define weeds; simply a plant out of place. Weeds=dirt...

HG
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I agree this is an interesting question! I don't have the time to descriptively write up all my thoughts, so here is an outline. Sorry if it's too vague. I may come back and elaborate later...

I'm liking the dirt:soil .*. water:lake analogy (comments in 1st link)

Word definition changes over time --
dirt = negative connotation from Norse etymology?
soil = newer discovery of soil microorganisms, soil food web, living layers?
(didn't know about the Smithsonian exhibit 8) - link1)
dirt garden = self-deprecating description of proudly tended garden? or ref. to sweat/toil/dedication?
==> modern usage hydroponic gardener vs. soil gardener?

If soil = living foodweb, then soil-less mix is dead dirt? Not even dirt?
Sterilized soil = dead dirt?
Pasteurized soil + Beneficial Microorganisms = good soil? (e.g. cuture -- yogurt in pasteurized milk, mushroom spore/spawn in pasteruized/sterilized substrate?)
Sterilized Soil-less mix + BM = no thought to food for the BM? (but usually contains coir (or peat) and vermiculite or perlite....)

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Ponder this.

If you come in from the garden and you were kneeling down would your clothes be soily or dirty?

Okay, thinking about it they could be 'soiled' but they are still dirty. :P

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The soil is no longer growing plants; it is now on your clothes where you don't want it. They're dirty... :wink:

I hardly ever use the D-word anymore...

HG
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Soiled and dirty

..

If I soiled myself that would be dirty if I admitted to it. It would be even dirtier if I pondered it too much.

Thanks guys. I think I just worried too much about a silly conversation. Sometimes I get hung up on words.

Gix, my brain hurts from pondering too much. I think it will have to come out.

applestar, I followed you largely but my Mother-in-law was a registered nurse and I'm afraid BM has a whole different meaning permanently fixed in my soiled mind.

HG, the weeds analogy works for me. I do however sweep the dirt onto the soil.

Sage Hermit, I'm not sure which author you are referring to.

I think I will stick with dirt being what you track in and in a wider sense, the weeds analogy. Having said that, getting dirty from working on the car is not the same as getting dirty from playing in the dirt. If I can't leave it in the garden I'll call it by another four letter word from the Anglo-Saxon.

Geez. Get that off of me.

..

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If we are just deciding a proper word for "dirt", I have always liked the Yiddish schmutz. It sounds right...

HG
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I went to Lowe's today to get some potting "SOIL". They were all froze together I told one of the people there (thinking about this thread) that their potting "dirt" was froze solid the dude looked at me like I was crazy for a second before he realized what I meant. I just chuckled to myself and went on my merry way. :lol: :lol:

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what is happening in america is that we treat our soil like dirt. It is not cared for, nurtured, amended, protected and used with respect. We expect it to 'live' forever and it does not without proper care. Too many poisons, chemicals, granular fertilizers has killed most of the living microbes that make dirt become soil. Soil is scared to our society to thrive because without it, we cannot grow enough to eat and thus our society slowly becomes weak and then overrun by others that are much stronger. many place have experinced such loss of topsoil that it is no longer viable to use and degrades into waste area or gullys. Construction of housing and roadways take an immense toll on agricultural land and that too is lost. So, in essence soil is a living viable organism vital to our well being and dirt is , well dirt.

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soil conservation - what's that?

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hay makes a good point. We do treat our soil like dirt.

After the dust bowls of the thirties there was a national campaign for soil conservation. I'm afraid that's only what old farts seem to remember and is no longer hip. Kind of like Arbor day vs earth day.

I just hope it doesn't take another disaster like the dust bowl before we learn again.
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I'm afraid that humans never learn lessons from the past. Already our topsoil is so depleated from mono-cropping. No till agriculture helps save some topsoil but massive amount os poisons and herbicides are used to replace the tillage. Not a smart move, IMO. The great 1980's saw the era of "planting fence row to fence row" and thus started the chain of events leading up to more depleating of topsoil. Our culture depends on topsoil for our food. Why treat our precious soil like dirt? Rotational cropping, IMO, is the best idea to save oour soil, but with todays economics, mono-cropping has taken precedence. In other words, it's all about money and how much can be mined from the earth without a care for future generations.

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See around me I don't see monocultures in big farming. We are corn and beans mostly around here. The normally switch them out ever year. Which is good at least the soybeans add nitro for the following years corn. As far as the cides yeah I'm sure they use them, chemical ferts too, so what good does the rotation do it's probably marginal in the end. :(

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A field of corn is a mono-culture! If they plant it in soybeans the next year, that's good to help rebuild the soil, but it doesn't change the fact that this year it is a mono-culture. (Next year it's a mono-culture too, just a soybean one.)

If there is an insect or disease that likes corn and finds that field it is in heaven! That's why that kind of cropping requires so much in the way of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers, etc.

If you were growing the three sisters instead, as the native peoples did, the concentration of corn to attract and feed the corn pests would be a lot reduced. If you were growing a little patch of three sisters and a little patch of potatoes and a few fruit trees and had some chickens scratching around eating insects and larvae, and bird feeders out, those corn pests wouldn't stand a chance!

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I stand corrected. Don't know what I was thinking. :oops:

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rainbowgardener wrote:A field of corn is a mono-culture! If they plant it in soybeans the next year, that's good to help rebuild the soil, but it doesn't change the fact that this year it is a mono-culture. (Next year it's a mono-culture too, just a soybean one.)

If there is an insect or disease that likes corn and finds that field it is in heaven! That's why that kind of cropping requires so much in the way of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers, etc.

If you were growing the three sisters instead, as the native peoples did, the concentration of corn to attract and feed the corn pests would be a lot reduced. If you were growing a little patch of three sisters and a little patch of potatoes and a few fruit trees and had some chickens scratching around eating insects and larvae, and bird feeders out, those corn pests wouldn't stand a chance!
Unfortunately, the Natives did not have 2 billion to feed and the resultant crops were less than 30% of the yield.

I am not advocating current methods, but I am cautious of the thought process that "in the past, all was harmonious".

Past cultures evolved to where we are NOW in time. Those cultures had no desire to remain at their then present state.

We sometimes attempt to romanticize these notions, but humans are inherintly lazy and seek better and easy ways of doing EVERYTHING within their current constraints and resources.
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Indeed, the aboriginal peoples did not have SIX billion people to feed. We are likely beyond the optimum sustainable carrying capacity of the earth already.

I am not suggesting we should or can do everything just like it was done 1000 years ago. I am suggesting that in some ways those folks were living in better balance with their ecosystems (partly because there were not so many of them) and perhaps there are things we can learn from them and ways we can adapt pieces of it.

I believe in permaculture, but I don't practice very much of it on my 1/3 acre hilly city lot -- but I try to learn and see what might make sense for my situation.

I think there is a lot more in the current state of the world that we could be doing to farm more sustainably and still feed everyone. A lot of it might be a lot more labor intensive, but why is that a bad thing? We have 10+% of our population unemployed. Why not put them to work doing a more labor intensive kind of farming?

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Re: dirt vs soil

rot wrote:..

Went over the question of dirt versus soil in another forum. I wasn't quite satisfied with the end result.

Does any one really care?

Is there a difference?

Is dirt just displaced soil?

One has an organic component and the other doesn't?

Your thoughts please.

Thanks in advance.

Ref:

https://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/34205/title/Science_+_the_Public__Dirt_Is_Not_Soil

https://www.nytimes.com/1991/07/04/garden/a-gardener-s-world-do-you-toil-in-the-soil-or-dig-in-the-dirt.html

..
To me it all depends on how the word is used in a sentence. What irks me is how we bastardized Webster. If I say that somebody is queer or gay, a totally different meaning is taken than what was intended. John
Life's Journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body,
but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting,
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rainbowgardener wrote:I think there is a lot more in the current state of the world that we could be doing to farm more sustainably and still feed everyone. A lot of it might be a lot more labor intensive, but why is that a bad thing? We have 10+% of our population unemployed. Why not put them to work doing a more labor intensive kind of farming?
I'm glad you said it cause i was going to. I might be out of a job soon. I totally agree. There are things that could be done but in the current state of affairs in the world that's not going to happen. It would cost too much money, or will it. The world has gone away from farming no one cares about food as long at the McDonald's down the street stays open. They don't care where it comes from, just keep it cheap. That has forced farmers to take shortcuts to produce with little profits which we all know has led to inferior product ripe with chemical residues. This has forced framers to shut down they can't afford to stay in farming. Who wants to take over grandpa's farm if they can't make money, edited capitalism. We are slowly starving ourselves, if you go to buy "Organic" products at the store they are super expensive, why, I don't understand. An organic way of life in the long run doesn't cost as much. Look at Fukuoka, Stout they spent little to no money and had great harvest. So why is a pint of organic milk twice as much as a regular poison filled gallon of milk.

Sorry I'm ranting but the cost of farm implements and fertilizers and pesticides that make the land need more and more like an addict could be replaced or at least used less with a more earth friendly way, people, diversification of crops, natural pest control. I believe we could do better than we are. But such is not the way of the hustle and bustle world we live.

Like I said I'm ranting so I hope this makes sense, it does to me, no offense to anyone on this site just speaking my mind. :)

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rainbowgardener wrote:Indeed, the aboriginal peoples did not have SIX billion people to feed. We are likely beyond the optimum sustainable carrying capacity of the earth already.

I am not suggesting we should or can do everything just like it was done 1000 years ago. I am suggesting that in some ways those folks were living in better balance with their ecosystems (partly because there were not so many of them) and perhaps there are things we can learn from them and ways we can adapt pieces of it.

I believe in permaculture, but I don't practice very much of it on my 1/3 acre hilly city lot -- but I try to learn and see what might make sense for my situation.

I think there is a lot more in the current state of the world that we could be doing to farm more sustainably and still feed everyone. A lot of it might be a lot more labor intensive, but why is that a bad thing? We have 10+% of our population unemployed. Why not put them to work doing a more labor intensive kind of farming?
I listed 2 billion in what we actually feed. We being American Agri business. Thanks for pointing that out.
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Organic is trendy and that's part of the reason for the high price. The other part is that organics do take more intensive labor to produce 'supermarket' quality that americans demand. If a veggie or fruit is even slightly blemished, then it won't sell. Only the most perfect sell and that's part of the american mindset that everything must be perfect or it's deemed no good. The same stupid mindset applies to dairy products, hay, grain, fruit and anything that is edible. It is even hard to sell hay if it is not perfectly weed free and of a certain grass specis because of the mindset of perfection. In this day and time, if a product is not inspected, homogenized, pasturized and come from a box, carton, or a trendy store, then it is deemed 'unsafe'. Just try to sell watermelons, sweet corn or veggies on the roadside and see how long befoes someone in 'authority' comes and asks for your vendors permit and state inspection certificate. I grew up on a farm and farmed many years myself, but I had to quit because of low prices, chain store competition, and a physical handicap. Even 'farmers markets' won't buy fresh farm produce anymore ( even if you can still find a farmers market) unless it comes from the wholesaler. Something about product liability.

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Exactly Hay, I said before I didn't understand why "Organics" were so expensive, but I knew it was the "trendy" point of it. Just not wanting to admit it. That is the problem with Americans, unfortunately the mass of consumers don't understand this. We just need to make untrendy the trend. I would much rather buy a great tasting freak looking tomato than a perfect "Cover shot" tasteless tomato. Or anything else for that matter. If we could do that the prices would come down and the actual "Farmer" could go back to work and do what they are supposed to do and that is feed this country.

on and on gotta go before I get too pissed and say something I shouldn't. :evil:

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hay wrote:. Even 'farmers markets' won't buy fresh farm produce anymore ( even if you can still find a farmers market) unless it comes from the wholesaler. Something about product liability.
I don't disagree with most of above and Americans certainly do need to get used to more "natural" looking produce, vs the huge, perfect, glossy, gleaming, waxed and buffed (and tasteless!) stuff in the supermarkets.

But as gixx notes I think times are changing. There are lots more farmers markets where I am than there used to be and more all the time, and I know actual farmers (not wholesalers) come to them and sell directly. There are also now a few CSA's in my area (community supported agriculture farms). I belong to one. I put in 2-3 work days each summer working on the farm, helping tend the veggies I will eat as well as paying a flat fee for the season. In return I get all the farm fresh, local, organic veggies I can eat (plus a bit to put by) from end April to end October. And the farm gets guaranteed income up front at the beginning of the season and guaranteed sales and some free labor.

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Best fruit I have ever had was grown in Egypt and shipped to the Afghanistan border. Incredible fruit! Our assumption was that it was more heirloom as opposed to genetically hyper-modified. Incredible.
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Re: dirt vs soil

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[/quote]
To me it all depends on how the word is used in a sentence. What irks me is how we bastardized Webster. If I say that somebody is queer or gay, a totally different meaning is taken than what was intended. John[/quote]

It certainly irks me too when the transmogrification of words is used to serve some political agenda or social movement. While the evolution of usage is what leads our language to be so rich in the first place things like being friended or doing lunch seems so unnecessary. One can only hope that the natural selection of ideas will eventually kill off the bad ones.

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Careful what you wish for

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"The other part is that organics do take more intensive labor to produce 'supermarket' quality that americans demand."

Not to disagree but growing food is energy intensive whether you measure that in labor or in gasoline to power the equipment. The ability to feed two billion people is an amazing feat that will become more necessary as we the six billion people continue to reproduce.

The supermarket quality comes from the notion that good looking produce sells better than not so good looking produce. As the world, not just America, becomes more sales driven, this will continue until the costs, in dollars or in nutrition or in health, for such visually appealing produce becomes prohibitive.

The safety issues come from people getting sick and dying in the past. Maybe we shouldn't be isolating ourselves from the environment so much but exposure to the environment is exposure to hazards as well. We'll have to accept that if we're going to be more natural.

"We have 10+% of our population unemployed. Why not put them to work doing a more labor intensive kind of farming?"

That's fine. Just pay a living wage. The idea that farm work is work that Americans won't do is BS. Few people are going to do work that doesn't pay. That means all our food becomes more expensive of course. If we're paying more for food maybe we'll buy fewer cars and take fewer trips. Maybe we'll buy fewer computers and burn less electricity.

It ain't all bad just overdone. I think we will find the petro-chemical model of raising food through pesticides, chemical fertilizers and, oil for energy, will have to give way to alternate methods one way or the other as petro-chemical costs increase and soil erosion leeches capacity.

Meanwhile the population bomb keeps ticking away. Soil and water continues to be more scarce. I hope we can develop the next green revolution soon enough.

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To get back on topic...

Dirt is a broad term, like car. Soil is a subset of dirt. Lots of things fit under the heading of "dirt" and soil is one of them. Dust is also a dirt, but I certainly wouldn't call it soil.

Think of it this way. All Toyota Avalons are cars, but not all cars are Avalons. All soil is dirt, but not all dirt is soil.

Here's another. All oranges are fruit, but not all fruit are oranges.

Finally, all soil is dirt, but not all dirt is soil.

So, if you mean soil but say dirt, you are not being incorrect, just not very specific.

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Dirt tends to be something that people do not want, such as what gets tracked into your house, or if located outside in your garden, it is not suitable for growing plants or turf.

Soil is composed of different components, the amount of which is dependent on your location, including sand, silt, clay, and organic matter. Soil is considered a growing medium for plants and turf. It can be naturally existing or mixed and created.

Hope this helps!

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good dirt

..
Thanks for the thoughts. I appreciate the nuances.

I wouldn't plant in the dirt that comes out of the local city council no matter how soiled it is.

To sense
..

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Great discussion...

Gixx said "I said before I didn't understand why "Organics" were so expensive, but I knew it was the "trendy" point of it. "

I think it is more a function of the usual economic engines than simply fadism. The fact that air is free has made chemical fertilizers cheap. Organic fertilizers are no where near as cheap, so organics is more expensive there. One guy in a helicopter can't organically treat an orchard (YET! but my friend Chandrappa told me they are looking at aerial tea applications, so there is hope), so more expense. And here's the real killer; because it is more expensive, fewer people do it, or do it on a smaller scale so smaller production runs means more operating expense. This is called economies of scale, and THAT, my friends, is why organics is more expensive...

But we have a few things in our favor. First, oil is dissappearing before our very eyes. Peak global production was at least two years back, four if you talk to the Saudis, exploration is costing more and producing less, and global demand is still rising while supply shrinks. Economics 101, kids; what happens in that scenario?

So as oil gets more expensive, so does fertilizer (burning a LOT of oil is how you make fertilizer). Soon the economies of scale will shift of necessity, so we have that going for us...

Secondly, people are waking up to the damage that chemical fertilization does to water and soil, and they are shifting despite the price. This too will shift the economies of scale. Shifting...shifting...

And finally, the economy sucks. So people are looking to do without ANY innputs and I know only ONE way to do that and it doesn't include chemicals...

COMPOST, BABY! (My Dick Vitale imitation in honor of March Madness)

And...tipping point. I think we are right there. Look at the Canadian anti-pesticides movement (and how some of us are trying to make that happen here). Look at the fad that has grown around organics (I didn't say Gixx was wrong, just not completely dialed in... :wink: ). And look how many of you are walking the walk now, and setting examples for family, friends and neighbors. Let me tell you, I'm not even the first generation of organics folks, and there was NOTHING like this when I started. The "experts" talked to each other because no one else would listen! :lol: And now look!

I just took part in a Facebook campaign to get TruGreen/Chemlawn removed as an official sponsor of Earthday (yeah, :evil: , right?). The response was so loud, so fast, and so organized that in three days, they were gone. Organics is becoming a given in the green equation, and the movement is stronger than it knows because it isn't organized; it's just us! But when we come together...WOW!

Back to topic though; I gotta disagree with Archer. Dirt is what you sweep up, it's soil until you kill it...

Word.

HG
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HG how can you not love this guy? :D

I still think i was right it is supply and demand. Everyone want to be the new "organic" guy on the block. No to mention it makes sense. You are just bringing up another side of it, which is prudent as well of course.

High five on the work with facebook, you rock.

Speaking of chemical ferts, a few of my neighbors were hanging at my house today. They all use chemlawn :shock: :x. I opened up my corn glutten and took a small nibble and asked them "Let me see you do that with your fertilizer" :shock: . Wasn't it cynthia that told me to not be so "in your face". F that!

No offense Cynthia :mrgreen: :hide:

Oh yeah "Soil vs dirt" just plant something would you and quit worrying about nomenclature.

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Words are symbols, Gixx, and symbols are powerful things. Why d'ya think I got so worked up about TG sponsoring Earth Day? Is it just words, or is there some meaning that goes deeper?

Same with the soil, and the more I have viewed it, the more I like my version. It's like soil is the person, and dirt is just the corpse. It's soil untill you kill it, then it's dirt. The life is gone...

I grow in soil... :mrgreen:

HG
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I feel you HG really I do.

But the TG vs. Earth day is a more needed battle, than why would we waste our time battling over Dirt vs. Soil - terminology wise. :wink:

Are you following me?

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I hear ya

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I hear you guys. I was just curious about that word play of dirt vs soil.

I like the working idea of dirt being dead soil but in common usage and in trying to talk to a broader audience I think you'll find it simpler to say: 'dead soil'. I can't disagree with Archer.

I suppose it is a small matter to wrestle with words like soil versus dirt but words do seem to matter. Try talking to your insurance company and use the word fee instead of that insidious word co-pay.

I won't bother getting worked up about those 7 words you can't say on TV and thoughts about manipulating word usage manipulates ideas.

I suppose in the context of this discussion we could argue about the word bio-engineering. I expect the idea of DNA manipulation comes to mind the way it is used nowadays but isn't cross-pollination and the domestication of animals bio-engineering too?

As far as the other matter of how we treat our soil and organics versus industrial chemicals, I neither see full salvation in the organics movement as it is presently being proselytized nor do I really fear 'the corporations' in total.

I do fear the growing world population and increased competition for food, water and, other resources. I do fear that feeding the world will mean more and more engineered solutions and the growing mistrust on all sides will thwart the meaningful ones.

I hear you guys. Forgive me if I come off as being combative. I don't like using those smiley things.

To sense
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