Did you know there are different types of soil? Obviously, there are sands and clays and potting mixes and top soils, etc. There are also different brands that sell soil in garden-supply stores. But there are actual named series of soils. Soil, in one place, can have overall properties that make it unique to soil from other areas. Some soil is good for growing cotton, some soil is good for specific trees, some soil is good for root crops, etc.
Now here's something you can 'wow' them with at your next cocktail party: Michigan actually has an official state soil! It’s called Kalkaska sand.
In the 1970s, scientists began sifting through (ha!) over 400 different types of Michigan soil in order to come up with the one that best represents our state. Some of the things they considered: Widespread presence (Kalkaska sand covers over a million acres across both the upper and lower peninsulas), whether it supports a common state crop (trees grow well in Kalkaska; lumber is a state industry), and even physical appearance (it’s a beautiful reddish brown).
After many years of deliberation, they concluded that Kalkaska sand won out over the other candidates, and in 1991, over 150 conservationists, environmentalists and government leaders gathered in Kalkaska County to dedicate the newly-designated state soil.
A little bit about our state soil: Kalkaska sand is a multi-layer soil composed of humus, light sand, dark sand, and yellowish sand. As you dig down into the Kalkaska soil, distinctive layers can range from very dark to yellowish-brown and are commonly 2 to 4 feet deep. Kalkaska sand is a well-drained soil and can very effectively filter water. This makes it a valuable asset in forestry. It’s also the reason lakes and rivers located in areas of the state where Kalkaska sand is abundant are so darn clean.
While it’s not found in west Michigan south of Manistee, nor is it very good for lawns and gardens, it just goes to show that soil is so unique and diverse– and important– that states and scientists will go out of their way to actually recognize and celebrate it. We should too! It’s fragile and critical to our food and water supply.
Don't just call it “dirt.” It’s soil-- and if we don’t have healthy soil, there’s no hope for us to be healthy either.
Steve & Corey Veldheer are organic yard & garden specialists in west Michigan.