Living Soils & the New NPK: Nutrients, Physical Structure, Key Biology

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This is the third in a series of Training Forums offered by Sustainable Gardening Australia (SGA).

Did you know that 2015 is International Year of Soils? Soil is often an overlooked partner in sustainability but it is critical in producing healthy food, fibre, fuel and medicine. Soil supports our planet's biodiversity and plays an important role in the carbon cycle, climate change and climate adaptation.

  • Learn about what we can do to improve our own soils and garden more sustainably;
  • Join us in a discussion on the diversity and complexity of life and the inter-relationships that make a healthy soil;
  • Learn about the Soil Food Web and the new NPK (Nutrients, Physical structure and Key biology) which explores the biological (life), nutrient (chemistry) and soil structural requirements of healthy soils;
  • Delve with us into the relationship that pH has with soil structure and microbiological activity; and
  • See the life and activity within real soils samples through live projections on screen from a microscope. 

Forum Summary

A healthy soil is fundamental to growing healthy plants and in keeping a stable natural environment.

In determining soil health there are many factors to consider and address. This forum introduced the concept of the new NPK. Soil Nutrients, Physical structure and Key biology (which generally live in and around soil organic matter) and how the Soil Food Web interacts with the new NPK.

The Soil Food Web is the complex biological network of micro-organisms and bugs that live in healthy soils with the organisms living in a symbiotic relationship with plants. They live in the soil, on the leaf and on the stem surfaces with most activity in the rhizosphere – the soil area closest to the roots. Soil Health is predominantly determined by having a properly functioning Soil Biological Network – the life in the soil.

The Soil Biological Network is the diverse set of organisms in the soil that includes:

  • Bacteria
  • Protozoa – flagellates, ciliates and amoeba
  • Nematodes and micro-arthropods
  • Algae
  • Fungi
  • Visible insects, small vertebrates, earthworms, litter and plants.

What does having a healthy soil microbiology do for our soils and plants? It:

  • Suppress disease
  • Retain nutrients
  • Regulate nutrients
  • Decompose toxins
  • Builds soil structure

Which means:

  • Plants are healthier and tolerate adverse conditions better.
  • Plants increase their root depth and penetration in microbially improved soil.
  • Water infiltrates easily into the soil and more evenly.
  • Air and gases moves freely through the soil.
  • Nutrient cycling occurs normally so less or no applied nutrients are needed.
  • Nutrients become plant available when the plant needs, in the quantity required.
  • Natural disease suppression occurs in the soil and on the plant.
  • Natural protection of root zone and foliage by beneficial biomass.

Don’t just love your plants. Love your Soil and it and it will repay you with a beautiful, healthy, resilient and productive organic garden.


Gerhard Grasser - Studied Soil & Plant Health Sciences from 1984. He is Managing Director of AgriSolutions and has been consulting on soil and plant health to the farming community for nearly 30 years.  Gerhard is an active partner in a biologically farmed property in Gippsland and has lectured in Soils, Dip.Sust.Agriculture at ECG McMillan TAFE. He is an Advisory Committee member, Soil Health Policy - West Gippsland and is a founder of Tree Preservation Australia.

Matthew Daniel - Is an internationally experienced Arboriculturalist, studied Plant & Soil Health Care for Arboriculture in USA & Australia, established a plant & soil Health Care business in QLD and is a founder of Tree Preservation Australia.

website :

facebook : Sustainable Gardening Australia

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What you will learn
  • How to improve your soil making it healthier, more productive and sustainable / self-sustaining
  • About the complexity and diversity of life in a healthy soil
  • The role PH has in soil structure and microbiological activity
What you will get
  • Speaker summaries will be distributed after the forum
  • List of online resources to continue your healthy soil journey
  • Yummy home made biscuits to have with a cuppa.

What to bring
  • Paper and Pen to take notes
What to wear


Appropriate for

Home and professional gardeners; professional growers

Sustainable Gardening Australia (SGA) is a not-for-profit non-government organiation dedicated to achieving a healthy biodiverse planet.

Its driving purpose is to:

  • Encourage, educate and enable home and professional gardeners to adopt sustainable gardening practices to protect or enhance the natural environment;
  • Provide information, education and undertake research about the natural environment;
  • Reconnect people to the natural world through gardening; and
  • Ensure an understanding of the impacts that gardening decisions about chemical and resource use have on the natural environment well beyond their neighbourhood.
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Refund & Cancellation Policy

SGA’s Cancellation and Refund Policy

  • No refunds will be given for non-attendance.
  • If there are insufficient numbers for an event it may be cancelled or postponed by SGA. If this is the case, you will be notified and given the option of either a full refund or a transfer to a different SGA event of equivalent value.
  • Attendee initiated cancellations - Refunds will be issued for cancellations if you give at least 7 days notice prior to the start date. Refunds will be reduced by 1) a $10 SGA administration fee 2) WeTeachMe fees (if applicable) and 3) any financial transaction fees (if applicable).
  • No refunds will be issued for cancellations with less than 7 days notice unless the event is successfully booked out, including the cancelled tickets.

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Terms & Conditions

SGA’s Booking Conditions

  • Bookings are considered final once payment is made and no refunds will be given for non-attendance.
  • If there are insufficient numbers for an event it may be cancelled or postponed by SGA. If this is the case, you will be notified and given the option of either a full refund or a transfer to a different SGA event of equivalent value.
  • Please arrive 10 minutes before the scheduled starting time for registration and seating

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