Plant Your Pants this spring to discover the life within your soil

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Posted 2 months ago

People across the UK are being invited to plant a pair of cotton pants this spring and then dig them up two months later to see for themselves the life within the soil.

The Plant Your Pants campaign, run by education charity The Country Trust, launches on the first day of spring (20 March 2024) and invites everyone to take part in a journey of soil discovery to find out what really is going on down there. Along the way, partici-pants will be encouraged to look, touch, listen to and smell their soil. Healthy soil will break down or degrade cotton more quickly than soil with low levels of microbial life. If you’re left with just the elastic, it’s a good sign that your soil is active and healthy.

The Country Trust is an education charity that connects disadvantaged children with the land that sustains us all through hands-on, sensory experiences of food and farming. Last year 23,000 children visited working farms with The Country Trust to learn at first-hand about how food is grown and the vital importance of soil to all our lives. The charity’s national Plant Your Pants campaign is wonderfully simple – just plant a pair of (ideally pre-loved) cotton pants in soil on or around the first day of spring in March, and then dig them up eight weeks later to see what has happened to them.

Jill Attenborough, CEO of the Country Trust, said: “We all depend on soil for our existence but as Leonardo Da Vinci said 500 years ago, ‘We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot’. The response to Plant Your Pants last year exceeded all our expectations, and we can’t wait to get the nation planting pants again.

“It’s our mission as a charity to enable tens of thousands of disadvantaged children every year to discover that what we eat and grow affects our own health and the health of our planet, through inspiring, transformative visits and activities. Plant Your Pants is a way of sharing that experience with everyone – young and old, gardeners, non-gardeners, whether you have a window box, a flowerbed or a veg patch. Gardeners, like farmers, have a big responsibility as stewards of this amazing world beneath our feet, and we hope that through participation in Plant Your Pants, we can all experience the excitement of discovery and find out more about how small changes can make a big difference.”

Soil provides 95% of our food, but how many of us really know what is in it, how it is formed, and what life it sustains beyond the plants we can see growing in it? Soil shows us how our climate is changing and holds many of the answers to our urgent climate questions. It is one of the most important carbon sinks on the planet with the capacity to capture and store carbon in plant roots and systems which, even on a small garden scale, can be very effective.

Tom Fairfax, a regenerative organic farmer based in Northumberland who hosts Country Trust Farm Discovery school visits and is a Plant Your Pants campaign champion, said: “Healthy soil is teeming with life, much of which can’t be seen by the naked eye, so getting our hands in the soil and seeing the way it acts on a pair of cotton pants is a brilliant way to experience its magic.  We have ignored the soil for too long and this has had a negative impact, not only on the environment, but also the quality of the food grown in it and our health. We all have a role to play in improving our soil, all we have to do is open our senses to the ground around us and listen to what it has to tell us.” 

Anyone can get involved with Plant Your Pants – it’s free to register online and you can add your pants to the interactive map. The activity can be enjoyed by individuals and families at home or by groups at allotment and gardening clubs, schools, youth and community groups or larger public access gardens. You don’t even need a garden – a window box or patio planter will do. Between March and the big reveal in June, the Country Trust team working with farmers and soil scientists will send ‘partici-pants’ informative and fun updates that will use all our senses to explore the soil and encourage positive action to improve its health.

Find out more and register now at www.countrytrust.org.uk/plantyourpants