Education Day 2: Plant Your Pants

We recently hosted an education day here at Ewhurst Park. We welcomed children from five schools that are participating in the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Trust’s Wilder Lives schools initiative, along with some local home schooling groups. They spent a full day with us, enjoying a host of talks, demonstrations and activities.

One of the activities – titled ‘Plant Your Pants’ – was designed by The Country Trust to offer an ingenious demonstration of soil health. Here’s how the trust describes the initiative: ‘Burying pants is a technique that’s been used by scientists the world over to engage people in the science of soil health. The healthier the soil, the more disintegrated the cotton pants will be once they are dug up. It’s a way that children can discover life, both visible and invisible.’

We conducted the experiment in our market garden. I taught children how life on earth depends on the health of our soils; we need to preserve the microcosm beneath our feet which contains an unimaginable array of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes and higher animals like worms – all of which make it possible for plants to grow in the soil. The health of these underground webs is essential for efficient photosynthesis and plant growth, while the mycelia network is linked to the roots of plants and trees and signals when plants are in need of water and nutrients.

Here I am explaining to the children about the ‘Plant your Pants’ initiative.

The children were invited to dig into the soil to see what they could find. We then undertook the fun experiment, with the children giggling when I produced a pair of pants. Some of them asked who the pants belonged to and I said they weren’t mine! I explained it was best to use cotton pants and one child demonstrated his extensive vocabulary by asking if that was because cotton pants are biodegradable.

I dug out a small parcel of ground and showed the children the earthworms in it. Then I buried the pants, explaining that I would dig them out in eight weeks’ time to see how decomposed they were: the more life in the soil, the less pants will survive.

I think it’s so important that children learn about nature and the importance of looking after the ecosystem. Our children will be leading us and shaping our future, so it’s important that they engage in these subjects.

Soil health is a particular concern of mine. One of the most immediate changes that occur during nature restoration is that the soil’s biology gets healthier over time – and this is what we are seeing at Ewhurst Park. Last year, our team took soil samples from every field across our 925 acres and we are having these analysed to discover exactly how our soils are changing.

Meanwhile, watch this space for more news on Plant Your Pants. We’re hoping for a great result!