Living Memorial soil blend is safe and very easy to use, whether it is for human or pet cremated remains. It is a similar consistency to normal top soil.
'Living Memorial soil blend promotes biodiversity at all levels of an eco-system. Maintaining this cycle of life is crucial for our planet and all its inhabitants.'
- Professor David O. Carter, our lead scientist
Why can’t I just use normal soil or compost from my garden centre and mix it with cremated remains?
As the cremated remains are broken down more of the beneficial nutrients locked inside are released allowing the growing plant to flourish.
Scientists in the US spent years researching the negative impact of cremated remains on plant life and the environment. This is a brief summary of their findings.
Cremated remains are high in sodium, calcium, and potassium, all of which form positively charged ions when dissolved in water. When they are introduced to your soil these ions bind to negatively charged binding sites on plant roots.
The cremated remains also change the pH of the soil, making it much more alkaline than normal.
Our Living Memorial soil blend is specially formulated to restore the natural soil pH and neutralise the high concentration of sodium and calcium ions. It also slowly breaks down the cremated remains to release their beneficial nutrients, which helps plants and microbes to grow and thrive. In the UK we build on the learning from the US to reflect our own climatic conditions.
For the real science lovers, here is a more thorough description.
Cremated remains when added to the soil start a catastrophic series of events that results in dead plants and barren soil. An ecosystem with added cremated remains deals with two major issues:
- Very high toxic levels of Cations (specifically Sodium)
- Very high pH.
Cremated remains have a very high concentration of the cations:
Calcium, phosphorus and potassium are valuable to the plant, but the high concentrations of these three macronutrients causes too much competition for the absorption of other valuable macro and micronutrients.
A healthy plant in normal soil conditions has an issue dealing with cations. Cations need to be absorbed in certain amounts or ratios to maintain a healthy plant.
Potassium is required to activate protein syntheses, sugar transport, Nitrogen and Carbon metabolism, cell growth and photosynthesis.
Potassium is also important in regulating cell osmotic pressure and balancing the cytoplasmic cations and anions. Through all of these processes, potassium is essential for the regulation of stomatal opening and closing.
Calcium plays a structural role in the cell wall and membranes and helps to maintain the healthy uptake of other cations (via xylem) to the shoot. In other words, it is there to prevent the accumulation of toxic cations in the plant.
Phosphorus is essential for stimulating root development, stalk and stem strength and flower formation and seed production. It is a component of DNA and RNA and therefore is required at the cellular level of every organism.
Phosphorus is also a component of ATP. ATP is the energy of the cell. ATP is active from the beginning of seed germination through the entire life process of the plant.
Sodium is required in small amounts for the metabolism and synthesis of chlorophyll.
Sodium is beneficial to build and maintain osmotic potential for absorption of water and maintain turgor. However, in large quantities sodium becomes toxic.
Sodium toxicity starts as necrosis of the leaf tips and eventually travels throughout the plant causing death. It competes for absorption locations on the roots and prevents the absorption of cations by the cells.
The imbalance of these cations (regardless of how beneficial they are to the growth and maintenance of the plant) causes a catastrophic cascading of effects that cause irreversible damage to the plant.
Excessive amounts of Sodium cause a deficiency of the much-needed Potassium. Excessive amounts of Calcium destroy the delicate Calcium Magnesium ratio needed in itself to prevent nutrient deficiencies. Plants tend to luxury consume some nutrients that are found in excess.
Luxury consume means they absorb it and store it for further use. This doesn’t sound like a problem until those nutrients are in such a huge quantity that they become the only cations and anions absorbed and stored and there is no room for the other essential elements. Luxury consuming can lead to toxic levels of an otherwise needed nutrient for healthy plant growth.
The pH Problem.
Cremated remains have an extremely high pH. High alkalinity often makes sodium more available. Cremains have an excessive amount of sodium that already puts stress on a plant in normal pH conditions, raise the pH and it magnifies the issues.
Saline stress and high alkaline stress exhibit very similar (negative) plant responses:
- Inhibited seed germination
- inhibited growth of the root system and stem
- inhibited photosynthesis
Alkaline pH causes a sharp increase in sodium uptake causing an ion imbalance in the roots and shoots and increased hydrogen peroxide; resulting in intracellular oxidative stress. This oxidative stress lends itself to a cascading failure of other essential biological processes within the cell.
This degradation of the essential processes compromises the cells and their ability to maintain the plant integrity.
Roots are typically affected first since they are involved in first contact. The roots no longer are able to generate root hairs. This means that the absorption area and uptake of the root system is severely decreased.
Less area and less efficient uptake coupled with the over abundance of sodium causes the plant to become deficient in the essential nutrients required for normal plant cell activities.
The leaves and stem start manifesting these deficiencies:
- Leaf and stem chlorosis,
- necrosis of leaf edge and eventually the leaf,
- holes in leaves,
- small or stunted leaves,
- yellow or brown spots on leaves,
- misshapen leaves, purple leaves, or purple or yellow discoloration of the veins.
Results for Planting/Scattering
When cremains are scattered over plants or used for a planting, the initial response looks fine. The abundance of the essential Calcium, Potassium and Phosphorus actually appears to benefit the plant. However, within days, the high alkalinity and high sodium start to exhibit a detrimental response.
Scattering on plants (grass, ground cover, bushes) will cause burning to leaves which results in holes and black spots. Rain or watering will cause the cremains to become part of the soil composition thereby increasing soil pH and sodium content. Once this occurs, deficiency symptoms soon follow.
Planting with cremains results in deficiency symptoms almost immediately. Stem rot and root rot are prevalent and typically lead to sudden death. The plant looks fine and then within days is dying. Once that process begins it is irreversible and the plant will die.
Typically stem rot and root rot are caused by either too much water or a fungus. In the case of extreme pH and sodium, this weakens the overall system causing an increased vulnerability to plant diseases (stem and root rot is one example). Too much water causes an increased intake of toxic levels of sodium. The water being absorbed through the root system is no longer correctly regulated causing a variety of issues.