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Boxers or Briefs? As Long as They’re Cotton, They’ll Dish the Dirt on Soil

800 450 Stroud Water Research Center

How does your garden grow? Find out by planting a pair of underwear! To educate the public about soil health, the Pennsylvania Soil Health Coalition and other soil health experts have teamed up with clothing brand The Big Favorite to launch Soil Your Undies, a campaign that challenges people to get to know their backyard microbes by planting their undies. 

Anyone with a farm field, backyard garden, or lawn can join in the fun. All it takes is a pair of 100% cotton underpants. Once they’re planted, the microbes in the soil will get to work. After 60 days, panty planters dig up their undies to reveal the level of decomposition. The more the underwear decomposes, the healthier the soils are! All who take the challenge will receive tips on how to improve soil quality. 

After 60 days in the soil, very little is left of cotton underwear, indicating good soil health.
After 60 days, panty planters dig up their undies to reveal the level of decomposition.
Seven people holding what remains of the cotton underwear they buried to see how healthy their soil is.
2021 Soil Your Undies participants with their unburied undies.

“As we improve our soils, it changes the way that water flows across the land,” says Lisa Blazure, soil health coordinator at Stroud™ Water Research Center and coordinator of the Pennsylvania Soil Health Coalition. “Healthy soils soak in more water — allowing plants to thrive, adding to the groundwater, and keeping local streams flowing with clean, cool water.”

Other partners include Lancaster Water Week, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, All Together Now PA, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Pasa Sustainable Agriculture.

The campaign, which kicked off in the lead-up to Lancaster Water Week, has been covered by NPR, Philadelphia Magazine, and PennLive.com.

Join us! Take the challenge and share your before and after photos using #soilyourundies on social media.

Watershed Restoration Coordinator Lamonte Garber shares the Soil Your Undies Challenge at Lancaster Water Week. Photo by Michelle Johnsen courtesy of Lancaster Conservancy.
Executive Director Dave Arscott, Ph.D., prepares to bury a pair of 100% cotton underwear from The Big Favorite.
Executive Director Dave Arscott, Ph.D., prepares to bury a pair of 100% cotton underwear from The Big Favorite.

About the Pennsylvania Soil Health Coalition
Under the direction of Stroud Water Research Center, the Pennsylvania Soil Health Coalition unites soil health advocates and partner organizations to promote evidence-based soil health education and communications, leverages funding, and offers collaborative technical assistance toward the widespread implementation of soil health practices across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The coalition is supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Assistance Agreement No. CB96358101) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund.