I have no idea why so many people treat what Nature does as something new, it’s not. Maybe it is because people have so removed themselves from the natural world, the soil, food production, or even maintaining a healthy organic garden that it seems like new science to them. Nature was the original architect here and it’s been around a lot longer than we have. It not new it is ancient knowledge.
What am I talking about? Simple, the biology of living soil. Of the Earth itself. Without it we would not exist.
I came across an article in the Colorado Gardner: A Thinking Gardner’s Companion, Education Issue 2012. The article titled, ‘Biological Farming & Gardening,’ the author Mikl Brawner. In the article this biological method is actually referred to as a “new” method (his quotes). He is right in saying that, “instead of a bellicose mentality that birthed the pesticide-fungicide-herbicide and chemical fertilizer approach, the biological approach taps the same cooperative relationships that Nature herself has long employed successfully for survival and sustainability.” So why use the word, ‘new?’
The author is also correct in that we shouldn’t be blaming Nature for poor responses in our farming or gardening methods. Pests in the form of unwanted plants (weeds) or insects are not Nature’s fault but people’s own misguided ideas about how to manage them. Plant health is dependent on far more than chemicals. We need to look at the soil itself, the health of the soil to see if all the macro- and micro-communities are fully intact and healthy. The soil itself is a living organism teaming with many lifeforms from fungi to bacteria and even insects.
The chemical approach looks at only NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potash (potassium)) and sees the soil only as a holding medium for the plant and not as a living thing or living community. That is what “better living through chemistry” has given us – dead soils. Desertification, salt accumulations on the surface, increased water usages, land that is dying are all the result of this method of raising plants for food. The once ‘fertile crescent’ where farming began was turned into a desert by improper farming practices. The fertility of Egypt is disappearing the same way and in California as well as many other parts of the world still relying on improper use of the land. Technology will not help us with this problem. It would actually be better to put aside technology. Only Nature can help us, and is waiting for us to ask for her service.
Masanobu Fukuoka came up with a brilliant approach when he suggested making seed balls. Using seed balls along with other techniques can rehabilitate the soil by reviving the soils communities and allowing green to come back to land once abused by people.
Not many people have heard of Bob Dixon who created the imprinting technique for the Arizona desert. It is actually a simple technique. By dragging a drum with ‘V’ shaped points creating alternating ‘V’ shapes in the soil traps seeds when the wind blows and the next time it rains the desert comes to life with new grasses which begin the process of rebuilding the soil, preventing soil erosion and building up organic matter after just the first year.
Using such techniques along with composting in place or adding organic matter that decomposes on its own time, encouraging microbes and fungi, and the return of humus to the land rather than burying it in a landfill will go a long way to greening deserts and repairing the damage people have done.
In the home garden making compost or dung (poop) tea without brewing it, by steeping it like a sun tea overnight, will help to rapidly rebuild the soils organisms. The various enzymes released will help to break down other matter that then becomes available to the plants. Using worm castings will help plants to be more healthy and resist damage. Learning to companion plant will help support desired plants or fend off invaders or insects. Once the community is rebuilt it is actually less work than current gardening methods.
In rebuilding your soil’s community it is very important to not constantly disturb the soil by digging or plowing. Rather learn to leave the soil alone and plant using seed balls or by making single holes to add a seed, or to transplant a small plant. Then add additional mulch and compost. Digging is one of the most harmful things we can do to the soil and isn’t necessary. Fukuoka and other No-Till methods have proven this. Whether in the field or garden, leave the soil alone to encourage better health of the soil.
A big thing in many cities is that people have learned to take away dead plants in the Fall or early Spring and send them to the landfill. This is one of the worst things anyone can do. Organic matter does not belong in a landfill. In the Fall, gather up the leaves and other organic matter and either store it if it is too windy or mulch it right away. The same in the Spring as the ground thaws. All organic matter belongs where is came from, it shelters the soils organisms below, prevents soil erosion by not allowing rain to hit the soil directly, and provides nutrients to new growth. That is Nature’s cycle.
In keeping the soil healthy we stay healthy. By increasing the soils organism we encourage the number of healthy organisms in our own guts which keep us healthy.
Healthy soil = Healthy people.