In the Garden
This is a tricky subject to cover in that what will grow at this time of the year will be different in each different location.
It's a change of season time for everyone but each hemisphere is changing to the opposite season of the other. Additionally, climatic conditions vary greatly in different latitudes anyway. Then there are microclimates to consider also.....very tricky indeed.
To make this section useful to everyone I'm going to cover some basic organic gardening principles which can be applied anywhere.
Plants need food to grow which is mostly obtained from the soil. There are three primary elements which are necessary to plants in differing amounts. These are Nitrogen, Potassium & Phosphorus. There are also many other minerals needed for healthy plant growth but in significantly smaller amounts.
While it's true you can purchase chemical fertilisers to boost soil fertility easily and quickly, artificial fertilisers are one of the biggest contributors to the salting of land & rivers and are implicated in causing some of the chronic health issues of our times such as cancer. I use and recommend only organic methods to enrich soil and plant growth.
Ways to improve soil fertility
- add organic matter. Essentially anything which once lived is organic and will eventually break down to release nutrients into the soil but matter like manures, leaf litter and grass clippings will break down much quicker than bones and large wood.
- add compost. This is pretty much the same as above but the organic materials have already been mostly broken down into a more useable form. (Next issue I'll teach you how to make compost)
- mulch. Again this is much the same as the two above. Use organic matter such as straw, leaves, paper (be wary of toxic inks in coloured papers), woodchips etc laid on top of the soil around plants. Inorganic materials can be used also such as rocks—it will last longer but it won't add significantly to soil fertility. Mulching is an excellent practise for retaining soil moisture, minimising weed growth and protecting from frost (to degrees). Mulch has a lot of other benefits too but more on that at another time.
- add organic nutrients such as from rock dusts, blood & bone, dolomite etc or from elements which once lived such as manures, compost & seaweed.
- increase soil bacteria. Increasing soil bacterias which catalyse the change of atmospheric nitrogen into forms used by plants or releases micronutrients from organic matter increases overall nutrient availability. [This is true for our bodies too—check out In-liven; ONE Group's certified organic probiotic superfood; great for increasing intestinal bacterias which improve nutrient absorption in people.]
- introduce animals into the garden. Whether it is livestock, fowls or worms; animals will enrich the soil with manure and by adding bacterial life. Animals can also be affective at weed control, cultivating the soil—consider how useful chicken scratching is in controlled circumstances—and amusement. Just watch animals for a while, you're bound to get a laugh. Fertiliser for the soul!
- grow deep rooted plants along-side shallow ones. Some plants such as comfrey, lucerne and dandelions have deep roots which 'mine' nutrients from deep within the soil and make it available to nearby plants, particularly when it dies down in its season. Forming 'guilds' (mutually beneficial associations between elements) comes into the Permaculture principle of diversity which will be discussed in future issues.
These types of recycling and gardening methods are a great way to be an Earth activist. It may seem small and insignificant yet these actions have a combined benefit to all Earth. To all Life.
To quote my favourite super hero; Captain Planet;
"the power is yours!"
Live an Earth friendly life!