One of my classmates added a word to my vocabulary - complexification. He was admonishing another classmate for the crime of complexification, but I am not sure why. That word fits the world of garden publishing. They have made a delightful hobby so difficult to understand and so arduous in labor that many would rather push a reel mower through tall weeds.
Our neighbor is going to begin rose gardening with her daughter, so I was thinking of some basic tips.
Feed the Soil Creatures and Leave Them Alone - They Will Pay a Bonus
Man-made fertilizers do not feed the soil creatures, because Creation is not engineered for the products of factories. The soil microbes deliver nutrition to the delicate root hairs, and that relationship alone should be enough to discourage rototilling, double-digging, and other follies. Long-term relationships are the best, so let the fungi deliver to the root hairs, the bacteria and protozoa and nematodes doing their jobs.
Feed the soil creatures with
- bark, and
The top layer is always going to be plants, weeds, or mulch. The mulches discourage weeds, hold water in the soil, reduce wind erosion, and rot downward to feed everything below. Besides, soils creatures work best in dark and moist conditions, so mulch feeds provides that and feeds them as well. The effect of organic material on soil will attract insects that spiders, birds, and toads enjoy, another benefit.
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Good, Better, and Best Water
Less water is used when mulching the garden, but dry spells demand some help for plants and creatures. Tapwater is good for watering, if we have nothing better.
For better results, water stored a day or more is doing to be relatively free of chlorine. That was my mother's secret for beautiful plants in her overheated, dry classroom. No teacher could match the results. During dry spells I store water when I am going to soak new rose bushes or plants that come in the mail, which are always dry and need a long soaking.
The best results come from rainwater, either from the heavens above or barrels below. Commercial rainbarrels are expensive, unless we buy large plastic garbage cans on sale.
- Liquid fertilizer, enriched with nitrogen fixed by lightning, courtesy of the Creator.
- Medicine, designed to heal stressed plants while helping their staff - the microbes, earthworms, and other staff that serve and benefit the flowers, vegetables, and fruits.
- Chlorine-free. Chlorine is great for killing bacteria, but bacteria are foundational for the food pyramid, engineered to
Only then do the tiny, microscopic organisms— bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes— appear, and in numbers that are nothing less than staggering. A mere teaspoon of good garden soil, as measured by microbial geneticists, contains a billion invisible bacteria, several yards of equally invisible fungal hyphae, several thousand protozoa, and a few dozen nematodes. The common denominator of all soil life is that every organism needs energy to survive. While a few bacteria, known as chemosynthesizers, derive energy from sulfur, nitrogen, or even iron compounds, the rest have to eat something containing carbon in order to get the energy they need to sustain life. Carbon may come from organic material supplied by plants, waste products produced by other organisms, or the bodies of other organisms. The first order of business of all soil life is obtaining carbon to fuel metabolism— it is an eat-and-be-eaten world, in and on top of the soil.
Lewis, Wayne; Lowenfels, Jeff. Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 162-169). Timber Press. Kindle Edition.
Leaves and wood are full of carbon. Bacterial and fungi crave carbon, so I find it amusing that the heavy gardening books of the past dismissed leaves, newspapers, and wood as being mostly carbon. That is like a football team turning down steaks, because they are mostly meat.
Man-made fertilizers have no long-term benefit. Organic materials build up the soil population, which holds onto all the beneficial compounds and circulates them among them as the food eating bacterium and fungus becomes the food. Slugs shred organic matter and serve as food. Earthworms concentrate beneficial compounds, grind soil finer, and move bacterial around.
If the soil population is doubled, the moisture and compounds held by the creatures will also increase as much. These interactions are Creation, engineering, and management at their best.
De-Complexification - My Method
I laughed when Amazon offered to sell me a book - Compost Tea. People have elaborate schemes for piling up, turning, and distributing compost. Adding to that - they have recipes for making compost tea, adding water and performing various magic formulae before pouring it on plants.
I make compost by covering the lawn with cardboard, holding it down with leaves, logs, and mulch. Simply shutting down the sunlight turns the lawn into perfect compost, using the soil creatures without tossing them around like debris in a tornado. Material on top of the cardboard keeps it in place until watering, rain, and additional weight keeps it in place.
I turned one area from shaded grass to a Shaded Garden, where shade-loving plants can grow in rich, soil that was fed over the winter by the lawn rotting under the cardboard and leaves. Some airborne weeds have grown, but they are easy to pull from the area. The plants we put there are ones that enjoy shade, thrive in shade, and multiply (naturalize) on their own.
I make manure tea by adding manure to rainwater. That delivers an extra dose of organic matter to the root area. Bags of manure or mushroom compost are inexpensive and easy to move around - unlike a ton of compost.
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and to us.