Thursday, February 08, 2007

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I thought I was referencing a light-hearted nursery rhyme, but I guess not.

However, I did spend my past weekend in a light-hearted manner. I picked up some “organic fertilizer” from a nearby horse-boarding facility. I had forgotten how much esteem I have for horses, so it was enchanting to find myself in their midst.

Now I have a mildly odiferous pile in my front garden. There it will sit for 2 months to age, before I apply it to my garden beds. And why would I introduce such an unrefined spectacle to my urbane neighborhood, you might ask? Such an inefficient method of applying N-P-K, others might say.

Well, here’s the scoop:
  • Organic matter encourages the proliferation of soil microorganisms. “The microbes slowly release not only nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium but also a host of other nutrients in ratios difficult to replicate with synthetic fertilizers.” Ratios that allow proper absorption of necessary nutrients, which might interact unfavorably if too much of one is added from a synthetic source.
  • Furthermore, “microorganisms that typically inhabit organically managed fields also produce substances that combine with minerals in the soil and make them more available to plants, a function that can be especially important for iron absorption. Iron is usually present in soil, but it is often in an unavailable form.”

The reality is that conventionally grown crops are becoming nutritionally bankrupt, in terms of offering trace minerals and certain vitamins. Trace minerals are important to optimum human health and can influence vitamin assimilation. Vegetarians, who rely on attaining these nutrients from produce sources, should be particularly concerned. The good news here is that organically grown produce offers higher levels of minerals, vitamins, and even antioxidants.

Note: The source of both quotations is the same source that I linked in the final paragraph.


At February 12, 2007 5:23 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

What a beautiful horse! Now I understand why you want one.

If people knew just how devastating NPK fertilizers are, they'd be shocked. Soil science has really come a long way in recent decades and shows us just how 'alive' soil is with bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, earthworms and gastropods. All of these work together along side trace elements to form a web of life. Add a synthetic fertilizer and the web is destroyed leaving the plants dependant on humans to feed them the nutrients they need. It’s a vicious cycle we started some 150 years ago.

Check out Teaming with Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis for an insightful glimpse into the six inches of top soil that keep us all alive. The book has a happy ending showing the reader that ‘dead’ soil can be revitalized.

At February 14, 2007 2:04 PM, Blogger Jade said...

Hee hee, they have a way of working their way into your heart with their beauty, nobility, and intellegence.

Yes, Jeff, it is amazing what wonders thrive in healthy soil and how important balance is too. This is why many people say you've got to feed the soil first!

I've noticed that when I have pest problems, that if I am patient I eventually get visited by beneficial insects, or birds that come to glean the offending insects.

I recently read that encouraging birds to use your garden is of great benefit to the health of the garden. I don't doubt it for a second.

We really can't begin to fathom how much impact we can have -- both negative and positive -- on the web of life around us. It is amazing to watch when you do your best to promote diversity and balance.

Thank you also for the book recommendation. I will have to check it out soon.


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