To grow healthy food, you literally have to start at rock bottom. No matter what you’re growing, from chickpeas to chickens, the truth is that you are what they eat!
It’s no secret that all life begins with the soil. Although it may look like dirt to the naked eye, organically rich soil is a living, breathing community of microorganisms. These little denizens of the dirt are born, grow, breed, give birth and die leaving an estate of nutrition-filled remains to the soil. While they live, many of these little critters feed on undesirable elements like harmful bacteria.
Every year, gardeners spend thousands of dollars on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides that are little more than a quick fix to gardening problems and create long-term health hazards for everyone, from humans to single-celled organisms in the soil. If you really want to grow healthy food, the first step is to keep your underground colony in good health.
There are two things you need to do to maintain healthy soil. The first is to keep out the chemicals. The second is to add rich organic matter to your soil at regular intervals.
Keep out the chemicals
No matter what amount of chemical you use in your gardening, a drop is a deluge to a microorganism. More to the point, most chemicals don’t fade away. They leech into your garden and wait to attach to some growing thing… like your plants. One example is a gardener who claims to grow organic apples. He doesn’t spray his trees, but he does use a chemical “weed & feed” application on his lawn, seemingly unaware of the systemic consequences of using chemicals.
Feed your soil
The best way to enrich your soil is to give it regular applications of composted organic matter. Compost can be anything from yard mulch to kitchen vegetable waste. If you don’t have the time to maintain a compost bin, an easy way to add organic matter to your yard is through mowing your lawn with a mulching mower. Prepared compost is also available for purchase from nurseries and home garden centers.
Remember the house that Jack built? It’s similar in your garden. The roots take from the soil to give to the stems that bear the buds that turn into the fruit…. Whether or not the fruit is healthy depends on what was in the soil.
Linda is editor of Gardening Guides