This blog is about my garden located in Melbourne, Australia, where summer heat and long periods without rain can make gardening a challenge. It is the gateway to a series of my blogs showing you how I deal with these conditions....John Ashworth 22/04/2017.
I realised when designing my Garden Ecobed that fertility would be an important issue. After considerable research on the internet and in organic gardening journals, I learned how plants are fed naturally.
I came across Dr Elaine Ingham a leading American soil microbiologist who is also the CEO and founder of The Soil Foodweb Inc. Her research and practical work restoring impoverished farmland by reintroducing beneficial microorganisms to the soil is amazing, and she is starting to make a real difference.
Her series of presentations on YouTube called 'Life in the soil' is a revelation to farmers and gardeners alike, and I have taken a lot of her teaching and adapted it to suit my own circumstances.
The soil food web of soil organisms, in various ways, deliver essential minerals to the plant's roots. In return for nutritious minerals extracted by bacteriafrom the soil's sand, clay and silt particles, plants exude rich nutritious sugars, proteins and complex carbohydrates from their roots to feed the microbes colonising their root zone. A substantial share of food photosynthesised for their own use is fed to the beneficial fungi and bacteria in this way.
In natural systems plants are in control of the processes which make minerals available to their roots. Different types of bacteria get different types of energy food from plants and extract different minerals from the soil. The plants exploit this by changing their exudate recipe to drive the supply of the specific extracted minerals they need at different times in their growth cycle. It's a wonderfully efficient system and cannot be matched by modern agriculture.
According to Dr Ingham, all soils on the planet
contain abundant supplies of all the minerals needed for good plant health and vigour. Plants just need adequate water, sunlight, a healthy soil food web and plenty of organic material in the soil.
By ignoring the role of organic materials and microbes in the soil, and by frequently disturbing it so that its structure breaks down, modern industrial farming practices gradually destroy the soil food web and with it a plant's ability to feed itself from the soil. So farmers have to keep applying water soluble fertiliser, deficient in micronutrients, which readily drain away to the subsoil and beyond.
I don't add amendments to my soil other than compost,
and yet I'm able to grow large, healthy, and nutritious vegetables and fruit year
after year. I never worry about pH, a thing of the past for me, the
microbes control all that. Organic gardening made simple.
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