A big part of permaculture is building soil. The loss of quality soils is one of the largest, most prevalent concerns on the globe, and of course, without good soil, producing healthy food just isn’t in the cards. So, really, before we can fill those storage bins with winter squash or stuff the cupboards with canned tomatoes, we have to get to the task of building the soils in which to grow them.
Unfortunately, mass agriculture methods have stripped soils of their vitality:
- Monocultures have the tendency to deplete soils of whatever nutrients the cash crop likes,
- and then that cash crop is shipped away with all of those nutrients instead of being fed back to the soil to recycle them.
- Large-scale tilling makes the soils susceptible to erosion via wind and rain,
- and it also destroys the web of soil life that helps to cycle organic nutrients into minerals and fertility.
- Furthermore, those organic nutrients are typically removed during the harvest,
- Which is done with massive machinery that compacts the soil so that it has to be tilled.
- That’s before we get into chemical fertilisers, pesticides, and herbicides, which are about as healthy to soil as living on Slim Fast shakes and antibiotics would be to our bodies.
Without further belabouring this point, which is easy to do, suffice it to say that permaculture approaches soils and food production differently. Nevertheless, inherited soils often need special attention on the route to recovery, and even well-looked-after soils benefit from extra nutrients here and there. After all, it’s difficult to recycle every scrap of food we take from a plot back into it. With that in mind, here’s how to enrich soils without constantly importing minerals and other amendments.
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