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A Homemade Vegan Version of Natural & Organic Fertilizer

A HOMEMADE VEGAN VERSION OF NATURAL & ORGANIC FERTILIZER

Last year I worked a couple of gardens with a friend/boss, Buck, who has been cultivating these spaces for decades. Though some of his techniques don’t jive with my permaculture sensibilities, such as tilling every year and walking in garden beds, on many things we were in lock-step. For example, once our seedlings had popped up a few inches high, we used leaves that had been piled the previous autumn to mulch the entire garden.

Up until then, I’d been dismayed with the amount of weeding we were doing each week. Once we’d applied the mulch, I asked why we’d not done it from the outset. Buck told me he preferred to keep a closer eye on the young seedlings—It was easier to amend the soil or address obvious issues without mulch being in the way—and thought of the early weeds, many of which were “chopped” into the soil, as nutrients for the plants. At the end of the growing season, he tilled the leaf-mulch into the garden to replace nutrients.

I have to admit, despite being a proponent of no-dig gardens and cultivating soil life (i.e. not killing it with a tiller), Buck’s technique had a lot about it that seemed sustainably conceived. Leaves had to be raked from the lawn and driveway (Buck is a caretaker for these properties) in the autumn; gardens had to be grown in spring. It made a lot of sense to me to do it this way. Other than adding a little soil enhancement to the hole when planting, the garden’s fertility was set-up to cyclically revive itself.

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How to Green the Desert: Europe’s Heatwave and Some Holistic Suggestions

HOW TO GREEN THE DESERT: EUROPE’S HEATWAVE AND SOME HOLISTIC SUGGESTIONS

In the Northern Hemisphere, the balance of light is turning ever more towards darkness as we approach the Autumn Equinox. This is following a summer which in many places was unusually hot and dry(1, 2). This is perhaps not unexpected; climate change scientists have been predicting extreme temperature spikes for a number of years(3). However, it seems that a lot of farmers were nevertheless unprepared and many crops have been lost(2). Such occurrences can be seen as unfortunate; but can also serve as lessons for us. When you look at the factors exacerbating aridity, it seems clearer than ever that industrial farming is ill-equipped to deal with adaptation. This article will explore a little what happened in the heatwave, particularly in the UK and look at an example of a permaculture site which survived unharmed.

Dry continent

Throughout Europe, rainfall in the summer of 2018 was so low that many places were reported as having droughts. While some of the affected areas of the drought were wild places, such as the forest fires which swept through the coniferous forests of Norway and Sweden in June and July(4), the main losses were from the farming industry. Both Lithuania and Latvia declared national states of emergency in July(2, 5). Germany and Poland were reported as experiencing severe losses in wheat production(2), with many farmers in Germany resorting to destroying their crops since they did not have the resources to continue watering them(2). Many cattle farmers, such as in the UK, had to use their winter supply of animal food to feed their cows(6), since the grass had all withered and dried, creating a temporary solution and more problems in the months to come.

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Learning More on How to Think About Soil

Seedling & Soil

LEARNING MORE ON HOW TO THINK ABOUT SOIL

Obviously, I’ve not been unaware of the importance of healthy soils, and by happenstance, I’ve probably even managed to make a good deal of it. But, my technique has largely been based on adding a steady supply of organic carbon and nitrogen matter, mostly in the form of brown leaves, boxes and newspaper to layers of manure, household veggie scraps, and fresh cut greens. I stack them atop earth and begin building layers of soil, usually doing an initial cover crop of legumes that get chopped-and-dropped. I probably would have stopped to learn more before now had the system not worked—though slow—as well as it does.

But, this morning I learned a new way—very practical and familiar—of looking at soil. Firstly, Lawton explained the necessities of minerals beyond just NPK, using a wonderful analogy with the modern food system and its effects on people. Then, he explained pH balance, something I’ve never spent a lot of time addressing, save for avoiding certain things that have been reported to me as overly acidic.

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Save Our Soils

IMG_9379 feat

SAVE OUR SOILS

Less than thirty per cent of the world’s topsoil remains in fair or acceptable condition. The fragility of this vital layer can be illustrated through a simple comparison: if one imagines the earth as an orange, the extremely thin topsoil layer is no thicker than the shine on the skin of that orange. An astonishing variety of creatures rely on this ‘shine’ for all of their basic necessities.

Our growing knowledge about soil has formed the basis of new soil services, soil analyses, and many well-intended soil conservation attempts, yet we are still losing soil at an ever-increasing rate. If this trend continues for much longer, our current form of society will eventually collapse – and mainly as a result of practices as simple as over tilling.

At the same time, soil is being damaged irreparably by salinisation, for example resulting from the clear-cutting of forests that are often far away. There are only a few places in natural systems in which soils are well conserved: uncut forests; under shallow lakes and ponds; native grasslands populated by perennials; and mulched and non-tillage agricultural production systems.

Image Courtesy of Nadia Lawton
Image Courtesy of Nadia Lawton

A SUSTAINABLE APPROACH

Although this situation may seem extremely gloomy, there is hope in the form of numerous sustainable approaches to soil reconditioning, maintenance and rehabilitation. Surprisingly, amateur gardeners and farmers – not scientists with big fancy labs and federal research grants – are doing most of the real research. Moreover, these people are achieving results: creating high quality soil through water control, modest aeration, and the assemblage of specific plants and animals. And this is done with careful consideration of the sequence of these treatments.

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PRI-Natural Fertilisers and Nursery

Natural Fertilisers and Nursery feat

PRI – NATURAL FERTILISERS AND NURSERY

This is an interesting look at some of the systems that we have running at the Permaculture Research Institute.

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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