Feeding the soil.

Latest Update 10th February 2017.

Feeding the Soil. 
  • Links
  • 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.  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.
  • She is founder and CEO of The Soil Food Web Inc. and uses the business to train farmers to restore impoverished soil, or simply to find a better cheaper way to grow crops.  Her series of presentations on YouTube called 'Life in the soil' is a revelation to farmers and gardeners alike, and I have taken much 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 bacteria from 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 is 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 and sunlight, a healthy soil food web and plenty of organic material to keep the soil's microbe population active
  • 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 the 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 try to feed my plants directly, I let the beneficial microorganisms in the soil do that for me.  I maintain a healthy soil food web in the Ecobed's soil by laying 60mm of active compost on the soil's cleared surface after every harvest.  To keep the compost moist and active, I cover it with a 50mm layer of sugar cane straw mulch, and I plant new seedlings through this mulch as soon as practical.
  • I leave harvested plant's roots in the soil and raise new plants as close to them as possible so that moisture, nutrients and the microbiology held there are immediately available to the new plant's roots.
  • I do not add any amendments to the soil other than the compost mentioned above, and yet continue 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.
Check out the above links for more details.  These links take you to the relevant pages in my supporting blogs.