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 soil 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 making a real difference.
Her series of presentations on YouTube called 'Life in the soil' is a revelation to farmers and gardeners alike. I have gained a lot from her teachings and adapted them to suit my own circumstances.
In natural systems plants are in control of the processes making nutrients available to their roots. They do this by forming symbiotic relationships with numerous types of bacteria and fungi. It results in energy food being made available to these microbes in exchange for minerals delivered (by complex means) directly to the plant's roots.
By changing the content of the food they supply to bacteria and fungi, plants can regulate the mix of minerals supplied to them to meet their needs during 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 the minerals needed for good plant health and vigour. Plants just need adequate water and sunlight, a healthy soil food web and enough organic material in the soil to keep the microbiology healthy and in balance.
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.
Farmers are forced to use more and more soluble fertilisers most of which readily drain away to the subsoil and groundwater. Its an expensive way to keep nutrient deficient plants growing whilst damaging the environment at the same time.
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
plants and microbes control all that.