Food Forest Soil is Alive

Healthy soil is paramount to healthy plants. In a meadow full of cattle, the full weight of soil microbial life is much greater than the weight of the cows. No plant grows healthy and disease free unless the soil itself is healthy.  If the soil is healthy, plagues are uncommon, and are generally a sign of imbalance in the system.

Corporate monoculture is an unnecessary imbalance kept in place with trillions of pounds of poison for increased imbalance.  Poison not only kills insects, it kills even more microbial life than the endless plowing.  Every round depletes the soil because the microbial life is what feeds plants, including bringing minerals they need.

Each biome, or natural grouping, of plants has its own soil microbes.  Many are broadly dispersed, but some have very narrow codependency with certain plants.  I never pot plants with sterile market economy faux-soil.  The marketer who dreamed up “but but but… disease” was an underpaid gift to the corporate monetization of free dirt.

When I do transplant something from another location, I try to bring its soil life with it.  It doesn’t take much, a teaspoon of soil can have up to a billion bacteria, as much as 40 miles of fungal xxxxhae,  and maybe as many as 100 thousand protozoa.  This is the plant-soil “interface” and it moves nutrients from inorganic soil to the plant.

Plant roots exude the fruits of photosynthesis, including a sugar solution that is mildly acidic, having loose Hydrogen ions with a positive charge that picks up negatively charged metal ions off the backs of positively charged microbes for transfer back to the plant.

Sugar keeps the microbes packed in the vicinity of plant roots waiting for “lunch”.  This may sound like I know what is going on, but I don’t, no one really knows and few scientists are studying it because… Monsanto et al do not fund bad news to their pocketbook.  Makes sense, but it isn’t research as most people believe research is impartial.  Our university system no longer funds non corporate research, nor do our national laboratories.  Research is tied to corporate interests (monetization of stuff like dirt) and so many research papers deny corporate damage in favor of “further study”.

Wish I had a good microscope, though!   I prepped clay soil at the University and looked at it under a scanning electron microscope… and could see over a dozen kinds of fossils of microbes!  One of the most amazing things I have ever seen.  We know virtually nothing about these microbes but rely on them to support the plants we eat.  I focused on the plant soil interface as much as allowed, because I became fascinated by “live” soil while organic gardening.

What I do know is that the microbes partner with the plants to the benefit of both and damaging the soil damages the plants.

Digging, tilling, fertilizer, and pesticides, all damage the soil biota.  I do as little digging as possible and keep the soil covered with plants if possible.

When I wanted to regenerate my front yard, I did not pull the few sticker plants and tumbleweeds that were feeding the impoverished soil biota.   I collected tens of thousands of wildflower seeds and casually threw them out with no soil preparation.  Use extra seed, birds come to feast and leave fertilizer and new species behind.  They have regenerated my soil to a miraculous extent.

This went faster because I did not till the soil and kill remaining soil biota and cause soil to wash away.  I also did not cut the plants down in the fall.  Once they were brown, I knew the roots had pulled as much nutrition back into the root system as possible, I walked through and knocked the dead stems to the ground.  A little messy at first, but they compost in place during winter month.

I generally mulch to enrich the soil in smaller areas like flower and vegetable beds.  No digging or tillage.  No weeds (weeds are nutrient acculators). It works quickly and the best time to do that is in the fall.  The second best time is every other day of the year.  I have read that mulch should be pulled back in the winter.  I disagree.  Too much labor and it does not allow the soil life to break down the mulch and increase humus.  Mulch moderates soil temperature extremes that kill soil life.

Feed the soil biota and you feed your plants.  Healthy plants feed you poison-free meals.  The best part is not squandering your hard-earned money on poison that inevitably ends up in your child’s tummy.

Yay!  More baby steps this morning.  Moved 5 Homer buckets of soil to my 6×6 raised bed this morning.  The compost material is packing down nicely beneath the weight.  I wandered around sizing rocks and found the exact one to fill a gap in the stone retaining wall for my sunken garden in front of my projected bermed house.  Hmmmm how many baby steps does a grammy have to take to equal one strong man’s work day?  A lot!

About rebeccatreeseed

I am a naturalist raised by naturalists. Treeseed is my earned name, while Rebecca is my birth name. I am of Northern European descent, with a quarter Irish.quarter thrown in. I suspect I was a product of northern invaders into Ireland into Ireland. but hard to say since DNA disproved the family story about Apache blood! I have found some odd ancestors to replace them. Last year I bought 5 acres of pinyon-juniper forest on the side of a mountain in Santa Fe County, New Mexico. I am fulfilling a lifetime dream of a cabin in the mountains and a food forest that will feed me and local wildlife. I want to share this new phase of my life with others that might be interested.
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8 Responses to Food Forest Soil is Alive

  1. Helen says:

    I was going to cut down some phacelia in the front garden but after reading your post, I will wait not till it is brown.

    • Thank you I am doing a little clean up now, every thing is brown. The year the junipers didn’t fruit, I left it all standing for the birds. They are out eating my flower seeds already.

      • Helen says:

        It’s still very mild here and the birds are clearly finding plenty to eat, going on what they are not touching.

      • I miss that. I have had 2 snows already. I am doing winter chores. My spring won’t start until May. I used to garden most of the winter with things like kale. I am amazed at how resilient my wildlife is here while I cuddle up in the house. In Texas there are berries that hardly get touched all winter, the birds were so spoiled. Here my Sumac are already stripped bare.

      • Helen says:

        I don’t know how you bear your winter. That said, our summers are not necessarily much different from winter, so the climate isn’t ever quite warm enough for long enough 😉

      • Seattle can be like that! It sure grows plants but I had to tuck tomatoes in a protected southern exposure. I am planning a couple U-shaped beds facing south to hug the sun. I can only make peripheral beds until my house is in, and the house hugs the southern sun, too. We work with what we have!

      • Helen says:

        Yes, that is true!

  2. Pingback: Food Forest Soil is Alive | treeseeddreaming | WORLD ORGANIC NEWS

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