Thursday, October 31, 2013

Good quality soil

Soil is a mixture of clay like and sand like particles. These serve as a substrate in which the life processes of microbes take place. These tiny creatures 'eat' or 'process' organic material, changing its molecular state. The resultant material in the soil is what plant roots are able to absorb. So having the right amounts of air, organic material and water in your soil, with the best mixture of sand and clay like particles is ultimately what gives your soil the capacity to grow. It is what determines how much growth takes place, how vibrant and active the whole system of your garden is or can become. The life of planet earth is in the soil. Making and building soil is something every person on the planet should take some level of responsibility for. You can start with a compost heap and add the proceeds of a bokashi bin and a worm farm to your soil as well. This sounds gross to the uninitiated but is really not. What's gross is the level of food waste that humanity indulges in without ever considering the obvious consequences.

It is important that we look after this life. Too few people understand how bacteria 'fix' nitrogen in soil, how Oxygen, water, nitrogen and living creatures are all involved in an endless cycle and the more material we remove from this cycle by not reintroducing it to the soil the more tenuous life on planet earth is going to become.

To keep a variety of healthy microbes in soil it is necessary to feed them with as wide a variety of organic materials as possible, further than that, if your planting arrangement, the pattern in which you have companion planted your crops, herbs and barrier plants, is diverse and varied, your soil health and structure will stabilise into an optimal condition, resulting in growth and health that is unsurpassed. Adding manure to trigger nitrifying reactions in the soil is a common practice, it is however advisable to allow time to prevent contamination by manures.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Vertical Planters and Urban Greening

Much has been said about the necessity of feeding the world. In fact, it's even the favourite refrain of our mortal enemy, the GMO giant, Monsanto. We need to feed the world, they reason, so we will have to design a new type of corn that grows in the desert. Ja Great thanks. Then we have to fetch the corn and take it to a processing plant after which it goes through various sytems interspersed with transportation between the different palces in which the processijng and packaging of corn based products takes place. That kind of agriculture is going to drive our carbon emissions through the roof, and for no reason whatsoever.
The truth is that there is plenty of food being grown, it just isn't always profitable to take it to the people who need it.

The answer to this seemingly dreadful and insurmountable truth is so elegantly simple that the corporations tend to use that very simplicity to scoff at bio dynamics and urban agriculture. Telling themselves and those they are hoodwinking that anything suspect about their creepy products is a necessry evil and a triviality.

The Urban environment is full of vertical spaces. With a little shift in thinking and a small investment, it is perfectly possible to have a large quantity of fresh produce available literally at your front doorstep. The tests have all been done. Successful gardeners and farmers already know how to grow food up walls. Years ago we tried ideas like bags on walls and perfected them. Transforming ideas like hanging planters and bags of soil into the very advanced vertical pocket system, fully irrigated and set to last twenty five years. That's a significant achievement. Having a wall of soil pockets, all watered by an irrigation system means that almost anyone can grow large amounts of food. Just picture the surface area of the walls in a city. Of course, the wall needs light, but that is the only real limitation and there are plants that can be grown in the shade too, like chervil.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

So much has been written to try and answer the question: what exactly is permaculture? We can say that permaculture is the use and reuse of all aspects of an organic garden. The way it all fits together, uh. Well maybe it's best if we describe something that permaculture aspires to. You take one of the oldest life forms on earth and examine how it operates. look at trees. If we could get our man made systems to work with a quarter of the efficiency demonstrated by a tree we would be doing very well indeed.

Trees manage to transport their water from below the surface of the soil high up into the air by capilliary action. Trees are able to resist attacks by predators by providing such a bountiful supply of food energy that feeding animals is rather a part of the tree's life cycle and not a loss suffered by the tree at all.

Permaculture, in essence, tries to operate a farm in the way that anatural system might operate. A tree is an unbelievealy efficient way of making material and energy out of sunlight and soil. So as you learn the ins and outs of permaculture. As you learn to work with compost and bokashi, with a diverse selection of plants that work together rather than against each other's purposes. Exchanging nutrients in natural balanced cycles of decomposition and regeneration. Look to the trees. You can't go wrong when you emulate the plants themselves in order to create, nurture and foster plant life.