The Gordon Gnohm

Play along at home, read Future Farmer in The Braidwood Bugle every Wednesday. 

Nutrient Cycle

Nows a great time to cover your garden in mulch to keep the moisture in. Mulching as discussed previously, is critical to your soil health. I do it every 3 months on veggie beds. Without mulch on top of your earth, your soil will become dirt very quickly. Soil is alive, dirt is not.

Why is Mulch so Important? 

Besides protecting the earth, mulch is feeding the microcosm in your garden and creating habitat for the tiny critters to live, work, procreate and thrive. Think of the soil structure as an apartment complex, some want to live in the penthouse, some choose the basement or first floor, but most hang out in the middle. On top of the critters who live there, this structure is also visited by couriers, postman, and delivery drivers dropping of tucker, think Worms, grubs and beetles. 

Conventional Practice

Most folks like to run a plough, rotary hoe, mattock or shovel and turnover the soil in preparation for growing, effectively demolishing the apartment complex and destroying the building blocks that held it together. Whats more devastating, is all the microbes have been displaced and/or killed in the process. A microbe genocide, there is no polite way to put it. 

It is part of the human condition to want to toil and work hard. When I was coaching families in veggies gardens, I was surprised to see how many men needed to dig over their garden to show me how hard they had worked in my absence. There are easier ways. One of my mentors used to say “if you are not sleeping under a tree at lunchtime you are working too hard”. His point, if you look to nature, you will find ways to toil less and be more productive.

Working with Nature

As demonstrated in Monga NP, adding mulch to the top of the apartment complex does not destroy the structure. It’s the complete opposite. Adding mulch to the top layer is like building new floors on top of the penthouse. The occupants of the penthouse will naturally want to be in the penthouse again, so they move upstairs. When they do this, they leave space, and everyone moves up. Given the correct building blocks and time, microbes will continually build nutrient for your garden.

Start at the Beginning.

If you have rich fertile microbe habitat, it wont take much to maintain. But if you are starting with dirt there is a lot of work to do to create the initial structure to house the microbes. Both starting places will benefit from my Weed Free Veggie Bed treatment.

Some types of microbes glue particles together to create better, stronger soil structure. They munch pieces of earth/sand/stone etc to transform the material into a higher form of functional nutritious soil. Each member of the team passing materials to the next in the chain, working together to build soil with precision and efficiency.

Beneficial bacteria provide water soluble fertiliser to the roots of plants. Back in the Green Revolution, scientist discovered this fact, stopped researching and started to develop synthetic fertilisers to feed crops. NPK is important to growth but so are many other minerals. I know I’m not as smart as a plant, (a wheat seed more than doubles the human genome) so im not going to pretend to know what fertilisers are required or when, and thankfully, I don’t need to. 

Root Systems

Plants have a very effective way of getting the right fertilisers at the right time, every time, if the conditions are right. The root systems of plants are Amazing! Lets shrink down to a nano scale for this part.

Along the length of a section of root, there is a lot going on. The PH of your soil for instance, is less important than you think. At each nanometre the pH varies, creating a specific habitat for a microbe, depending on what nutrient is required. 

The plant exudes sugars and starches in different combinations to attract the exact bacteria to deliver the nutrient. Literally baiting a trap. The bacteria arrives and eats itself to death. The root then grows into the bacteria to extract the nutrient. 

This is happening along every root of every plant on earth.

Bacteria

These little critters are essentially water soluble fertiliser, so when you plough or dig over the earth, it kills them and leaves their nutrient filled bodies in the soil. This, just like salt fertilisers, is easily washed out of your patch of earth in large rain events. The crops can grow on the remains for a short while, which is why when you plough or dig, there appears to be a fertility benefit.

Fungi

If the soil structure is fed, kept wet and left alone long enough the habitat for fungi is created. Fungi are the neural network of the earth. The fungi hold onto dead bacteria preventing it from leeching out of the soil. Fungi also bond with the roots of the plants like a network port. Communications from the plant become directly linked to the fungi. Fulfilling orders becomes easier as the network can readily pass around stored nutrients. 

The fungi assist with nutrient, but also communication between plants, creating a stronger ecosystem. The foundation of old growth forest is this fungal network, which is why existing foresting techniques cannot be sustained. The network takes many eons to build up and only days to destroy. Understanding this one concept will make for new, better logging practices. Keeping the fungal network in place promotes faster regrowth and reforestation. Its money in the bank, Mr Forestry Corporation, please pay attention.

Predators

Once a system is well established, the next to arrive are the predator microbes. This is fresh territory, as science has only just started to discover, study, and name them. My teacher suggested less than 2% has been discovered about the ecosystem in the soil. These predators consume dead bacteria and poop out water soluable fertilisers for roots to uptake through osmosis, or to be stored in the fungal network. 

This is a lot to digest, but dont sweat it. Have faith that the microbes are there and I know from experience, if I give them building blocks and create habitat, they will do their job and fertilise my plants for me.

The ecosystem in the microcosm is just as important as the macrocosm. We are all one big, connected organism circling the sun, so lets play fair and make room for everyone big and small.

This Week

I may have won the battle with the currawongs for berries. There are so many now that I cant tell. Sharing is the key, thats why I grow so much tucker on our hill.

Removing habitat for mice by harvesting spinach seed. The spinach really took over in the past month and allowed mice safe passage around the garden to eat their favourite dish every night. 

Im eating Tommy Toes and my first San Marzano. Yummo! Home grown Cucumbers are so crisp and tasty. Corn has started to put on seed heads. 

Also, I bought a pallet of sugar cane mulch, expecting 24ish bales, but recieved 48. So, if anyone wants sugarcane bales for remulching, I have some available

Remember, every day is a school day.

Stay Awesome

The Gordon Gnohm

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