Gardening for Optimum Taste, Yield, and Health

Photo: tinkersgardens.com

Elliander Eldridge

Staff Writer

 

There are a few simple methods that anyone can apply to grow vegetables that are much larger and taste much better than anything sold in the grocery stores. It doesn’t take a lot of work, just a simple understanding of what makes a good soil.

Most people know that the soil in their garden is alive with a multitude of microorganisms that break down organic matter and release nutrients to plants. What many do not know is that this soil is depleted of vital nutrients. Even if you fertilize your garden every year, there is typically something missing. America’s soil is malnourished and most people don’t even realize it. According to U.S. Senate Document No. 264 and the 1992 Earth Summit Report, the mineral values of farm and range soils has depleted 85 percent over the last 100 years in the United States.

Dr. Robert LaFave was quoted by a U.S. Research Center Report, “Without these minerals it is impossible for the regeneration process in the cell to occur. In fact, an enzyme, (which regulates hormones), cannot exist without minerals and trace minerals.” Dr. Linus Pauling, winner of two Nobel Prizes stated, “You can trace every sickness, every disease and every ailment to a mineral deficiency due to soil depletion.” Take diabetes, for example. Dr. Walter Mertz noted in 1959 that “Type II

Diabetes is not a disease. It is the lack of a natural ingredient, known as GTF chromium.” An estimated 90 percent of Americans are deficient in chromium and, as a result, diabetes is a growing epidemic. This is very similar to how a long time ago people would get scurvy simply by not getting enough Vitamin C in their diets.

If the soil is depleted of vital nutrients, the plants grown in the soil will also be depleted. Those plants won’t be as healthy and, as a result, they will not grow as well and will be prone to disease and insect damage. To deal with that problem, we give plants chemical fertilizers and pesticides. We, eating these plants, are in turn depleted. To deal with that problem, we give ourselves supplements and antibiotics. All of these problems can be solved very simply with the use of Biochar and evaporated sea minerals.

It seems counter intuitive to “salt the earth” with evaporated sea water which is exactly why scientists have long rejected the notion. Following the tsunami of December 26, 2005 the Mercy Corps studied the soil and the first rice harvest that came after and found that “the scale of the negative impact arising from the saltwater inundation following the tsunami was, in many respects, overestimated. . . Anecdotal reports appear to indicate that the tsunami affected sites and nurseries have benefited from what has been termed the tsunami ‘bonus’. The higher yield recorded at an average of 4.2t/ha compared with 2.6t/ha7 previously, and faster reported growth rates requiring less fertilizer have been attributed by farmers to the ’bonus’.” In other words the crop yields nearly doubled as a result of sea minerals, despite what scientists previously believed. To put this into perspective, consider that raspberries grown with sea minerals tend to be the size of strawberries (see image).

In purchasing sea minerals for the garden, it is important to find a brand that sends samples to be tested clean of pollution. “Sea-90” by SeaAgri Inc is one such product. Sea-Crop by Ambrosia Technology LLC is another. Seedlings have a higher germination rate when mixed with water; plants grow faster and healthier when tilled into the soil; and leaves have no insect damage when a weekly spray is used. Seaweed has similar benefits because the cells concentrate the sea minerals in its tissues.

Epsom Salt (Magnesium Sulfate) is another product useful in gardening. Epsom salt is typically sold as a bath salt, but as long as it is 100 percent pure with no chemicals or scents added, it is safe to use in the garden. Magnesium helps increase seed germination, strengthens cell walls, and plays a crucial role in photosynthesis by assisting with the creation of chlorophyll. It also helps plants absorb phosphorus and nitrogen. Sulfate is essential to the health and longevity of plants, and aides in the production of chlorophyll. It makes key nutrients more effective for plants, including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. As a compound, Epsom Salt also helps clear the buildup of salts in the soil.

In establishing new plants from seedlings you would mix one teaspoon each “Evaporated Sea Minerals” and “Epsom Salt” per 1 gallon of water. You can also add a small amount of crushed fresh garlic to the water to increase pest resistance. If using Garlic, allow to soak in a gallon jug overnight, and then use a spaghetti strainer to filter large bits out before using in a pump sprayer or spray bottle. Use this with each watering. When establishing a new garden bed, mix 1 pound of each – sea minerals and Epsom salt – per 100 square feet tilled into the top 6 inches of soil each year. After transplanting the seedlings into the garden you would spray the leaves with the above-mentioned

mineral water once a week at night and use ordinary water for all other waterings.

Biochar is the name coined by Peter Read for charcoal made from renewable plant material (biomass). It was produced by pre-Columbian Amazonians to enhance soil productivity. European settlers called it terra preta de Indio meaning “Indian Black Earth”. Biochar soils act like ocean coral reefs in that they provide a very rich habitat for a wide range of soil microorganisms. Nutrients are held in the root zone rather than being leached down by heavy rains. Initially, there is little benefit from using Biochar because it ties up soil nutrients. It can take a few years for Microorganisms to establish

their ecosystem in the soil. Once established, crop yields increase substantially. Large scale field trials have recently begun on highly fertile Iowa Mollisols by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS). First year results are positive, yet it will take several years before definitive results are available. The production of Biochar is a form of “carbon sequestration” that counteracts global climate change in that its production locks up carbon in the soil. Studies by soil scientists Kurt Spokas and John Baker with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in St. Paul, Minnesota also show that the use of Biochar reduces greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide) by microorganisms.

In establishing a garden, use a mere 1 pound Biochar per 100 square feet mixed into

the top 6 inches of soil each year. When transplanting, add to the bottom of the hole – no more than one-quarter of an inch of Biochar before placing plant in soil. When tilling the soil, avoid chemical fertilizers and instead use organic fertilizers for the health of the soil. To speed up the process of developing the soil, introduce worms from any bait shop. If you do, try using both Red Wigglers and Night Crawlers. Red Wigglers are better decomposers, while Night Crawlers better aerate the soil. You should also consider using “Soil Probiotics” to establish a healthy population of new microorganisms and to crowd out potentially harmful microorganisms in the soil.

If your soil cracks in the sun after it rains you probably have clay soil.  Loosen up the soil either by mixing in organic matter or by creating a new top soil. A good combination in either case is Mushroom Compost and Sphagnum Moss, both of which are sold in most garden centers. The use of such organic matter helps to hold water and nutrients in the soil.

 

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About lcbridge

The Bridge is the student-run newspaper of Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois. We publish relevant, informative stories in a monthly print edition that focus on local events as well as global happenings. In addition, the online edition of The Bridge (thelcbridge) is updated frequently to reflect new information and more timely events.
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