Welcome along to the first in a series of posts about an organic agriculture course that I'm currently taking in Wellington, New Zealand..
Over the past few years I've become more involved in gardening and the plant world, particularly from influences such as permaculture and biodynamics.
I'm interested in growing healthy food and increasing biodiversity to support really resilient systems.
What I have come to learn over the past while is that in order to grow healthy plants and healthy food you need to develop healthy soil by encouraging a healthy soil food web. What does that mean?
The key bit of understanding is that good soil is alive and teeming with an incredible amount of biological life. Thousands of microorganisms are interacting constantly, making nutrients available to plants, symbiotically feeding on root exudates, aerating the soil, among many other functions. The soil's biology is the foremast preventative measure for managing pests and disease by providing the plant with optimal nutrition. Healthy plants are determined by their brix or sugar levels. Since pests cannot digest the high levels of sugar it deters the bugs from consuming the plant. A well balanced soil pH allows uptake from the broadest range of macro and trace elements.
Some of our learning has been influenced by the renowned American soil biologist Elaine Ingham from Soil Foodweb who has significantly broadened understanding of the soil organism world through observation of microscopic bacteria, algae, fungi, protozoa, complex nematodes and micro-arthroprods to name a few, not to mention the larger earthworms and insects at work. She says in a healthy teaspoon of agricultural soil there should be 600 million bacteria. That's the healthy soil index, measured by the amount of life living in the soil.
The photos you see are from a composting class earlier in the season using a mixture of pea straw and comfrey (carbon:nitrogen 20:1), amendments such as rok solid minerals, biodynamic preparations, sea weed extract and wood ash. It was also inoculated with some activated effective microogranisms. Each layer was well watered into a moist sponge. An aerating pipe also was fixed in the middle to ensure air circulation and the compost heap was covered. Later the pile was turned for a secondary composting process.
I've peeled back the compost pile at homebase today and I've got some lovely rich compost ready for growing healthy and diverse plants this year so we can make some great skincare extracts.
Stayed tuned, there's more to come.