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Notes from the Farm

Posted 12/19/2007 7:44am by Leaf Myczack.

In the last weekly blog, "Restoring native soil fertility," I described how we accomplished this task of enriching the soil here at the Broadened Horizons Farm. Now I would like to list some of the benefits of undertaking a long term, methodical soil enrichment program.

The most obvious benefit of fertile soil is that one can feed themself with wholesome, highly nutritious food. As the soil fertility improves, the quality of the product also improves. Appearance of produce is not nearly as important to us as nutrional value. We grow some wonderful "standard profile" specimens, but we also grow a large number of "irregular" shaped and slighly blemished produce. What matters for us is how it tastes. Good soil adds good taste to the food.

Our customers in search of nutritionally loaded food understand the health benefits of eating wholesome food grown organically on healthy soil. They have come to appreciate the superior flavor and strong natural color inherent in our farm produce. There is nothing weak or pale about our food. Eating healthy food from healthy soil should make the eater healthy, whether it be human, or livestock.

Healthy, naturally balanced organic soil resists plant diseases and pathogens, weed pests, and soil-borne parasites, eliminating the need to spray poisonous insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides on the land. If one has trouble growing healthy crops with good seed, then the problem lies within the soil. The answer is not to harm the soil with chemical quick fixes, but to build the soil to enable a long term and sustainable improvement to take place.

Fertile, well aerated soil drains water from the surface which prevents surface puddling, which in turn can drown plant seedlings. Conversely, it helps retain moisture during dry times. The soil fertility encourages an abundance of beneficial earthworms and organisms, which in turn enriches, oxygenates, and aerates the soil. This in turn creates more plant matter, which will be returned to the soil as "food" for soil organisms. Re-establishing this self-perpetuating circle-of-fertility is of the utmost importance in creating a sustainable garden or orchard.

Loose, fertile soil is easy to plant in, and guarantees good root penetration. When planting, I mostly use a small, pointed masonary trowel for potatoes, garlic, and onions. I just stick the point in the soil, wiggle it back and forth a couple ot times, and then drop in the bulb or tuber, and let the soil fall in on top of it. The results speak for themselves. The same at harvest time; a gentle wiggle and tug to remove the onion or garlic or potato vine. This eliminates damage to the food through accidental slicing or stabbing by eliminating conventional digging methods.

Fruit trees in fertile soil can accelerate their growth sequence through their early stages, thus reaching fruit bearing maturity up to five years earlier than trees in mediocre soil. If a fruit tree or berry cane is advertised as tolerant of poor soil, don't keep it there-enrich the soil until it mimics your best garden soil. The better the soil conditions, the better the growth and disease resistance of the fruit tree or berry cane.

In summation, fertile soil is easier to use, grows more food with less time and effort, and produces a more nutritious product. It costs time to work in a disciplined, harmonious manner with the soil under our feet, yet in the long run we save ourselves from lots of money related expenses. And we have the satisfaction of knowing that the soil fertility and harvest improved under our stewardship.

-farmer leaf