The foolish gardener
01/18/2013 § Leave a comment
“The Foolish gardener”
A guide to the understanding of the garden.
My dreams, as a young man, they were of the grandest things clothed in the freest reasoning. It was me, traveling the furthest reaches, climbing the most majestic heights, commanding the greatest ships of both mind and vehicle; who would have thought that my simple garden, this tiny library and the company of my better half (To share disinterests ) was all that I ever needed!
“Knowledge is knowing that the tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in your fruit salad.”― Miles Kington
Discovering the Classical elements
I will begin by stating that I am of no authority on any particular subject, and surely not on the subject of gardening. All that I have and can offer is my experiences in toil , which is my reward for decades of observation and experiment , coupling together these tools is the maturity that time and patience has allowed me gain. I, myself, started down this admiring road of cultivation via what I witnessed as a child in my Grandfathers back yard. In my own way I am attempting to recreate those moments, where the days seem contented, the grass green and the harmony of life fully blossomed. Yet as I endeavor to recall lost days, I gain a much greater future from my adventures… That which I have amassed, as knowledge and experience, to define it is beyond the words our restrictive language has to offer, something I can only label, crudely, as irreplaceable .
I have not, nor will I ever simply learn any one thing at its base, I must, by my nature, walk all avenues, both charted and uncharted, this goes for gardening as well. From this curiosity my moments in time are filled with far more than pushing dirt and burying seed, those moments have( and will) acuminate into a point, making me not only a better man but a wiser noble being who shares this planet earth, and its experiences, with those akin and different alike.
To start down this path as a “gardener”, you need but a few primitive instruments and can rely on them the remainder of your life without need for improvement or expansion. First and foremost, you need desire, a desire for the know, to live and chase that greater understanding of Your place in the grander scheme of things. As for physical tools and items, you simply need a plot of land as large or small as you can handle a shovel and water supply. These will be your foundation stones to an experience that will shape you into something far greater than you could imagine.
*A note to You, those who go at all situations with arrogance and insolence, (with no patience). You need not read this trusty manual, it is for those who can save aside a lifetime of moments to cultivate and produce from their efforts , not only those staple foods for energy and health, but also those grand nutrients for thought and pride.
A cautionary tale…In one and all actions we simultaneously hinder and help. Our engagements may be powered by the purest of evils or of the most noble ways, yet through these actions, our actions, we still do both damage in our assistances and help in our hindrances!
This plot of land, which you set aside for a garden and that which you assist in growing there, is not much unlike you. I come to believe that if it were possible to follow that long chain of connectivity, the unfathomable , back through time ,jumping great lengths in epic periods, it would be plain to see that the plants are within our kinship and I due respect them as thus.
You will understand the above statement as you read this manual and greet my philosophy of life head-on. That plot and its organisms ,which you tend to, breaths hungers and thirsts as you do, it has power of will and most of all has the same zest for life as we do. This is the key to any great garden, understanding that in its totality, it is alive, and working continuously towards flourishing- living.
I gauge my garden with my children, where their lives, both metaphorical and realistically parallel each other ; each being, mirroring one and another throughout their growth into full adults; the resilient embryo, naive child, lively adolescent… And finally, you find the proud fruitful adult. You are needed here, as caregiver in these trying times, as protector and in all serviceable situations amany, up to and until the day either you or they die away.
They can only produce those fruits that you help cultivate with your caring hands and understanding mind. From the planting of your seed, and up to that time when you must respect the desires of your creation, this is your time to shine…Nonetheless, there will be that time with both child and plant where you can only step aside and bath in the excitements of the job well done! You will then be the proud, honestly entitled… Parent.
There are thousands of a thousand things, individually, as variables or in concert, which affect your garden and its soil, the Sun and its warming rays, Water in its many forms. Wind with its pleasant gusts and divesting gales. The insect fungi and those organisms too small to see with the naked eye, they too work in the garden in uncountable ways. We have the Bacteria assisting and interfering with the growth of your plants. There are the creatures, of which rodents fowl and some mammals are prevalent, those be rabbits, rats, birds and mice. There are the “Weeds” and vines, which vie for the Sun’s rays and the nourishing goodness of the dirt… And then there is you, the Human element, who is both a hindrance and of assistance in the garden. You, human, coupled with truthful knowledge, time and patience shall explore those thousands of things and come out of it with the wisdom, its abilities, and a full sense of pride you can find nowhere else.
The Sun , that big star we o-so slowly round in an elliptical motion is the solitary source of solar energy that we have, the existence of nearly all life on Earth is fueled by light from our Sun. Most “autotrophs”, such as green plants, use the energy of sunlight, jointed with carbon dioxide and water, to produce simple sugars, a process known as “photosynthesis.” These sugars are then used as building blocks that allow the organism to grow. As we advance toward the Suns surface in our elliptical pattern, a time we call Fall Winter, the Sun still acts upon the garden, even under the snow, life as like the Puff-ball mushroom (fungi) , Moss and a host of other vegetation still flourish. And, as we drift from the Sun, a season we call Spring Summer, life is enhanced and energized.
Between, the furthest distances and closeness, the advancements and withdraws, all goes through changes each and every day –every second even, and the Sun (obviously) plays a great part in these changes. Be it revitalizing or deconstructing, the Sun is in those actions. In the garden the Sun plays one of four major necessities. Sun Water Soil, and Time are the four things needed to produce life, all life. Take the Sun out of the calculation, all is lost. This is why, when electing a plot of land, it is smart to choose a section with the most sun light possible, too much is never enough!
If you were to study a single object, study it each day, over a full turn of our planets trip around the Sun, you would see that each day the object changes from the previous day, ever so slightly, changed nevertheless! The Sun has a proverbial hand in that change. We mark these changes in our year as seasons, where we quarter the year into four semi-perfectly equalized periods calling them Winter Spring Summer and Fall. Our way of counting the changes of time and our distance from the Sun, giving them traditional marks to make the changes more festive…In fact, we do not sit in one season and jump into the next. We, day by day second through second roll in a movement charging ever ” forward” ( if that be the adverb of your liking).
As a gardener, it would behoove you to understand each of these seasonal changes in relation to your garden, for each exacts their mighty forces on your happy little plot. The Sun is, in my mind, the key to a well-grown garden, without it, nothing would live, and this would be the end of the story. However, we do have a Sun and it does shine o’so brightly, and our gardens bath in its grace. On with the story!
Question: Is a garden, with a good amount of direct Sun light, less likely to suffer from illness or insect infestation?
Answer: I believe that infestation, from insect, truly doesn’t matter when it comes to plant placement in regards to the sun .The insect shall feed on a portion of your plant when they feel that they need to do so, no matter where you plant. As for disease, a drier plant is less likely to contract illness like Blights, for blights travel via the wind and sticks to the wetter portions of the plant.
Question: What are some of the effects on a garden with little light?
Answer: The garden with little light is affected in the manner that the plants, those that thrive on direct light, will be small weak thin and frail. Seeing that the Sun is active in the building stages of the plant’s needs, it says, and through experiments shows, that lowlight hinders growth, but only if the outer most leaves are lacking direct light. In addition, lowlight may be a secondary effect but an indicator of issue, as like when your lowlight comes from shade trees or bushes that rob the garden of necessary minerals through their closeness of root system.
Does the Sun work even where its light does not reach?
Most surely, the Sun’s rays are active beyond its lights reach; have you ever seen a mushroom under a rock, or ivy grow in a dark basement, what of ferns in the shadows? The direct sun is more important for those rooted vegetables, more so than say, lettuce, for more Sun is needed to help build sugars for the storage portion of the plant, which is the root system also. However, you can grow vegetables in partial Sun(less than 8 hours), as like lettuce. Experimentation Experimentation!
So, to say direct Sun light is the only way to grow plants is a total farce of the Suns awesome powers. In fact, but for the outer most leaves, those leaves directed by plant hormones to absorb the rays necessary for growth, all the rest of your plant spends most of its life in the shade. So, plants can grow without direct Sun light, but the openness and constant Sun is needed to promote greater growth and helps hinder disease.
The sun plays many parts on the garden, not only does it produce light that the plants turn into sugar energy, it also helps in the decomposing of organic material. This is not the best way to decompose needed materials for the garden, but the Sun’s rays do just that and break down material in conjunction with the rain and wind. We will later talk of its actions on the water of the plant in the part titled Water.
I shall state here , that what I write is of my observations only, from those times I’ve spent touching watching tasting and even smelling the plants that I encourage and those that grow under their own powers. There is, I am sure, a greater valley of research waiting for you to find it. Greater minds then my small abilities, reaching greater avenues to the understandings and relationships of plant and man, plant and world, they are awaiting for you to find them… Though we briefly touch on the reaches of the Sun’s importance, I ask you to go beyond my words.
Seeing that the Sun, in action with plant hormones directs everything from numbers of leaves, dictating days of flowering, seed size, stem growth Etc ,I am sure your research will be refreshing and a great tool for the garden. For a greater understanding of the Suns impact and in turn the plants impact, research Plant physiology.
As we are going from the subject Sun, into the subject Water, we can end this section on the Sun with an observation of watering in direct Sun light. I am sure you have heard the theory ; only water the garden in the early mornings , because if you water in the direct sunlight your plants will “burn”. Over a three year period, I watered my gardens first in the morning, than the next year in the evening and lastly in the afternoon, but for the quick spread of blight I saw no related damage to the plants due to watering times.
~A Noontime shower to water the flower, before the Sun takes back command of the sky!
My understanding of the early blight suggested that if I watered in late evening, the plant leaves did not have the needed time to dry before sunset, seeing that blight spreads quickly across wet leaves , and when in assistance with the wind or by contact. So, I conclude by my experiment’s that, but for clean water, there are no exact restrictions needed to watering a garden. And but for your own health, you can water anytime you see fit, keeping in mind the properties of blights and its transportation…
“ Drip drops in cooperation, giving life as well as devastation.”
What can I say of water, that water does not say of itself? Water is resilient, elastic, transformable transforming, life giving and life taking. When history set the clocks of life in motion, water was there as the conduit, as the flux , the catalysis of and for life. It seeped through the recesses and minute spaces activating and combining those elements, which were searching for connectivity.
Water was there to settle differences between those powers unwilling or unable to associate because of their nature, they had no other way to communicate but through the ambassadorship of water. Water gives life through its hydration, and as a conductive material. Water comes in many of forms and when in interaction with the world’s other elements , it can transform to either assist or be in hindrance. Water is ice and steam, rain and snow, it can be put under great pressures or flung in the cool morning as fog with the most gentlest of ease…We discuss water here.
Water (H2O) searches for rest as a fluid in the furthest deep reaches of the bottoms, it is constantly moving to find equilibriums lowness and stillness, moving all the while as gravity, earthly vibrations heat cold and wind -all elements pull and push against its molecules of hydrogen and oxygen . Like all elements of nature, water, has no conscience nor does it have cognizance thus no thoughts, only actions or those reactions, and its effects. So, water finds its lowest settling point by any means through cause and effect, be it by destruction or construction…Choose your plot’s location wisely and build it with knowledge, for water is not polite!
The following statement is a paramount understanding needed in gardening as it is in life general… The choices you make must be able to balance with the needs of life. As with this plot of land you choose, it too must be able to balance the needs of life and one need is water desired. Having enough of a tilt (grade) to allow water to evacuate when in deluge, but also flat enough to absorb what is needed under average conditions. A plot with an angle from its highest point, that drops 1 inch every four feet is good enough to repel fast moving water, yet still absorbs the necessary one inch per week needed for plants to sustain life. Alternatively, if you have an overly-flat plot you can build up or trench the plot. We will touch on drainage throughout the manual.
Water, the mechanic, is not only needed to hydrate the plants that you grow, it is also a gear in the machinery that assists in compacting and transporting (leaching ) materials needed for nourishments —Phosphate, Hydrogen Potash Calcium, Oxygen, Nitrogen Etc.… While microscopic bacterium and such consume the dead and release the trapped food stuffs from those dead , water is the transporter, a contractor and thus a valuable commodity .
Water is absorbed into the compost, silts sands etc. and then it either evacuates by way of wind gravity or heat(Sun), or it freezes and thaws by way of cold-heat , causing infinitesimal growth and shrinkages, which in turn causes friction , dismemberments of minerals and helps free entrapped gaseous. In concert with the microbes, water is an equally important clog in the ground system.
Without water the foods needed would not be able to be reduced, shipped nor supplied to the roots of the plant and the garden will starve. Too much water , conversely, washes away necessary foods and materials, also clogging natural irrigation systems, causing wet rot, drowning the plant ,cutting off needed gaseous sustenance that the plants “breath with” and the plants will again starve.3
“What a small window offered; what a small window in which life is invited. What a small window allowed , which to produce such an amazing amount of life on this planet! Too much of an opening is dangerous to little be disastrous, is it not true for human life also?”
Water is also a key in the strength of the root system in plants. By watering the plant infrequently with large amounts , rather than small amounts frequently, this method promotes deeper roots and stronger healthier plants. Shallow, frequent watering leads to shallow roots, exposing them to root parasites and makes the garden susceptible to faster evaporations by the Sun. As water combines with the gases(air) of the soil, expanding and withdrawing , it compacts soil around plant stems and reinforces the stem and roots.
Water weighs 8+ lbs. per gallon! If the amount of water is over 25% of soil mixture, the plants will become” root weak” as the soil becomes “waterlogged” , the plant will lean over when in the mature part of growth… leaning may sound like a disaster for the garden but we will discuss later the benefits of “leaning” plants.
On the other side, if there is too little water in the soil, below 25%, the soil becomes dry and in turn creates overly-sized fissures as it shrinks , which dries and fractures the surface root system, thus dehydrating the plants. Also, the drier the soil, the less the materials can bind together which allows for reinforcement and, as stated, transportation of minerals.
If your soil goes through highs and lows, meaning in quantity of water, it puts undue stress on the system as a whole. When the soil dries and thus fractures the surface roots, or over hydrates, the plant must now stop or slow either production of fruits or growth of parts, giving efforts to repair rather than production.
We have talked about water and its interactions with plants as assistant and hinderer , let us now talk of water as a part of the plant. Let us look at it in this light, plants need large amounts of water for growth. Plants secrete water as we do, though by different functions, same end by different means.
This transpiration is an important factor driving water movement in plants. 95%, of the water a plant intakes is transpired and only a small amount is used during photosynthesis. Seeing that a garden plant is made up of a majority of water, water is an important tool used to not only exchange gaseous material through cell walls; it also helps transport sugars and other processes, as like waste removal.
Water acting in concert with the plant cell, by the form and construction of the cell allows the plant it’s strength. This strength comes by the same method as if you were to fill a flat ball with air; the ball is more rigid and able to withstand more load than if deflated. Water also assists in cell enlargement, because of repair as the cell becomes less rigid during the outward pressure of the weighted water, the cell grows until it relaxes and accommodates the water, and thus more water is able to be absorbed in the newly created cell space.
Plants are resilient when it comes to the need for water, they have adapted over their long life on this planet. I have seen plants partial blossom after a full month without being in earth nor watered, where the water they are carrying is their only supply.
Water is made available to the plant through the soil and its moisture, it leaches down through the top 5% and as both a carrier and hydrator, it reaches the plant. The texture, structure and moisture level of soil influences the plants capacities to retain water.
You can add artificial water supplies all season, but if the soil is lacking in its composure, the plants will starve. We will discuss soil composure late in the manual.
The plant’s water intake does not always keep up with transpired water loss, even if soil moisture is adequate. There are times when the intense heat out-weighs the amount of water retained. Situations as like temporary midday wilting is common during hot sunny afternoons, but plants can rehydrate overnight when lower temperatures result in decreased water losses.
It is true that those key growth markers in your plant are reached by the timing and amount of water you supply to the garden. Yet, a nature rain cycle, where you allow rain to water your garden is sufficient to grow a healthy garden. Seeing that some stages of growth are sensitive to water stress, if you allow nature to do the work, a well-aerated garden will be all that is needed to grow a prosperous garden.
The plant growth is dramatically affected by the timing and amount of water applied during cultivation, yet certain stages of plant growth are more sensitive to water stress then others. Plant vigor and overall resistance to stress from insects and/or disease are influenced by water status. So, how do you give the garden what it needs , without being a slave to the garden or creating expenses that out cost the garden itself?
I believe in evolution and adaptations of species under climatic conditions. I am steadfast to the understanding that but for those plants far outside their general habitual conditions, the majority of living things thrive or adapt to most moderate conditions introduced, thus giving to chances of survive.
Most of the plants cultivated in our gardens are chosen because of their ability to prosper in our environment… Then by that idea, I feel that the garden under normal seasonal conditions needs only those earthly elements given freely by nature. I believe that all the extra plant foods and excessive watering is not only a waste of time and resource, it tends to hinder or slow down the process itself…
Every year in our beautiful part of the world, we have four distinctive seasonal periods , in the Spring the rains come, and we plant our plants at this time, than summer comes and our plants are in full canopy, the rains are less but the soil is properly hydrated…Who is the smarter here~ the Plant or the Human? If you observe nature you will find that if you plant when conditions are favorable, all that is needed is provided for, be it Rain Sun, Wind, and it all comes in due time.
One last thought on water and its actions on the garden and by reaction of the plants in the garden. Water is a mighty element, which can destroy or assist the gardener through-out the life of that garden. We must learn to respect water and its abilities, then we are well on our way to producing an incredible garden with healthy bright fruits. Let us talk of some of the effects of water on the soil and show ways to repair or restore it back to your idea of a garden.
Water when fast moving can create wash-outs, where all the silt and compost is pushed to the lowest point in the garden. Though there is little to be done for a garden in full bloom, after the season is over, you can redistribute the material, aerate soil properly and then dig small trenches around the outside high points, funneling waters out and way from garden. If you aerate your garden properly in the spring, and do not trample the ground, other than a small path, having those needed posited soil components and you either built up the rows or have a descent grade to your plot, you should rarely experience wash-outs.
“Swamping” is a sign of a garden that has little drainage and by effect little viable organic or sands, it is a garden composed of clay, silt and a small amount of organic material with a host of problems. Very-visible green algae will be present in the low spots of your garden and even mosses and fungi will be overly produced. Molds moss fungi and algae are present in all organic gardens, in the swampy garden they are both in unhealthy amounts and a sign of unfavorable conditions…
In the Swampy garden, the soil is dark, fail smelling, slimy and your plants are short dull diseased and wilted. This garden needs back-filled with a healthy dose of top soil, both elevating it out of the low spot and correcting the locked organic issues at once. If you assume that your garden only needs a healthy dose of what it already has, you will be gardening a hopeless plot with failure at every corner. Stand back and examine the conditions, then with reasoning find an explanation to the situation, correct accordingly.
Is your garden hard to “work”, even with “all your might”, you can barely scratch it’s fissured surface? So, than what do you do? Apparently if it is hard, it must be of hard materials. Pennsylvania clay, what I label “Miners Clay”, is a clay that dries to a beautiful orange when fired for pottery. With a before and after (weight) test of the Miners clay product ,it showed a 5% water retention after firing and bakes to a hard strong material…
Let us take this clay sample back to the garden, if you have a loss of water, and the soil was not aerated properly, that which is left, being sand clay gases and silt, this under the direct focus of the sun makes for a very hard soil. Yet pouring water atop is not the solution… Repeated wash-outs, and a poor soil content is the main reason for hardened soils. As the Sun bakes away the organic material and the water washes away what is left, the soil , under compaction, from tracking, by gravity, rain and snow , it becomes hard. First, this garden with need a healthy dose of organic material and sand, mixed into the existing soil, a fair amount of water and a trench system implanted.
What is most important is maintenance in an unruly garden. Replacement and repair are keys to a long garden life. As we have discussed, the Sun and Water are powerful elements, yet as with all elements, they have no sides in the game of life, they do what they do , through trial and tribulations, this grand thing called nature has worked it all out to produce life from within the chaos!
It all happens within cooperation and connection, be it involuntary or voluntary , everything at all times and in all actions works from each other. Be it the garden or the community which you live in ,the Country you pledge allegiance to or even the world as a whole; few things ever work outside of the whole completely secluded , and those that where self-sufficient are gone from this earth, a fleeting anomaly failing to incorporate the necessities of cooperation into their desire for life; extinct… Our body is not a single organ working in one swooping motion to accomplish its set goal. No, we are a support system of a profound number of individual cells and organisms’ working in concert, under water, with connective tissue to preform that, which is necessary.
Our communities, though many see them as governed in operation by the few, are in fact built, in confidence of each other, we the smaller families, living and producing a society that takes all in conjunction to operate for individual benefits. The world and her experiences, are not single actions, even in its chaos she too works from cause and effect, in cooperation, albeit permission-less, yet still in collaboration. We all hear of those who have stated that they are self-sufficient, able to live without the helping or hindering hand of another. Yet, if we look into these claims, they are only self-sufficient in the vaguest sense of the term.
Without that exchange of one to the other, without some sort of contact, be it ephemeral or extended, be it in the beginning or the end we would not be here. If we did not have contact with the biological or social machinery of life, we would be sent back to instinctiveness, feral-ness, which in our civil world means criminal, those “self-sufficient” would be long gone, locked away as gross agitators of social-order or dead from acting within their instinct!
So goes for Nature, it is those actions and reactions, sources and properties of, no one action can be from nothingness and it does not end at that action, none can be self-contained. At the least its energies, that energy of an action is refitted, used in whole or part as another action. And so it goes, forever working together, this earth with its individual parts cooperating with one and another, to achieve its individual goals, what be them…
Blustery winds blow.
The tributaries low.
Crisp the night air.
Autumn is near.
Boundless in power the clouds that tower,
Rolling in columns cooling our noon time hour.
The morning comes a little slower.
The mist hangs a little lower.
Fall is here to play.
The geese follow their ancient routes.
From green drab the colorful symphony sprouts
Off in the distance Misery comes with his angry reasons
Powerful the locks, holding course the ever-changing seasons.
But we have this day.
The gentlest of breezes, drifting through the canopy
Those falling keys, wanting to start another family.
The fatting of the fox.
The ant that takes stock.
The brilliant Reds the amazing Yellows. The harmony of the Katydid and the wind’s own wonderful bellows.
The wind is a mysterious beast, it is as uncontrollable as all of the earthly elements, it comes as a gentle breeze carrying Honeysuckle fragrance in its arms or it is the massive wave of two clashing systems, sweeping across a land with devastation in its wake. The two main causes of large-scale atmospheric circulation, the winds, are the differential heating between the equator and the poles, and the rotation of the planet. On small scale or large, in human civilization, wind has inspired legends, influenced the events of man, is the vanguard to expanders of conflict, and provides a power source for mechanics electricity and improvement. Wind powers the voyages of sailing ships across Earth’s oceans.
Wind has allowed us to sail with the birds. It reshapes landforms, such as the formation of fertile soils, through loess, and by erosion. Dust from large areas can be moved great distances from its parent region by the prevailing winds. Wind affects the spread of wildfires. The winds disperse seeds from various plants, enabling the survival and wide distribution of those plant species. It can be the herald of extinctions or the preserver of life. When combined with cold temperatures the wind takes on a completely different façade, intensifying the extreme colds, being the difference between life and death! Wind affects food supplies, as well as housing decisions and defensive strategies!
Wind, a force with no substance, but for the fragments and fragrances it carries, it is strong enough to push over an object that is thousands of pounds and hundreds of feet high. Any observer worth their weight in wisdom knows a few things of the wind, and if you are lacking in knowledge of the wind, simply spend a few days each season exploring its effects and you will quickly learn its actions.
The wind, in concert with water , plays an interesting reaction on your garden. As stated, water weighs 8+ lbs. per gallon; coupled with wind it can destroy a garden in one single summertime shower. Wind, when blowing in drought conditions can remove your already weakened top soil exposing your garden to the bone. Strangely enough, what combats the wind is wind! How do you get used to a new pair of shoes, how do you remember; you learn through stressors and by way of repeated use. Wind is a positive to the garden as it is a hindrance. As your sprout comes from underneath the earth, it rides atop a thin stem, building stages towards its light source, the gentle spring breeze pushes and pulls at the stem, and a dance ensues!
The wind pushes the young plant to the ground, but with its will to life, joined with the power of the pull of the Sun, that stems stands once again and begins to builds its cell fiber to resist the wind. The wind blows again harder, and like the human muscle under a work load, the plant repairs itself building stronger fibers and thus builds strength needed later for when the plant wants strength-height to bare the stress of parenthood .
Let us diverge here for a few lines and discuss my idea of evolution. I know that we as a nation are consumers, who have adopted Spencerism (Herbert Spencer 1820 –1903 Economics philosopher) a line of thought that the “strongest survive.” Though that may be true in economics, it is far from true in nature… It’s not that simple! Nature has no care for a winner, it is not a game with great rules; it is a perpetual movement that is unconscious of its actions in simplicity. As I walk through the fields and lay my head on the beaches, I cannot see a world of competition; nowhere do I see the strength that prevails. What I see are individual samples that were able to survive individual conditions and thus can procreate. Strength has little to do with survival, strength is but a part of a whole package needed to have off-spring. Strength comes for the survival of conditions, strength over those that are migratory or new to the condition.
Being able to survive environmental conditions comes from adaptability, something that cannot be measured beforehand. Only after the fact can we see that a being was able to survive. We cannot say because something is physical or mentally strong or weak it can adapt to curtain conditions. Being small is equally important as being big, where being frail is as necessary as being robust; adaptation is the key to survival.
I see a crooked Maple, with inherited characteristics that causes it to lean, where it leans is against an Oak. The Maple is weathered weak and physically frail, yet by its design through adaptability and through chance-cooperation, it climbs and survives; though it is weak in its nature, it is able to bear seed and produce. Production of progeny is the only ends, which to me, comes from this amazing process we call life.
I see beetles that cannot fly, flightless bugs that are supplied with wings, they survived not because they were strong but because and but by chance of their weakness, the strong winds had its way with those able to fly, they the flightless, survived because they were flightless yet winged! I see the tine, with its spikes, one thousand times smaller than the mighty Locust’s. In the shadows of the Locust they grow leafless stems , producing nothing but an odd spike, which allows them to climb that Locust and survive. I see a thousand things that tell a tale, they say it is not the Survival of the fittest. If it were the Strongest, then there would be no weakness only superior beings. The strong in one condition can be the weak in another condition. It is in fact by chance and under condition which decides.
The might lion powerfully hunts with greatness, but it is carnivorous, if by its strength it hunted so greatly that it pursued all prey, it could hunt itself into extinction because it’s strength produced a weakness. Yet there is the fly, in its smallness it is able to feed on practically anything, it will be the victor if the two were in competition for life, fore the fly has variety that allows it more choice in chance. The survival of the fittest does not mean what it implies, amany species gone from this earth were the fittest, calculated by physical ability- as we see fitness, but in most cases those unfit for competition were the ones to make it through the conditions set before them!
Back to the wind
I have experimented with wind damage for a few years, I tie some plants, securely, by way of cage or garden stake and I leave some plants to grow freely under the rules of the elements. I have found that, but for a few vining plants, all fair better without assistance. Some vining plants tend to yield more fruit if tied up , like the tomato plant, but only because rodent activity and ground contact rot is reduced the higher the plant is grown.
I find, especially with pepper type plants, that the stem of the plant, as well as the root system is thicker if left unrestrained. When we discuss leaning plants later in the manual, we will discuss further naturally grown plants verses restrained plants.
Wind as with the Sun and Rain, in its actions and through its effects, stripping the garden of its ingredients, if the garden is unprotected. The wind with its pushing action when blowing puts minerals aloft removing them from their parent home. As the wind blows, it reduces the amount of water, thus dehydrating the garden, reducing the cohesiveness of the organic material causing starvation. The wind, as it blows, however in its effects causes the plant to strengthen its fibers. With drought, the winds can destroy what is left behind and devastate the land. For a better look at the wind’s force, research the “Great dust bowl”. On our discussion of compost, we will give a few ways of protecting your precious thin layer of life, that be the top soil, from the winds mighty hand!
Activity in the garden
From as far back into my childhood as this aging mind can reminisce I have had a fond fascination with the insect world. I would watch the tiny ant marching across the warm concrete, or the fly in the web of a common spider. They were some of the most incredible things I ever saw. I questioned how a caterpillar could become a butterfly, or why the bees dance in the flowers, they captivated me then and ever since. For three years I dedicated a few hours a day taking thousands of photos and notes, seriously documenting the lives of the insect, walking among them witnessing their actions from birth through death…
Let me again explain my intentions of this manual, by saying, that these are my observations and that what you are reading is not a journal with proper scientific common language. I simply give you in writing what I see in reality… Out there, there is no need for proper introductions… So, I ask, what is in a name anyway? What is in a name? What I can say is that I have walked these woods and trails that surround our community. In the shadows afforded by the growth of the intermingling foliage, I stroll. In the sun deluged amber fields, separated by valleys deep. I went through creeks cold and black, edged along the river where seasonal water heights afford seasonal banks.
I have forged through patches of forest old and new, across the bedrock and traversed in the sediment left behind by time. Through weathers extreme, in seasons all, in company with many and alone. I have walked where the water gathers by natural laws and trailed where it began its journey. I see and saw all that which is offered to my eyes. I smell its odor, I taste its quantities, and I feel its presents. I pursue nothing but am excepting of everything, not surprised by my findings but enjoying all that is put forth before me none the least. I make no list, I plot no one against another, none is the weaker or stronger, and there are no kings. Nothing is unequal, nothing needs of pity, nothing needs feared, and nothing needs of fame. Here I observe!
After years of walking among that which had not that self-consciousness of humans, something that is needed to declare one the mightiest; maybe something they forgo over happiness. After walking with those full of natural motivation and begotten evolutionary intelligence, those that but run on pure constitution ,extracting and subtracting as needs seen fit, those who spread and move perpetual among us, almost invisible, I’ve come to know them, but not by name. I’ve come to know them on a higher level, as I am someone who belongs among them and they except my presence or at least seem indifferent to it.
Those, there in that world, they are not offended by my lack of respect for their man given sir names. They would not response if I rattled off every single salutation using reference to their scientific classification. I find no need to make a single sound, for my sounds have little weight but alien there beyond the world of human affairs. Our extraction from nature has begotten us a loss to nature’s invitation to that life. There simply is no need for introductions conversations or regards.
What really is in a name anyway? Names are tools for communication, between those who understand its tapestry of advanced clicks and grunts. Names are necessities for introductive, so that we feel as if we are in personal relations with what we name. Names… So heredity can be introduced for supremacy’s sack, for superior beings. Language, more so names are needed for those of the world that need to stake a claim, need to dispute and find an audience to their cause. An ever evolving method of identifications between humans , in efforts to describe all objects of matter or the lack thereof, lists for a sole purpose, so in same we can debate purposes or reasons for being or not being.
A name does not make it so; a description of its whole does nothing to bring about its existence. It is, because it is, not because it has a title. “After the fact” does not make it exist…that is a discussion. In nature, there are no need for names, only action and reaction set by laws and chaos in concert, continually. The earthly things are still here if we place name to it or not. The wind blows, the snow falls, the sun rises, even if we give it description or not. Law is law and if it has a name, it matters not, the punishment and/or reward will not change without a name, manners changes nothing.
I think we are more proud of ourselves ,more often than not, of being able to describe a thing by salutation, rambling of the names and codes for all that is , but are unable to understand its part in the whole or the whole in parts. Language can be an abutment to ignorance , it allows us to learn from another, knowledge passed down hand over hand many times diluted and corrupted with translations, fables and debated clause, without experiencing firsthand what we believe to understand. We take what is said or written as faith of its truthfulness. Names have giving us a way to break down all to it’s least common denominator, the fractions of fractions.
Yet we label all without understanding the total of it, understanding all in action. I do not know the names of my friends, unless I am exposed to them and hear their names so often that it is but natural to call them by it.
I do not know the names of the strangers I meet, but that does not mean I treat them differently than my friends. They still exist, without me knowing their names. They are treated the same, and I lose no knowledge of who they are or what they are, by not knowing their names. With names, at best, gossip gives me an abstract idea, but little else. I do not know the common, or for that matter the fanciful names, given to that which I witness. I have come to understand there is no need. I witness but do not share, I have no right in describing that which I take in , my words do not justify the enormous flood of information of what my senses take in. Names would put a fog over my vision anyway, fore if I knew the names of what I see, I would expect what was said to expect. I would loss all that I have witnessed and would understand less because I would deny what I saw because I was told to see something else.
“But what of sharing what you see?” You may say, ”How can you interperut your travels into something intelligible without names?” I cannot, is my reply! By the evidence of what others have left behind, those who tried, by volumes of volumes towering towers filled to the tippy top with books and pictures, those others trying to explain what they witness, and still all that work gives little validation to nature or as a substitute of being in the middle of it all. There is no strong way of putting it to paper or in words…Names, we try though, and by our trying, we make ourselves feel better by sharing our excitement of perspective.
None in their fanciful expression or scientific jargon, through no sketch or sample alone, not part of the part of the whole can be simply explained through a few words of introduction. I say, go forward and explore, no need for names in the reality of life.
In front of me death gives, life takes and in between as well as during, uncountable unnamed, unimaginable, and fantastical things happen. I would miss out if I were to waste my time learning the names of what, to me, is already well represented. Life is the only name I need.
Back to the insect…
In your garden you will surely see the insect, both in large number and small, those foreign and those identifiable, those destructive to and those in union with your purpose of a healthy garden.
Before we go into the actions of eradicating and destroying every insect in sight, let me state that it all is in balance and before we decide what is best for what we protect, let us first understand the world of the insect… Let us understand what we believe to fear. First and foremost the insect are in balance with the food supply and environmental conditions of the garden, without these two points ,they will not be there. Without a supply of food or the proper weather, they will not survive in the garden. Food supply does not simply mean the plants; it also means the soil and organic material, the existence of other insect and the surrounding outside environments. For example, your neighboring gardens can have effect on your garden with insect pollination and disease. Those gardens around you like fruiting trees, flower gardens, any large food supply Etc., these could cause migration to your garden. Every plant has its parasites and beneficial partners.
Allow me to explain a point that has arisen as I write down this paragraph. Though we need no names as a whole and though I will rarely talk of one insect or plant as main subject, because, if I were to discuss all of those ‘thousands of thousands”, this manual would be even longer than needed. Moreover, I do not see a need for too many names, seeing that with the structure of this manual being indefinite in description, I believe you will be able to fit the discussion with any garden as long as I keep it as ambiguous as I possibly can. However, for you to understand the significance and worth of my humble observations I will discuss types of plants and insect, being those that are important to this dialog.
So, now we discuss the average Cabbage, so to watch insect activity and come to a better understanding and possibly find another belief… The Cultivar plant group, of which we will talk about the Cabbage and all cousin plants, they tend to attract a certain butterfly, the Cabbage worm/Cabbage butterfly (Pieris rapae). Though this butterfly is a great pollinator, it lays mass amounts of singular placed green eggs that hatch into an (on average) visually destructive worm. They tend to make damage that is unattractive (visually) yet the fruit is edible.
Such a winter hardy creature, the Cabbage moth, it is not impossible to spot the white butterfly during warm trends in the winter season. The destruction comes solely from the caterpillars, which are green and well camouflaged; they rest on the undersides of the leaves, thus making themselves less visible to predators. Like many other “White” butterflies, they hibernate as a pupa. This caterpillar, though it is destructive to the outer leafs of many plants in general as like the Beet, Cabbage, Radish, Potato Etc. their damage is mostly aesthetic, meaning but the top layer of the plant or leaf is eaten. So, let us step back for a second and think, when we clean our plants for processing into meals or for canning, we tend to remove the outer skins, like the Onion, Potato Tomato Beet and the Cabbage. So than, if the Cabbageworm eats the outer layer, yet we remove the outer layer, would you then combat this butterfly or simply allow it trespass and save the energy for more pressing issues?
This is what I mean by a better understanding. Here is yet another observation of the Cabbageworm and the Cabbage. This Butterfly has three birth cycles per season, propagating hundreds of little Cabbage skin eaters, which in turn they themselves feed those other insect in my garden. The birds assassin bugs and the bees, though at certain times are hindrances, they come to play the hero as they feed on the Cabbage worm. It is true that the worm hides well under the leaf of the host plant, yet the hornet wasp and bird etc. are great swift hunters. Nature produces much more than it needs. This is an action set in motion by nature, simply because there are no restrictions or checks on birthing in numbers placed by any being on earth, save humans. Nature’s mission is to divide without a purpose, and will divide itself until its numbers out balances its food…
From under my overhang of my garage the wasp (Apocrita) and hornets, those that made their home there, swoop down and collect the Cabbageworms, as too, from the tree tops come the Finch and Robin to collect their fair share of the bounty of the seemingly endless buffet. So, let us refresh our discussion. The cabbage butterfly lays single eggs on the Cabbage, hatched, this worm eats the outer most layers, but we discard that layer before our consumption, and predators like the bird the hornet or wasp thin those large numbers of hatched worms greatly. Now look at the garden as a whole, and the greater picture of insect in the garden. It all comes to balance and rarely does the parasitic insect consume all of the plant, let-alone, the fruit of the plant. Later we will discuss damage to leaves, and you will see further evidence that those leaf eaters harm little when you see how little the plant needs a full leaf to produce a healthy fruit.
Now let us discuss pesticides and other such chemicals that many use on their gardens to ward off what natural actions invite. By reaction and resentment we grab our weapons and lay assault on our garden, impulsively we assume that all is an enemy and we must protect what is ours… If you watch closely though, there is no need to assault the garden with chemicals that are dangerous to you and your food supply, and as I see it, this assault– this attack is the greatest duplicitous act a real gardener or human can perform. Stand back, use the most powerful weapon known to this planet, your mind! Call upon what you value the most: decency and nobility. Stand as one who judges goodness not by that which is evil and in turn exact punishment. No! Stand at a higher level, observe and judge by importance with-from-to good, and you will find in the end few things needing punishment for a supposed wrongful act of trespass.
There are a hundred ways to repel the entire insect populace in your garden if you so desire. Let us face the facts though, many insect are needed to propel your garden forward and honestly (as stated) but for ascetic principles, they, the bugs, in the whole turn of things truly do little harm to the meat of the fruit if the plant is healthy…
Let us look at another insect and plant, the Squash bug (Anasa tristis ). It is a large six legged insect that resembles the stinkbug; it lays its eggs in large red clusters under the leaf of Zucchini plant. If you are a frantic farmer your first impulse would be to poison the predator, yet they hatch and feed on the leaf and stem, mainly unconcerned with the fruit. They are a late season (July) “pest”, they are mostly active when your plant has matured and is on the decaying side of life.
I need to ask, how many of you oust the majority of the fruit on the vine, during the feverous Garden-eat-Athon in the beginning of harvest, we eat like kings, but soon we grow tired of what is produced and then we desire something anew! In the beginning the excitement of the first rip vegetable runs through our bodies but that too fades like all novelty and soon we wish for what we do not have… I am sure amany Cucumber and Zucchini lay rotten after harvest time, after we gift what we can, we either allow the plant to die away with fruit attached or turn over what is left for compostable.
So , if you would have sprayed for these insect you would have been at the loss. It would have been a waste of time seeing that, when attacked, the plant is in maturity, the Squash Bug is concerned with the leaf mainly and pesticides deter honeybee interaction, kill microbes and chase away insectivorous beings … Not to mention damage caused by osmosis, or the exchange of micro parts through cell walls.
I was taught in the military that the target you train on –trains their eyes on you! Every prey has its predator, and that that predator too has a predator. Accordingly, it is true in the garden! Let us talk of a group of insect that work both in cooperation and in opposition with one another. The lady Bug (Coccinellidae) The Ant (Formicidae) The Aphid(Aphidoidea). What a strange story these three bugs have written. What you expect, is not true and what is true, you would not expect, that is, not until you use your observational skills.
The sweet looking Lady bug is in fact an assassin, which prays on the parasite Aphid, who feeds the industrious Ant a sweet sugar mixture that is a poison to the Aphid if not release. The Aphid, this amazing tiny asexual creature feeds on sap from the phloem vessels in plants with its stylets. In a mutualistic relationship, through processes, and by termination of waste, the Aphid produces a sugar or “honeydew” that the protective Ants farm. What I have observed is that the Ladybug in maturity does not get past the guarding ants, but its larva stage younger-self, with its agility is able to assault the Aphid without being attacked by the Ant. Strangely enough, if I chased the ants away myself, the Aphids will not produce the “honeydew” and I notice a sharp decline in numbers shortly thereafter…A simple observation, sights a balance in the garden. From the tip-top of my Green pepper plant, a world unfolds, and in the end little damage, amounting to enough to harm the fruit is ever noticed.
Let us talk of the sublime and show the estimates from studies of the population of the insect. It has long been understood, and documented, that the insects are the most assorted group of organisms. This meaning that the numbers of species of insects are more than any other group. In the world, some 900,000 different kinds of living insects are known. That number represents 80% of the world species as a whole. Yet many truly believe that this number is small in comparison and that there are far more undiscovered than were ever discovered past and present. Some believe that there are an incredible 300 million species of insect on this planet and that at any time there are an estimated 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) individual insects alive.
A conservative study, here in zone 5-6, yielded statistics of 425 million insect per acre at a depth of 5 inches, with 209 million mites, 119 million springtails, and 11 million other arthropods. Even specific insect species have been found to be quite numerous, with controls of from three to 25 million per acre for wireworms (larvae of click beetles). So pondering this, seeing that our garden is populated by an eminence number of insect life and as we have discussed, but for infestation the average garden sees little more than esthetical damage, and that to eradicate some insect you will eradicate most insect (some beneficial), would not a cooperation rather than a counter assault be wise?
Most insect in larva or nymph form eat of the leaf and but for root maggots and bore type worms that tunnel or are birthed into the pre-fruits bud, we can say a majority of the damage comes from insect partially defoliating plants and small cosmetic damage on fruits. There is, by way of experiment and observation a host of natural deterrents, as like marigolds (Tagetes patula) herbs, netting, resistant plants and more that keep the insect at bay without poisoning the crop and ruining the plot. Experiment and observe!
We can discuss the insect populace forever, seeing that I enjoy the subject, but let us touch mainly on those insect that are important to the garden and briefly discuss those who are harmful. Those insect that are indifference in the garden I will not even mention. We have talked of the balance in the garden between predator and parasite, showing that the insect parasite is basically harmless, that is of course unless in plague form. We will discuss later the effects of the parasite on the leaf. We have shown how those parasites have predators of their own, now let us talk of those insect that are directly important to the garden. Aside from the honeybee, which is well known, we have the Earth worm!
The earthworm (Lumbricina), is our tunnel maker of the garden. Early on and later in this manual we discuss irrigation systems (both nature and manufactured) of the soil, the worm is one of the few who build such systems that alone are beneficial to the garden. However, the earthworm does much more in assistance of the garden.
In the garden, the worm digests organic material that it pulls down from the surface, after digestion, it evacuates the organic material, a product labeled “castings” which is rich in humus. However, the benefits of the worm do not stop there, it not only enriches the soil through digestion of matter it also breaks the matter down as like the microbe. This matter becomes balanced humus, it is greater in balanced inorganic material than that from the top soil, which goes through stability by way of the Sun’s decomposing rays.
We can talk of the burrowing method here, the transportation method of the worm, in the garden. Burrowing is a very important action that keeps the worm secure and the garden both aerated and hydrated.
One evening after tilling the garden for spring planting and after a rain shower, I noticed a mass of worm casings atop worm tunnel entrances. As I was examining the holes, I noticed that a piece of straw was (ever so slightly) moving up and down across one of the tunnels. Under closer examinations, with the aid of a few dog hairs I saw that a faint wind was produced out of the hole. After some research on the subject, I found an obscure study that states that the worms, with their movement, act like pistons comparatively to an engine, and from their movement it produces a pressure.
So, by reason, this action certainly has an effect, which to me would be circulation of gases through the tunnels, these gases being propelled by the built-up pressure afforded by the movement of the worm crawling through the tunnel. I also noticed, after turning over many rocks, that the worm blocks off some of its tunnels, for what I can only assume are protections from rear assault or for benefit of increased pressurization which helps to propel them through the soil. Combine this action with the pressure of movement and in theory I am certain a great amount of gases and fluids are moved, in turn supporting the plants and supplying the nutrients.
The worm, by its need for proper climate food supply, and by desire, would feed and live around the plant, seeing that the plants drop parts which are organic , and the worm eats organic matter…These tunnels produced are also the main irrigation system for the plant and work along with root tunnels to feed the plant its sustenance .
Therefore, it is of a very high importance that the gardener not only assists the worm but promote its lifestyle. We will discuss promotion of worm when we discuss compost and the top 5% of the soil.
We have amany insect that are predatorily able, but few are staple assistance in the garden more so than the ground beetles. Most predators hunt and live among the plants, but the beetle hunts and lives on the top soil. You rarely see the beetle though; it is usually hiding under a dried leave, under a small stone, in fissures or other places that shield it. However, the adult is not the predator here; its larva does the hunting under the top soil. The larva hunts the slug, different root maggots, cutter-worms and such pests.
Without the beetle, our gardens would be divested of carrots and such other root edible plants.
Let us talk again of mutual aid (cooperation.) Many of the plants you place in your garden omit a scent, (few things do not), be it when damaged or eaten by parasitic insect, other than a flowering scent. Notice the robust smell of a healthy tomato leaf when smashed against your hand. Many predatory insect have come to recognize the smell and identify the insect doing the damage as something it desires as food. See, not only does the plant omit a scent, it also mixes with the fluid from the insect’s secretions, creating a wholly unique scent…So when a caterpillar bites into, say a cabbage leaf, the injured plant omits a smell, combined with the insects fluids and this smell attracts certain wasp hornets assassin bugs or like predators. Therefore, the smell is a trait that the predator picks up on and in benefit, the plant is less likely to suffer major damage, and thus able to live until fruition, giving time for posterity sake.
We as humans are one of the few species that sees cooperation as a value to barter. We insist on compensation, or resist assistance for prides sake. All around us the world goes about its motions in cooperation, be it the wind propelling the seed or the Ant and the Aphid, yet we stand to resist teamwork because others may get more from the bargain.
The jokes on us, however, fore we give to nature more that we know! We consider ourselves the superior animal on the planet, when we are not only among the youngest ,we are also the ones with the most strife in cohabitation with all other beings, including ourselves… Yet as hard as we resist, we still give cooperation, though involuntarily and, for that matter, so does every last thing on this earth, we cooperate by way of action and reaction.
Cooperation is in all, be-it preforming a service for the community or through mutualism of the microbe or earthworm. Nothing works outside cooperation, nothing comes from hindrances, but elimination. This action of cooperation does not even need to be of mutual concession, one act can effect an outcome in another action which is preformed days month, even decades later.
Back to the insect.
We have given a few examples of harmful and helpful insect, which leads us to a question. How do we promote the helpful and hinder the harmful without hurting the plants or self? Someone who puts little thought into this question will insist on poisons traps and many other destructive solutions. We on the other hand shall experiment and observe so to find what deters and assists. For you to draw in the gardens helpers, you need what they enjoy, what does the predatory insect enjoy, food of course. However, we do not want to increase the predator’s food supply, which is more prey. The solutions is beauty, the most sublime of beauties, we can cater to the hero’s needs, deter parasitic activity and beautify our environments.
Three things are needed to host the heroes of the garden. 1. An advantage point 2. Food and 3. Water… Many say weather as a fourth, but we are discussing indigenous creatures here.
Predatory insect love small flowers, those flowers that is rich in nectar and pollen. Keep the flowers that have a rounded outline, brightly colored and are shorter than the food crops. The rounded shape is in contrast with the shapes of parasites, the color attracts and the height allows for a clear hunting platform, yet they do not interfere with your crop’s sun intake.
To help attract ground beetles you should provide two things, cover and water. Provide cover by setting out stones or bricks for the ground beetles to hide under during the day. Ground beetles also love mulch, lightly packed humus and aging compost. Provide water by placing a shallow pan filled with small rocks, then filling with water. Make sure to use rocks, this will prevent them from drowning. Most beetles are also attracted to light at night. Placing solar path lights around the garden can help to attract these pest-killing beetles. Assassin bugs and praying mantis like cover, so they can sneak up and ambush prey insects.
When trying to lure beneficial insects, plant the attracting plants as a border around the plants you want to protect. Inter-planting some flowers in between your crops can also help to attract the pest-killers you want. I , myself, find the younger plants that are natural deterrents ,those wild in my garden “ weeds” and allow them to come to flower, this is an inexpensive and educational way of combating parasites. Attracting beneficial insect can take some planning and a bit of trial and error, but is well worth it when it comes to naturally fighting the parasite. Experiment and observe! And lastly, keep your garden clear of rotten fruits and remove the eggs or parasite when you see them. The sooner you know the difference between a Cabbageworm egg and the Hoverfly egg, the sooner your garden will have the minimal pest and maximum pray.
Why do you plant a garden? I myself have already stated my main reasons, to recapture the past, I feel my reasons have grown since my first plant placed in the soil though. In our time, the garden seems to be but outdated, a bygone tradition adopted by the children of those who once gardened to stave off hungry. I am indifferent to rebirth through nostalgia, I understand you cannot bring back the past but only in those fractured memories we hold so dearly. So, other than memories why do we garden? Today we can simply go to a mega store with super aisles, everything that they want us to buy packed on the shelves, ready for us to choose from what they demand we accept. No blood sweat or tears, no labor no thinking; simply neatly packed foods for our consumption.
So why put the time into this type of adventure, where you most surely will invest far more than the return of those vegetables you receive. It must be far more than simple consumption that you put spade to soil. A garden will not make you a dollar, frankly speaking, much of the fruits from that garden cannot be given away, because few know what to do with a basket of tomatoes; and most would rather place their trust in the box store… Maybe it is because of the mega stores that we, us gardeners garden, an act in effort, desperate to regain our self-pride, to control something in our lives, to feel as if we are in control, because we slowly have lost control of ourselves. An act of defiance, maybe?
Our generations, these last three ( 70 years), have been shaped, but way of consumptive ideology, we into machinery. We are not allowed, nor are we even able any longer to find self-purpose. We are told what our duties are, told what path to follow, fed standards ill-fitting to our beliefs and most surely we are stripped of our natural selves as men and woman. To make a choice is to pick from what they offer only.
Lost through this trend towards consumer purpose, are abilities that were a once enwoven part of life but only a few decades ago. The entity -Corporation has more rights than us humans have, we work to purchase, so others can work to purchase, feeding the machine, and little more. The Corporation decides what is acceptable or not. What else but those almost forgotten husbandry skills are left to make us humans feel human. If not for our gardens, be them flower or vegetable, or even both, what would we have to feel in control of our lives, of our minds of our relief to the family if not for the garden?
The garden is not simply planting, not simply horticulture, it is biology, physiology, phycology, you need skills in forecasting, hydraulics mathematic, plant sociology etc., in short it takes an absorbing mind to be able to garden. Gardening is neither for the weak of mind nor for the strong in disbelief. Maybe because we feel as if we are losing control maybe this is the reason that we spend 12 months a year learning an ancient trade, gaining a worthwhile degree where few for-profits schools tread. Aside from the indispensable knowledge, above the peaceful state of mind, between sunset and sunrise, there is a reason to plant a garden…
It is an action so well infused into man, gardening; a practice preformed before history had a history, the gatherer in us must go out and be in search of sustenance, for the sake of the family for the health of the body…For the wealth of the mind we garden. One day I am sure in the biographies of those great peoples of our times forward, gardening will be a prized chapter, they will know that it was a mind-expanding experience, a necessary talent needed in their field of practice!
To end this section, here are a few last thoughts on insects. As seen, they are a constant in the garden, and even if you sterilize the soil by fire, in time they will return. To combat them is to fight a battle without victor, but to work with them is to prosper and live, in a sense, as a unified system. I hate to repeat myself so often but I cannot come up with a better way to describe the actions needed to gain the power and wisdom for life, but through experiment and observation!
We have discussed but a few of the insect, those both hinders and helpers. The garden, the world, has thousands upon thousands of insect to explore. Do not let anxiety get the best of you when confronted with an insect that most likely looks more dangerous than it is, to understand this, research the Cascadia Killer. Go out explore connect, understand and be confident in your life!
If you prepare your garden’s soil properly and are a watchful sentry, there is little that can take you by surprise…Do not be afraid to try something that is said to deter parasitic insect, even if it sounds like a jest. For instance, I use mashed Newspaper around the base of my cabbage, for some reason snails will not cross the paper. I assume that they find the decomposing Newspaper uncomfortable. If you try everything, find new and improved ways to discourage the insect, in turn improve upon the basic garden you are not only doing well for yourself but all gardeners, everywhere.
Fungi molds and Mosses
Nothing is manmade, nothing is invented; all is discovered and put to human use. Nothing is made from nothingness, all that is produced on this earth comes from what is here, set in action not seen before in combination… All man-combined items come from those who are willing to combine and try; all that comes from the effort of man, comes from the earth, and is made so by way of observation and experiment, though most times accidental!
This planet we live upon, this rock suspended in space, it is a collective of processes, this grinding, and transforming deconstructing, rejuvenating reconstructing process has little purpose yet many actions. Is a purpose needed to have a process? This planet, as it goes through its changes natural to anything that is in motion, it casts out that which is useless or unusual to the process, and retains molds, retrofits those, which is able to conform to the process and those willing to work within the cooperation, a necessity for the process, all are rewarded. If something works against the process, against the flow, the whole will be out of sorts until and if it can correct the unusual action. If it cannot correct the anti-process, the process with cease to be and a new process with begin from there with the anti-process as a part of the process.
When man works against the nature of the process, we assume it will not change all other actions in the process. Seeing that we are young and that we are arrogant in action, we fail to realize the laws of cause and effect, or more so the effect of an action to all, both related and unrelated to the primary action… We tend to think without the process of thinking, we fail to examine with precaution or with grounded reasoning. Our actions, though we do not think of them as baiting reaction, they do just that. Our actions are a part of the reaction as soon as they are put in motion.
Coming closer to the garden with this bit of thinking, we can only do to an object what is in its nature to except. It will not nor cannot except that which is not in its nature to except. Once we go against the flow of the process, we must suppose that our actions are going to be given back as a reaction and it could spell disaster or it will change the process entirely. The garden, though only a few months old since you planted it, its process is billions of years old. What you do to the garden; as long as it is of the process, will show an outcome beneficial to you.
If you go against the process, you are on your own with little help from the process. The plant life on earth is indifferent to most things, its process will unfold as long as its base necessities are available, all other actions will be met with triviality and they will be expelled exploited or ignored. You can experiment and observe, gather and prosper as long as you keep pace with the process. What you cannot do is interrupt the process and expect a favorable result nor can you bring about something from nothing, all actions come from past actions all matter brought from matter.
We have discussed (briefly) the processes of Wind Water Sun, talked of the insect and mentioned the minerals and gases of the soil. Let us now touch on Fungi of the garden. Fungi are as natural to appear in your garden as do those plants we so affectionately and generically call “weeds”. You will find the fungi (Mold and Mushroom) in as many places as there are foods and water enough to support them. They process the decomposing matter, degrading organic matter to inorganic molecules, which can then return to the metabolic passageways in plants or other organisms. Fungi aids in absorption of minerals, deter parasitic insect, work with insect and plants in mutualistic efforts, they are in many cases edible and in other cases quite deadly.
This takes us to the process called Mycorrhizal symbiosis. It is the mutual exchange between plants and fungi, one of the most well-known plant–fungus associations and is of significant importance for plant growth and persistence in many ecosystems; over 90% of all plant species engage in these relationships with fungi and come to depend on this bond for life. Thus, you will see Mold on leafs, find it on the root system, and see the fruiting mushroom pushing from under the mulch… They are in endless variety, working a thankless job.
What I have observed of the mushrooms, of our area, is that the traditional cap and stem mushrooms grow where there is a healthy supply of exposed decaying wood matter, something unusual in the garden. Though many mushrooms grow off, say grasses and sands, I have seen little of these in the garden. What I have seen and what is of assistance to the garden are those molds and mushrooms (but for slime mold), that grown in the humus and natural matter decomposing in the garden.
Let us for a moment step back to the assistance given by other helpers of the garden. Amany of processes are performed in duplicate, in the garden. As you will see later on in this manual, I shall repeat myself, but in fairness, I am simply documenting the duplication seen in nature. The mushrooms help as the microbes help as the earthworms help, they all have a point of connectivity, a crossroad if you will.
Where the worm bores holes, where the microbe creates gases, where the mushrooms help with assisting the delivery of certain minerals, they all in their basic performance perform the same action where the garden benefits. They break down (in)organics to its smallest necessary particles. They all do this nevertheless at different locations and times.
This action, or more so, this duplication in natural developments is seen throughout the natural world. Many beings from different families at one time or another all have traits and metabolic actions that are so closely identical to each other, an untrained eye would be unable to tell them apart. At first glance, this world is complicated; some things seem to be unknowing, lost in its complicatedness.
Yet if we step back and observe we can see that amany of the same processes are used by all beings on this earth, by different resources to the same ends! O’ leave it to the Scientists, they need a job too don’t they? So, they make it all so hard to understand, by creating these vast crevasses between realities and bind the information up in these far reaching terms, so much so that the masses feel shrunken in front of them.
We on this planet as a system have taken, like water, to the path with the least resistance. It is in the flowers and the trees, it is in the birds as with the bees, this duplication of processes, this using what works for all life to live where there is ability to live. By the simplest ways! Look at embryogenesis, embryology, also take notice that, but for fungi, all cells contain cellulose. All life is made possible by water, and so on… If nature were to take the most complicated route, few things would have evolved from the simple cell. Through simplicity, greatness is achieved. Through effort, we survive condition!
So, it becomes simpler if you connect that which is connectable and by the differences left over you can see that life runs in a minute circle through a small window, by a time honored practice ;that but for the shell ,the inners, the machinery, those quality of life run hand in hand. No family is left to it’s own, none alien to the process… Many of the processes that one family uses are beneficial (or should I say adaptable )to another. From one’s refuse comes another’s life. If this world were such a race to supremacy then there would be no benefits between competitors, no compromising, all would hold to their secrets and prosper…But it is not that way! We all, all matter, all organic materials, we all use the same processes from breath to breath and until death…
I have witnessed fungi in my garden, molds on the leaves and roots, mushroom caps on the old Walnut stump, different fungi growing in different places. At first I thought they were hindrances, that is until I studied fungi for a few years, I come to realize they are yet another in a long line of organisms that work in this cooperation that makes our world turn-round.
Since this idea cooperation is becoming a common theme in this manual allow me to clarify this word and how I define it, ”cooperation.” I am stuck with a limited vocabulary, so I must explain in my limits… I think explaining what it is not will be better than explaining what it is.
This cooperation I speak of is not some sort of mutual understanding, not some sort of friendship where through assistance nature sees these benefits for all parties if they only would try. I believe cooperation can be obtained even without partnership, with only agreement. Those absence of self-awareness, those not even able through biology to have consciousness, they cooperated without cooperating. If the biology bridges, this is contract enough for cooperation!
As I see it, the fungi does not mutually share with the plant or insect, though by its actions and through adaptation it has become a cooperation, this is not the intent of the mushroom to assist the tomato plant, since it cannot form intent there can be no intent. Cooperation is not in need of contract-partnership when it comes to nature, only man and a few other thinking beasts require a contract to facilitate a mutual necessity. I believe that these partnerships, this cooperation, these mutualisms come from an ability to suffer lesser injurious side effects of the connectivity. The reward outweighs the punishment. A sort of compromise is formed where through this cooperation each species receives what it needs to live yet gives up a lesser necessity in return. Though they give up this necessity, their adaptable ability compensates the loss with another attribute that allows them life through the connection. Therefore, cooperation is built on self-interest.
I want to take away this picture, in nature, of this mutual happiness and sharing for the prosperity of the whole. Though there is a cooperation it is not the stronger and weak forming a union or the strong protecting the weak, nor is it the suffers of chance being guarded by those who won favor from condition. Each being lives by its own system of life and though they cooperate with other beings, it is not for the survival of both; it is for survival of the individual. Through individual survival, the whole survives! Do you think if the whole were to try to make all actions one, it would survive chance and condition?
Individuals cooperating and mutualism for benefit is not a bad thing, do not misread me. I just do not see it in the wild. When it comes to those who are able to think in abstract, cooperation by contract is a good thing, it is helpful and able to change the tides of fortune. Through cooperation man is able, as with nature, to suffer small loses and still be able through adaptation to come out of the contract even greater than they were separate from the unit. What we have that “nature” does not, being neither good nor bad, is an ability to use our memories, think abstractly, where we can either suffer the lesser lost nor relinquish the union. Nature on the other hand once the adaptation takes hold, must accept the union until it can find another suitable avenue to travel, something that could take millions of years to accomplish. Lucky us!
Therefore, the mushroom attaches itself to the plant, and they individually live together either sharing and exchanging or hindering and assaulting for the benefit of self. Is this not true of all life?
The Fungi is of usefulness to humans as food, medical, bioremediations, pest deterrents. Fungi is very useful to plants the soil and other animals. With little more to say of fungi, but to promote its growth you must provide a health surrounding for it to grow . To have a healthy surrounding is to have a well-balanced garden, where the plot is propped-up with healthy soil and enough of what we have already or will talk about… We shall take leave of this subject and move to microscopic bacterium for our next part on the assistance and hinders of the garden…
Here we are once again on a subject that deals in mutual assistance, as like the fungi, and the earthworm and a host of others the bacterium is another workhorse of the garden. Bacteria release the Nitrates in inorganic matter… Nitrogen is the stuff of life. It is present in all amino acids, which make up protein and the nucleic acids of RNA and DNA. While Nitrogen is very plentiful, about 80% of our air is made of nitrogen gas, plants can only use the nitrogen if it is fixed or combined making ammonia and nitrate. All the nitrogen we need we get either directly or indirectly from plants. And almost all of the nitrogen plants need is provided by nitrogen fixing bacteria.
I love being witness to this connective tissue in nature. I dream of it for us humans… I witness this long chain of connections where each link benefits the next as the first does the last. Remove one link and it can still function and survive. If we as humans could foster this idea of connective tissue, where we share in the benefits, rather than trying it alone, where failure is emanated from the unwillingness to share, we would be in no need for war and violence. Utopia is not a dream, but it is seen as a weakness in man, to want for a place where life is not filled with fear and danger, through connective tissue and a sharing of responsibility that Utopia may one day come to be. You see it in many of the other beings of this earth, but for man and some of the other beast late to this earth…
In the plant kingdom, a Utopia has come to be its normal actions and reaction, where it would die away if it did not practice this type of governance. The Bacterium are but one of the residents in this Utopia.
What a world it must be , if only we could be reduced to this size, to see the bacteria at work . Bacteria are tiny organisms, and are plentiful on Earth. They live everywhere, in air, soil, rock, water Etc. Some thrive in intense heat, while others survive in freezing cold. Some bacteria need oxygen to live, but others do not. These microscopic organisms are found in plants , animals and in the human body. Some bacteria cause disease in humans, plants, and animals. Others are essential for a healthy life, and we could not exist without them. Indeed, the symbiotic relationship between micro organic materials is delicate and complex.
Can you now see that we are so attached to nature? So much so, that our bodies as a whole supports other life forms without us even knowing most of the time. In the soil, these Microorganisms perform an important job, as I believe the most important job. They take death, which holds the minerals, and transform it back into a viable product, a product necessary in life.
What an amazing thing it must be to see? Sadly, though, few of us backyard gardeners will ever purchase a microscope powerful enough to see this world first hand. The various bacteria are so small that a single gram of virgin soil could contain close to one million (1,000,000) distinct species of bacteria. These creatures breakdown anything and everything that they meet with, from inorganic foods to metals, they are, much like the fungi… unstoppable.
Many, too many, people believe that the soil’s nutrient cycle is made up of a chemical process, where in actuality it is of the biological, living beings working for their self-interest, producing what we call the soil and creating it’s over all make-up!
Here is an interesting bacteria, They look more like fungi but their inner structure is bacterial, they are called the “Actinobacteria”. Does this hybrid give you some kind of idea of how old, and how closely the fungi and bacteria work together? They have been in a symbiotic relationship for so long a time that they have become one, where life is easier as one rather than two. Much like the fungi and somewhat like the earthworm, the bacteria eat the organic, break it down to digestible particles, which in turn are the food (all 18 essential elements) for the plants and in turn for us…
I mentioned early on in this manual that I believed we are kin with the plant life of our world. Can you see this picture becoming clearer, can you see that through connectivity, that we may not be groups of parallel species but in fact diverging and merging families? Can you see that through adaptation, by cooperation where we lose a lesser ability in favor of a greater ability, changing ever so slowly until what was once recognizable is unrecognized today? What an amazing thing the garden is, it propels you deeper , deeper than you ever thought you would go! I think it is time to transcend past that which works in the soil and step into the soil itself.
Nature is not so easily defined; something this ancient cannot simply be explained away with conjecture. The further from the start we advance, the further from the explanations we travel!
Let us, for a moment touch on my definition of nature only to support our discussion on the garden. I realize what a grand undertaking it would be to explain nature , how do you explain nature as a single entity, if entity is its definition…I will try though to explain my view of nature, but I warn you, you may not recognize what I am giving as explanation.
The longer I look into nature the less I can simply give it a definition; this one word can never fit… As our lack of expression in our language strangles the idea of nature, we are at a loss in being able to understand it’s true reason for being… What is nature , is It something that is of the animated both conscious and unconscious , immortalized, uncontrollable, a movement to a sudden situation ?
Is nature that which is unchangeable, though when fettered it acts accordingly, yet reverts to its base construction once it is freed? Is nature the actions of the whole, in reaction to its parts? Above the refinement, behind the morality, below the education are we nature too? Without the fear of the retaliatory punishment, without the daily indoctrinations, would we too revert back to what carried us from wild to civil?
I define nature as the actions of the unconscious in attempts to feed an involuntary desire. It is a reaction to an action upon its being which commands response through its parts.
Man, since our realization of self and surroundings, since those pre-written times, we have slowly and ill-methodical pulled ourselves away from what we are, that being a part of this system that we attempt to master ,this system we try to define and refine : namely nature.
We use this word, nature, haphazardly to describe the world outside of man. Survey others and you will find that the many truly believe that nature is something aside from man and outside our lives as we see it. We once did not need an education to live, those wise where learned from the understanding of their place in nature, simply put, we were a true part of nature! What educated fools we are! For years I looked at this world shallowly, and assumed that everything lived separate from the other, us atop them lowly, all fighting for survival, each separate yet slammed together and forced to live impeded in a system against our will. I looked at nature as one thing and Us, humans, as another thing. I saw us, humans, standing tall above, with our set of rules, the rest lowly below following our despotic commands…
We have been here but a blink in the times and trails of nature, yet we walk as if we were here from the start. These thoughts of mine, of superiority, these thoughts were before my change in attitude and those changes came by way of observation and experiment. First, I altered my life by altering my attitude. My past views could not have been further from the truth! In fact we ,as in everything, we work as a single system, on this earth as in this universe, under one set of rules which encircles the chaos, a cooperative, parts fitted to one machine if you will, though individual beings working together for individual needs.
We live off and in concert with one and another, cogs fitted perfectly together. Once I saw this truth, that it is a cooperative, more so an un-purposed perpetuity in motion, it all became simpler, better understood and manageable. If we stick to our beliefs, that each are of their own and work outside of the whole; If we,” fight” for life, where our nature is the enemy, then all that we do and all that we are will suffer a slow painful death instead of an eventful life. Nevertheless, OUR nature will not allow us to act any other way but against what we do not understand…
Nature is not simply the trees and bugs, nor the wind and rain, not even a simple reaction. No, Nature is all actions and reactions, effects of cause, and equations of the combination, in service to that will of life to live. In short, we are all individual units living together in efforts to survive our own selves. We all use the same means to the same ends! Nature is us and them and those and it, in amounts large and small fast and slow ,aware and instinctive ,all propelling our forces in efforts for top placement in the desire for life!
So, nature is not viewed with a walk in the park or a film on the Artic, No, nature is all things of this planet and all actions that thrust all things into or out of action. I know greater minds see it even closer, but after the discussion is over, in the end, this is a planet for the living, doing what nature insists upon or that life shall parish!
This plot of land and what you plant will not simply be a garden, it will be an experience, where within the growth you will be pulled into the depths of thought. You the proposed master controlling life and death, health and illness, input production and output; in short it shall press you for your best, in exchange it will educate you far beyond any book is able. It shall teach you to use a delicate hand, help improve the quickness of mind, shape your beliefs and cultivate you as well as you cultivate it.
What you are about to read , as well with what you have read, you will find that I write it from my advantage point. Surely, a well written scientific explanation coupled with landed definitions would be what the naïve needs to be a great gardener, and there are also those who feel that credit goes more to the one that put on the greatest airs, I see it differently. Firstly, I am not talking to beginners, I doubt highly my manual could help those who never picked up a shovel and aerated the soil for cultivation. In addition, I believe that nothing can be learned from what we do not understand.
So I will continue to explain what I understand, and leave the speculation to those better able in explanation and those in a need of a settled language. I write romantically from my love of nature …
I speak to you, as I would want to be spoken to, without confusion and on a level field. I have no need to be seen as someone whom I’m not, I am not a scientist, I am a simple observer and these are my observations.
Now that we have discussed the classical natural elements , insect fungi Etc. We’ve also talked of that which has effect on your garden ,let us advance into the makeup of the garden and it’s prime resource…The dirt!
Soil, is literally and figuratively the dirt of life. Of all the things we are in need of, be it foods fuels materials for homes, clothing medicines etc., they all come from and benefit from the top most layer of this earth, the soil…All things that we value, be it rare minerals oils coal etc., they all were once a part of a top soil. So, to say that this dirt that we track across a freshly mopped floor, that dirt the dogs dig in, that dirt that we grow our plants in is the single most important thing on earth, it is not an over exaggeration.
Call it dirt ,soil earth ,what have you, in any terms it is a mixture ( more or less) of sand clays silts air water and organic materials, either living dying or dead. The majority of the composition of dirt is of rock, which is either eroded or weathered away until it is coupled with organic material which we call soil… The dirt is my interest beyond and above the plants, and as a good servant I understand and focus on the necessary need for a well composed dirt, with firm beliefs that , if I tend to the soil, the plants are abler to go through their stages necessary to produce fruits with little need for my assistance.
Once you’ve picked a plot with sufficient grade or drainage, the soil composition is the next focus. Take a mason jar; dig a hole in your soil below the grasses or other vegetation’s, no more than 6 inches deep. Place that dirt in a paper bag, crush then place into the Mason jar (half full). Seeing that soil is 45 % rock (clay sand silt) 25% water 25% air and 5% organic, you will be able to estimate the value of your soil through this exercise. Fill the Mason jar to the shoulder with water, place lid on and shake jar for a few minutes, allow jar to sit for a few days out of light to settle. Take into count that you filled all spaces used by air with water, air commands 25% of soil. Now inspect your jar, it should have, in view, six layers ( air at top, floating material water and soils) from bottom consisting of , heaviest to lightest, you will see sand silt clay, organics water and lastly buoyant material . These layers should be proportional to each other (3 equal of rock 2 of organic). If you are lacking in one or another layer (but for air or water) simply rectify by adding that which is lacking. Repeat this test throughout your plot. We will discuss later the needs for different soil mixtures for different plants…
What is, always has been.
It is what will come.
What was, has always been.
It was before it begun.
What is here will be gone.
It is what it has become.
What was has lived then parted.
It was here before it started.
The guardian of life
I have never seen a forest, one untouched by man, in a sickly state of health. I’ve never witnessed where the trees hang ill-low and the grasses are dying out of cycle. I have never seen a lifeless land undeserving, where but death resides… I have spent the majority of my life walking between the flora and fauna of our community and one thing stands out, I have never seen, that plot of land, one untouched by human hands, in disarray, gasping for breath, confused and unable. Every place I walked was at work as a functioning system tending to its needs without cognizance of doing so… There I see the layers of life, conjoining in a beautiful concert , performing what can only be explained as an amazing act in a grand play.
There is no learning curve in nature; it is life and death, simply. Life goes at it, as it has since it began its journey. All mistakes and accomplishments, all actions and reactions are absorbed and utilized as parts of the whole, all going towards that mysterious goal, none parts or actions wasted! It is all, (for lack of a better phrase), a well-oiled machine, one that seems to have been an expert in what it does, since first action.
This is where I learn how to balance the needs of life in my garden, in the forests and fields. After all, my garden is but a reflection of that life unbridled uncontrolled, what we call nature. I chose to learn from that utmost scholar in the field; I chose to learn of nature from nature. Is it not strange, that when we take the nature out of our lives we are placed behind the 8ball? Yet, if we be a part of, not the master or pedestrian, and allow nature to run untamed, it flourishes unbound wild and healthy, if I may use a human descriptive it goes towards all tranquility!
We are a part of the whole, yet as stated before we tend to think of ourselves as another, rather than the part of whole, set aside to command the whole. In fact we are a member of it all and once we see that we are a part , then and only then can we be that part and live, happily, among the whole. In that untamed wild, there is no suffering, no hate, no waste nor surplus… Nothing is out of malice or harm, no love, life begotten, it lives then dies away, reduced, to be the next part of the next life coming to be.
In the forest you will find this thin layer where life meets death , where life lives from death , where death provides for life…This layer ,though so thin, is by far, the thing with the most importance for the life of the garden , for the life of the planet. In this layer, at work, is the forever-grinding motion, that, from the dead, it refines, breaks down all to its smallest parts, recycling to furnish sustenance to that which comes anew. This is the mechanic of the soil. The sand and clay, silt and water, air and matter, wind and heat cold and friction expansion and retraction all work towards that unrealized goal of providing for life.
Let us suppose a blank plot of land, barren, only sand lays here, but not for long if left unattained. The winds shall blow, life shall pass, the snow will fall, rain comes and goes, slowly through these vehicles enough organic material is stocked on our sand lot, again without conscience or awareness, it will foster life, if life so needs fostering. This (in)organic matter attracts microbes hungry for this goodness. In the crop of a bird, on the wind, in the flood comes a seed ready with the chemistry of life, and it lands on our plot. In a seed is stored the energies needed to host enough growth that the embryo comes (with moister and warmth) from its protective shell , energized enough to search out that supply of organic energy which propels it into its own growth cycle. All that which is needed is found, energy stocked by the actions of life… Life ready to sprout. Soon it grows, our first plant, into adulthood flourishing in its window of time and finally passes away. Its dead body as a whole starts the next round, new energy ready for its seeds that it produces to propagate its species. Its decaying body, with help from the passing microbes and the natural movement from cause, transforms, again, this death into food for the next…And it goes on as so.
In our plot life and death supplying anew, that grand cycle, each step producing more than the next needs! As our plot gains material from the ever-increase in organic life and death , weaker plants by chance, in need of great material come to live there. They come, by way of a thousand means of transportation, to land and grace our plot with new material in that perpetual work of life. Until finally, our plot is not a sand lot but a supportive field of green, life unbound, of chance and by condition.
Back to the dirt
Let us look at that top-top layer of soil, the Organic and Inorganic material, that 5 % of the 5% of total top soil. Here is where the action is, all other steps in the process of dirt, though important, are secondary to this amazing layer of life. The other processes are but filters and mechanicals compared to the top layer of life. It is the proverbial ‘soup of life”. At one time this planet did not foster this layer, and there will come a time that it again will not be found on this planet. We don’t need to worry over that thought. We would not see a 50% reduction in the top soil of the planet, I feel we would loss under the laws and rules of life; we are too dependent on not surviving.
There is more life in a square inch of soil then there is human life on this planet, an amazing community, a cooperative of pure life and death. A grand display of both the mechanics of life in soil and a showcase of what a reasonless, amoral unconscious society with pure intelligence and instinctive chemical reaction looks like. Of the soil’s population, we will find thousands of interesting microscopic beings. You will find life and death in all stages and developments, be it in liquid solid crystal or gaseous form.
Here the microbes feed …
In the 5% of the 5%, there are chemicals, combined they support life. Yet these same chemicals support nothing unless broken down to their base balance, reconfigured and either used in the present or fossilized for future usage. As we have discussed there are many ways to this conclusion (or should that be beginning) of a balanced soil, microbes earthworms the sun etc. All break down organic material. In this upper portion of the (in)organic matter, there is all that is necessary to foster life for many growing seasons to come.
This upper layer holds the gross amount of materials needed to give life to that seed, life to that bug, that bird that human…All that which is life starts its journey here, in this thin layer of soil. As discussed, the soil is made up of rock sand silt and decomposed (ing) materials. Through leeching by way of rain, chemical reaction, and insect consumption ,the top layer affords the root system with material for survival.
This layer consists of both life and death in this dance one coming one going. Strangely enough if not for death, there would be no life. In an established plot of land, it is hard to realize the functions of each part to the whole, but if you were to witness life started from a blank-canvas, it all would be better understood. However, we cannot see it all from the start and are left with reverse engineering, start from the end and go back as close to the start.
By classification, plants are cannibalistic, that they eat from their own selves, after those parts are broken down into stable materials -that is. Plants redirect energies and re-label cellular duties all the time, to witness this action, bend a plant over and tie it to the ground. The plant will redirect messages to the cells of the parts bent and it will tell it the next move to survive this action. When I say Cannibalistic , I mean more precisely the off-spring eating from the parent plant. This very close circle of repetition and return keeps the plant kingdom alive. If we look closely at all kingdoms, the above could safely be applied to them all.
Let us look at a single plant in the field, aside from the insect and earthly elements that assist it through its involuntary cooperation’s, the plant lives from and for its own self. This one plant, as it lives, cases off what has become of no use in the growth cycle, and these items fall to the ground , beginning the process of decomposing. After the plant drops its part, seeing that this item is no longer in contact with the life of the plant and has not had its cells redirected (as like seeds), it shall die away. This item now, through loss, will begin breaking down for future usages, for usage for the same plant that lost the item. The part that the plant excluded will wither away and slowly decompose; it will lose gaseous material, breaking down and with help separating into its individual base constructed materials.
This item will cease to be a plant item, it then becomes its base energy and minerals, all freed from the parent plant. Along with the plant dropping parts and pieces, the insect, predatory or not, drop pieces and even dies on that ground, and the same cycle starts with them as did with our single plant. This is the makings of the top 5% of the soil, this thin layer is what drives our world with life.
We, here, will touch on a few of the minerals needed in the garden to propel life. I have chosen two in particular of the other 16 minerals; they are calcium and nitrogen. I choose these two because they are the most used minerals by the garden plant and tend to cause the most damage in the garden if left to deplete or in excess. If you treat your garden as a growing entity and not an inanimate object, if you see that it lives and treat it as something alive, you will rarely need to add anything from the outside into your garden. Experiment and observe! Though I will only discuss two, it is recommended that you research all and see their place in the process.
Plants, as do most living beings, need minerals to live. For instance Calcium is essential for living organisms, in particular in cell physiology, as a major material used in mineralization of bone shell Etc., calcium is the most abundant metal by mass in many creatures. Minerals , nitrogen, potassium, calcium, sulfur and phosphorous etc. are readily available to the plant, and are not only healthy for the plant but also those animals and other plants that feed from them. Minerals play an important part in the life of the garden and many times their levels and most importantly their availability in the soil make the difference between a good or bad crop.
Let us discuss the tomato, to show one case for the importance of minerals. Blossom-end rot(BER) is caused by a physiological disorder associated with a low concentration of calcium in the fruit. Calcium is required in relatively large applications for normal growth. When the tomato is destitute of calcium, the tissues become disrupted, leaving the dry sunken black lesion at the blossom end.
BER is encouraged when demand for calcium is left unanswered. This may result from low calcium levels or high amounts of competitive needs exacted on the soil, drought stress, or excessive soil moisture fluctuations, which reduce uptake and movement of calcium into the plant, or rapid vegetative growth due to excessive nitrogen fertilization. If you have never seen BER, at first it is hard to identify because it mainly starts inside a small circular hole left by the detached blossom. However once it starts, it will destroy the harvest until you can correct the deficiency of calcium or when you or the weather balances the fluctuation in soil moisture.
BER in progression is a large black lesion on the “bottom” of the tomato, the rot, even in early stages distorts the taste and is noticeable inside the fruit even when not noticed outside. If the BER is from excessive nitrogen, which blocks calcium intake, you will need to do a lot more than adjust water or add calcium flake… Once the items are corrected though, the new fruits will be free of the BER.
Our second mineral to discuss is Nitrogen… You can add too much nitrogen, even in organic form to your garden. Plants will grow to look wonderful in the beginning but too much leaf and stem, without the root structure to keep the top structure nourished will hinder the fruit. The tissues of the fruit will be soft and prune-ish and will be vulnerable to insects and disease when overly nitrated. I stay safe from over nitrating by only using what comes from my land.
You can manage the nitrogen content of your soil by adding organic matter and planting crops that fix nitrogen. Organic matter, such as compost, composted (aged) manure, and cover crops, not only increases nitrogen and other nutrients; it also improves soil structure and rouses helpful microorganisms. But giving to much in excess can destroy the plot! When using composted manure, I say a little goes a long way. I tend to stick with localize organic matter, “weeds”, grass clippings and even those vegetables and plants from the garden itself. By using what you have, ageing it into a balanced compost with fixed nitrate you will be less likely to foster alien life or over-under “medicating” of the plot.
Before your plants can put the nitrogen in organic matter to good use, it has to be converted into what plants can intake or metabolize. The absorption of a plant is set up to only take up the inorganic balanced nitrogen. Microbes,( bacterium) make nitrogen available to plants by breaking down organic matter and steadily releasing two inorganic forms of nitrogen which are ammonium and nitrate, this we learned . Here is something new though… Seasonal fluctuations of fixed or balance nitrogen levels are normal; the microbes that break down organic matter are less active in cool soil. So, it is okay to see slow growth in cooler periods than those of warmer periods. Use it or lost it! At year’s end one of the few mineral that filters out of the soil is nitrate, but do not fret, there is plenty of unfixed nitrogen that has not been digested by bacterium in the garden. Unlike manure, the other suppliers of nitrogen, plant matter and such, need to go through the decomposing stages even before the bacterium can process it. Therefore, there is a constant process going on where new nitrates are ever being produced from life dying away. Nitrogen is a major player in the garden, and can turn your plot into a bed of acid, through-out the remainder of this manual we discuss nitrates more closely and will show more in-depth the issues from a lack or excess of Nitrogen…Read on!
Structure of Soil
As discussed, in the garden, besides (in) organic matter, you will find rocks silt sand and clay. Though you can find some in the upper most layers, you will normally find these items in descending order throughout the soil. Let us not overlook these rocks and those derivatives of rock. They are of importance or nature would have shoved them out of the way instead of incorporating them.
The nature of the world is simple, it takes the simplest of routes to an end using what is at hand over making new substances. Nature manufactures by why of simple combination and it ends those things which is of no use, even those useful but not used. We use the term evolution to explain this action in part. If a being , through adaptability toward conditions, finds no use for one or more of its parts , that part will be withdrawn and becomes extinct. All things on this earth are part of the nature of the whole, they may not feature in all actions but their parts individually or in totality will be marked as useful in some action or reaction.
Garden soil must be porous for water to enter the plant system. This is where the rocks come into play. See, water moves into and through the soil by a network of pores afforded by the different sized parts of rock, sand, silt clay and by networks made by earthworms. There are two types of pores in a well-aerated soil, the larger pores, which allow water to move freely, which also allows excess moisture to drain through the action of gravity. The smaller pores, which provide enough spaces in which water may be stored for plant use.
What is desirable is a soil with a balance between large pores (for drainage) and small pores (for storage). If there is a surplus of large pores, such as in very sandy soils, the soil retains less water, dries very quickly, and requires more irrigation that is frequent, which creates a weak surface root system. Soils with an excess of small pores, such as clay and compact soil, retain much more water, tend to become inundated, thus become soggy, taking longer to dry out and slow to warming, which is a key part in incubation . Therefore, this seemly indifferent placement of rock, turns out to be yet another balancer in the garden…
After gravity has drained the deluged water out of a saturated soil, substantial amounts of water remains stored in the soil though partly trapped. This is called, “The water capacity of the soil”, and represents the maximum amount of water that can be stored within the soils pores.
Plants use down this stored water as they grow, steadily reducing the water into the soil. As the soil moisture decreases through the pores, it becomes increasingly difficult for the plants to gain more water, unless replenished. At some point the plants start to become water stressed, hindering their growth. Eventually the point is reached where the plants can no longer extract moisture from the soil, and the plant begins to wilt due to lack of water.
Although there is still water in the soil, it is closely tied into the soil particles and is unavailable to plants. If additional water is not provided for the plants usage they will (of course) die. See, now we took something seemly harmless and benign to where we now understand its importance in the scheme of things. However, it does not end here. The arrangement of the soil and its rock make-up are duel in duty, it not only holds water, it also makes space for bacterium and surface space for unbalanced nitrogen to attach to the surface of sand, waiting for the ready bacterium to continue its actions for self.
In addition to water, the soil must also be penetrable by air, which is needed by the plant roots. Air, and the oxygen it contains, disperses into the soil through the soil pores. If pores are lacking, the air movement into the soil will become retarded, and plants will not thrive. Coupled, the rocks and the worms aerate the garden most nicely. It is possible too physically damage the pore structure of your soil. Some of the most common reasons for the destruction of soil structure are by soil compaction (foot traffic), working the soil when it is wet, over-tilling/ over-hoeing the soil until all the pore structure is lost. All of these actions result in the collapse of the soil pores, which is a disrupter of water, air movement and storage. Yet if you aerate the soil properly, taking caution and tread lightly, your garden will be a healthy place to plant for decades to come… Just think all this growth is made (in part) possible by the rock mixture of the soil.
Those things missing are as important as those things present.
Your soil construction is not only of rock and of decomposing matter; it is not simply bugs and fungi. Along with this above list, you have many other items that make up…the make-up of your soil. Let us talk of last year’s crop. Once you picked your last green pepper and cleared the garden for winter, those plant roots left behind will become an important irrigation system this year. The roots rot away and are inducted into the system , yet they leave their imprint behind as channels used by water. This same action goes for all those items once organic, no matter their size all are broken down to its common element, leaving behind that which is not of organic nature and its imprint as proof of existence, along with the rock eroded they make for a great network of channels and watercourses involuntarily servicing the garden.
Atop of all this, many miss the fact that where there is life there is death, in the garden this is a good thing. It may be self-evident to some but to others it is over looked completely. We have talked of all those living beings that thrive on our garden, yet they die in the garden as well. Of those millions upon millions of lives that feed on the garden, few venture out of its limits; they usually die within the soil. As with the plant parts and insect parts, we can include the Mushroom parts, bird droppings seed parts Microbe parts and so forth. Not only are they a part of the garden as both hindrances and helpful, they too die away, adding not only to the inorganic mixture, but also to its structure. Finally the rock that erode and create the structure of the soil, add chemicals to the soil, which in turn can increase or decrease the pH levels of the garden. We shall focus on pH levels further later in this manual.
My viewpoint of the garden is that it lives self-contained and draws but those earthly elements into its island… Granted very small amounts of mineral and inorganic materials are brought aloft in the winds or by rain from our region, but the majority is contained produced and composed in the garden. Where many see a need too constantly add from the outside, so to increase profit or bragging rights, I see that the garden can be contained with little outside help, in a micro-sense. In truth the garden is not truly contained; it is more like a micro-world where it has all needed to preform what its nature asks of it.
I come to believe that little is truly lost in the garden, only retrofitted for a new action, and all I need to do is keep the process going in favor of the garden. From the time of my sowing of the seed or planting green house plants, those plants begin to draw from the resources stockpiled , through-out this manual I have shown you how this stock gets placed in the soil. From there the plant draws, uses and stores all that it needs from the soil. Few things escape the garden, but for those in the fruits , those materials that evaporate into the ether or those wasted away by water. If you put those suggestions I give for a healthy garden into effect, you will have little that escapes and less to worry-over. With the proper understanding gained through experiment and observation, you can maintain a properly structured garden that will allow you fruits aplenty. We move on…
The majority of plants grown in zone 5-6, for those regional ethnic foods, be it tomatoes peppers corn lettuce turnip onion…Etc., few physical amendments are needed in the natural soil. Yet, we have one group of plants that will need a different soil, or at least different structure of soil for it to grow well. Cucurbits, a family consisting of various squash melons and gourds, as like pumpkins, watermelons, cucumbers etc., are the group that needs an amended soil or the soil built-up to have preferable drainage.
The physical condition of the soil greatly influences the ability of all plant roots to acquire nutrients from the soil, this we discussed. Cucurbits, as a group, can develop good root systems that proliferate into the top 12 inches with the taproot going down to three feet and that are able effectively to utilize nutrients and water available in the soil but they cannot handle wet soil.
The soil environment must be favorable for the roots to develop to their full potential. Soils, that have not only been well-conditioned by way of what we have discussed so far, but also constructed of a sandy loam or properly drained, provide that favorable environment. Cucurbits are sensitive to wet soil conditions so good drainage is essential. Sandy loams are generally most suitable for growing Cucurbits, but I have found that earthen mounds or boxes work well, drying quicker that the cooler, wetter, deep ground.
If you wish to grow any number of the Cucurbit family, you can do two things, either create a new garden with a sandy loam or create an environment in your existing garden that is harmonious with the plant’s needs. Both are your choice and both add to the experience of the gardener… I tend to grow my cucumbers and squash in my main garden, creating two foot mounds that taper like a pyramid, placing the various mounds apart from one and another so to not cross-pollinate. Some people train their cucumber vines; I allow mine to grow across the ground down the mounds. Once the cucumbers mature and either die away from age or lack of nutrients, when they grow beyond the safety of the mounded area, I collapse the mounds and replant the area with a crop that matures within a short period, thus utilizing the ground for more output. With the gourds, mainly zucchini, the plant drapes over the mound and the fruit lay on the mound.
When I plant pumpkins and melons, (though not at the same time) I have a portion of my garden that was once used, many years ago, to store sand and gravel. It is the perfect spot to grow these plants, where I can allow them the birth to grow as they please, where I can experiment within them and not bother the main gardens. The choice is yours, by experiment and through observation; you will find what works best in your life.
We are closing-out our discussion on the many materials that make up the soil and its structure. You will find many objects in the garden that we did not discuss, they are of place and time. In the scope of this chapter, we discussed those things in common with all gardens and little that are of exception. If you have other items that hinder or help your garden, through observation and experiment you will find their place in the picture of the whole. So, to that, we will now turn towards the maintenance of the garden.
“Plunked into the pot with my perceptive care, I gave you a home, but you do not fair.
I toss about this and I toss about that, productive for life, making you grow nice and fat.
Not you, disgrace, for you have lost your place. Up! Up you must fill this vase.
I blame you for this natural crime, how have you not grown one single tine.
Why, it is your nature to blossom, to treat me unto your delight. Not you, I ,offered nothing but your ugly blight.
Never, this blame cannot lay securely in my grace, hang your head, and show me not your face.
Your life is but simple, nothing amazing, into the soil, not trouble, no toil.
I command you, bath me in your beauty; it is but your natural duty.
I believe, I am the stronger, you the fool. I understand, I the Master you the tool. ”
Excessiveness: exceeding what is useful, needed or proper…
Again, through observation you will find that but for us humans few things go at anything one thing in excess. Many beings of the earth use what is needed to energize them for the task at hand, taking in little for storage unless their condition necessitated it. Many peoples of this earth practiced this method by eating only what was needed for the job in front of them. Many tribes of the Americas wore only enough clothing to protect themselves from injury and for social practices, yet not enough to make them susceptible to want. In addition, fire comes to mind with excess, those people we call “primitive” used fire sparingly, and stayed close to natural needs, only vying for the warmth of fire when they were in dire need of it. Yet in our time and place, we humans are an excessive bunch.
What does all this have to do with the garden? This is easy to explain, we are a part of the garden , as helper and hinderer, so our excessiveness is transported to the garden as we judge necessities through those excessive eyes. We humans, through our need to quench the desire for pleasure, which we translate into happiness, have come to equal happiness with quantity rather than quality, ever excepting and demanding more as a way to please our need to fulfill that desire.
It is natural to want pleasure, yet many of us fail to realize the path we take is a hindrance to our wellbeing. We track happiness and when we see a faint trail we go into excess “hoping” that its essence will hold us tight. We assume that we will find happiness rarely and once we find its avenue, albeit that it is a small path, we travel that familiar road until it is treaded to the bedrock… We rarely look into the matter to find that the way to happiness is not in excess but in the removal of that which creates the negative of happiness.
We only react to the myth of happiness, and stay to that fearfulness, that if we use reason to its end we will never be happy again. This action in turn has an effect, us being obsessive and in excess we deviate from our other earthy duties to health and wellness to end us in ruin, socially disgraced and in a pitiful death. It is so in the garden, to make the garden healthy, which to our understanding is happiness, we give it all in excess.
If in need of water, we water in excess, if in need of foods, we pile it on in heaps, if it is in need of defense against attack, we defend with indiscriminating blind fury! All the while, we do more harm than if we were indifferent to its needs. If we would step back and look at our lives and the garden , with the understanding of the structure of the happiness, what feeds it and the methods of acquiring those foods, we can see that to obtain happiness we need only to remove that which is harmful to the whole.
Through the relief of injury, or in more common terms “sadness”, there is no need to find happiness for happiness is that that which is left by extrapolation. If happiness comes naturally rather than in the search for it, if it comes by removal of pain and relief of unhappiness, rather than creating obsession and excessiveness to chase happiness, its natural receiving is healthier for those that gain it.
I discuss soil amendments with many people, suggesting that they leave their soil to its own self, showing how it can correct itself will little help from us. I have found that, true to course though, many would rather dump a load of cow shit on the garden and be done with the process. They say “why bother with creating your own soil when manure is so plentiful in this area.” Year after year, they dump unmeasured amounts of cow manure on their gardens and then wonder why their plants are so thin and sickly by summers end. See, at first your plants will thrive with the manure as a catalyst, but eventually, when the fruits are supposed to flourish the garden fails, disaster or poor yield is the result.
First, as we have learned, the only Nitrogen used by the plants is those balanced by the Microbes or earthworms. We have learned too, that to foster life you need food, accommodations and climate, so under that fact the more Nitrogen available through manure broadcasting, the more Microbes come to fix nitrates. With more food, the microbes will propagate its species up to the point of starvation from the outer most edges of the population inward.
If there is food, there are those that consume… An overly nitrated soil increases the pH level of your garden, which creates an unbalanced garden( see discussion of pH levels later in manual).
What they do, those excessive gardeners is poison the soil and harm the plants, damaging those plants that need little nitrogen. To remove the nitrogen, will take a few years and many nitrogen using plants, and there is still no guarantee that those nitrogen’s affixed to sands will be removed under the massive weight of over animal feces composting.
I watch as the spring season opens and I hear the tillers fire-up, we all talk and exchange ideas, many though go back to base reasoning and destroy their garden by broadcasting all sorts of chemical products, and tilling the garden to a fine powder. So much so, that it will take years to produce a healthy environment.
In some of their actions, they are no closer to a healthy garden than before they started, sometimes the garden was already healthy but under bad advisement, they started down the wrong path. They do not intend to destroy their garden, they whole-heartedly believe what they are doing is beneficial to the garden, assuming that more is better, that bigger is better, when in fact life, all life, is sustainable healthily by the minimal. Excess kills as often as starvation.
We discussed early on that among other things time is a needed thing in the garden, there is so much to learn, and each plot is a collective of individuals doing what they do in the ways of life. Start by assisting the garden, take your first year to understand the plot and from there as you gain knowledge you can use that knowledge, simple piling on materials can only end in a garden in excess, where it is over-powered by the materials and lives a short miserable life producing nothing but headaches and disgust.
To maintain a healthy garden is to allow your garden to complete its cycles from birth through death, allowing it to foster an environment conducive to its health. Simply leaving put what falls from the plant is the first steps in a journey of a million steps. Your garden is a manufactured environment and in that environment you need to do what nature does for itself, that be, diverseness through mutualism and protective cooperation through proper conditions. As we have discussed, the plants have played out these cycles far longer than our species have been on this earth. They know through their begotten evolutionary intelligence what is needed to live out their lives, we are here to make sure they have all those parts at hand.
One thing you may need to maintain is the” weeds” of the garden…Weeds: a term used for those plants that grow among our other prized choice plants, though we call them such a generic collective name, they are in fact each to themselves special plants worth inspection and consideration. In the end, however, if they must be removed, as with the insect, in favor of what you are cultivating, then it must be so. Nonetheless get away from assuming they are only hinders and useless to the garden.
Each weed, as I stated are unique in every way. Some of those plants are indigenous families that have played a part in our culture since or even prior to the last great ice age. Some plants are immigrants to our soil coming by way of a thousand means to find a way of life expectable to them. Those”weeds” are plants that we have not noticed for their special qualities, thankfully a few great minds did not overlook them and simply eradicate them from the earth. Take Golden-Rod (Solidago), it was used to increase rubber output, to keep up with the demand needed for tires on the early automobile. These sorts of plants grow in and around your plot, a wise “gardener” takes the time aside to observe their actions and interactions before weeding for the week.
Many plants that you have planted reach a certain height in mid-summer, many of the weeds will not grow half the height of your plants, but some grow many times wider. By the time late summer and a reduced rain fall comes, those “weeds” can be of benefit in not only retaining an aerated soil but also to shady the ground, in turn promoting water retention and air availability.
Some “weeds” are a great hindrance to the garden and can take over the whole garden in a few weeks. For instance the Morning glory vine (Ipomoea), untrained, it will pull over and smother any plant in its search for light and altitude. Other “weeds” are very helpful and grow but a few inches from the ground, many which are succulents store water and unbalanced foods. These plants are great for soil cover deterring erosion by the elements and also for retaining water that will be needed in the mid dry seasons.
As stated before, I tend to use certain “weeds” as invitations for helpful insect to grace my garden. Many “weeds’ flower, be it small or large flowers , some have flower like cones . You will need to take a few years to study these “weeds” before you can determine which to leave grow and which to remove. I have experimented with my garden in so many ways it would take too much room in this small manual to state them all…However, I would like to give you a few instances where I experimented with “weeds” to show you how the garden acts while being intermingled with them.
One year I had planted a small garden in my upper yard, a few days later I had surgery and was unable to tend to the garden the way I wished. So , I left the garden to chance and condition and watched as it grow. For the most part the “weeds” grow faster than those plants that were not indigenous, and soon they encapsulated my garden plants. What I saw at harvest time was a natural yield in fruits, the plants produced a small number of fruits , which were small and thin, though healthy and with a good taste. All plants grew, and none were killed by the wild nature of my garden, the yield was not enough to plant a same garden again however.
I started to experiment with “weeds” from that point and through those experiments found many ‘weeds” that did not over-take the cultivated plants in the garden. Once spring came around I was able to find those useful plants easily , and by keeping them trimmed allowing them room in the garden until I was ready to allow them to grow more freely. I found those plants with dual purpose and soon could subtract those natural, down to a few and allow them to be of help in a variety of ways.
For years I tended to my “weeds’ as I did my fruiting plants, until the ruined season. On July 1st of 2012 , in a strong storm , we lost Two huge trees and my garden was put on the less-concerned list ,so that we can contend with the massive mess we had in our yard. Up to that point I tended to the garden as I usually do , and had only three experiments going on. All the “weeds’ I used as helpers were, up to that point, kept cut low waiting for mid-summer. My plants were well over 9 weeks old and 50% of their full height at that point. So, we went to cleaning up the yard and on breaks I watched, as my plot became a jungle of “weeds.” Once a week, the only thing I could do was explore the jungle, searching for insect and to check on my experiments.
Come harvest time (based on each plant) I would enter the plot and locate those plants ready for picking and to no surprise I found that , because of the control early on of the weeds, those plants in harvest faired no worse from their situation. I also found those plants that I experimented with in perfect form ready to harvest.
I concluded that my plants were able to adapt to the encroachment of the “weeds” seeing that they had a head-start over the “weeds”. The experiment was to knock over one of each of my plants and watch their reactions, through the “weeds” I found that they fared well with the insect and came to fruition none-the-less.
In conclusion I have found that once the choice plants are underway, that if they have a head start over the weeds, they will fare well as long as they are able to receive the needed Sun to perpetrate their growth. I also found that the soil has a good amount of aeration in a weedy garden, which is needed for a strong core structure, I also found that the soil maintained it’s proper water content through-out the season in a weedy garden, which was in drought conditions for this season. Through allowing nature to take charge after a certain point in time the plants yielded a greater amount of fruit through leaning, and with a healthier soil constitution they were able to live out their lives without need. Only for beauty of a well-cared for garden, something I have no interest in, the garden preformed well as a jungle.
Tending to the plant
This garden you grow is not for the bounty of food stuffs or flowers grown, no, it is for the bounty of knowledge it has to give. It is for the pride, it is for the strength and self-value you receive from your work paying out four fold. If it were simply for foods I would, drive to that store which has what I need neatly packaged and ready all times of the year. Truthfully, it costs less to purchase a green pepper or Rose than to grow a green pepper or Rose!
My garden is my sanctuary my library, my laboratory my playground, Etc. Etc. There I find oh so many answers to questions that I did not even know I needed addressed.
Life lessons are, by greatest leaps, worth the most to me. If I can learn to reeducate, to retool, for the betterment of myself, which in turn benefits me and mine…I would rather change my mind than be a fool for a mistake.
I have found that my garden is indifferent to my meddling; it merely and complexly grows, flowers, propagates and withers away without notice to my doings. Early-on when I called you Master of your garden it was in jest, frankly, you are at the service of the garden, giving protection from selection and affording leverage in chance. The garden is in control of its journey…
I can cut away, tie up, bury dehydrate starve, do one or more unthinkable things to my garden and as nature moves unstopping the plants eventual carry on as if it were never antagonized by me… This gives me a grand picture of life outside human action or reaction. We try so hard, too hard sometimes, in labors, to make the best of what we have in front of us. Instead of allowing ourselves to provide the answers by way of observation and experiment, we go at it blindly in reaction, assuming that labor is enough. We are a rash beast!
By maintenance I do not mean to constantly repair or fix issues that arise, I do not mean that you will need to find issues for repair, by maintenance I mean to maintain, to protect what is and allow it room for growth and fruition. Allowing the garden to fix its own issues , allow the garden to balance itself, creating a strong eco-system, one not always wanting for your hand. If you give it what it does not need it will be distracted and unable to build upon its materials , the result will be frustrations and poor yield.
Let us talk first of what I call natural nourishment or self-composting. As with humans and our constant detaching and flaking of skin cells, hair and flushing of fluids, through wastes or expansions, the plants themselves go through the same actions of renewal and waste disposal. With these procedures comes the loss of parts unneeded in the future life of the being losing the parts. These parts that are extracted, released or cast off , eventually fall to the ground under a number of vehicles of transportation. These parts once living , all go through the same mechanics of decomposition to end up as foods for not only the insect and animals, but also plants and in turn Us humans. This we have learned, these acts are the main life blood of the plants of our world.
I believe, with a terrestrially balanced garden and the shedding of the plant life , correlated with an ”average’ growing season your garden will need little outside compost, as long as you rotate your crop, prevent waste-outs and limit water deficiency. What I am saying is to allow your plant to shed its leaves, drop flowers and even die in place each year. The only thing I say to remove is the fruit itself, which you can place in a location to accumulate into another supply of indigenous compost.
Compost is nothing more than decomposing organic materials. Once we understand that through all the eloquent terms of nicety, all we want is dead matter to feed live matter, once understood, then we will be closer to growing a beautiful healthy garden. Compost in its generic terms, is mainly made up of anything that once lived. In the garden we deal with plant matter as our foundation to compost, if you use animal matter you invite a wholesale of other problems to your garden.
Separated compost, once balanced, (where the bacterium has transferred the nitrogen into nitrates), you can broadcast it across your gardens anytime and for many usages, this we will discuss later. Before you go purchase compost for your garden, we have a test that approximates your gardens standing food supply. A healthy garden has its healthy smells sights and sounds, only needing what it can use; only using what it needs. If your soils has food enough for growth there is no need for over-feeding, it simply is a waste of time.
As we discussed throughout this manual, many things grow and live in the soil, all in cooperation for individual concerns. Each of these things leave-off aromas, indicating health or illness. As we have discussed when many smells combine, it is into a unique smell (as like the Cabbageworm eating the cabbage leaf), so goes for the totality of the garden smells.
When you test your garden for soil moister, take a few seconds aside to test the soil’s vitality. I want you to look at and smell the soil; it is as simple as that. The soil should be a dark brown, even black color, aside from various organic parts it will have hints of sand grains. The smell should be a mild mildew scent. What this says is that there is life in the soil, if there were no life you would smell nothing, if the soil were not balanced you would smell the decomposing sour smell of the nitrogen and sugars. Also, if you smell “life”, this means the soil temperature for growth is at its optimum. It is as simple as that.
Surely you can get your soil tested at any local college campus, and I encourage it, but sooner or later you are going to need to understand every aspect of the garden and this step is as important as the earthly elements are, it is worthy of your time.
If you have found, through the various home grown tests, that your new garden is lacking in composure or compost, I suggest getting your replacement from a natural supply, like the forest or fields. Many samples of store bought compost, and sand are either short in food stuffs or are contaminated with chemicals, both creating problems in the later part of the season.
After your first year of gardening, take all plant matter not eaten and either allow it to fall in place or start your own compost pit. Many people invest in a compost drum or like operations, this is for increased time of compost maturity, let us discuss this avenue.
If your garden is a fresh plot where grasses have grown, if the plot is of healthy soil composure and you rotate your crops, you will not need compost for years, if ever. So you can create a simple compost pit anywhere in the yard and experiment with the pit until there is need in your garden for compost, be it high or low in nitrates.
Compost is made up of living dying and dead material, much of it will be released into the air as gas, wasted away by the rain and Sun, blown by the wind and left benign when exposed to the earthly elements. Compost being of a (in) organic structure retains water better than any other material used in the garden, other than silt. However, silt has small pores and cannot be made to hold large pore structure, if you were to use it as a cover, it would choke-out the garden. What I use my compost for is either to enhance the nitrates to a single plant for experiment, for water retainers, insect cover or/and for future food.
As stated above, when compost is exposed to the elements, its chances of retaining its nature are reduced compared to those (inorganic) parts that are turned-over or leech into the garden by way of rains or earth worm. Each year I use all natural compostable material I have at hand to help the garden, this includes the compost I “bake”. True to form, I allow my plants to die in place each end season and remove what is left in the next Spring, so I have little need for homemade compost but for every few years to help rebalance the parts of the garden where I grew nitrate hungry plants.
As stated, I use all that is at hand, mainly for its water retaining qualities. Once I plant my garden I spread grass clippings that are sun dried , seedless weeds and compost that was from the fruits of past gardens on to the new garden so to not only hold in water through-out the season but to fight erosion from the elements. This practice also affords advantage points for the Beetle and gives the three needed principles to fostering life, the fungi and insect takes notice.
As I discussed before, I have learned everything I know about natural composting from nature. I know many who use some sort of machinery to quicken the process of manufacturing compost. This process is educational and can be useful if you grow large amounts of nitrate hungry plants. However, for those who grow the staple plants for the region in their garden, this system is a waste of time and money. Many of us natural gardeners simply pile up the (in)organic matter into a pit or a cut in a bank and allow it to go through its natural process. Eventually, through the process of life you will have a beautifully balance pit of dark top soil ready for use. If you wish to have an improved composting area but do not want to buy the barrel structure, you can use the fence method I found to be useful.
Take a length of “chicken wire fence” or other fence with opening of no more that 2by2 inch, create a circle with the fence, and drive in wooden stakes to secure it to the ground. Fill up cage with matter, and keep it wet or allow nature to assist. Within a few months, you will see it slowly collapse and you can feed it with material until you decide to use it. Test the material to see if it is ready for broadcasting by using the sight smell method discussed.
Nature virus Nurture
I have experimented ,for some time, with plant growth .Live pumpkin carving, twisting of trees, mushroom growth, so forth and so on. Be it experimenting with healing rate, growth retardation, pruning, redirection, starvation, what have you. I have come away with a pocket full of interesting finds.
On one side, I allow the plant to grow un-molested, where but for conditions and the plants natural response is its only guide. On the other side, I did my best to deter, confuse, and redesign the plants aesthetic and chemical properties. I have tied-up, cut into, tied-down, cross-pollenated encapsulated and even cut away much of the plant in the name of curiosity.
What I have found in all this is my fundamental theory, that through all my meddling the plants remain indifferent, and will return to their nature if left alone to do so. We can the appearance, but never the biology! Out of these experiments I have come across some interesting finds that contradict the supposed rules of gardening , some of these finds I will share with you now.
All my life as I witnessed the master gardeners tending to their plots ,all but one tied most, if not all of their plants to a stake or built a structure around the plant made of either wire or wood. Under questioning, they stood by the conviction that tying made for a stronger plant and it allowed larger grosses of fruits. Accordingly, for a good part of my gardening life I did the same, and saw nothing that would contradict this method.
A few years ago, my mind was changed! A massive windstorm destroyed my gardens and I was left with a situation that needed my attention. I needed to save those plants I was able and allow the rest to suffer the ‘fate” they were dealt. This was a mid-summers storm; all but the radishes and late lettuce were damaged. I tied-up all that I could and left my assorted pepper plants lay where they fall, thinking I would repair them closer to blossom time. As life takes us from one event to another, I forgot the pepper plants and did not realize until it was too late that I overlooked the correction.
As fall came, I checked again on my pepper plants and came to a surprise, all plants, leaning or not survived! Four of the six that I had planted were leaning in the direction of the winds push, the two undamaged stood straight-up. As I was bringing in the crop, I noticed that the plants leaning had more buds and fruits than did those that were undamaged. The next season I started my experiment with leaning and captive plants.
Under my experiments, I have found cell governance, meaning the plants as a whole directed each cell to its job, and much of this direction is enacted by its position to the Sun. We can see this type of cell direction in embryotic cells as they divide and form new types of tissue. So, if a normal pepper plant were to grow straight up, those parts exposed to the Sun were directed to produce blossoms, those in the shadows were directed to produce leaves and parts that worked towards building the plants strength.
Through this experiment, I would allow the plants to lean by reaction to outside forces, those plants that were tall before leaning redirected the cells that were being used as solar panels to produce buds. The leaning exposed a greater part of the plant to the Sun, hence a greater part was directed to form blossoms for fruition. After allowing these plants to lean, I would simply mound dirt around the exposed surface root system and wait for harvest. Of all the plants that I allowed to lean, most plants produced more fruit from leaning than did those that stood tall were tied or caged in an upright direction. I see a ¼ to ½ crop increase in return over the upright plants.
I also noted that the plants lasted later into the season then did those caged. On inspection of root system in the fall those left to the outside forces had a stronger deeper root system than those caged. Under the properties of the Earth’s thermo regulations, the deeper the roots the slower the change in temperatures for the plant root. So unless an average season low temperature is felt or until first frost those leaning plants still had reminisce of buds, those caged stopped producing any signs of future extension ,days even weeks earlier.
Under these experiments, most plants fair-well in a lean, that is, over being tied-up. And but, again for aesthetical reasons, these plants produced a gross yield larger than those being “trained” One plant from my experiment , though producing an above average of fruit, it fared poorly while growing directly on the soil, it seemed to rot quicker and came under attack by rodents, it was the tomato plant, it still produced more fruits however.
I step back here to stray again, to discuss us humans yet again. We as humans, in majority are an overconfident bunch, Pride in proudness! We fear first (instinctive) and then react in that fear, we show arrogance if we feel we over reacted (reaction to recovery from fear ) and give sincere understanding only if we are able to take the time to self-debate ! Reactionary-ly we punish in ignorance, after we have given our full and unnecessary force, well punishing what lives among us, then, after we destroy we feel justified enough to abstain from violence, of course unless provoked again.
I have noticed the most peculiar thing when it comes to force with us humans. Allow a bug of the most minute size to land on the arm of even the most passive of people and by reaction that person will apply enough force to injure themselves in effort to remove the bug, so much so it not only crushes the bug into oblivion, but the force also raises marks on the persons flesh. What would have taken a few ounces to kill or deter, was attacked with enough force to break a human bone…
Another observation is in identity. If we are unable to identify something, we first assign in to the dangerous-column and protect ourselves against what harm we assume it has toward us, rarely with valor do we greet what we do not understand , welcoming it and only passing ill judgments once it shows signs of illness…
We stand in judgments, without an understanding in what we believe, and find advice given a slight to our character. We are able to condemn under the guise of morality, but when in fear we use natural reaction, which is the opposite of moral action.
Even if we come to find what we believe is completely wrong by way of nature of proof or by the thoughts of the wise, we stand to our unfamiliar convictions as our birthright, unwilling to except the true, for it makes us seemly the fool!
So, it seems easy to go about life thrusting our strengths for strengths sake, parading our meaningless pride, pitying those who suffer for they make us look the stronger and condemning those who are free for they make us look the weaker. The song is so sweet if we would simply allow it to complete its effect without our using destruction upon its tone! Kill what is different or unknown this is our motto.
There is no difference in our gardening life, we are willing to crush all that seemly invades our property , even if it’s trespass is indifference or even a benefit to the crop…It has trespassed, it must be destroyed! If you would stand back and allow trespass, to experiment fearlessly, giving it time to state its business, you will come to find that (possibly) some of our beliefs are total fiction.
Once you find that fear takes far more than it gives. Once you step out and beside yourself, inspect life, instead of being told of life, you will first be less fearful, and in turn be less violent and reactionary, which in turn will reward you with a life of not only wisdom, but also good health and an everlasting feeling of true pride for the accomplishment!
In the garden, it is so…We can strap on the combat weaponry laid waste to all that is of connective value, put bad money over good and in the end produce a worthless garden that awards you nothing more than fakeness and ill-gotten pride. Or we can step back and use our observational skills coupled with earned wisdom and welcome all, only subtracting as we logically see fit.
Face it, we are the most powerful thing to ever grace this earth, yet that does not mean we should be the most forceful and cruel. Cruelty is not natural , it is a learned and thus an unlearned product. We have in us the ability to reason, something beyond common nature, though we reside in nature, our abilities beyond that common should give us courage and pride enough to be willing to stand as an equal party to life.
If we were to use reason, though it is the slower approach , our lives would be filled with more happiness that pain. Surely there is no escaping pain, it is a part of life, yet the majority of pain we exact upon ourselves is through our rash reactions to situations. We may feel as if what we do is for our best interest, but many of our actions are for others to perceive, and this is where our problems begin. We tend to our lives as we do our garden, for the rights to brag and show superiority.
If only we could put aside the showmanship and live life for ourselves, than we have the time to use reason beyond this superficial point we have obtained thus far. Our ill-gotten pride brings us enemies, it brings us failure it brings us disaster , yet we rely on this artificialness to keep us atop anyone who we see as doing better.
As stated, if we would care for and plot out our lives we would be atop those we see as competitors anyway, though at a slower pace, none the less atop. Reasoning is not a rash reaction to an action, it is the sincere contemplation of situations placed in front of us, many seemingly would rather jump face first into these fastness of thought for amany of strange reasons, but few want to contemplate, for fear of ridicule.
In nature, as a reasoning beast , through this mental action we could have all the happiness we ever needed, and those painful times would be a break in the normalcy of happiness, and they would enhance that happiness. Yet instead, we go at it rashly and wish for breaks in the pain.
In the section on insects we discussed the damage certain insect do to the leafs of different plants . I stated that the plant does not need the use of the entire leaf to forge forward in its mission. I have observed amany of plants in my time, many of which were (partly) defoliated by a number of insect. Of all those sightings but for the total defoliating of a plant all plants prospered or at least came to bare fruits at the end of the season.
Some insect skeletonize the leaf, where they eat all but the water networks, then you have those insect that eat the entire leaf, some insect only feed from the water networks well others cut away the whole leaf and eat from the stalk. Some insect use the leaf as shelter or for trapping prey, while still more insect lay their eggs on the leaves and the larva eat the host plant completely.
What I understand of the leaf and through observations is that the leaf structure is of individual parts working in aggregation with each other to exchange water, sugars and the materials gathered to complete the process called photosynthesis. In the workings of the leaf we have the outer layer which protects the watery nature of the inner leaf. The inner parts of the leaf consist of spongy ceils as well as leaf veins which transport the fluids throughout the inner tissues of the leaf, though it is a collective, each part can work with minimal assistance, be it through osmosis or partial function.
Again, I have, through both observation and experiment, witnessed that the plant as a whole does not need a leaf fully formed or intact to flourish. But for the total defoliation, those plants I witnessed, those with partial growth grew at a normal rate and did not lag behind the others of same species with full canopies. Many things destroy the leafs of the plant, all earthy elements, insect and disease as well as human and non-human beings all have a hand in this action.
A few years ago, I started to document the insect of our community, I came up with a practice that gave me an advantage to finding all the insect I needed. I simply followed their trail as they eat their way across the forest. I stayed to the margin, where wooded area meets clearing, where the insect were most active and I walked, snapping pictures and taking mental notes. Soon, I was able to not only able to tell where the insect were but which insect made what marks and for what reasons; some marks were from eating , some for shelter, and some for off-spring.
I started to note that the plants seemed indifferent to the insect’s appetite and did what they were set forth to do. Many insect, like most caterpillars will either skeletonize, or consume in entirety, a bush tree or plant leaf, leaving little more that the stem water networks and minute traces of green leaf behind. Of these plants, those I tended to, I watched as they continued to grow, many re-foliating, seeding and finally dying away in due time. What I gathered from this was that the plant somehow could live ,well, without the full number of leaves that it grew, and a small amount of leaf left was the only bits needed to live.
I decided to take this experiment to my garden and over the last three years I have snipped away different leaves of certain plants. What I come away with is that if you remove a plants leaves in cooler weather, it will grow a new set. If you remove a percent of a summer leaf, up to 90%, the plant will live, not growing new sets fully and as long as you do not remove the blossom, it will come to fruition. Once you remove more than 90% the plant has no way to capture the sun’s rays , thus it will die from starvation.
Another interesting find is that once eaten by the insect or corrupted by a disease the plant will heal in a progressive fashion, where the injury or illness is repaired almost as soon as it happens. As with human tissue, the plant injury does leave a scar upon healing, were only malformed growth will progress. This scaring , though is ascetically visible on the outside of the plant or fruit, it leaves no lasting scarification to the interior of the fruit and rarely hinders the growth of the plant as a whole.
Many times a plant will be damaged by late frost or high winds, where the leaves are either detached or its growth and character are malformed. Of these plants that are “frost bitten” the leaf with grow in a turned in fashion creating an odd leaf that is malformed, yet the plant will grow to fruition, this is the same for those plants that have their leafs damaged by winds.
In conclusion, I have found that a plant will grow to fruition with a minimal number of leafs, and these leaves do not need to be whole, they can be reduced up to a 90% lost before the plant dies back. So, under incursions of parasite disease or by forced damage the plant is resilient and fosters an ability to grow under the most harshest of conditions, where it is not only able to live, but also come to bare off-spring while operation on 10% of its parts. This leads me further to believe that the canopy ,those leafs that make up the plants solar system are multiplied for purposed of surviving condition, as like most productions of the plant and insect kingdom. That it produces more than necessary so that it is in assurance to perpetuate its species.
Soil pH is the driving forces effecting overall soil fertility and in the management of healthy plants bushes and trees. It directly and indirectly affects the abilities of plants to utilize soil nutrients. Understanding what causes soil acidity and how to correct it is essential to a successful garden.
The garden is a balancing act, for both you and the individual plants that work in the cooperation. Water and air need to be balanced, the soil construction needs balancing, the insect need balance, minerals need to be balanced, and so does the acid levels of your garden. Here we discuss P.H. Levels in the garden.
The soil measurements of acidity or alkalinity are based on a scale of 0 to 14 and are referred to as pH levels. A pH of 7.0 is neutral. Any values below 7.0 are acid, and any values above 7.0 are alkaline. We will discuss the issues of both Acid and Alkaline soil, we will touch back on old causes and show you new issues that arise in the garden.
This whole manual was written to balance the pH levels out from the start. I am not going to kid myself and believe that I know everything about what pH levels mean, how they react to situations or how they are formed. This is a specialized science of its own, I am learning as you are, and together we shall find the answers. What I do know I will share with you here…
A number of things regulate the Acid levels of your soil. Plant roots stabilize acids to improve digestion of minerals, melting snow or rainfall( which is inherently acidic) by way of unbalancing the soil through leaching or wash-out ,excessive fertilizing; which brings about over nitrating and heavy salts, blocking nutrients, and even natural erosion of minerals and rock in the soil plays a part in unbalancing the pH levels… Can you see this recurring theme throughout this manual? Notice how it is all ties together, each action butting against one another creating life when in balance, producing nothing out!
To grow a healthy garden, with all the balancing acts preformed, the acid levels must too be balanced or the plants will not grow to fruition or they will perform poorly. Thankfully, nature has adapted to the pH levels enough that there is a larger window for it to operate. Most plants grow in a pH level 5.5 to 7.5, leaving you enough room that the plants will adapt to its needed levels of intake.
Growing in an unbalanced pH soil, as like one overly propagated with manures or of one that is intensely washed-outs, causes the plant to experience a host of possible symptoms to illnesses , including aluminum , hydrogen, and/or manganese toxicity, as well as potential nutrient deficiencies of calcium and magnesium which are the strength building nutrients of the plant.
Aluminum toxicity is the most common problem in acidic (low level) soils. Aluminum is present in all soils, yes, but only dissolved Aluminum is toxic to plants; it is most soluble at low pH, the higher the pH ,the less aluminum is in soluble form in most soils. Aluminum is not a plant nutrient, and as such, is not actively taken up by the plants, but enters plant roots passively through osmosis. Aluminum damages roots in several ways: Coats root tips and interferes with the uptake of Calcium, an essential nutrient, as well as it binds with Phosphate and interfere with a host of system operations. Aluminum can also restrict cell wall expansion causing roots to become stunted, which means, a weak root system and an unhealthy plant.
Manganese toxicity can also become a problem at low pH levels. Manganese, like Aluminum, becomes increasingly more soluble as pH drops. Yet Manganese is an essential plant nutrient, so plants transport manganese into leaves in a balancing act, not to be excessive but not to be deficient. As stated, the natural world but for man, uses only what its needs, and needs only what it can take in to survive condition. If the plants stocked up on many of the minerals, or allowed for unchecked osmosis, they would die of excessiveness. Classical symptoms of manganese toxicity are crinkling or cupping of leaves, which also is a sign of over nitrating, which in turn is one of the causes of a low pH level!
As you can see, many issues arise from poorly managed garden soil, be it from wash-outs or over nitrating Etc. We will not go into depth on the subjects we have already visited earlier in the manual, for if they are balanced for that situation, they will naturally be balanced in the rest. We will touch on these past subjects, but focus on causes not mentioned before, and get into solutions for correcting the unbalanced pH levels.
Above we discussed low pH levels and the conditions they create; let us discuss briefly those conditions created by high pH levels….
On the reverse side of the issue with pH values higher than 7.5, you will find that manganese, iron, zinc and copper become insoluble and unavailable, possibly resulting in micronutrient deficiencies. With high levels it is the opposite of the low levels basically, but for a few situations, you will find that a deficiency is the cause of High pH levels. Little rain fall and low amounts of compostable material are the deficit makers.
Materials like natural lime (limestone creates alkaline soil and silica, creates acidic soil.) and wood ash are items that raise the pH levels naturally. Some manure also contains high amounts of salt, which raise the pH levels. In our area, we tend to have a more acidic soil, but for conditions of extremes, like an extra hot summer or extra dry winter, if these high level conditions do appear, as with the low pH, two things can be done, first you can adjust the deficit. One way is to amend the soil with that which is defiant, be it water, composing Etc. , or my view, is to allow nature to adjust as needed.
Once you start on the road of amending your soil, if you are not exact in portions and are not vigilant, the garden will be out of sorts trying to correct its balance, and the two of you with be in a battle over the soils pH levels for years. If anything, I suggest first trying natural compostable parts from your garden to help in the balance of pH. Go at it slowly though, you can act to quickly and wipe out all those living organisms by acting rash. Killing them kills the soil! As stated before simply allow the garden to drive itself to its destination where you are there to afford it clear passage is my opinion.
If you have lowered your soils pH by broadcasting to much manure, fertilizer or by spraying to much water( which lowers pH) I suggest using a lime dust ( with calcium and magnesium). This will bring about a neutral balance in the garden before you allow the garden to work from its begotten intelligence.
When using lime to adjust an overly fertilized soil, it is a 2 to 1 ratio, where two pounds of lime is needed for every pound of nitrogenize fertilizer. This will give your garden a level to work from, where it could take years to adjust on its own. Aim at raising the gardens pH level a little each year in autumn, adding the lime will change the soil slowly. Give life a chance though, and allow the garden to work its magic, after all it has amany millennia behind its actions and knows well enough what to do. What hinders the garden the most is human interaction, something we tend to overlook.
If you are uncertain of the pH levels of your gardens, I suggest you test them before you start to plant vegetables, but you can still raise or lower the levels in standing bush, rose, or tree gardens. You can purchase a test kit anywhere or most garden centers will test your soil for you…A stitch in time! I suggest keeping a log of tests, with this stocked-up information you may be able to see patterns forming before they affect your garden . When testing pick five or more spots in the area to test, some spots may have had plants that drastically regulate the levels and some that do nothing to the PH.
Planting the garden
We have discussed a greater part of the workings of the garden, we have touched on many fields from the tangible to intangible, for the broad to narrow. We have probed many dark crevasses finding new knowledge and pressing life into old beliefs. We discussed how the earthly elements play on the garden; we discovered the life and times of the being of the garden, talked of all the components and gears of the proverbial machinery.
Through this journey, we have gained new insights into life’s mysterious workings. Though we did not cover every single subject offered to us through the workings of nature, we did lay a firm foundation for future explorations. For what is it that we want but a finger pointing us in an optional direction and a hardy encouragement in our endeavors?
We have now come to the point of considering the whole operation of the garden at once. Let us bring some of the discussion back to life as we bring our tract of land to its objective, which is to be our new garden… We shall assume that we all have a blank plot of land that is of healthy soil and clear of all the assorted issues that postpone the planting of a Spring garden, let us suppose that the only thing we need to do is wait for the proper time to sow our seeds.
First, what we must do is test the soil to make sure it is ready for our labor. In our region (5-6), we usually get a break in the Spring rains and a moderate temperature rise in the early and mid-month of May, it is enough time so to start the main body of the garden. As a tradition, we, my better half and I, start to prepare the garden for planting over Mother’s Day weekend. It is a good time to start, this date allows for a full 160 days of growth and that the outside temperatures are generally warm enough casting away the fears of a late frost.
The first steps in determining if the garden is ready to sow are to test the moister level and the temperature of the soil. I dig up a few sections of the garden, no more than six inches deep and do the following exercise.
I first dig up the soil and remove, from the lower portion of the hole , a handful of dirt, I then inspect it for frost crystals, then closing my hand into a fist, I lightly press the dirt into a ball. Once I open my hand, if the ball stays firm, I know that it is moist and not dry. If dry, proceed but water once after planting. I then push on the ball lightly with my hand, if the ball falls apart easily, this is at or around optimum dampness (25%). If the ball does not fall apart it is too moist and needs drying time. I then visually inspect the soil to find that it is a dull dark brown, even black with amounts of (inorganic) matter and sand. If the soil is shiny, you may have too much water and you need to, again, wait for it to dry. I next smell- test the soil to find that it has a light mildew smell, which tells me that it not only is fostering a temperature to sustain life, but that it has life in the first place. If the soil is scentless, the temperature is to low and the life of the soil is still dormant, you will need to wait for higher temperature or plant “hardy” plants to get you started on the garden. Hardy plants can still digest dormant nourishment. If you plant in a cold soil, the plants will digest what foods that transformed last year, but they will be slow going until the Bacterium start to digest the foods in warmer temperatures.
As we know, nothing goes as planned, so, if the soil is to wet, or with frost, you will need to wait as you test, until the soil is ready. Sometimes you may need to wait for the exact hour where there is no rain so to begin to aerate the garden; sometimes the window is that small. Like a good boy scout though, simply be prepared! If you jump the gun and try to work the soil in less than primetime conditions, you will destroy the soil structure and be trying endlessly to fix the problem all season. If you are biting at the bit to plant, I suggest getting it out of your system by planting some hardy plants on the edges of the garden.
Some hardy plants (research) that are good to start early in this region are onions lettuce and sown radish seeds… This should appease that green thumb appetite enough to wait for drying soil. Once it is ready and you have those tools needed, it is time to aerate the soil in preparation for planting.
I go right to turning over, or aerating soil. This turns under the (in)organic material that fell the season before, and it braces up the dirt with more air space, loosening it after it was compressed by the winter season, aerating also helps it retaining water.
If you do not aerate, this is okay ,I have experimented with smaller gardens where it is okay to only dig sample holes for each individual plant. But in a large garden where there is more soil surface exposed early on, the water will run off quicker and the soil will be slow to warm, also it will be slow to turning the nitrogen into nitrates, seeing that the microbes work under the surface and will need to wait on leeching for their meal.
Another thing is that the surface “weeds” are more prevalent in a compact soil. These are the seeds that were broadcasted the prior season, and are different from those seeds that lay dormant further under the soil… Seeds need a firm tampering to sprout; compressed soil creates a moister “hug” around the seed for incubation. All those sources of “weeds” will otherwise, under aeration, but brought up and exposed to the direct sun and foragers, not remaining underground waiting chance to sprout.
Before you turn over the soil, you will need to decide if you want to weed the garden for the first time now. When I turn over my gardens I leave the weeds in place, they are going to grow no matter what I do, so I am unconcerned with them in the first place. If you do want to weed, do it before you turn over the garden, this will keep you from compacting the soil, and creating poor structure. If you miss some ‘weeds” you can collect them as you turn over the garden. To weed, you can either dig up each “weed” individually or twist up each “weed” most surely leaving roots, which will be turned up and dried out when aerating the plot.
Once you get started aerating the garden, if you use a shovel, work backwards from you starting point, facing the starting point. This will keep you from standing on infirm ground and it keeps you from treading in the freshly turned over soil.
Cut through the soil at a depth of 6 to 8 inches, pry up the cut and turn it over, chop the soil up until it is crumbs, repeat until you have completed the first pass. If no rain is in the forecast, wait one day so the soil can dry a little and return to the garden, working backwards again, rack-finishing it to a nice level surface for planting.
If you use a gas powered tool, like a rototiller, start from the center working towards your exit, do not paint yourself into a corner. Set the tiller to 6 to 8 inches. Be conscious of the fact that the soil only needs two correctly tilled passes, you do not want to over-till the soil into a fine power. The object is to infuse space, to fluff up the soil if you will, not to make it a fine grain, as we have discussed this will ruin the structure and be disastrous to the garden. Once you have tilled the plot , you will find that the tiller has increases the volume of soil this is the action you want and is a great sign that your plot is at the correct ness for working.
As you have noticed I suggest a depth of aeration at 6 to 8 inches, the reasoning for this is that if you go deeper you will destroy the natural irrigation system, loosening the firm ground the plants secure themselves to and go below the top soil levels , turning up larger particles of matter possible destroying the soil structure. You also awaken all those seeds placed there over the years by other means, just waiting to be brought to the top for their first feel of warm soil.
Now that you have aerated the soil and weeded the plot, it is now time to sow seeds and fix starter plants. Do not wait more than a few days to start your planting, the longer you wait the more the sustenance is depleted by the elements…
I purchase many of my plants from green houses in the area, and I sow seeds for plants that I know will start easily in my garden. I suggest you try both and find a nice symmetry between sowing and starter plants. Before you go about treading across your fleshly tilled plot , map out the locations of your plants ,so that you can make as few inroads as possible. Always keep in mind the soil structure when creating paths.
Once you make a map, recount your plants, taking into hand the recommend placements for mature growth. A seed of ½ inch will become a plant that reaches 4 feet across, if you crowd them in, your yield will be poor and the competing plants by growth will strip one another of blossoms and create damage.
I like to plant items together that come to fruit at different times of the year, Green Beans next to Green peppers. This action leaves me birth width and room to maneuver, instead of planting items that crop at the same time, this leaves the garden packed tight and then empty with no room to move within it. I can also have plenty of room to replant crops that mature faster that other plants, increasing my yield, stocking my pantry!
Understand this, when sowing or fixing plants, I suggest you follow the instructions on the cards and the advice of the greenhouse workers. When the instructions call for 12 to 16 inches between plants, this recommendation is an honest representation of the mature size of the plant, if you crowd plants in, thinking this will increase yield, you do nothing but crowd them in and the yield will be poor. I tend to stay away from box store plants; they seem to be of poor health, hard to manage and can bring disease to the garden.
Once you have your plants in the garden, it is time to reflex on your job, and to start the real learning of the plant nature. Everything you do is for the knowledge you will receive from it, nothing is useless, and every action is rewarded with the power of wisdom.
Once you have placed all plants in their respected places, creating as few inroads as possible, it is time to allow the garden to grow on its own and it is time for you to experience the life of your making. Take the advice given in this discussion and apply it to your garden, to your life, take what I write, not as the gospel but a nudge forward.
As stated before, I am sure many of you who read these remarks have a firm grasp on the gardening world, so you can disregard my word, only to keep hold of the excitement I foster for life and exploration. I only wish that this work energized you enough to have you start to look at the garden as more that something that has always been there, preforming its duty haphazardly with not real results. I can only do my best to give you a basic set of findings where you will take these tools and expand upon them , finding yourself happiness in a world that is shrouded in self-imposed miseries.
Now that you have planted a garden with the various vegetables and fruits that fare well in this Zone, it is time to contemplate the ends to your efforts. The garden you grow can supply you with foods enough for the summer fall and winter season. Along with the conventional storage of foods, you can experiment by fermenting some of your growth into wines and brandies. Some of your plants have a wide range of usages, where their entire proportions can be eaten drank used as a spice or even used as remedy for injury and illness, both topical and internal.
There are a wide variety of recipes and concoctions where what you grow can be added together will an array of condiments producing many wonderful meals snacks and drinks. You have the option to dry, can freeze or ferment almost all the products that you grow, leaving you a great avenue of possibilities and ways to store your food for future consumption.
Drying foods from the garden is an easy way to supplement your store of foods, with our summer season being as short as it is; it is not economical or reliable to dry the food stuff by natural methods, seeing that it takes time to mature the fruits. Drying is a method of food conservation that works by removing water from the food, which inhibits the growth of bacteria.
Open-air drying, using sun smoke and wind have been a practiced since ancient times to preserve food. The method of drying food has not changed very much over time, though the equipment has. A solar or electric food dehydrator can greatly speed the drying process and ensure results that are more consistent, this is the best method for our area.
Why dry foods? In drying foods water is usually removed by way of evaporation, bacteria yeasts and molds need that water to grow; drying effectively prevents them from surviving in the food, thus prolonging the life of the dried item.
It is worth investing in the tools that make the preservation of your foodstuffs easier and exact. It would behoove you to study the options out there, which will in the end make the whole gardening experience, educational happy and fruitful. There are many tools to the trade of cooking, I have tried many types and can narrow down types to assist you in your efforts.
If you are purchasing new tools, I suggest stainless steel measuring tools that have the amounts embossed in or raised up from the metal, buying produces that have measurements labeled or painted on only disappear through washings, leaving these tools useless.
Plastic tools are as good as wooden ones, as long as they are for stirring or transporting, two of each will keep you going in a fast-paced kitchen. As for the different machinery out there, those for vacuuming packing sealing cooking and freezing, I suggest using the wisdom of the Ball-Mason Canning Company, they have been producing preservational equipment for decades, I trust to their understanding of this world of cooking.
I am rather fond of older tools, those made before the advent of all the new machinery that supposedly makes life so easy. These tools were fitted to a life that has taken the back seat to fast food and processed individual packages.
The newer hand tools are made to fit a general product, whereas the older tools were made to fit an exact limited item.
Canning is an old art of preservation, where food is packed into an approved jar, leaving some empty “head space” between the level of food and the top of the jar, and then the lid is placed on top of the jar with the integral rubber seal resting on the rim. The band is fastened loosely over the lid, allowing air and steam to escape. The jar is heat pasteurized in boiling water or steam, it be either boiled or processed in a “canner”. The jar is then allowed to cool to room temperature. The cooling of the contents creates a vacuum in the head space, pulling the lid into tight contact with the jar rim and creating an airtight seal. Once cooled, the band is removed to prevent remaining water between the jar threads and the lid from rusting the band. If the jar/seal is properly formed, internal vacuums will keep the lid tightly on the jar. Most metallic lids are slightly domed to serve as a seal status indicator: the vacuum in a properly sealed mason jar pulls the lid down such that the dome is concave, but an improper or unsuccessful seal or bacterial growth will cause the dome to pop upward.
Freezing is a method that is fairly new, since the arrival of the refrigerator and its cooling system. You pick your product (those freezable), store it in a container and put it into the freezer. To extend the life of a frozen item you can vacuum seal it, producing a vacuum means removing air from the contents of a package. Oxygen in natural air does promote certain reactions in foods, which cause deterioration of quality. For example, oxidative degeneration of fats in food and certain color changes are promoted by the presence of oxygen. Vacuum sealing also reduces freeze burn; freezer burn is a condition that occurs when frozen food has been damaged by dehydration and oxidation, due to air reaching the food.
Substandard packaging generally induces freezer burn. Therefore, the removal of oxygen from the packing will preserve certain value characteristics and extend the food’s life based on quality. There are varieties of vacuum sealing machines out there, from the expensive to the cheap, choice what works well for you.
Fermentation in food processing characteristically is the adaptation of sugars to alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids by using yeasts, bacteria, or a combination thereof under airless conditions. Fermentation in the simplest of terms is the chemical conversion of sugars into ethanol. Fermentation usually infers that the interaction of microorganisms is desirable, and the process is used to produce alcoholic beverages as like wine and beers. Fermentation also is a method used for making bread, in preservation of sour foods such as sauerkraut and Kimchi; it is also used in pickling of foods by the use of vinegar.
In a few pages, you will find a short list of some of the plants you can plant in your vegetable garden, this list does not include the fruiting trees vines tined plants or bushes that can be planted on your property which are profitable. Explore and decide for yourself what you would like to grow.
I do suggest buying plants from a greenhouse your first year, the garden itself will be enough of a challenge for you. When looking for starter plants look for plants, which are stout and thick stemmed, buying plants that are thin and fair will only be a job that takes up most of your time. If you are as like me and want to care for those plants that are sickly, I suggest putting them aside from the rest of the garden and care for them as an experiment and not in the main body. When sowing or planting seeds, remember to choice a brand that is renowned for their seeds, Dollar store seeds are poor examples, most farm stores carry a wide range of reliable stock.
Asparagus/ Second season
Bean, bush/ 50-60
Pumpkin/90-120 Potato, sweet/90-150
Now that we have discussed the basic methods of preservation of those gardening results, you can now expand on these methods, experiment with them all, and find what you like best. Since we discussed methods of preservation, let us develop upon this and talk about recipes.
There is no one great recipe that all enjoy, we are all each to our own, each enjoying a wide range of tastes and passions. In effect, by way of mixtures of different foods herb and spices we come to make foods edible and even enjoyable to the many. With your garden you can plant what you favor and make your meals as individual as you. Of all the things we need when cooking we need an eye for detail and firmness in application of that recipe. You can experiment, yet, once you find what works adhering to its original construction promises the same result meal after meal.
To that enlightenment, I am going to present you will our ideas for meals, those that we have acquired over our years of cooking and gardening. This list of ideas should not stop you from experimenting with your own list; our ideas should excite you into exploring the many different combinations of foods, to come up with your own set of favorites. With the arrival of the internet, it is now very easy to explore Nations and cultures, uncovering many recipes of antiquity, or to explore those quick simple modern concoctions that fit your eating needs.
We here, at the Redman home, enjoy a spicy menu, many of our dishes center around or include the Jalapeno peppers with it’s mighty Capsaicin! Capsaicin is the active component of chili peppers, they belonging to the genus Capsicum.
Alone and in pure concentrated form, Capsicum is clear, odorless and most obviously an irritant, which produces a sensation of burning in any tissue with which it comes into contact. Its effects are a deterrent to attacks by many herbivores and strangely enough other parasitic organisms as like fungi ( this protection allows it to dry better without molds attacking). It is the active ingredient in mace, a personal protectant, it is used to clean up oil spills and like accidents. A wide range of doctors for therapeutic reasons also uses capsaicin. I use it myself, the heat dulls the aches of many joint issues, but I do not recommend it without permission from your primary care team.
As stated we use the jalapeno in a wide range of dishes, be it stuffed with sweet sausage combined in a spicy fall welcoming chili, or simply pickled as slices to be used as condiments on a range of meals, like burgers and Nachos. We also plant a great variety of plants in our garden, which serves us with an unbounded array of meals.
We enjoy the Cabbage, which affords us plenty Halupki, Ham cabbage & potatoes and Haluski. We plant the tomato, which is used in sauces, soups, and sandwiches like the famous BLT!
We like a variety of peppers like the Banana, and Bell, they are used to hold meats and cheeses or are used as ingredients in combination for salsas and soups.
We grow broccoli cauliflower beans cucumbers and zucchini, many of these vegetables can be used for everything from sides and salads to fries or eaten alone.
In our garden we plant onions radishes lettuce and peas, they can be added to so many things or simply pulled from the soil , dusted off and eaten raw.
We grow berries and have fruiting trees, grape vines and strawberries, these make for a great vegan fests that energizes the body and mind.
At the end of the season you can pack your store with an expansive menu of items ranging from the spicy to the mild, from stews and chili’s to preserves and sauces, all thanks to the growth you fostered in the garden! As I have said the ideas and combinations are endless, but for the limits of your imagination as your only bounds.
Early on ,a few days to weeks after planting your garden, the newly sown seeds shall sprout and begin their mission upward. You will need to thin out these tightly packed sprouts so to give enough room for growth. These “pulls” not only afford room for the best of the bunch, they also make for a great additive to meals and salads. I have a theory that these sprouts are packed with nutrients , enough to start its growth into a majestic plant. So, not only do these “pulls” have a store of energy but they also are a miniature of the plant itself, holding flavors of its adult self.
I think it is time to close out this manual, no need to drag it out beyond its necessity. We have discussed a greater part of the needs for a healthy garden and touched many of the phases that take up the life of the garden. What is now left is to venture on and put some of these lessons to practice.
Though we have touched on many interests for a gardener, I have left out just as many issues and situations that you shall come across in the garden. Be it need for space, or basic forgetfulness on my part, the things I left out should not come as a surprise if you adhere to the needs of the plant and are a watchful gardener.
So, let us get started on our journey into a learning , a wondrous, a humbling, and expanding experience!
Tend to your own desires; reject servitude in prosperity for the needy few.
Maintain your own frugal needs; husbandry brings knowledge, continuously anew.
Walk in your own words, it is natural as like a bird flapping its wings.
Topple towers with the power that gave the humble bumblebee its inspiring sting.
Use the thoughts of others as a fine guide to task.
Yet lean on your own wits, living without the weighted mask.
Prudence, as with self-pride sets heavy debts a-free.
Only then, can you give those so needy their wanting dose of sympathy.