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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Plants & Proverbs: Application & Effects of Fertilizers, Soil Amendments & Natural Sense

Read the first part, Growing Food: Green Thumb Not Required

Applying A Growing Perspective With Proverbs

It is inconsistent to attempt growing, developing or raising anything without also growing, developing and raising ourselves.
A dynamic thing cannot come out of a static thing.

Instead of approaching gardening from the narrow perspective of “growing food,” it is helpful to expand the perspective to “getting back in tune with the ecosystem.” We can do things to help the ecosystem in our yards, community and wherever we are during each day by simply remaining aware we are in the ecosystem and part of the ecosystem. Everything we do and don't do has an impact. We must do nothing to harm the ecosystem and do whatever we can to assist it in regaining its harmony quicker. At a minimum, we must contribute and use equal measures in order to preserve the balance of our personal impact upon the ecosystem. At a maximum, we must restore more than we consume because we are responsible for our ancestors as well as our descendents. That's the whole point of being connected. We benefit from those who come before us and after us and so must we make recompense for them.

Fertilizers & Soil Amendments

First of all, soil is a living organism composed of gazillions of living organisms that feed gazillions of living organisms in the soil and above the soil, including bacteria, beetles, birds, bees, butterflies, dogs, cats, fish and humans.

We must always remain aware of the threat of taking shortcuts and doing things that only create the superficial appearance of gardening success. Here's just one example: Miracle-Gro® is not a miracle, it's a tragedy. “Fertilizer,” good ol' NPK, bypasses several natural processes and in fact, poisons the soil. A lot of fertilizer is wasted and gets into the water supply and/or builds up from the initial immediate toxicity to soil health to severely toxic levels. Truth is, in the ecosystem, every naturally occurring thing, including every part and byproduct of humans, feeds and nourishes something else.

Fertilizer is not to be confused with soil amendments such as decomposed household/yard materials (compost), undecomposed household/yard materials, leaves, straw, grass clippings, paper, cardboard, sawdust, wood chips, manure, bone meal, blood meal, sand, etc. A soil amendment is something that helps restore soil health. It is also something that must be broken down by another living organism or by natural processes before it can be used by plants. Soil amendments provide nutrients to plants slowly and do several other good things for soil, thus for plants and all other life. Soil amendments feed plants the ecosystem way.

Fertilizer does not need any life in the soil in order to be used by plants. Only plant roots are needed. This is why those who depend on fertilizer will cause their soil to become more and more infertile and will always have more and more “pest” problems and watering problems. On the one hand, fertilizer allows plants to grow but is similar to human junk food. On another hand, fertilizer is promoted as a good thing but it pollutes soil and reduces soil health which is needed to support the health of plants. Just like humans, plants need natural food to be healthy. Fertilizer moves soils toward being sterile of life, thus hostile to plants. Fertilizer is an unnatural soil amendment and therefore has the opposite effect of soil amendments.

The easiest and simplest thing to support the soil ecosystem in urban and suburban environments is plant material (starting with leaves, grass clippings and other so-called yard waste), things made of plant material (compost) and the manure of animals that eat plant materials. Plant material already contains the nutrients to grow plants. When plant material is placed or left on the soil, it decomposes and releases those same nutrients for other plants to grow.

Applying Natural Sense

Earth is self-fertile. This is easily evident in places where humans do not add fertilizer, yet growth always occurs in alleys, between and beside roads, forests and any place uninhabited and uninhibited by humans. The only reason earth has lost her fertility in some places is due to an imbalanced ecosystem. This is why our efforts must be on ecosystem balance to allow earth to do what she's supposed to do – supply a complete growing environment, free of charge but not free of responsibility.

We must not attempt to grow food using practices out of sync with the ecosystem. If we do we are welcoming the unnatural and saying good riddance to natural elements, natural soil viability, natural soil fertility, natural nutrients and natural insect management. Just like a fast food diet, using fertilizer is the same as trying to get health by doing unhealthy things.

The less we take out of our yards, the less we have to add. The less we kill in our yards, the more will grow. The less we disrupt, the easier it will be for the rest of the natural world to recalibrate balance.

Everything we do and don't do affects the health of plants. The conditions plants grow in affects our condition. If we feed plants fertilizer, we will eventually eat it. Of course we will. Plants take it into their bodies and so will we. If we amend and strengthen the health of the soil, we amend and strengthen our health times four.

Related Proverbs:

Though it is said, “pride goeth before a fall,” health goeth first and only returneth after natural sense.
May our ways be as the Master Gardener who bathes roots in the byproducts of gazillions to keep them pure.

See Also:
What Is An Ecosystem?
Nutrient Content: Organic versus Unconventional. Food Fight #47
"Skeletal Existence,” a poem from Eloquence: Rhythm & Renaissance.

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