Diversification is a good thing. As in investments, so in garden soil.
Organic gardening is more than eschewing chemicals and chanting hippie-dippie mantras at dusk to attract garden faeries (seriously, some people do this). Organic strives to feed the soil. Good soil is alive with billions of microorganisms active within the strata of a typical garden bed, all busily eating, excreting, getting on about their business of life and death, and in the process contributing to soil fertility.
The no-till method builds fertility from the ground down. Layer enough organic matter on top, and bacteria and fungi and microorganisms do the rest. Earthworms aerate the soil with air tunnels, eventually distribute biomass downwards, creating a nice humus-ey layer cake.
“Weeds” and other deep rooted plants build from the ground up. Dandelions, comfrey and lambs quarters will mine the lower soil horizons for minerals and nutrients, and make it bio-available to other plants as they’re “chopped and dropped” to decompose. After they’re chopped, their deep roots decompose in the soil and create pathways for air and biomass.
Tillage doesn’t exactly help this nicely constructed soil condo, with its layers of integral organic matter and air pathways. Churning tiller blades release carbon and as the soil is turned over, soil-dwelling organisms are exposed.
“Observe and Interact” is one of the twelve guiding principles of permaculture, the system of ecological design developed by pioneers such as Masanobu Fukuoka, Bill Mollison, David Holmgren and propagated by other practitioners and teachers over the last few decades.
The basic idea of “Observe and Interact” is to take the necessary time to carefully observe the various interactions in a space or garden or environment, and then experiment with interventions that will have small, incremental and successful impacts.
The raised bed in the photo above was in the final stages of completion.
The soil had been mined and transported from a special spot in the pasture beneath oak trees. Old bales of hay had been composting for years, and created a nice two- or three-inch thick layer of humus.
After schlepping a dozen wheelbarrow-loads up and down the pasture, I was a little pooped. I took a much-deserved beer-and-cigar break sitting on the stump. Sat and watched and thought.
Interesting. Buzz, buzz… Sure is a lot of critters flying around.
There was a cloud of flies and other insects buzzing about over the newly turned soil. They were all over this bed, but not the older, more established beds on the west side of the garden.
And the duh-slap-your-head light bulb went off. Of course there were insects. They were preying on the minute organisms in the newly exposed soil. It was like a Golden Corral all-you-can eat buffet for insect predators. So long, soil dwelling fertility helpers.
Of course I had previously known about the deleterious effects of tillage on soil, in an abstract bookish kind of way. Churning and turning was hell on soil flora/fauna, it said so in lots of articles and magazines and books. But this was instant validation, proof in action, observe and verify.
All by having a beer and a smoke.
That’s it for this gardening interlude. What, you say, no gratuitous tie-in to personal finance or investing, no pithy observations on business life and careers? Go back and check the opening line. We’re in minimalist mode today.
OK, just one little analogy. The garden soil is a metaphor for an investment portfolio. Stratify your investments. Excessive
tilling churning trading will disturb its ecological balance allocation, next thing you know flying predator insects financial advisors are feasting on soil dwelling organisms commissions and fees. Add mulch savings and watch it grow. Add in worm tea compost biomass dividend yields and see the harvest compounding explode.
Although posting here at 101C is as inconsistent as Republican no-new-taxes pledges, a quick “follow” on the Twitter will improve your outlook on life and taxation. Subscriptions to the RSS feed or Email are NOT taxable events.
This post featured in:
Jim Collins In New Hampshire’s Weekend Roundup