Friday, May 27, 2016

5 Ways to Regenerate Healthy Growing Conditions in Chemically Treated Gardens

How To Breathe Life Back Into Chemically Treated Soil

Soil degradation is a serious problem in the U.S. and other countries.

Mono-farming techniques (planting huge fields of one variety of plant) are destroying the soil and many experts believe that degradation will reach crisis levels by 2050 in America.

Soil is a living thing. It provides plants with the nourishment they need to be healthy, and that translates to the food we eat being healthy and nourishing for our bodies.

Food grown in these huge agri-businesses must necessarily be enhanced with chemical fertilizers in order to grow, because the original biodiversity has been replaced with topsoil which is largely devoid of nutrients and natural minerals.

In addition to that, these unnatural soil conditions invite pests, which then must be controlled by even more chemical herbicides and pesticides, which are taken up by the plants. So, even if those plants are tilled back into the soil where they are grown, it is reasonable to expect them to contain traces of those chemical additives.

So, unhealthy soil becomes, over time, dead soil. And once it is dead, missing its health giving microbes, roots, earthworm casings and other nutrients, it becomes dependent on petro-chemicals and is unable to sustain life without them.

But, the damage can eventually be reversed. It's not easy and it's not quick, but it can be done given enough time and energy.

The process is not quick. It can take several years for the chemicals sprayed on plants and the surrounding soil to be washed through the top layers of soil and into the substrate below. Depending on how much rainfall is received, and how dense the soil is at the different layers, it can take sometimes decades to test negative for all traces of the material.

By following the steps below, it is possible to regenerate enough soil to provide about an inch of usable healthy topsoil in a period of 5 years:

  1. Stop tilling the soil. This prevents soil erosion and also allows soil microbes to thrive.
  2. Plant diverse crops and rotate them
  3. Practice multispecies cover-cropping. While home gardeners can add crop cover like mulch or wood chips, large scale operations can achieve the same results by planting cover crops. The cover crops may be grown before a cash crop, along with a cash crop, or after. But it's the cover crops that provide the carbon that becomes that all-important "armor" on the soil surface. Cover crops also act as insulation, so the soil doesn't get as hot or cold as it would if bare. This allows microbes to thrive longer. In addition, the biological action heats up the soil, which can extend your overall growing season in colder areas. In our sustainable community, we use a combination approach by recycling the weaker plants back into the soil, while simultaneously planting cover crops to add nitrogen and other nutrients.
  4. Maintain living roots in the soil year-round. It’s important to have living plant roots in the soil as long as possible throughout the year. To accomplish this, use cover crops when not growing a cash crop.
  5. Livestock integration and diversification


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