The Soil and it's Microbiome!
Our guts health depends on the microbe environment which lives within, and just as important to plants and the root bulb is a good healthy microbial count to help the roots uptake of nutrients into the plant. If the soil base is lacking – the plant will be lacking in nutritive value for whoever eats the plant. Anything that destroys the soils natural bacterial environment is detrimental to the absorption of nutrients to that plant.
The soil is the home to a biodiversity of organisms and hosts, insects like ants and nematodes. It includes bacteria from the Streptomyces family – soil is where the antibiotic streptomycin was discovered. Diseases in plants started to appear as the microbiome in the soils became depleted over time for various reasons. The soils health connects to everything further up the food chain – good soil holds the key to good health!
Healthy Living earth teaming with all forms of life – such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes (microscopic roundworms). Just as this micro-life environment is important so are insects and weeds. Insects digest that which is indigestible and further breaks down indigestible components into nutrients! Weeds act as intermediate plants to help regenerate the soil between spells – weeds provide protection against soil erosion and are important in nutrient recycling, they also act as pesticides (e.g. Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium which provides insecticide pyrethrum) and organic matter returning back to the earth - weeds serve as hosts to beneficial insects, and at the same time provide nectar for bees. In future I won’t be pulling them as often!
Although there are many a weed you could eat, my advice with weed eating would be to do an 'Urban Foraging Tour', there are many people who Specialise in the eating of native plants and weeds and you really do need to know what you are doing. Some weeds are simply 'toxic' and 'poisonous', some are also extremely nutritious - don't eat anything that you are not 100% sure of - definitely good advice here! A good weed to start with would be the dandelion plant, which is probably one of the most versatile and recognisable varieties of the edible weeds. Its yellow petals can be eaten as a salad, the leaves cooked like spinach and the roots are often dry-baked and used as a coffee substitute. The leaves are a source of Vitamins A and K and the minerals calcium and iron.
The biggest WARNING with weed eating would be the very fact that they are often sprayed!!! Never collect weeds without doing lots of homework and knowing exactly what it is you are pulling from the soil. I find this a very interestingly intriguing area and worth doing some further reading on – here is an excellent source for further reading – ‘The Weed Forager’s Handbook’ - by Adam Grubb and Annie Raser-Rowland – an Australian book on edible weeds, which covers the top 20 edible weeds with a few pages on each weed and detailed drawings for identification - first published in 2012.
The very reason they have become an interesting area of food is that they grow everywhere, they’re abundant, free, grow without any effort and many taste great! Numerous have also been used for their medicinal properties for thousands of years.
” What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Fortune of the Republic, 1878.
Ralph Waldo Emerson’s philosophies – here’s a few more I particularly liked:
“Make yourself necessary to somebody. Do not make life hard to any”.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
"A friend is one before whom I may think aloud”.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Make sure you have good friends in life! As this is so true - you do need to discuss and offload life’s tribulations. But the quote of all that really reverberates with me…!!
“The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is, because man is disunited with himself”.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I call it self-awareness – or – ‘Total Body Awareness’ many have lost the ability to be self-aware - we do have this innate ability to know what our bodies need if we take the time to stop and listen to it. Just as we might do this I believe we should take the time to think about what we do to our gardens and what we decide to do with our soils - in preparation for what we are about to eat! Yes, it’s that important – what we eat feeds what our cells become.
Preparing the Soil:
- Give your soil the oxygen it needs – aerate the plot and ensure it has a mixture of decomposing foods and leaves mixed through the first 6-12 inches of topsoil.
- Provide the soil with life - While plants need sunshine and water to survive, they also need the vitamins and minerals provided by decomposing organisms and organic plant matter to thrive.
- Pay attention to the texture – ensure it isn’t too muddy, incorporate grass clippings and decomposed foods and organic matter throughout the top layers of the soil.
- Ensure plenty of space - this too can compromise the health of your plants. Being planted to close together, cramped and without space. Transplant when they get too large into an area with more space.
Feeding, Companion Planting and Composting:
1. Organic Dynamic Lifter
2. Seasol – the seaweed solution – just using a seasol fertilizer deters pesky pests!
3. Organic mulch – start recycling your decomposable households and foods and invest in a compost bin – HERE! these are perfect.
4. To confuse pests – don’t plant in straight lines and use strong smelling herbs amongst your vegetable crops
5. Companion planting to take advantage of good growth and freedom from pests
6. Three Organic pest spray recipes – printer friendly link HERE!
7. Neem Oil – last but by no means least – is neem for protecting self and plants from pests HERE!
This isn’t an area of my own expertise and its something I have left to the expertise of my trusty neighbour up until now. But an area of which I am about to invest. Here is a great site I came across that seems to cover every aspect of composting and is very nicely written – HERE!