We are what we eat. Since plants provide us
with the nutrients we need to survive, if we don’t feed them right, we’re ultimately
not feeding ourselves right. In nature we can find all we need to
sustain healthy plants, and thus, healthy humans. But science has
found shortcuts to plant nutrition. Are these shortcuts worth it? Are there
hidden costs? What is the most sensible choice? Instead of only relying in the experts, We can find out by trying to grow some of our food ourselves. I’m Siloe Oliveira, and I feel that a closer contact with
nature is essential to a well-rounded human being. Follow me as I try to
transform my yard into a more self sufficient Suburban
Homestead. In the last episode, you’ve seen me
building a hugelkultur inspired garden bed the has garden debris underneath it. This
organic material breaks down with time. Serving as a sponge, trapping and
conserving moisture. Despite a laborious process to
set it up, it becomes a low maintenance growing system. cutting down on watering and fertilizing as
time passes. but before I can plant the seedlings I’ve been growing indoors in this bed I will fertilize it. For this
bed of about 16 feet by 4 feet I am using
four 40-pound bags of a compost and well
rotted manure mix, spreading it evenly. If you have heavy
clay soil, you might also want to add more organic
matter like composted leaves to improve the soil
texture. Unfortunately, because of where I live I have to buy composted manure if I had
livestock, or chicken, this would be a great use
for their manure. Regardless of what your plant this first
year in your Hugelcultur bed, you will need to add a nitrogen-rich
fertilizer, like composted manure. This is because as the carbon-rich woody
matter inside of it breaks down, it will first rob nitrogen from the
surrounding soil. However, later on, the wood will start
releasing nitrogen and other nutrients in a controlled and
sustained manner. If you fail to provide adequate nitrogen
in the beginning, your plants will stunt their growth and
produce poorly. Nitrogen is essential for plant growth.
And a sign of adequate nitrogen levels is deep green large leaves. Even though nitrogen is the most abundant element in the atmosphere, it is found in a form the plants cannot
really use it is only when bacteria fix this
nitrogen that it is presented in a form that
plants can take in. Interestingly lightning strikes convert
nitrogen and oxygen from the atmosphere into nitric oxide, which oxidizes into
nitrogen dioxide, then to nitric acid which is carried to
the plants in the rain. This may be why it seems that plants
receive a boost after strong thunderstorm, with all the extra water a little extra
nitrogen inside. Now why not use a chemical fertilizer
rich in nitrogen? Certainly the scientists from the
sixties would recommend it, claiming that all a plant needs is a nice NPK synthetic fertilizer to grow bigger.
and for him soil is just a substance that holds the
plant up. Chemicals are all you need. Well, it is true that plants do need chemicals,
but none of them have to be synthetic. Everything around us is ultimately made
of chemicals, but they are usually in complex organic
forms that are usually less toxic. When we use man-made
chemicals, we risk disrupting the balance. For
instance, chemical fertilizers can cause nitrogen burn in plants, leading to their death. But a bigger
problem with using them is that as they leach into waterways, they cause algae blooms that shade aquatic plants lowering dissolved oxygen in water as they
decompose, creating dead zones. The Chesapeake Bay where I live has been plagued by this,
causing its ecosystems to collapse. And destroying fisheries. This is terrible
not only in ecological terms, but also economic as the once famed seafood industry of
the bay has all but disappeared. This type of
pollution is of course cause by overuse of nitrogen fertilizers in
general, including the overuse of chicken manure in agriculture. But chemical fertilizers both used in
agriculture and lawn-care compound the problem.
Chemical fertilizers not only impact the environment at large
the directly impact the health your soil. You may have heard
people claim that it kills all life in the soil. Although
technically it does not kill everything, it does kill many organisms
that live in the soil. Soil is populated by billions of life
forms that are always growing, reproducing, dying, recycling, a single bacterium is able to
produce sixteen million more in 24 hours of protozoa and bacteria Hey Bob do you know how a bacterium takes over the world? How? It divides and conquers! To my hugelkultur bed I also add a dried mineral and organic
balanced fertilizer. It contains all the other necessary
nutrients to promote healthy plants. You don’t have too add too much of this
type of fertilizer. Although I would love to have all the
fertility I use come from our property, to be truly sustainable, this is a good
compromise start with. In fact soil creation is dependent on
the actions of bacteria fungi and other life forms
that break down organic matter. Adding organic matter like composted
manure to your soil will increase the biological activity in
the soil, creating essentially live soil that releases nutrients that
plants need for healthy growth in a steady controlled manner. Mix in the
fertilizer and manure with the top layer of soil using a garden fork. The bed is now ready
for planting, and if everything goes right, in only a
couple of months you can start to enjoy the bounty it
provides. Join me next time, as I plant this garden bed using concepts from the bio-intensive method. And don’t forget to subscribe to Suburban Homestead