To continue any longer as blind consumers of life, without learning to
be visionary restorers of life, will likely insure an end to both
opportunities—sooner than most of us would like to look at. Yet to
fully look, in search of what is true, must surely be the first step.
—Donald A. Weaver
We did a simple soil test this past summer and I was truly surprised that the results reflected such a neutral pH balance as I had always considered our soil to be slightly on the acidic side due to all of the coniferous vegetation that surrounds our gardens. Apparently the truth of the matter is that while evergreen trees and bushes seem to prefer growing in a more acidic type of soil they do not in themselves contribute as much acidity to the soil as I originally thought and what little they do bring is possibly being neutralized by earthworms and microbes.
Lots of little needles in our garden's soil, mostly from fir trees.
In a healthy ground, earthworms eat their way through the decomposing soil depositing their castings as they go. According to what I have read this material is neutralized by secretions of calcium carbonate from glands near the earthworm's gizzard (similar to gizzards in birds) as it passes through their system helping to render it more neutral as the pH in acidic soils is raised and the pH in alkaline soils is reduced. Fortunately for us, our soil is absolutely loaded with worms so we must be doing something right. Here is an interesting excerpt from a rather unusual book on biodynamic agriculture I just read called "Secrets of the Soil" that relates to the function of earthworms in regards to soil fertility and it' s effect on garden plants.
"You would think, wouldn't you, that a carrot is a carrot - that one is about as good as another as far as nourishment is concerned? But it isn't; one carrot may look and taste like another and yet be lacking in the particular mineral element which our system requires and which carrots are supposed to contain." - Modern Miracle Men
In speaking of worms and their function in the soil as it relates to how they help plants assimilate needed nutrients one of the things I have been studying of late is the importance of minerals or the lack thereof in soil and its effect on the health of our plants, animals, and in turn us. Minerals come from rocks that are broken down over time and many of these minerals are severely lacking in today's foods due to industrial era farming techniques that rely heavily on chemicals to help produce the foods most of the population consumes. This has been an issue for many years as can be seen in this document titled Modern Miracle Men - Senate Document #264 written way back in the mid 1930's.
More recent studies suggest that the loss of nutrition in today's fruits and vegetables has continued to increase by alarming rates as illustrated in this chart that gives a glimpse into the lack on nutrient density in modern day food.
From the above study - "But nutritionists have also begun to understand that the form in which humans consume these nutrients is often more important than the quantity they consume.That is, getting vitamin C or iron or lycopene from a pill doesn’t yield the same benefits to our bodies and health as consuming the same amount of vitamin C or iron or lycopene in the form of a carrot or serving of spinach or sun-dried tomato."
These are some of our favorite Nung Ta tomatoes grown in 2009, hopefully high in lycopene.
Vapor from the sea; rain, snow, and ice on the summits; glaciers and
rivers—these form a wheel that grinds the mountains thin and sharp, sculptures deeply the flanks, and furrows them into ridge and canyon, and crushes the rocks into soils on which the forests and the meadows and gardens and fruitful vine and tree and grain are growing. —John Muir
Something we will be focused on during the coming years is that of continuing to provide our own gardens with enough naturally collected mineral supplements in the form of rock dust, sea & egg shells, ash, manure, "clean" beach sand, and decayed plant matter in order to retain the health and fertility of our soil. Included in this will be the growing of such plants as burdock, endive, dandelion, scorzonera, salsify, or any deep rooted and useful plant that will help to "mine" or draw up minerals from below so they can be assimilated by other shallow rooted veggies. 1/20/11 update - This year we also hope to add comfrey to our gardens. (Thanks for the advice MikeH).
The Survival Of Civilization may depend on all of us making sure this happens with the soil on this planet. Below is an interesting video on how the Thomson family is using rock dust to create healthy, abundant, nutrient dense crops in the harsh landscapes of Scotland.
Yes, "Often the simplest things."
Sowing chilli seeds
1 hour ago