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Soil Fertility – a natural perspective

The soil we grow our plants in is the result of a buildup over thousands of years of organic matter broken down by the soil life (Soil Food Web) and their dead bodies.

Foliage from plants such as leaves, along with dying plants have fallen to the surface of the soil to rot and be broken down by a vast range of soil dwellers from worms to microbes.
Added to this are the droppings of insects, birds and animals along with their dead bodies to build a great fertile soil which plants will not only thrive in.

Just over a hundred years ago man decided to change the order of things and instead of using natural materials to maintain the fertility of his soils he opted to use the then new ‘man made’ fertilisers.
Superphosphate made from reactive rock phosphate broken down with acids so it is available to plants broke the natural cycle of life. The acids harmed the soil life including the worms, crops were direct fed which was completely unnatural for them. They grew still, in fact they grew faster than previously but they also grew weak and sickly and became a target for every disease and insect pest under the sun, having lost their ability to naturally defend themselves. (Mainly caused by forced growth and insufficient minerals and elements in a natural balance)

To protect crops numerous chemical sprays were invented which helped for a time until the pests/diseases became resistant to each chemical treatment. Each treatment not only worked to control the problem but also increased the damage to the soil life. This further weakened the health of the plants and a vicious circle occurs of ongoing damage with reduced health.

Animals and humans eating the crops do not obtain the health benefits that the plants should have and thus they in turn become less healthy and more vulnerable to disease and pests/parasites.
If you have really healthy soils/gardens, then there will be a great numbers of worms present in the moist soils. Worms will not be found in dry and parched soils and if your tap water contains chlorine then you will never build up good worm populations when your watering with chlorinated water.
You will not have healthy soils as the chlorine is put into water to kill bacteria and its bacteria in the soil that we want for a natural soil food web.

If you want good healthy gardens this coming season you have to do a few things, stop using man made fertilisers and chemical sprays. Instead use natural foods that will fed the soil and build up the soil food web.

These includes animal manures, blood & bone, composts, garden lime, dolomite, gypsum, liquid manures etc. Stop using chlorinated water in your gardens by either standing the tap water for periods of time in a suitable container or by simply placing a 10 micron carbon filter in the hose line from the tap.

There are a number of products that can speed up the transition back to healthy soil such as Rok Solid, Ocean Solids, Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) and Mycorrcin.
You can purchase sheep manure pellets or Bio Boost for a base food and then look for other manures locally.

The best of these is chicken manure as it is free of weed seeds and has the highest NPK values which are about 16 to 30% nitrogen, 13 to 25% phosphate and 9 to 18% potash. (depends on whether it is layer manure or Broiler/turkey litter) The later tends to have more urine and  higher NPK values.
Most gardeners will have poultry farms nearby except for the bigger cities where you may have to travel some distance to find one. For instance one poultry farm just a few kilometers outside of Palmerston North on Milson Line, has big bags of dry poultry manure for only $4.50 each.
If you are fortunate to have your own chickens then by having a concrete floor in the hen house where they roost at night makes collection of the manure easy.

The manure can be used in several ways; spread over bare soil and then covered with purchased compost so you can either plant or sow directly into the compost. Place compost directly into the planting hole with some soil over it so the plant’s roots will venture down into this rich mass.

Placed in a plastic rubbish bin with non chlorinated added to make a liquid manure which after a few weeks of stirring is further broken down by 1 part to 10 parts non-chlorinated water and then applied to gardens and foliage.

Manures are also added to green matter in a compost bin in layers and then turned till ready to use.
This vastly improves your compost and can also reduce the weed seeds in home made compost if turned frequently to obtain a good heat.

Horse manure from stables can be found in some areas especially where racing stables are.
Horse manure, cattle manure, sheep manure and pig manure are also excellent for gardens but can obtain weed seeds dependant on what the animals have been browsing.
If used to make liquid manure and if the resulting liquid is strained through a fine sieve before adding to the other 10 parts water this should be relatively weed free.

Other animal manures have a NPK of fresh approx; cattle 6.0:3.5:8.0 Pig 7.0: 7.0:5.0
as slurries Dairy 3.0:1.2:3.5 Beef 2.3:1.2:2.7

These can vary dependant on what the animals are eating and the amount of moisture in the material.
It is easy to see that poultry manure has the highest values and was the reason that it has been the traditional preferred garden manure for many years.

(Besides that in years gone by most households kept chickens.)
High Health begins in the soil and this applies to not only the plants that grow in the soil but to all the food chain. The only alternative is the food chain from the ocean and as the ocean is mineral rich that food chain is very healthy except for the pollution that has occurred since the industrial age.
Gardeners have two aspects they are endeavoring to achieve, the first is great, healthy looking plants such as their roses, the second is a bounty of healthy home grown produce.
Nether of these goals will ever be achieved to your full satisfaction until you achieve healthy soils.
The alternative is spending a lot of money and time on manmade fertilisers and rescue sprays and never winning.

The natural way works out to be far cheaper and your efforts are well rewarded.

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