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Your Garden and Global Warming

We only have to open a newspaper or watch/listen to the news on TV/radio these days to hear about global warming. It has become a great concern to the planet and a worry for us, industry, agriculture and Governments. Many of us have difficulties getting our heads around what is actually happening but we do see the effects of global warming with our unseasonal weather patterns, horrendous storms, flooding, forest fires, droughts etc.

So what is it really all about and can we as gardeners do anything more than plant a few trees to assist in capturing carbon?

Firstly what is carbon dioxide?

“Carbon dioxide is a chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom. It is a gas at standard temperature and pressure and exists in Earth’s atmosphere in this state. It is currently at a globally averaged concentration of approximately 375 ppm by volume in the Earth’s atmosphere, although this varies both by location and time. Carbon dioxide’s chemical formula is CO2.

In general, it is exhaled by animals and utilized by plants during photosynthesis. Additional carbon dioxide is created by the combustion of fossil fuels or vegetable matter, among other chemical processes. Carbon dioxide is an important greenhouse gas because it absorbs in the infrared, and because of its atmospheric lifetime. Due to this, and the role it plays in the respiration of plants, it is a major component of the carbon cycle. In its solid state, carbon dioxide is commonly called dry ice.”

“The greenhouse effect is caused by heat from the sun that is trapped in the atmosphere by gases, much like the glass of a greenhouse traps the sun’s warmth. Trapping the sun’s heat allows fairly hospitable global temperatures and is essential to life. Without this natural greenhouse effect, Earth’s average temperature would be below freezing and most life would be impossible.
But if the greenhouse effect becomes too intense, temperatures rise and have important environmental consequences. This is popularly known as “global warming,” which scientists have stated is a leading global concern. Global warming is an increase in the earth’s temperature caused by increased greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. As these gases increase, the ‘greenhouse effect’ intensifies, trapping more of the sun’s heat.”

It is obvious we need a bit of global warming to survive on the planet but too much upsets the natural balance and we have a major problem. Mankind has obviously influenced global warming with the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and pollution in more recent times but our history of carbon releasing goes back many thousands of years through tilling of land to grow crops and grass.

“From time immemorial when world agriculture began, we have lost roughly 140 billion tons of carbon from trees and soil. Over half of that, almost 80 billions tons, is from the soil alone. In fact, up until the late 1950s, plowing had released more carbon dioxide into the air than all the burning of coal and oil in history.”

When we till the soil or dig our gardens we release CO2 into the atmosphere but when we mulch green matter onto the surface of the soil we trap CO2 in the soil. This means that ‘no dig gardens’ are better for the planet and the soil. I remember an old saying, ‘When we breathe out we make a plant happy.’ The plant takes the carbon dioxide in with energy from the sun and stores the carbon. The plant dies and the carbon is trapped in the soil food web by the microbes that break down the plant material. Their populations multiply from this food source and their trillions of dead bodies create the humus in the soil. Humus is carbon rich, blackish in colour and fantastic as a medium for growing plants.

Here again is where we have erred in agriculture, we have applied chemical fertilisers to our soils and gardens which kill the microbes in the soil that break down organic matter and store carbon. Humus is lost rather than created and there is more CO2 released into the atmosphere.

“With too little carbon in the soil, crop production is inefficient. Right now, the world’s agricultural soils are alarmingly depleted of carbon!”

Governments on the planet are starting to wake up to this fact and as the penny drops we are likely to find in the future, that the days of chemical fertiliser companies are numbered. (The sooner the better as they are a large contributor to global warming as well as the health of us and life stock).

Once we get back to the natural way of gardening and farming we will find the need for most of the chemical spray rescue remedies no longer needed.

The health of our nation will improve as we will then have a food chain with a substantially higher nutritional value, healthy stock, crops and planet.

Sustainable agriculture can produce not only better nutritional value crops but also a greater abundance, as to this article I have recently come across: “An 18-year experiment in Kenya: Farm fields managed by regular farming practices tilling the land, using no fertilizer, leaving fields bare in the non-growing season produced about 1 ton of maize and beans per hectare (a hectare is about the size of two football fields). But fields treated with manure, planted with cover crops and covered with mulch yielded six times that amount.”

So what can you and your home gardens do to offset the carbon problem that your household creates in their daily activities?

As mentioned at the beginning of the article planting trees, shrubs and plants is one step but creating more soil biology will not only make your plantings better and will trap more carbon where it is needed.

First step is to disturb the soil as little as possible. Apply animal manures in solid and liquid form to the soil. Apply calcium in the forms of lime, dolomite and gypsum (the later also applies magnesium and sulphur) Grow cover crops or even better use the weeds that abound in the garden by cutting them off at ground level and using them as a natural mulch. Weeds have their use as a natural cover crop, they grow well in your gardens, they collect CO2 and when cut and left on the surface they feed the soil food web which stores the carbon in the humus.

The use of natural products such as Magic Botanic Liquid and Mycorrcin as soil drenches and sprays enhance the microbial activity making for healthy plants and soil. Encourage family and friends to do likewise.

The things not to do are simply; no chemical weed killers or rescue sprays, avoid chemical fertilisers or only use sparingly for a boost of growth when required. Do not use chlorinated water on the gardens as it harms the soil life and worms leading to the demise of the health of your plants.

Your gardens could make your family near carbon neutral and maybe even carbon negative by following these simple suggestions.

Now all we have to do is convince farmers and agriculturalists to do likewise on a much bigger scale.

(Note Some aspects of this article are “quotes/statements” off the Internet).

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