The Organic Gardening Collection

This one is still in progress – I posted half of it in 2018 and will post the rest throughout 2019.

When it’s done, it will be the most comprehensive series on the site, so you’ll need at least a rainy weekend to go through it all.

Cover Crops

Cover crops are traditionally thought of as plants used when the garden or field is empty, such as over winter and sometimes over summer.

But I like to broaden this definition to also include plants used during the growing season, inter-planted with food crops or even in ornamental beds where they’re sometimes called groundcovers or living mulch.

CrotalariaCrotalaria or “rattlepod” is a leguminous green manure often grown in the tropics. It’s great for fiber and building soil, but poisonous to large mammals.

They’re also referred to as green manures, generally when they’re going to be incorporated into the soil after a certain period of growth.

A good goal is to make sure your soil is always covered with plants, and cover crops help achieve this goal.

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Indoor Composting

Perhaps you don’t have the room or inclination to make a full-sized outdoor compost pile.

Fortunately, even a small amount of compost can be highly beneficial.

This article outlines two methods of composting your food scraps that can be done right in your house.

Bran bokashiBokashi made from bran of some kind, sprinkled on food scraps.

Bokashi

Bokashi is a fermented material, often rice bran or wheat bran although it can be made with many other kinds of waste materials such as sawdust, grain mash from breweries, and other grain scraps.

Bokashi is fermented by mixing it with the liquid microbial inoculant called Effective Microorganisms (EM). It’s done today because it makes some of the most incredibly beneficial organic matter possible for the garden, but traditionally, it was also a method of making use of waste products.

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Microorganism Inoculants

Do you have too much compost?

I know I don’t. It’s always in short supply. Most of us don’t have too much organic matter in our soil either. In fact, most of us don’t have nearly enough.

Healthy soilMicrobes are the most important element of healthy soil.

The same goes for microorganisms. We generally need more of them.

That cause of their deficiency may be that we don’t have enough organic matter for them to eat, we have big monocultures in our landscape, we’ve used pesticides or chemical fertilizers, we’ve used drip irrigation or otherwise withheld water from the landscape, we’ve been tilling our soil, or even because of the generally toxic environment we live in with pollution, antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals around.

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Effective Microorganisms

Dr. Teruo Higa started studying microorganisms in the 1960s and 1970s, mostly at Ryukyus University in Okinawa, Japan.

By the early 1980s, he was perfecting his liquid culture of specific “facultative anaerobic microbes” that provide amazing benefits when combined together in specific proportions.

KefirKefir is also made with fermenting microbes.

Facultative anaerobic means microbes that can live both in air with oxygen and also in low oxygen conditions.

They’re also called fermenting microbes and some of them are responsible for making your bread, beer, wine and yogurt.

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Supplementing Nutrients

Microbes and plants need nutrients.

We can supply most of these nutrients through good mulches and well-made compost, but not only do we need the nutrients, we need them in specific amounts in relation to each other.

NPKThe old paradigm.

That’s where a small amount of specific fertilizers come in, to move towards these ratios. Organic matter generally can’t do it alone, so this is a vital step.

There are several definitions of the word fertilizer. In many countries, in order to be considered a fertilizer, a product must have a certain amount of total nitrogen, available phosphate and soluble potash, often written as NPK.

Notice that it’s available phosphate and soluble potash, not total.

This has an unfortunate consequence for organic fertilizers.

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