When we think of gardening or any form of crop production, what’s the first thing we need to do? Till it all up so we can plant seeds - of course. That may be what’s going on across millions of acres around the world, but it’s a surefire way to kill soil. As a matter of fact, soil scientists the world-over are shouting dire warnings about topsoil depletion in the earth’s most productive croplands.
As we look for alternatives of tillage, pesticide, fertilizer and petroleum-based food production, we need to have something as a “north star”. What I mean by this is we need to have some sort of benchmark to know what it is we’re trying to achieve. We also need to have some idea of how we’re going to achieve it.
Here at the farm, I’m always blown away by how these little discoveries show up when I’m not even looking for them. I was planning for next year’s plantings in the south part of the farm and came across something beautiful.
We have to remember that the underlying principle of our management practices is to partner with natural systems to accomplish our food production needs (rather than relying on chemical/mechanical inputs used in “modern” agriculture).
As I was walking through an area that has been over-grown for nearly 15yrs, I could FEEL the ground soften under my feet. I immediately stopped and knelt down. I pulled back some leaves and short groundcover, and holy smokes…. I scooped out several handfuls of what I call pure black goodness!
For the past 15+ years, the trees were dropping their leaves. There were small branches and twigs crisscrossed just below the surface of the groundcover layer. All this “litter” was being decomposed by bacteria and fungi. The earth-worms were burrowing, the multi-legged critters were scurrying around. The hair-like roots were loosely woven throughout. It was like dipping my hand into a fresh bag of nursery bought potting mix!
Today I found an example of our “north star”. This is where we’re going folks. This is the soil we’re beginning to produce all over the farm. It’s something to get excited about because it’s the kind of soil that will grow anything!