The vitality of the soil is a prerequisite for our survival. If we exploit the soils and weaken or kill the soil life, the nutrient cycles no longer function and there is nothing left for us to build on, in the truest sense of the word.
This in advance, so that it can be understood how crucial it is that our soils are truly alive.
The more diverse the soil life - by the way, more living things exist in a handful of soil than there are people on earth - the more valuable the fruits we harvest from our planting areas, the better for our immune systems, for our overall health.
Conventional vegetables from the supermarket usually come from depleted soils that are poor in trace elements. Consequently, these are also sparsely represented in the plants we eat. In addition, much of the valuable ingredients are lost during transportation. To compensate for these deficiencies, we end up swallowing all kinds of dietary supplements.
So there's a lot to be said for providing ourselves, at least in part, with healthy vegetables and herbs from our own garden or balcony. Yes, exactly, also smallest surfaces such as a balcony can be already extremely efficient, which concerns the self supply; in addition one must go only once on Katharina Heuberger on-line magazine wildermeter.de, then one becomes fast clear.
Apart from that, a partial self-sufficiency from the garden can also be our personal contribution to climate improvement. And to the improvement of our mood :D
. A figure in addition: 12 million ha of soil outside Europe is used to provide us with food. I don't think anything needs to be added to that.
What does "living soil" actually mean?If we get a bag of "planting soil" in the garden market, this is almost dead soil; the soil has usually been strongly heated, so that microorganisms have been killed for the most part, larger animals such as earthworms, isopods, springtails are missing anyway.
However, this is not a huge problem. You can liven up this soil, this planting substrate, relatively quickly. Likewise the green compost, which one got from the composting plant of the city steamed and therefore conveniently weed-free. You mix under this soil, for example, a bucket from another place in the garden that seems nice and alive, or you take a walk in the woods and get some intact soil life material interspersed with leaves and bits of wood there to 'animate'. Also effective - mix mole soil in with the soil you buy.
We starve our soils for the love of order.'Feeding' the soil with organic matter is critical. If we clean up our garden soil as neatly as we do our living room floor, that is, take away all organic material so that it sits there as bare soil, we are starving it.
A layer of leaves and mulch with decaying material ensures that the large creatures in the soil, such as earthworms and woodlice, get the food they need to form humus. So all we have to do is make sure that there is enough food available, the rest of the work, the revitalization of the soil, is done by the team completely free of charge. This is already perfect service, isn't it.
What comes out the back of the earthworms is a material that couldn't be more fertile - concentrated clay/humus complexes that contain everything a plant needs - nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium.
Even Charles Darwin was so impressed by this that he said: "It was not the Lord God who created the world, but the earthworm. "
Earthworm (Lumbricus terrestris)
And something very crucial must not be overlooked. When humus is formed, CO2 is bound. If we would increase the humus content of our soils by 1-2% every year, we could reach the climate targets. In conventional agriculture, it must be stated here, unfortunately, it goes in the opposite direction.
So - never leave soil lying around bare: v. a. not in the vegetable bed - in the other beds and perennial plants, nature itself usually quickly ensures that the earth is covered.
Vegetable / lettuce bed with mulch layer of wood chips
variants of mulch material to cover the soil.between the rows on a short way with dead perennial material, weeded weeds, area composting; you save the way to the compost heap and back
- lawn clippings
- biofiber from the garden market
- chopped vegetable waste directly into the flower pot or bed - for those who don't find this method too unsightly
- Sheep's wool (open, or as pellets), stores water very well, also provides a constant, slow input of nitrogen, so ideal for strong growers among the vegetables.
If you then sprinkle with primary rock flour, which the earthworm also loves, because it cleans its intestines, you have good conditions for a healthy plant life. The green material as a nitrogen supplier, in combination with wood chips, from which the plant gets the carbon, makes the perfect mulch layer combination.
Without 'mulching' you have no humus build-up, whether on a large scale in arable farming or in a small flower pot on the balcony.
You can just remember the phrase that you always come across in organic farming: "The conventional gardener feeds the plant, the natural gardener feeds the soil he cultivates."
Everything is interconnected via the mycorrhiza, the WLan of the soil. Simply put, it is that the microorganisms that sit at the root of the plant prepare the soil minerals for the plants to absorb, in return they get sugars for their growth and survival.
Something more general about organic fertilization.Ideally, in fact, the fertilization you need for your self-sustaining plants and fruiting shrubs can be accomplished in good part through your own compost cycle, whether through area composting, compost windrow or worm bin. Organic fertilizer, which you buy in the form of horn meal/shavings, for example, usually comes from factory farming, which uses medicines and other substances that you don't necessarily want in your vegetables. In addition, horn shavings come largely from the other end of the world, from Argentina, where cattle breeding is carried out on a very large scale. The raw material is then shipped to India for further processing. So before we give the horn shavings to our apple tree or our vegetable beds, they have traveled half a world.
A good alternative to supply nitrogen to the strong eaters are the sheep wool pellets already mentioned above. With their purchase one supports at the same time that European shepherds receive again a real price for their wool, with which they can survive. The shepherds are indispensable in keeping open nature and landscape conservation areas. So you are actively protecting nature if you value them and their products.
Peaty growing soil - does not work at all!It should be well known that our peatlands, or what is left of them, cannot keep up with the rate of their degradation. Peat cutting not only threatens the biodiversity of unique habitats, but it is also extremely damaging to the climate, since during the extraction, bound, i.e. fossilized CO2 is released. The amount released is enormous, due to the fact that the peat soil of peatlands consists largely of CO2.
A huge problem with this is that even in organic farming, the use of peat is not prohibited. What always appeals to us consumers, after all, is the price. Unfortunately, the bag of soil WITH peat in the garden center is still the cheaper option. However, there is no discernible and certainly no compelling reason, even for nurseries or tree nurseries, to work with peat. Except for a few special lowland plants that are cultivated, peat-based soils are neither useful nor sustainable. In fact, when viewed up close, peat is the less economical option because it shrinks within a short time due to decomposition of the organic material. In contrast, soils with mineral content - the heavier bags! - a permanent humus layer.
When buying, make sure that "peat-free " is written on the bag and also not something relativizing like "peat-reduced."
Preparation of sowing and planting soil.Especially in regions with highly clayey soils, it is crucial to incorporate mineral material. This, rather than adding 'volatile' peat, creates more permeability; waterlogging is thus prevented and the soil warms up more quickly overall, all of which is beneficial to root formation and plant growth.
A proven sowing substrate or planting soil for flower pots (apart from plants of extreme locations) is a 1 : 1 : 1 mixture of sand or crushed expanded clay and loam and weed-free compost.
Effective Microorganisms (EM) in the garden.EM are easy to use in the garden. You get a liquid fertilizer with effective microorganisms, which you then, dilute according to package instructions and water the plants with it.
The microbiology of the soil is thereby promoted in a simple and effective way. A miracle cure they are not, more important is certainly the constant supply of the soil with organic material. However, when used in addition, the EM certainly have a strengthening effect. They can also help to ensure that nothing starts to rot underground, for example, if a larger amount of not yet fully converted compost is added to the planting hole.
Compost teaIt is similar with the compost tea. Also with it one can, until shortly before the harvest the soil life stimulate. You can also make the compost tea itself: To do this, add about a liter of mature compost or, if you have a worm bin, worm compost to a bucket with 10 liters of water (ideally room-warm rainwater), mix it well and let it steep for two to three hours. You can also put the compost in a linen bag, but then let it sit for 24 hours, stirring occasionally as you go by. Stir the mixture again before pouring.
You can also spray the compost tea on the leaves via an atomizer, under overcast skies. Preventively as an immune booster - it allows the plant to better break down soil nutrients - or in case of infestation with unloved animals or fungi. Dilute the mixture again to 1:4 for spraying. One application per week is a good frequency for compost tea. The method is gentle enough that it can never turn into 'too much'.
Plant yeast for fertilization and strengthening.Especially for greedy tomatoes or cabbage plants that need a lot of nutrients, a manure fertilization in the later summer is ideal. The nutrients are immediately available and can give another growth boost. The second way to use plant manures is to spray the leaves. Preventive, or also in case of acute infestation of pests. Nettle liquid manure is used, for example, against aphids, spider mites and various fungal diseases.
Suitable herbs for preparing a liquid manure are, for example, comfrey, tansy, field horsetail, nettles, and these are by no means all.
The basic recipe goes like this: You add 1 kg of fresh, coarsely chopped or 100-200 g of dried plant material to 10 l of water. The vessel should be preferably made of clay, wood or plastic, rather not metal, because metal reacts with the sharp slurry. Fill the vessel only ¾ - during the fermentation process it begins to foam and would otherwise overflow.
Cover the whole thing permeable to air, e.g. with a grid, so that no animals can fall into it. Stir daily more often, so that enough oxygen is available for the conversion process. Stir in some primary rock flour to help against the already rather intense odor. And it is best to choose a secluded spot in the garden for the action.
After about 14 days the slurry is ready, in colder weather it may take a little longer. You can see that the process is complete when no more foam forms and the broth is nice and dark.
Such a slurry is very strong, so you have to be careful when spreading it. It must be diluted to 1:5; for spraying the leaves rather add a little more water, so that it does not come to 'burn damage'. And only pour or spray on cloudy days, preferably towards evening.
Terra PretaNow here could be the recipe on how to make Terra Preta, the black super soil. That would fit here, but about this miracle drug for plants I prefer to write a separate post, it is definitely worth it.
LiteratureErtl-Marko, Angelika, Das große Boden-ABC: Praxisratgeber für Humusaufbau und Pflanzenglück. Die Revolution im Biogarten, publisher Oliva-Verlag, 2019
Heistinger, Andrea, Wühl dich glücklich. Schaff dir einen Biogarten zum Ernten, Freuen und Teilen. publisher Löwenzahn-Verlag, 2019
Windsperger, Ulrike, Permakultur auf dem Balkon: Reiche Ernte auf kleinen Flächen – Bio-Gärtnern für zuhause. Sofort Loslegen: Der Guide für Einsteiger, publisher YUNA-Verlag, 2021