This article was originally published in Garden Culture Magazine, Issue 1 under the title: “The Invisible Garden: A Perfect Balance”.
Think about it, some of the most important things regarding the evaluation of a garden and the food it produces cannot be observed. The majority of people don’t imagine that the soil is alive and teaming with beneficial microbes because they can’t see them. Most think microbes are for hand sanitizer or antibiotics.
The quality of food cannot truly be evaluated until it is eaten, but we cannot taste all the things that are harmful to us and artificial flavoring has resulted in us forgetting how food is supposed to taste anyway. We are farther away from the farm and our food than at any point in human history. Many farmers don’t eat what they grow. Agriculture has collectively become a race to the bottom line and the food that is produced is designed to sit on a shelf, not nourish our bodies.
But people are clamoring for real food. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs and farmer’s markets are booming, and record numbers of people are planting gardens for the first time in their lives. The future of food is to know your own personal agriculture. And what better way to do this than by growing your own?
Growing the best garden of your life is done through the marriage of quality gardening products and techniques, and a proper perspective towards the natural world. One of the primary ideas to keep in mind when growing a garden is diversity. Using cheap budget fertilizers that have 6-7 elements in them is the equivalent of fast food for plants. Sure, the plethora of artificial gardening products available on the market stimulates plant growth and often creates higher yields initially, but is the growth truly a sign of thriving plants? Or is it obesity?
Plant obesity and deficiency are what attract and create pests and disease, not unlike a human on a bad diet. Make the connection that the average gardener believes that pests and disease are bad luck and, due to this lack of perspective, most make attempts to kill their problems away rather than address the roots of the issue. It’s a vicious cycle. Most of the time we are creating our own problems. What should we expect when we use artificial fertilizers and toxic pesticides to grow living plants?
Even hydroponic fertilizers contain no more than 17 elements, or only what a plant has to have. Most plants can use upwards of 30-40 elements directly or indirectly, some more than that, but microbes use every single one of them to work their magic. Growing a garden without all of the elements in play is like hiring someone to build a house and giving them half the tools. Consider using rock dust or sea-mineral based products to increase elemental diversity in the garden. Not only will you increase yields, but you will build the innate capacity in plants and microbes to fend for themselves. After all, why would Mother Nature make an element not needed in the garden? The same is true for microbes.
The greater the mineral and biological diversity in the garden the more strength and balance you bring to the ecosystem. Think of it in this way… don’t feed your plants, feed your soil. Microbes have been helping and protecting plants since the beginning of time and they are not going to stop anytime soon. In fact, over half of the carbohydrates, a plant makes for itself through photosynthesis are exuded through roots to attract beneficial microbes.
A great way to enhance the beneficial microbes in your garden is by brewing compost tea. This involves using aeration to grow microbes from compost in the presence of biological food sources and mineral catalysts. Compost tea can and should be used in every garden, including hydroponics, as it is a great way to make sure you are growing thriving plants. After all, people don’t make plant food, microbes do.
Besides the friendly microbes and fungi, there are other invisible forces active in your garden that affect the growth of all plants. For those feeling truly experimental, consider planting by celestial rhythms. It is well known that lunar cycles affect plant growth. There are many “plant by the moon” calendars online. There is even a method of gardening called Biodynamics that includes a broader range of celestial phenomenon and recommended planting days, flower days, root days, etc. It’s fascinating. Biodynamics is used extensively in other countries like Australia that have poor soil and is also used widely in viticulture. Not many farmers pay closer attention to their crops than those growing grapes for wine.
The idea of working with natural energies in the garden is a foreign concept to most, but life is defined by energy on every level of its existence. The articulation and use of subtle energies is the new frontier of farming and gardening. The philosophy that utilizes the subtle forces of nature in the garden is called Bioenergetics and seeks physical, mineral, biological and energetic balance. This is the sweet spot that allows plants to truly thrive and become vitamins for life.
Beyond all the products and techniques, the most powerful tool we have in the garden is our perspective. What we think, we grow. Sure, we don’t have to grow this way, but the question is…what are we missing?
You will find your own way into verifying and testing these ideas, but hopefully some seeds of experimentation have been planted. Now get growing!