Nurturing soil life in small spaces

The No Dig gardener, Charles Dowding, once wrote:

“The world of gardening is full of chemical ideas. It is vital to ignore most of these and cultivate instead an approach that is based on Life, specifically the life in all soil, the essence of organic gardening.”

It’s one of my favourite gardening quotes. Soil life is so vital to plant health.

So I was delighted to be able to record a webinar with Jessica Smith on how you can nurture soil life in small spaces. Jessica is an ecological farmer and teaches regenerative agriculture. She is also behind the film, Grow Food.

You can watch a recording of the full webinar below.

If you only have five minutes…

If you only have five minutes, I highly recommend this five minute clip about plant immune systems – and how healthy plants are more resistant to pests and disease.

Watch the full webinar

Jessica offers tips to nurture soil life in your containers including: adding minerals to the soil, mulching, foliar feeding, and keeping all parts of the soil well watered.

Key takeaways

Here is a summary of my main takeaways from Jessica’s talk:

  • Think about feeding the microbes in the soil, not just the plant. It’s the microbes that release the best food for plants!
  • By adding a diverse range of ingredients to your soil, you’ll support a wider diversity of soil life (= good!). What ingredients are available to you will vary between regions and countries. Don’t worry about finding all the ingredients Jessica mentions. Good ones to look out for include rock dust, seaweed meal, sea salt, insect fras, and rapeseed meal. Just use what you can easily get hold of (Ebay is not a bad place to look – I just found insect fras there!).
  • Mulching supports soil life by keeping the soil damp and by providing a food source for the microbes. Shredded leaves are one of the best. Composted wood chip (not new wood chip), newspaper, cardboard and grass cuttings also make good mulches.
  • Microbes need food, shelter, minerals and water (ideally chlorine free) to thrive. Make sure to water the whole surface of the soil in the container, not just the plant.
  • Plants are healthiest when they get enough sun and enough minerals.
  • Healthy plants are more resistant to pests and diseases. This is THE best way to prevent pests and diseases in the container garden.
  • The healthier a plant is, the more medicinal it is to eat!
  • Plants can also absorb nutrients through their leaves. Foliar feeding is a great way to ensure plants are receiving the full spectrum of nutrients. Jessica mentions a good US foliar feed in her talk. In the UK I find liquid seaweed and NuGro to be two excellent options.
  • One way to tell how healthy your plants are is by how shiny the leaves are. Healthy plants produce lipids (fats) on the surface of their leaves which gives them a shiny appearance.

Further information:

Bionutrient Food Association for lots of interesting info and recordings.

Advancing CoAg: lots more info, including this interesting pyramid of plant health; also produces some of the products Jessica mentions.

Grow Food: watch the film Jessica made (it’s free if you, just enter your email).

 

 

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