If your garden stinks, it’s because your soil is human soil. It needs to be nature’s soil. Human soil only grows frustration, not a fun crop to eat.
We share this planet with microbes, essential for life. Happy microbes make happy plants, the fuel for our lives. If microbes starve, we starve. Ergo, feed the microbes!
Here is what I do to feed the microbes....
Microbes in the soil environment have cool relationships with plants that we don’t totally comprehend. We don’t even know all the names of the invisible critters in our soils. Baffling that we as a species care more about iPhones than the soils that feeds us. Some day maybe soils and plants will be cool subjects to know about but until then only farmers like me observe and respect what makes nature thrive underground.
Trees and weeds grow and die. When they die they fall unceremoniously onto the forest floor. Time goes by and bark falls off. Worms and birds peck and slither looking for food but it’s the microbes that do all the work. Bark? YUMMMM they shout. Cellulose!!! Gimme more they say! To all this, humans say yukkk! GROSS! DIRTY!
Cellulose that makes up plants is made up of carbon mainly. Microbes eat cellulose. Microbes find dead piles of trees and weeds and realize there is an abundance of food. They PARTY! They mate. They reproduce. They poop, pee, die. Plant roots find dead piles of microbes and they party, they poop, pee, grow, expand and reproduce. With microbes and plants, everyone benefits. This is the beauty of nature’s way, been going on like this for millions of years.
Human suburban landscape culture dictates cleanliness. Collect grass clippings, rake leaves. Keep it clean is our mantra! But in ‘keeping it clean’ we are depriving the soil microbes of renewed cellulose sources, and when the food is gone, the microbes die off leaving the soil devoid of one half of the mass of life-giving microbe/plant relationship. All that’s left is- dirt!
Knowing that plants need fluffy spongy “organicky” soil, I add copious amounts of old mulch and partially decomposed wood chips to our garden soil to make our veggie garden soil.
Today this pile gets put into our garden soil house to cook all winter in prep for next year’s garden season.
Tech-savvy Americans see a huge pile of dirt. I see a huge pile of food/soil/microbial bliss with a million times more biology than the most alive yogurt- a tremendous orgy of life and death ready to spread on top of people’s yards to grow food.
Store bought giant Brussels sprouts. Sizzling in butter and garlic. Rice dumped on top, served with broiled salmon. That was last night’s dinner.
I planted brussel sprouts this spring but they didn’t like me. They turned into weeds. So did my potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, and a few others.
I think some years it’s a “crap shoot,” garden plants planted by starry-eyed hopeful gardeners with visions of Whole Foods-like displays of healthy veggies piled up in their kitchen.
The truth is is much different sometimes than those visions.
David Benjamin- horticulture degree North Carolina State University graduated 1983, has worked at the nursery since 1976. Somewhat tired of eating grocery store food.