Learn to feed your family healthier, tastier and more cost efficient produce for less than $7 per hour.
At Grow Food Calgary we are know that value is important, so we have been spending the past weeks and months figuring out how we can give you the best bang for your buck.
Grow Food Calgary will give each participant $285 (as of the date of this post) worth of free products (and only the best free products, hand selected by Donna Balzer, herself). We keep adding to it. Check out our goodies page.
This means that the remaining $115 that your ticket costs you will get you 18 hours worth of learning-to-grow sessions. A little math, and you are paying under $7 for each hour of expert time, not to mention a wealth of additional information!
Grow Food Calgary is an event that you can’t afford to miss!
Looking forward to meeting you at Grow Food Calgary 2017, set to start on Earth Day, April 22nd, at the Calgary Zoo.
I have learned everything that I know about gardens from gardens. Nature, itself is the best teacher, but you have to pay attention in order to learn the lessons.
People throw around the word “organic” a lot these days. It is certainly trendy these days to grow organic food, and to eat organic produce. It gives us warm feelings knowing about “organic” practices, and paying more for specially grown organic foods. In this article, however, I am going to talk about why not to practice necessarily organic gardening, but instead why to practice “natural” gardening, and what the difference is.
Natural gardening means we are adhering to and are inspired by the wisdom of mother nature. We hold a deep respect for natural systems. Mother nature has worked out a fool-proof system over millennia that does not require human intervention in order to grow amazing, natural and (by default) organic foods. If we know what our gardens truly need, then they will grow in a way that limits the attention we need to give them. It turns out that natural gardening is also lazy gardening, a natural benefit to this approach.
How to garden naturally?
Feed your soil, not your plants. Leave the leaves as a food source for microbes and worms, add in home made compost, which is full of humus. Humus sequesters carbon and greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere and stores it in the soil where it is harmless. Humus also stores water for plant roots and creates an amazing soil structure that enables roots to forage for space, water and nutrients. Feed the soil with biodegradable materials, and let nature take care of the rest.
Why Not Organic?
Organic doesn’t necessarily benefit the health of a garden. There are organic pesticides, for example, that destroy natural systems so that our ladybugs still starve. Ladybugs need to eat, so if you kill off their food supply, even through “organic” means, the lovely ladybug will also die, or move in to your neighbour’s yard, meaning bug control will be an ongoing problem in your garden. The war will continue, where you try to eradicate aphids year after year.
Furthermore, organic fertilizers might not have been designed specifically for your soil. This means the minerals being added may not benefit your garden, and you may be feeding your garden ingredients that cannot be put to good use. This practice may cause a tight soil structure, for example, which can suffocate plant roots. Too much magnesium in Calgary soils will create just this situation. It might be organic, but this doesn’t mean it will be beneficial, and create a sustainable environment.
Pay attention to natural systems. Watch what happens when humans don’t intervene and be amazed by the wisdom of mother nature. Practice gardening naturally, and enjoy more time on your patio sipping lemonade instead of battling with invading species as a result.
Learn more about Natural Gardening by signing up for GrowFoodCalgary today!
“Climate Farming” is a term I read about in Terra Preta, a book written by Ute Scheub. It means to grow food in a way that benefits our planet. We no longer need to think of agriculture as something that damages the environment through harmful practices involving chemicals and tractors. Instead “climate farming” means you will be growing good soil that will give back to the world endlessly. Your garden has the ability to make the world a better place.
Soil is made from sand, silt and clay. Your garden will have more or less of each of these 3 ingredients. Heavier soils mean more clay is present. Clay soils are stickier, and hold onto minerals in an abundant way. Sandy soils are lighter, more crumbly and hold on to fewer minerals. All soils can be amended by another ingredient; humus.
Humus is what is made in a compost pile, or right in your garden by worms and microbes. It is organic material that has been biodegraded until it looks dark and rich, it feels light and spongy and it smells fresh and earthy. Humus stimulates all of our senses in a delightful way, and with good reason, as we tend to be drawn to what is good for us. Humus helps retain moisture as well as soil structure in a garden, meaning that your plants also love it. Humus is full of microbes, since it is the microbes themselves that break down the organic matter to begin with, and microbes help feed your plants the nutrition that is stored in the soil. Without microbes, your plants could not survive.
Having high levels of humus in your garden, defined as greater than 2%, possibly even in the 10% arena, means that your garden has been turned into a carbon sink. What does this mean? It means that humus sequesters carbon from the atmosphere, eliminating greenhouse gasses from our environment. It turns out mother nature has a way around our careless polluting, and humus is her right hand man!
So what can you do to change your own yard into a carbon sink? Start making humus! Or, should I say, start allowing nature to make humus for you. This will benefit you, your garden and it turns out the whole world.
If you leave organic matter in your garden and let it biodegrade on the spot naturally, then humus will be made.
At the moment soil is disappearing 10 to 100 times faster than it is being made, as we are waging war on our soils. We kill the soil, reducing it to dirt and dust by applying chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. We then employ ploughs and tractors to rip up what’s left, destroying microbial habitat. By reducing soil (living and breathing matter) into dirt, we are killing off a quarter of the world’s species, which call soil their home, and we are rendering our fields useless. Dead dirt cannot support life, so food crops will not grow.
Let’s learn to employ those tiny farms hands, also known as microbes, and encourage them to leave rich moisture-retaining humus behind. The microbes will thrive, our plants will thrive, our bodies will thrive (from eating mineral-rich foods) and our environment will thrive.
As Raoul Heinrich France said “Humus is made from life, by life, for life” so treat fallen leaves and grass clippings like a treasure bestowed upon us by the gods. Use them with good purpose, to nourish the Earth, and by default, our bodies.
Chelsie Anderson is a co-founder of Grow Food Calgary, a Vegetable Gardening Immersion Program, for beginners. Learn how to nurture your own crew of “farm hands” from Chelsie, Donna Balzer, the Garden Guru, and other garden experts at GrowFoodCalgary.
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