Doing things differently

Old methods of gardening and caring for the soil are becoming new these days.
In light of climate change, there are those individuals who are searching for methods to improve the soil and/or, at the very least, to protect the soil and to reduce its dependency on water.
Hopefully, this movement will help reduce our fascination with weed-free lawns that are so dependent upon watering and chemicals.
Both Mother Nature and reality are reminding us that water is a treasured precious resource. Gone are the days that we should see people hosing down their paved driveways in the name of being tidy.
I was listening to a program on perma-culture the other day and the discussion turned to “hugelkultur,” which involves the composting of trees as a base for gardens—a practice that has been used in Eastern Europe for hundreds of years.
The decomposing tree matter provides nutrients to the plants placed above it and the plants’ roots burrow down to the almost constant and valuable moisture source the rotting wood provides.
The carbon-rich rotting wood is placed tightly together like a jigsaw puzzle with the least amount of air spaces. The wood then is covered with grass clippings or manure (the source of nitrogen).
The rotting wood already is maxed out in the nitrogen it can absorb, so it won’t rob the surrounding soil, but the grass clippings keep the balance tipped in the right direction.
It is simple science.
All generations are turning their attention to shifting gardening practices. Homesteading developed and given a name in the 1860s is enjoying a resurgence that promotes that anything we might need or want can be produced and/or created by ourselves.
Perma-culture philosophy tells us if we can’t produce it or we aren’t surrounded by it, we don’t need it. That is an oversimplified definition but it is, in essence, a holistic approach to managing human habitation—working with the natural cycles of nature rather than struggling against it.
Hugelkultur is one aspect of perma-culture techniques. The adoption of this type of gardening reduces the need to dispose of decaying brush and trees by burning or hauling away (i.e., it takes what naturally surrounds us and incorporates it into bettering the soil and the soil’s productivity, and enhancing what we can produce from that soil).
A lot of action is happening here locally that embraces many of these principles and, in many cases, it is the young people leading the way. I find that so encouraging and so uplifting.
But all ages are examining how we do things and questioning its sustainability.
I have several large brush piles waiting for my attention and as I listened to the hugelkultur program, a light came on in my head. The community in which I live is called White Rock and the name has absolute significance: rock.
The soil on my property is highly acidic and is rock-based gravel. Try to dig a fence posthole and one discovers all too quickly the land’s namesake.
But I can improve the soil by adopting the hugelkultur gardening techniques. It’s a plan. My to-do list has just grown a new entry.
Definitely food for thought.
wendistewart@live.ca

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