Are you veggies lacking or packing?

I went to a talk last night given by a master gardener.  She has “cracked the code” on how to organically grow fruit and vegetables in this part of Florida.  As a whole, Florida doesn’t have soil; it has sand.  It is something to put plants into and sometimes it holds them vertical, but if you want to actually grow anything, you have to add a lot of nutrients to the soil yourself.  In many ways, this mirrors industrial agricultural land. 

Industrial fertilizers came about as a result of World War II.  The government was looking around at all this extra explosive material, and thought, hm, what are we supposed to do with this?  Well, where the material had leaked out from the containers,  the weeds were growing great!  So voila: we’ll sell it to farmers to make their crops grow great, too!

Fertilizer is generally made out of the same ingredients explosives are: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium; hence NPK fertilizer.  So that is 3 minerals that a normal fertilizer supplies.  Most soil and crop scientists estimate that the soil needs to contain over 90 distinct minerals in order to build the best plants possible.  When you only give the plants 3 minerals to work with, that is what they will build with.  The problem is that building a plant from only about 3 minerals, as opposed to 90, creates plants that are weak and nutritionally deficient. 

It is not too far of a stretch to say that there are really only about 3 minerals that the plants get, because most soil used by industrial agriculture has been exhausted and depleted of its nutrients by the plants that it has been growing for centuries without a change in the crop.  It is basically only a medium for holding plants up.  The problem with only adding the NPK fertilizer to the soil is that when plants are only given 3 minerals to build with, then we and the other animals who eat the plants are only given 3 minerals to build ourselves with.  The standard NPK treatment builds weak plants.  Then you have to add pesticides and herbicides, because the pests and weeds are encroaching on this weak crop.  So what you have is a field of weak, nutritionally deficient crops coated in poison.

Well, isn’t that a  rosy picture of industrial agriculture?

Small-scale organic gardening and agriculture is really all about growing good dirt, if you will.  To this end, small-scale organic farming utilizes fertilizer sources that are naturally produced and contain multiple nutrients.  Compost, manure, cover crops, mineral mixes, and healthy bacterial mixes all add to the soil, and hence to the crops.  The USDA and FDA insist that there is no difference, nutritionally, between conventional produce and organic produce.  Actually, the hold to this line when discussing meat, dairy, eggs, GMO vs. non GMO, and RBST vs. non RBST products.  I think that is a load of crap. 

If you give yourself all of the vitamins and minerals and nutrients you need, you are a healthier person because of it.  How would plants be any different?  If all you ate was pizza (so dough, cheese, and sauce) sure, you might exist just fine, especially if you got it in more than sufficient quantities.  But how healthy would you really be?  Same for plants.  If you give them all the nutrients and minerals and vitamins that they need, they will be stronger and healthier, too.  And this would build a stronger and healthier you.

The best way for you to get all of those vitamins, minerals, and nutrients is from food and herbs that have been given all their proper minerals; not mass manufactured vitamins.  If you are able to grow your own food in soil that is naturally supplemented by a complete array of vitamins and minerals, though, you are getting all of what you need in the most digestible, useable form possible.  And the tastiest!

So I am going to try.  We have been composting since we moved here, and even though that won’t be ready to use for another year or so, at least we’ll have it for next year.  My herbs are (mostly) still alive.  And next month, I am going to put in my first vegetable garden.  After I have properly mineralized and manured my sand! 

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5 Responses to Are you veggies lacking or packing?

  1. upinak says:

    1. Florida is not just sand or you wouldn’t have trees.
    2. How to make sand into soil has to be based on 3 things:
    a. what you put into the sand
    b. how can it break down and begin the process of making soil
    c. how much water you can put on it without costing you an arm and a leg.
    3. if you decide to use manure… only use steer. Horse manure is not as good and takes longer to break down.

    And everything is organic. Including the fertilizer made for your plants. Because it isn’t like we create these chemcials out of thin air…. and in many cases they are nature made already, we were just smart enough to break down their chemical composure and figure it out.
    Good Luck.

    • Emily says:

      I realize that FL is not just sand; however, where I am trying to put my vegetables has a high enough sand to soil ratio that for all intents and purposes–especially in terms of its ability to hold onto nutrients long enough for my veggies to get them–it is sand. The nice thing about FL, though, is that because it is so hot and humid, things like compost and manure do break down quickly. I am going to do a post later on compost, and yes, I bought the good old cow manure. 🙂 Also; just to clarify, I am not denying that nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous are not natural elements found in the Earth, because as you pointed out, they most definitely are. My point was that the NPK fertilizer-weak plant-herbicide-pesticide relationship is in many ways catalyzed by the NPK because it does not provide the plants with everything that they need from the get go, and thus much of our food is also lacking these nutrients. Thanks for your comment; and yes; I can use all the luck I can get! Your blog looks interesting; I imagine that gardening in Alaska brings a whole other set of extremes to the picture!

      • upinak says:

        FYI. If you have friends that fish, ask them if you can have the bones, skin and any extras. Back in the early years before we became a Nation… the Natives use to put whole fishes in with their crops due to the soil up in New England. New England has the same density and lack of nutrient that Florida has. Or you can go to a fish market and ask for the guts and bones there as well. Also any shells from any oysters or clams (grinded down) will help.

        🙂 I was born in Florida.. and a lot of my family still lives, and farms there.

  2. Good luck on your garden..I know how satisfying it can be to grow your own food,and how much healthier it is for you.Thanks for posting such an informative article.

  3. Michelle says:

    Square Foot Garden! Works anywhere. =)

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