Friday, June 25, 2010

Life Begets Life

As a landscape designer and consultant, I often get asked questions about why plants won’t grow in certain parts of a property. The short and skinny answer that resolves 90% of the problems is the soil is as dead as Bush’s bid to write Obama’s budget. There’s nothing growing, creeping, propagating, or crawling around in the garden. Life begets life and death begets death. If you want a garden that’s full of life, you must first make an environment where life wants to be. When asked if he should sell his hay or keep it for other purposes on his farm, farmer Joel Salatin chose to keep the hay because exporting life from his farm didn’t make sense to him. It was as simple as keeping the calories on his farm knowing that somehow, someway, the land would metabolize them. Another noteworthy thought from Joel which lends itself to this article is that death and disease in an ecosystem is mother nature's way of telling you something's wrong which needs to be corrected.

As human beings, we long for association with other living things. We love to touch the plants, pet our dogs, and interact with other members of society. Plants and bugs of the garden are very similar in nature. For plants to want to live somewhere, they must be members of an ecosystem, a community. If the plants and bugs are members of the community, the soil is the neighborhood. The soil, if it doesn’t have it already, should be fortified with compost. This is the neighborhood cantina. I cannot overstate the power of compost. It’s food. Period. Plants draw from it as well as the little buggies. I’ve found that the blacker the soil, the better the growth.

The second point I want to harp on (because I like beating dead horses into the ground) is using mulch. Again, the same people who can’t get their plants to grow don’t know the benefits of mulch. This is the roof to the house. The shelter. It blocks the sun thus keeping the roots cool, provides a moisture barrier, breaks down and feeds the plants, and prevents weed populations from getting too wild too fast. It’s like putting almost all of the change in the coke machine but holding back five cents. You won’t get what you really want.

Here’s a tip if you need a lot of mulch for your property. Call up a local tree company and tell them they can dump for free on your property so long as they don’t give you any diseased material. You get the mulch, they usually have to pay to make the dump, so you both make out. A typical dump could range from 6 to 10 pick-ups worth of material.

In a former life, I worked as a jet mechanic for a private jet company. I can’t count how many times they had me interact with nature for the benefit of the business (because it never happened). It was an artificial environment which begot more artificial stuff. About a year after starting the landscape business, I noticed something amazing. The need to use allergy blockers disappeared. I honestly believe that interacting with nature cured my allergy problem. I believe that a person’s involvement in their garden is as beneficial to the plants as it is to the tender. It not only relaxes and lowers stress, but I believe there are beneficial microbes that could be gained, which is why I advocate for not wearing protection (i.e. gloves)! That’s just the kind of nature boy I’ve become... -Jason

1 comment:

  1. Interesting about your allergies Jason. A relief too, eh?

    I wholeheartedly agree about mulch and lament that I've gotten so little of it done this year. Seems I'm always short of mulch, so maybe your idea is doable for us. One can never have too much mulch.