Disturbing and fascinating at the same time, bats are very beneficial to your garden! Bats eat many garden and agricultural pests including cutworm moths, chafer beetles, potato beetles, and spotted cucumber beetles. Some moths can even detect a bat location and will avoid the area where bats are present. Bat guano is also a great fertilizer.
Biologically Intensive gardening relies on methods which are renewable, non-polluting, and mutually beneficial to both gardeners and society.
In Michael Pollan‘s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he describes his visit to Polyface Farms in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The owner of Polyface, farmer Joel Salatin uses biologically intensive methods to produce a vast amount of food on one hundred acres of pasture surrounded by forest. Salatin doesn’t refer to himself as an organic farmer – although his methods are certainly that – Joel is part (perhaps something of a leader) of the biologically intensive farming movement. Salatin uses no fertilizers or pesticides, no agro chemicals of any kind, no antibiotics for his livestock. His cows, chickens and pigs are extraordinarily healthy and free of disease, his chickens’ eggs are loaded with Omega 3′s and in high demand, and his crops are plentiful. In fact, Joel is so good at what he does that he is invited to speak all over the world, teaching his methods to other farmers and to those who are just curious.
In Biologically Intensive Farming, the farmer learns the local ecological connections between his crops, his animals, his pasture, his surrounding forest and the soil that supports them all. It’s farming which ignores Big Ag and relies on knowledge of animal and soil biology, botany and horticulture.
So how does biologically intensive farming relate to your garden?
For the past 60 years or more, we’ve been fed data on controlling pests and diseases in our garden which benefits the chemical and petroleum industry, not our gardens, not our plants, not our health. This data – using chemicals derived from petroleum distillates to control insects and fertilize our edibles – is so prevalent in gardening and farming culture that it’s considered heresy by many professional growers and scientists that better pest and disease control (and yields) can be attained without the use of these inputs. As many growers and gardeners have now learned, using chemicals to treat pests and disease triggers a cascade effect: the elimination of one pest results in an infestation of another; using synthetic fertilizer destroys the micro elements and organisms that live in the soil near a plant’s roots. When plants and soil can’t survive without chemical intervention, they require more chemical intervention to survive (great business model, isn’t it?).
To paraphrase Polyface’s Joel Salatin, “Pests and diseases on your farm are nature’s way of telling you that you’re doing something wrong”.
So back to the garden where we’ll apply the Biological Farming method. Pest control and disease control don’t start when lacewings are discovered in your garden or black spot is discovered in your pear trees. When you create ecological balance in your garden, when your soil is alive with microbes which support your plants, there is rarely any need for inputs aside from compost and water (barring extreme weather events). If your soil is alive, birds will eat their weight in insects every day. If you interplant herbs and flowers with tomatoes, carrots and peppers, they’ll host friendly insects and deter detrimental insects. If you rotate your crops year to year and plant cover crops, you won’t deplete the soil and invite infestation. Aside from a drastic weather event such as a hurricane, tornado or drought, serious problems rarely develop in the biologically balanced organic garden. For more detailed information, download this excellent pdf on organic Insect Pest Management from Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities.
Applying biologically intensive methods in your garden
Test your soil
Before planting anything, inspect your soil. Test its water holding capacity by squeezing a ball size amount in your hand – does it stick together or turn to dust? It should stick together but be easily pulled apart, unlike clay. This shows good soil tilth. Is the soil a deep dark brown color or clay color? If it’s clay you have lots of work to do (see my previous post on soil conditioning in your garden). What kind of life is in your soil? You should see at least a handful of earthworms and other insects crawling around. If insects and worms don’t find your soil appetizing, neither will your plants.
Compost and humus
If you haven’t already, build a compost pile. Composting is absolutely essential, as it will replace the micro nutrients that growing plants remove from the soil. It also supports bacteria and fungi which feed on plant refuse and help turn it into humus. Think of it as vitamins and fiber for your soil.
Make sure that there is good air flow around plants to reduce the chance of fungal infections. The ability of a plant to dry quickly after a rain storm is crucial. If the season is particularly humid or wet, this is all the more important.
Don’t make your garden off limits to wildlife. Destructive animals like groundhogs, rabbits and deer should be deterred, as they will sample everything they see. But birds and pollinators like bees are essential to your garden’s health. The more pollinators you attract, the better the blooms.
Use cover crops in your vegetable garden. Cover crops restore nutrients to the soil which crops pull out.
One of the imperatives is mulch. Cover the root zones of every plant with at least 2 inches of mulch to insulate the roots from weather extremes like freezing soil, frost heave, drought and heat waves. As the mulch will also hold moisture closer to the root zone, it will make the top soil more inviting for bacteria, insects, fungi and earthworms which will break down organic matter faster (including the mulch), and create a soil more hospitable to your plants.
First weekly update - Opportunities and News for Youth in Agriculture - Being active on social media and different Agriculture networks, I come across several opportunities and news everyday, which is not always applicable to ...
A number of researchers and organizations are taking a closer look at how money flows, and what they're finding shows the profound economic impact of keeping money in town—and how the fate of many communities around the nation and the world increasingly depend on it.
At the most basic level, when you buy local more money stays in the community. The New Economics Foundation, an independent economic think tank based in London, compared what happens when people buy produce at a supermarket vs. a local farmer's market or community supported agriculture (CSA) program and found that twice the money stayed in the community when folks bought locally. "That means those purchases are twice as efficient in terms of keeping the local economy alive," says author and NEF researcher David Boyle. (See the top 10 food trends of 2008.)
Indeed, says Boyle, many local economies are languishing not because too little cash comes in, but as a result of what happens to that money. "Money is like blood. It needs to keep moving around to keep the economy going," he says, noting that when money is spent elsewhere—at big supermarkets, non-locally owned utilities and other services such as on-line retailers—"it flows out, like a wound."
I just published a post about where raw milk comes from and what I went throug to get myself to the point of actually joining a CSA (Community Supported (Many of you have asked about how to join a CSA to get raw milk products and local organic...
The Farm Stand: Does local food matter? Nooga.com Take a walk through any grocery store or the grocery aisle of your favorite big-box store, and you'll find buzzwords like "organic," "all-natural," "free-range," "farm-fresh" and "local." This is a...
The Trustees of Reservations, a member-supported, nonprofit, conservation organization that preserves, for public use and enjoyment, properties of exceptional scenic, historic, and ecological value in Massachusetts.
Keep your container garden happy and thriving on long hot days by installing a hidden water reservoir. All you need is an empty plastic bottle around the same height as your planter. It will be easier to start with a new planting than an established container.
From Blackstone Market LLC A Collaboration between Cresset Group and DeNormandie Companies
Excerpts from proposal:
Blackstone Market re-imagines the relationship of agriculture to the city. Boston youth will come to this publicly accessible civic resource and experience the pleasures of farming.
A key component of the building is the large-scale green roof over the market and its agricultural programming. This productive 13,000-square-foot green roof will become a model for urban agriculture in Boston, and enrich the Market District experience and downtown. The produce grown here will be used by nearby restaurants, including the restaurants within Blackstone Market, and sold in the ground-level market. Bostonians will eat Bostongrown produce!
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