One possible reason why a garden would fail to produce, or fail to thrive, and a few common sense solutions.
by Michael King
I just read Joe Lamp’l's article on Killer Compost www.growingagreenerworld.com, referred to me by www.UrbanFarm.org, both of whom shared their experiences of watching their garden plants fail to produce, or fail to thrive, as a result of using manure from animals fed hay that had been sprayed with herbicides (a common practice in conventional farming).
One of Joe’s readers suggested the use of seaweeds and molasses to speed the remediation of chemicals in a poorly performing soil, which Joe concurred with. As an herbalist and a gardener, I feel some insight on the detoxification of the human body might provide insight into why seaweeds and molasses (and a few other options) do help to remediate garden soils & compost piles of chemicals as well.
I use clay, sea vegetables & algae of all kinds, humic/fulvic earth and certain herbs to detoxify the human body of chemicals & heavy metals. Used properly and in sufficient quantity, results prove themselves out.
The 3 Key Principles at Work Here Are:
1) electromagnetic forces from the electrolytes in the above mentioned natural sources
2) other minerals in each that serve to bond electrically with the chemicals and metals as they are broken down in the soil by microbes, thus neutralizing their toxic effects upon contact
3) the fact that beneficial microbes proliferate when fed mineral sources and natural sweeteners (they thrive on them and multiply)
The human body has an advantage that soil does not have, in that our liver produces bile, which, when functioning properly, encapsulates toxins and pathogens in bile fluids and sends them out the body through the bowels. Bitter foods and herbs assist in promoting good bile flow.
In the soil, the only mechanism I am aware of for detoxification is through mineral bonding and microbial digestion. The more bonding opposites available for this bonding/neutralizing purpose, the faster the restoration of the soil takes place.
Bioactive chemicals and metals are inherently charged in such a way as to readily bond with available places in plants, or in the soil, (and in the human body). By introducing enough bonding opposites to the contaminated medium, the faster the remediation takes place.
Sweeteners & Clay Minerals for the Proliferate Microbes in the Soil
A mineral dense sweetener like molasses, especially when combined with a mineral dense clay, increases the microbial life in the soil (they feed on sugars and minerals), thus accelerating microbial digestion of the chemicals.
Sweets, including grains and starches (things that convert to sugar), feed friendly bacteria both in the human body and in the soil. Sugar excesses, on the other hand, can lead to pathogenic microbe proliferation (this is more true though, in the human body due to the common combination of sweets and fats, the prime cause of insulin resistance, but not an issue in soils).
Even radiation (another garden contaminant) can be broken down into inert forms with a combination of minerals (like in clay & salt water) and specific microbes that accelerate radioactive decay into inert forms. Clay in soils are known to bond with radioactive cesium, for this reason clay has been used at both the Chernobyl and Fukushima sites, and is commonly used to bury radioactive waste.
Herbs that Proliferate Microbes in the Soil
Certain herbs also increase microbial proliferation. Stinging nettle, comfrey & alfalfa are three of the most well known, though all plant matter breaks down through microbial digestion resulting in microbial intensity, thus the importance of spraying/pouring compost teas on your garden and plants.
Mushrooms that Cleanup Carbon-based Chemicals
Mushroom mycelia are another way to clean up pollution, as this is one of Nature's more effective bioremediation mechanisms. Encouraging mycelia growth with no-till practices (tilling kills microdiversity, worms and mycelia webs), and the use of carbonaceous material, the kind of food that mushrooms love (like leaves, plant stalks and petroleum chemicals), adds additional layers of continual defense in your garden soil.
I consider leaves to be the most important compost medium of all, not only for the fact that they feed mycelia, but also because they hold information from the heavens and the earth, having been under the stars for the previous year or so. This imparts complex growing information and nutrients (sunlight & soil derived) into your garden soil.
For all of these reasons I have used clay, humate, raw honey (my favorite sweetener source due to its own microbial benefits and nutrients), worm casting wash, & nettle/comfrey/alfalfa compost teas. Spraying manure piles with compost teas is one way of getting a jump on remediating possible chemicals in the manure.
When using coffee grounds I prefer to use only organic versions as the coffee plant is one of the most chemicalized plants on the planet.
Every herb & plant, as it decomposes, generates its own blend of microbes and fungi. For this reason it is important to use as broad a diversity of plant material in your winter garden beds & compost piles as possible (vetted of course for any chemical contamination in them), so as to promote microbial diversity in next years topsoil that you will be spreading on your garden from your well composted medium. I believe plant leaves of all kinds to be the most important source in this process.
Leave the Spent Roots in the Ground
Another way to increase microbial life in the soil is to leave the roots of plants that have finished their season, or that you have eliminated (like weeds), in the ground to every degree practical. In most cases, but not all, a weed can be cut off just below the root head (about 1 inch below the soil surface) and it will not survive to grow again. The root matter will decompose, increasing microbial & worm proliferation. This practice will also increase the aeration of the soil from the holes left after the root has decomposed, thus reducing anarobic microbes that are common detriments to plants.
Some gardeners plant daikon radishes in their beds and leave them in the ground to decompose leaving behind rich, humus soil with plenty of microbes and worm life.
For what it is worth, I hope you find this useful in remediating potential killer compost & garden soils more efficiently.