Feed the Soil – Not the Plants

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John

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Feed the Soil – Not the Plants
« on: March 16, 2019, 00:47 »
There's a phrase that frequently appears on the web - “Feed the Soil – Not the Plants” It sounds really good. I mean, it's obvious. Plants grow in soil and so feeding the soil that will feed the plants makes sense. It's a bit new age green as well, which goes down well with the younger audiences.

Now vague generalities and slogans don't actually tell you anything. What does 'feed the soil' actually mean? How do I feed the soil? With what shall I feed the soil? And most importantly - Why should I feed the soil? Or even just Should I feed the soil?

Full article here: Feed the Soil – Not the Plants
cauliflower root system.jpg
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New shoot

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Re: Feed the Soil – Not the Plants
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2019, 09:14 »
Interesting  :)  I have new respect for lettuce plants, that given the chance, can send down roots 2m deep  :wacko:

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sunshineband

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Re: Feed the Soil – Not the Plants
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2019, 11:56 »
Yes the lettuce root system was a bit of a surprise, and I am amazed, give that photo, that they grow so well in relatively shallow containers!!

Keep those soil organisms well fed.. we can't do without them!
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John

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Re: Feed the Soil – Not the Plants
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2019, 12:27 »
I think the key is that the lettuce roots are densest in the top 30 cm - whilst they can spread massively we've harvested them well before the roots have developed fully.
The main reason for writing that article was I kept seeing the phrase 'feed the soil' used but without any explanation. Hence going right back to square one and putting some analysis into it.

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mumofstig

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Re: Feed the Soil – Not the Plants
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2019, 12:53 »
After reading a blog by Medwyn (of Anglesey) about the use of Charge soil conditioner, by exhibition growers. I happened upon it half price and with free p&p (dtbrown I think) late last year, and have been adding it to the mpc,  when potting on this spring.
So far the results have been great, IMO it's certainly worth it, even better if you can get it at half price  :D
charge soil conditioner

The research does seem to point to lack of humus and soil-life leading to soil erosion and reducing yields. Perhaps farming needs to look at less chemical fertilisers and more at soil improvement. I saw a case being made for returning to mixed farming (animal & agricultural) in order to improve soil fertility - perhaps that is the answer?

Lesley x
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John

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Re: Feed the Soil – Not the Plants
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2019, 13:30 »
Regenerative farming - which seeks to improve the soil - is fascinating. Most modern farming treats the soil as an inexhaustible resource.
Controlled grazing (mob grazing) followed by poultry has been proven to improve the soil and the grazing leading to higher density stocking with no detrimental effects. However it requires more work and management skill.
The problem is economics. We could double the number of sheep on our land. The value of that is less than a quarter of the labour cost. In addition we could run 500 laying hens but making that pay enough to cover costs is near impossible. Remember the competition is an automated shed of 10,000 birds who are allowed access to land and qualify as free range.
Farming and market gardening can provide some useful pointers for garden growers but we need to keep in mind they're different in many ways.

 

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