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How to grow more vegetables sustainably

A thing that is hard for many people is that science is always improving. Scientists study a wide array of subjects and, as they continue to study things, they refine or improve their understanding of reality.

As with almost all disciplines, the science of agriculture, farming, or gardening has made strides. Ploughing (US: plowing) or digging is now known to be a bad idea. It makes your plants grow less well and destroys the soil for a long period of time.

For those who are impatient, here’s what my spouse and I are doing with our garden. The science follows.

How we’re gardening

Due to the short growing season in New Hampshire, we started several plants inside this spring. We have seedlings of green beans, kohlrabi, and hot peppers. We have also germinated several herbs and some squash seeds.

Oats

To protect the soil we are not going to dig, till, or plow our soil at all. We will make small holes in the ground in which to place the seeds at the right depth and then grow oats all around. For the seedlings, they will be transplanted from their containers into the garden bed and then oats will be sown around them too.

Going into autumn, as harvest really picks up, we may need to plant more oats to keep the ground covered. We will see how that goes. We are not using the oats only as ground cover of course – we also intend to harvest the seeds to make homemade (and naturally gluten free) oat meal and/or oat flour.

Ground cover

In terms of the oats we are going to experiment in three ways with sowing:

  1. Make small furrows for the seeds to be placed into;
  2. Sow the seeds on the surface; and
  3. Sow the seeds on the surface and cover with a small amount of top-soil and compost.

Mushrooms

As well as vegetables, we are also growing mushrooms. We are going to experiment widely with the growing of those. In our garden we have several different environments with which to experiment. We are growing seven varieties of mushroom in leaf litter, in straw, in soil, and in logs. If we get a delivery of wood chips from GetChipDrop then we will also grow a large selection of mushrooms on those woodchips.

Lawns are terrible

Simultaneously, as well as the vegetable plot (US: garden) efforts we are reducing how much lawn we have. The lawn area will be reduced by growing more vegetables and mushrooms. What lawn we have left we will mow longer – around three inches or 7.5 centimetres.

Why we’re growing this way

The change in the science has showed us (humanity) that turning over the soil (digging deeply, ploughing [US: plowing], and tilling) destroys the natural way that the soil keeps itself sustained. Similarly, using nitrogen fertilizers stops the soil from behaving naturally for several years.

Keeping your lawn long and leaving the cuttings on the lawn improves the soil health and allows a larger variety of plants to grow.

The science of growing things

... [P]lowing, tilling or extensive digging, slices up soil aggregates, breaks up the vast fungal networks and, by exposing the soil to air, releases CO2 and nitrous oxide. Soil structure declines, and so does its biological health... [L]eaving soil bare for months at a time means depriving the soil biome of the benefits that growing plants provide by interrupting vital relationships and starving the soil critters. These... practices can result in compacted, poorly textured soil that is infertile and unable to manage water or grow plants. (Source)

Some of the science behind measuring carbon sequestration through the creation of humus in the soil was only learned about by scientists in 1996 (Source).


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Credit

Image of oats from Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Avena_sativa_II.jpg by http://andreas-trepte.de/http://andreas-trepte.de/

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