WHAT IS NEEDED TO GROW FOOD
What do you need to grow food?
3. Sun – Light & Heat
5. Nutrients, Minerals
6. Plants & Seeds
In this series we discuss what is needed to grow food. This episode is about nutrients.
YOUR GARDEN NEEDS NUTRIENTS & MINERALS
Plants need minerals to convert the energy in sunlight into chemical energy, which is used and stored as sugars and starches. The simple molecules of sugar and starch are then used to create all the other wonderful things we call food.
Minerals come naturally from soils. In an artificial system fertilizers are used to provide the main minerals, referred to as nutrients.
Fertilizers focus on three main nutrients: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, & Potassium, referred to as N-P-K. Fertilizers are sold with three numbers to indicate the levels of N-P-K.
A fertilizer is said to be balanced if the numbers on the package are the same, say 8-8-8 or 16-16-16 (called triple 8 or triple 16). Higher numbers indicate stronger concentrations of nutrients. Balanced fertilizers are considered to be all-purpose, and specialty formulas have been developed to focus on vegetative growth, or for blooming or root growth. Specific formulas have been developed for specific crops.
PROBLEMS WITH FERTILIZERS
1. Incomplete nutrition
2. Can cause imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, pests & disease
3. Can burn plants, which can kill them
4. Can kill the biology in your soil which support and protect plant life
5. Cost money and make a profit for others
6. Subject to supply chain issues
1. Plants require most earthly elements, not just three, although they need most elements only in minute amounts. Too much or not enough specific nutrients can lead to pests and disease.
Some fertilizers will include minor elements, and a few include trace elements, but then you are only up to 72 elements at the most. Commercial fertilizers do not offer complete nutrition as is found in Nature.
2. Too much of one type of fertilizer can bind up other nutrients causing imbalances, which leads to disease and pests.
3. Fertilizer levels that are too high could lead to plant damage, even death. This is called “burning" the plants. Over fertilization, particularly Nitrogen is the leading cause of pests and disease.
4. Non-organic fertilizers are often petroleum derived and these types of fertilizers actually kill the biology in your soil.
5. Fertilizers, even organic ones, cost money. They create profit for others. You can take back your power and stop buying fertilizers.
6. Besides being expensive, fertilizers are subject to supply chains and may not always be available. Some elements, since they are mostly mined from concentrated sources, are limited to certain countries and can be blocked by political actions, war, and shipping issues.
If you look at how plants grow in Nature, plants get their nutrition and minerals, directly from healthy living soil. It is more natural, cheaper, and healthier to develop good soil than depend on fertilizers.
In the garden nutrients can be given by adding compost and manures, or by adopting Natural Farming.
Korean Natural Farming, KNF, is particularly helpful in providing full nutrition without buying fertilizers. Instead of fertilizers KNF relies on the Soil Foundation: the biology of the soil, and mulches to protect and feed the soil.
It can take time to build up organic matter,, called humus once completely broken down. This is the dark layer of soil, often so dark it looks black.
While you may wish to use fertilizers while building up your soil health, use caution. Less can be more. Chemical fertilizers can kill soil biology, slowing or preventing improvements in soil biology.
PROTECT SOIL WITH MULCH TO FEED SOIL
Nutrients, all of them, are found in the soil. Soil biology make nutrients available to plants. So if you feed your soil you feed your plants.
Soil tests typically only tell you what nutrients are available to plants.
You should always mulch plants.
Mulch feeds and protects the life in the soil
Blocks weeds from growing
Smothers weed seeds
Prevents soil erosion
Mulch around newly planted seeds but don’t cover them directly or they won’t grow either. And make sure you leave the root flare, the nose of the plant, uncovered so that the roots can breathe.
DON’T BUY FERTILIZERS
You can learn methods to increase your soil biology with Organic Gardening and Korean Natural Farming. Organic Gardening depends on composts and manures.
MAKE YOUR OWN INPUTS FOR LITTLE TO NO MONEY
The basis of KNF is the installation of a local soil ecosystem, using what is called IMO, Indigenous Micro Organisms. Leaf mold (the broken down and composted leaf litter found beneath trees, shrubs and grasses) will also add the same type of soil biology, but it works slower than IMO.
Plants in the wild are able to feed themselves with the biology in the soil, the heat and light of the sun, clean water and fresh air. They don’t need fertilizers. A quick look at wild Nature proves this. If you provide the right conditions plants in your garden will feed themselves, just like in nature.