Bringing the soil back to life with microbes: You've got to see this!! Desert to diversity in one season.
Last year, around mid-summer, I built a small market garden near the center of Taos:
I grew an abundance of vegetables, such as Kale, Arugula, Swiss Chard, Spinach, Romaine, Lettuce Mix, Beets, Snow Peas, and Radishes. I sold them all to a local health food store and all was well in this beautiful little garden. It was only a mere 500ft of raised beds. Very small for a market garden! I was testing the waters, so to speak.
Building it was straight forward. I tilled out the perennial grasses and created raised beds. Then mixed in organic certified cotton burr compost. This is an excellent soil additive and conditioner. It's a mix of composted cotton plant leftovers certified for organic production. It is used as both a mulch and a soil builder. It doesn't say so on the package but it is LOADED with mycorrhizal fungi. You can tell because of the white, powdery, spiderweb looking stuff on the cotton stems and throughout the mix.
Then I inoculated the garden with aerobic worm castings tea. Lots of healthy fungi and microbes!
After the mycorrhizal fungi and the worm casting bacteria and fungi reproduced and began to work their magic, the whole thing started popping off like crazy! The soil structure became "spongey" in a good way, and the water inputs just kept getting lower and lower. The yields were great and the plants were healthy.
This was a great garden, but to pay the bills I took on a job managing the farm at Red Willow Farm on the Taos Pueblo. That was an amazing job and I made some great friends. Sometime I would like to write about how inspiring that job was to me and what I learned while I was there.
Eventually I got too busy with my new job to continue to harvest from this garden. I stopped irrigating and left it to it's own devices. That was in September of last year (2017).
I would stop by this garden occasionally just to see what was up. I watched some plants survive for a VERY long time with no water inputs and it was quite encouraging. Mycorrhizal fungi do a neat trick where they lock moisture in the root zone through a symbiotic relationship with the plants. Very cool. Other microbes and fungi hold moisture by nature, since they are essentially little moisture holding life forms. Many of them also share symbiotic relationships in the root zone.
So, let's fast forward one year: I roll over there a couple of days ago to pull the shade hoops to move them to my new farm, and I am BLOWN AWAY by the effects the worm tea, mycorrhizal fungi and cotton burr have had on the plant life. Take a look for yourself!
This is a picture of how the spot looked when I broke ground last year:
And below is a picture of it now. It has received exactly the same amount of water as the surrounding grasses since I unhooked the irrigation about NINE months ago! This is awesome, because it's a real tangible accomplishment which I can now work towards replicating on a larger scale. Next stop, my new farm, and then next stop, hundreds of acres of land restored! I like to dream big....
This ladybug is stoked to have some Milkweed to hang out and lay eggs and eat aphids on. That's gonna make for some happy birds. The beautiful spiky yellow flower on the Milkweed is going to catch the eyes of some pollinator insects. Many things going on here that weren't last year.
This Red Russian Kale plant is flourishing with NO water inputs except the natural rainfall, which trust me, has been very sparse. We've had rain maybe once or twice in the past several months unfortunately. I am going to save the seeds off of this plant and have some VERY drought tolerant kale for a reliable food source in coming years.
This Arugula plant is also thriving. This plant is also called "Spanish Cross" around here because of it's beautiful little white flowers which are cross shaped.
Folks, we can rebuild our food systems and our environment from the ground up. Nature has a way of taking care of itself, and once the essential elements are in place, things can flourish and grow on their own, even dry and harsh climates like up here in the high desert. I want to learn as much as I can about how I can continue to make this happen. I dream of pulling this off on a large scale! Please stay with me on this journey, and if you like this post, upvote, resteem, or comment below! Thanks for reading!