Here is an essay I wrote recently.
Putting the Compost back into Gardening
Traditionally fertilizer was known as manure, compost, and kitchen food scraps. These were taken to a designated place and allowed to decompose into compost. The result is the best thing you can add to any soil anywhere. It is the foundation of organic gardening.
It was not until the 1800s that a German scientist found out that Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium were the ‘foundation blocks’ of plant growth. Since then with the industrial revolution we have turned to making ‘fake’ Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium and using only those three elements to grow our plants on.
We have depleted our soils of all nutrients and seek to make up for it by adding merely these three elements, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The result is a soil deficient of all but these three elements.
The problem with plants grown solely in soil with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is that plants do not get the micro nutrients and elements that they need. Thus the plant becomes sick and nature does its best to eliminate it. Ever wonder why now we need to use all these pesticides to farm, but for generations before us they didn’t have to? Think back to the big change in agriculture, when farmers went from using manure and sustainable sources of fertilizer to using commercially made synthetic fertilizers. We soon had to come up with pesticides to fight back the numerous pests that inflicted damage to our crops. The more we used the pesticides the more the bugs fought back. The fight continues today.
What can we do about it? Go back a few generations and look at the way your Grandfather farmed. The waste of the animals was collected and composted along with kitchen waste and other sources of compost material. The following year it was spread on the farmland and produced abundant crops.
We have to restore to our soil what has been taken out of it for the past 100 years as we have taken everything out of it and have only added a few elements back to it. It will take years in some cases to restore to the soil what has been taken out, but it can be done.
The solution? Compost. Start a compost pile. Collect the bags of leaves put out by the side of the road. Portion off a part of the farm or garden and grow a green manure crop on it every year. As individuals we can make a difference in the agricultural community.