Resilience in our gardens is best created in the soil. Many scientists currently expect that climate change will in fact be that: change. What kind we may not yet understand but we can likely expect more variability in our seasons and in day to day weather events.
Whether you are a farmer or a gardener this information is essential: earlier frosts, or later (sometimes after significant warming), colder winters, drought, flooding, high rainfall events, higher temperature days, higher temperature nights. All of these have been thrown into the “Might Happen” category. If your garden is out back, having been lovingly tended all season long, for many years or maybe only a few, remember, the most important source of resilience for plants is in the SOIL. Our medium is the one thing we have control over.
Soil carbon and organic matter additions to soil have long been touted as the most important part of successfully tending a healthy garden. These include compost, green manure (cover crops), animal manures, leaves, mulch, and no till gardening/farming methods. And methods for tending this important resource abound. Soil carbon sequestration has been found to increase crop yields as well as offsetting global carbon emissions. On a large scale, our soil resources, when well managed, could potentially sequester 5-15% of global fuel emissions per year. (Lal, R., Science, 2004)
But what does it mean for me in my backyard slaving away to grow the best possible food for myself and my family, food to eat and store, food to bring me security and health and fulfillment? It means we must get crackin’- forget the all organic fertilizers and amendments, they help and should be used properly, but we can’t depend entirely on them.
No more can we raise our plants to reside in the soil to be nursed and supplemented by us: diligently spreading fish emulsions when the plants seem wimpy or yellow. We must raise our plants to live in the soil, to gain their sustenance from it. Building this resource in our gardens and farms will give plants the resilience to produce healthy food despite environmental challenges.
3 things Soil Organic Matter does for soil:
- Increases soil fertility and nutrient retention (it holds onto plant food and stores it)
- Improves soil structure (more capable of holding water in periods of dryness)
- Improves soil stability (Decreasing the potential for soil erosion)
Soil Carbon Sequestration Impacts on Global Climate Change and Food Security, Lal, R.
Science 11 June 2004: Vol. 304 no. 5677 pp. 1623-1627