There's no way I can explain it here, (and please don't take my inexpert summary of what I've learned too seriously!) but it all made sense. Nutrients are tiny right? Plant roots that absorb them are tiny too. So it makes sense that to enable plants to take up the nutrients they need for optimum growth that these nutrients need to be in a tiny form, and what could be tinier than nematode or amoeba poo?
Plants have evolved in the presence of bacteria, fungi and the nematodes and protozoa that eat them, then expel the waste in a form that is available to the plants. Different types of plants are adapted to living in the presence of different balances of soil organisms.
|My unloved soil, waiting to have its potential unleashed!|
We looked at my soil, temperature, pH, profile etc, then took samples inside to look at under a microscope. Compared to a healthy soil mine is a bit barren, perhaps to be expected from a former cow paddock that has had very little love.
But Letetia makes brews, careful cultures of organisms that should be present in a healthy soil. She analyses soil samples and prescribes the correct inoculations to restore balanced soil life to suit specific crops. Together with organic matter, preferably grown, collected and composted on site, these inoculants will colonise my soil and make nutrient available to plants. When plants have the full spectrum of nutrients available to them, they are more resistant to pests and diseases, they produce higher yields, are more nutrient dense and taste better. This method works with plants and soils, so rather than digging endlessly to make soil friable, fighting pests, buying and applying fertilisers and weeding, you foster the right soil biology balance to favour the desired crop, and in doing so you achieve all of those things without the effort and expense. We also discussed the questionable impacts of many inputs in common use. Many conventional fertilisers, all herbicides and pesticides can have a negative impact on soil biology. Many manures and mulches produced through conventional agricultural techniques will have some form of chemical residue present. And many come in plastic packaging and are moved around the countryside to get to your garden.
This is a bit like a toddler teaching tightrope walking, so I won't say much more. I am a naturally cynical person, but Letetia's scientific approach and demonstration, together with the fact that everything she said ran in parallel with my theories about soil fertility and ethical land use, has made me want to master this method and create a truly wholesome patch.
Letetia does soil analysis and offers great advice and also runs workshops through NRM South (sign up to their newsletter to hear about great learning opportunities, I'm going to their 'Farm Insects, Pests or Guests? workshop on Bruny in November).
I'm truly excited to begin this journey, innoculate my soils and take another peek through that microscope in 6 months and see who's living down there! But most of all I can't wait to taste what comes out of our healthy garden this Summer.