Sparrow's Nest Organics is the longest-running
certified organic Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) garden in the
Edmonton area. This is our twelfth year, and we have been
certified organic since 2003. The first CSA garden, in 2001, had
13 members; we watered most of the garden by hand, and used no
machinery to cultivate, plant, or harvest. Everything was done by
Sparrow's Nest Organics
Opal AB T0A 2R0
Of primary importance to us as ecological farmers is the soil's ability to nourish plants. Healthy soil holds moisture and nutrients, which grow healthy plants. Strong, vibrant plants stave off insect pests, and can withstand extremes in growing conditions (drought, wind and heat/cold).
Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium fertilizers destroy microbial life of soil by vaporizing much of the organic matter on which soil microbes depend. Using petrochemical-based fertilizers is like using a bellows on a fire, speeding up the combustion process and "burning out," or oxidizing, the soil's carbon. Most agricultural soils in North America have been seriously depleted of their fertility because modern agriculture mines the soil of nutrients and organic matter. If soil microbes disappear because of insufficient organic matter in soil, they cannot create humus, the source of nutrients for plants. It is the ability of plant roots to absorb nutrients from humus particles (colloids) that enables plants to nourish themselves, NOT the amount of salt fertilizers dumped onto soil.
In fact, the soil's ability to pass nutrients on to plants, via humus colloids, is limited by the unavailability of any nutrient, particularly the positively-charged cations: calcium, potassium, magnesium, and sodium. Deficiency of any cation creates a soil fertility problem, and no amount of macronutrient (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) fertilizer will benefit the plant: it is a colossal waste of time, fossil fuels and good soil.
Humus is a nutrient- and microbe-packed substance at the heart of biologically functioning soil. Humus molecules hold, in a stable form readily available to plants, all the nutrients necessary for proper plant growth. Humus creates good soil structure -- called tilth -- preventing compaction and improving aeration ("breathability"). It holds water, for times of drought. Yet it prevents soils from becoming water-logged, or holding so much water that the soil's natural microbial functions cannot continue to function.
Our goal, as ecological farmers, is to increase humus and organic matter in soil. Organic farmers must have a good sense of humus.