Well, Hello Again

I am on a month-long book tour with Bewitching Books Tours and this article is from one of guest blog opportunities. I write about one of my favorite topics – gardening. I have a micro flower farm on Long Island, where my grandparents farmed a hundred years ago, selling veg and raising chickens.

Earth-based magic

I practice an earth-based spirituality, so putting my hands in the soil is healing and the source of great ideas. When I am struggling with something I get my hands dirty and ask Mother Earth for help. The calm is instantaneous, kneeling on the ground restores balance – and ideas or solutions come flowing in. Try it!

A Dirty Little Garden A-Ha

I want to write about my biggest gardening “aha,” which actually only came this year as I started to learn about permaculture. I want to spread the word on this because it’s something that most of us overlook: DIRT.

Well, not dirt so much as soil. Did you know the earth is actually losing soil every year? It’s hard to believe; where does it go? It runs off, erodes, is polluted, paved over and more. But soil is key to a garden (and a planet!)

Make dirt

When I first heard this I got serious about composting and I told everyone who would listen to do the same in order to make soil.

I still haven’t found the perfect counter-top compost container so I would love suggestions! You can send them to my farm website: www.yourvintageblooms.com. And thanks in advance!

Keep your compost close…

Composting is simple (a list of compostables is at the end of this post.) I use a vintage enamel pot which at least goes with my décor. I shouldn’t say this but get fruit flies in the summer and overflow in the winter. That’s because whatever season, it can be a drag to hike out to the field where the compost piles and bins are. After a long day writing, then working with writers, then gardening… I’m tired! So, word to the wise, keep yours close to the house so emptying it is not a hassle and you’ll keep doing it!

So, compost everyone!

You’ll save the planet (a little.) I used to think my mother was old fashioned and crazy for doing it. She was into “eco-action” before it was cool. None of the families around here did it. We were “weird” because we were an organic farm…a kid’s perspective on something I am so thankful for today.

Oy, back to my big aha:

As I tried to decide where to put my flowers, herbs and veg this year I realized was focusing on the wrong thing: the plant. We have to look at the whole system, starting with the SOIL.(At first I typo’d “soul” which sort of fits. The soil is the soul of the garden.)

My soil is depleted (probably yours is too unless you amend it a lot with humus, compost and mulch,) so what was I supposed to do? Dump fertilizer full of nitrogen? Bring in a ton of fresh soil from somewhere which could have all sorts of herbicides in it?

Permaculture is organic, so, no.

Did you know there’s no way to test for herbicides (but you can send a soil sample to your local Cooperative Extension and they’ll test it for you, but they won’t normally test for herbicides — so ask.) AND even organic compost and bagged soil can be contaminated. The herbicides can come through the manure if the livestock has eaten corn, wheat, or anything that’s been treated.

This was cool: I taught the local Agway guy that! He’d never heard about herbicides in organic fertilizers, manures, mulch or potting soil. Now he knows.

What’s a witchy farmer to do?

I was really stressed. How to improve the soil if I can’t bring something in? I looked at the weedy mess of my soil. Thin, depleted, hardly a place to plant my precious little baby seedlings.

Then, at the height of my frustration: I was reading my permaculture sources and I discovered the answer.

I cried when it all came together…

Mother Nature has the solution and it’s built right in. It’s the weeds! The problem arrives with a solution! (Which looks like another problem, but isn’t.)

Nature knows what the soil needs. It restores the soil by growing weeds. In soil that is really lacking the weeds will be out of control. That’s because big medicine is needed. So, the solution to a depleted, weedy garden is this: don’t pull the weeds out. Trim them and leave the clippings to fertilize the earth. (Get them clipped before they go to seed though…)Plus, the roots will break up the soil, which aerates it and lets it retain more water too. Magic!

It all fits

It’ll take a while to enrich your garden naturally and organically but it’s a worthy investment. Over time you’ll have a rich soil with few weeds and healthy plants. In the meantime, compost for your own garden so you can keep things clean and safe for your plants and seeds.

Here’s a list of what to compost:

Table scraps that don’t contain oils or meat/chicken

Egg shells

Whatever you trim off produce, such as pineapple skin or orange peel

Coffee grounds

Tea bags

Expired cut flowers

Anything from your vegetable drawer that passed its prime, etc. soft broccoli you don’t want to eat

Shrimp shells

Corn cobs

Peanut shells

And outside, add these to your compost pile

Raked leaves

Cut grass (untreated)

Should you use garden clippings or the dead plants from your garden? Some say no, in order to prevent introducing pathogens or fungus into next year’s garden.

I used to say newspaper but now so many pages have color ink so I don’t recommend this anymore.

I hope this inspires you to literally save the earth!

Happy Gardening,