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Gardening Articles for week ending  20th  January 2007
Written by Wally Richards.

The Internet is such a wonderful resource for information and this week I received from the States information about growing vegetables in what is described as Biointensive food production.
The www.growbiointensive.org/ web site suggests the following:
‘Growing your own food can be rewarding on many levels, and can bring benefits both to you and the planet. It is empowering to know that you are able to provide for yourself in such a basic way. The taste of fully-ripe food fresh from the garden may be an eye-opening experience. Fresh air and exercise are added benefits. And each food item that comes from your backyard rather than the supermarket means less of the oil use, resource use, air pollution and soil pollution that are required for commercial growing, processing and transporting of foods’.
Growing as many of your own vegetables as possible, assists in personal reduction of global warming and as one reader recently said to me recently, “Its far better than buying a chemical time bomb from the supermarket that is tasteless.”
The above web site also gives some interesting facts that many of us may not be aware of;
‘Because of population growth, pollution of water sources, and greater use of water for industry, by 2050 each person on the Earth will have only 25% of the water that was available in 1950. Current agricultural practices use 80% of the Earth’s available water.
95% of the seed varieties ever grown in agriculture are now virtually extinct. Much of this is due to the growing of relatively few crops, and the frequent use of hybrid seeds for the crops that are grown. Seeds that are no longer used soon lose their viability and are rarely available.
 Global warming may cut agricultural production in half within as little as 20 years. In February, 2004, the Observer in the United Kingdom reported that climate change is a greater threat to the world than terrorism.
With supplies of petroleum and natural gas running out, conventional agriculture heavily dependent on these resources will become more expensive, raising food prices accordingly. As natural gas is used to make inexpensive nitrogen fertilizer is depleted, it may take significantly more land to grow the same amount of food, when conventional agricultural practices are used.
Thirty percent of the world’s cropland has been abandoned in the last 40 years due to severe erosion. (The cause is conventional farming and cropping)
As little as 40 years of farmable soil remain globally.
For each pound of food eaten in the United States, approximately 6 pounds of soil are lost to wind and water erosion, resulting from conventional agricultural practices.
Twelve pounds of farmable soil are similarly lost in developing countries, with 18 pounds of farmable soil lost in China for every pound of food eaten.
Approximately 213,000 people are added to the planet daily, requiring about 34,000 more farmable acres each day to feed them, acreage which does not exist.
Due to all of these factors, by 2014 only about 64% of the world’s population is likely to have an adequate diet.
On June 15, 2004, the United Nations observed that the world’s land is turning to desert at an alarming speed, at twice the rate that was occurring in 1970.’
It is interesting to note here that this is one of the main arguments that genetic engineered companies use to promote their products, most of which are failures and are not wanted by people to eat because the GE crops have never been proved safe to consume by humans or animals. (Animals will not eat them unless forced to, which says a lot in my book.)
Another interesting fact from the web site states the following; ‘How can the soil's nutrient fertility be preserved with agriculture continuously removing nutrients as one crop is harvested after another?
One answer is surprising. Each person's urine and manure contain approximately enough nutrients to produce enough food to feed that person. However, those nutrients are not enough when they are spread thinly over the one-half to one acre that it takes mechanized commercial agriculture to produce that person's food.’ If we think back to places such as China where the same patch of land has being intensively cropped for over a thousand years with mainly human manure been the main source of fertiliser, the system has been proved to work. (I am not advocating you turning your vegetable garden into the family toilet but it is very interesting to note that what we expel is sufficient nutrients to feed the soil, to produce the food, to sustain us.)
The Biointensive system requires that gardens are deep dug to the depth of 24 inches and plenty of compost is incorporated into the soil. Now 24 inches is a bit like the double trench method that gardeners used to use in the past. The reason being that you want a great depth for deep root runs of the plants you grow, giving them friable soil to a depth of about 60cm. Easy for those with light soils but for us with heavy clay soils a real task. I hate hard work so the simple way is to build raised gardens with surrounding structures of wood or iron about 60cm above the existing garden bed.  These are filled with a combination of top soil and compost about 50:50. A bed that is about a metre to 1200 cm wide and as long as required, allows one to work the bed from either side without having to stand on the bed.
Several of these can be made over time with enough space between to move and work. 200 litre drums cut in half is another way. Plants are grown close to each other, only allowing sufficient room for each to reach maturity. You can plant seedlings but it is far better to sow seeds as there is no root disturbance and those initial roots will penetrate very deep into the soil. Plants that have deep roots means that the plants gather nutrients and moisture from way below rather than side ways as with shallow gardens. Gardens as such require far less watering.
Use seeds from open pollinated plants rather than hybrids, the open pollinated do far better and you can allow one vegetable to go to seed and collect your own seeds for future plantings.
Mix up your plantings, tall plants will have shorter plants growing near their base, stagger plants of similar size.
I have a number of fruit trees growing in drums and use the space around their base to plant lettuce, silverbeet or brassicas with great results.
Here is a tip for sowing seeds take a roll of toilet paper and each of the squares has two seeds of the vegetable placed in the centre with a paste of flower and water or egg white as the glue. Write on the paper the type of seed. When dried they are ready to plant by laying on the surface of your raised garden and covering lightly with compost before wetting down with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL). Spacing for some plants will be the squares just touching or half a square apart.
When the seeds germinate cut off the smaller of the two plants near the base, do not pull out to disturb the one left. Ensure that your plot has all the minerals and elements by applying Simalith and Ocean Solids before planting. Spray the soil and plants with MBL every couple of weeks which also supplies minerals and carbon. Use ample calcium in the form of lime/dolomite or gypsum.
Seed the beds with worms as they will do a number of chores for you and their slime is nitrogen rich which is needed for good growth from your plants.
Once the beds are established you will never work them again, instead you add more compost and animal manures prior to each new sowing. Weeds will be easy to control and they are added to the compost bin for future use. The system, when working correctly, will produce great soil 60 times faster than in normal nature conditions.
The facts are, we are running out of resources globally and wasting the remaining resources, yet you in your own backyard, can make a change and be far better off health wise and pocket wise for doing so.

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