The Soil Food Web
When I was at a farm and garden show in California I met a woman who was a disciple of Dr Elaine Ingrahm. If you don’t know who she is, here wikipedia post is here. Smart lady.
This woman was an ardent supporter, and her inference was that none of the fertility that people put on their soil every year was necessary and that all plants really needed was an adequate soil food web.
While most natural habitats have these in place, some places where we grow food like gardens and farms had degraded their soil and a good way to replace the microbial life was to add an actively aerated microbial compost tea.
Is Compost Tea Enough?
Luckily I’d read two of her books and also had purchased the field guide to AACT (actively aerated compost teas) by Dr Ingham so I could have a reasonably intelligent conversation. But, I’d also just finished another book by Steve Solomon called The Intelligent Gardener. The reason I’d read Steve’s book was the subtitle, pictured here:
Growing Nutrient Dense Food
Steve’s point was that if the plants put into the compost were nutrient deficient then the compost and the compost teas derived from that compost will also be deficient and if you’re consuming a good portion of your food all from that plot, you will also be nutrient deficient over time.
Steve was living on an organic plot almost completely self-sufficient and he started noticing weird signs of malnutrition, but it took him years to figure out why. In the meantime he was suffering a lot and losing teeth, etc.
Steve as a big organics guy going back decades so it was a hard pill for him to swallow that being “organic” was only half of the story. He also needed to make sure that the plants that he was growing were healthy and well fed or they would let him down when he consumed them.