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Spring into the garden

No till, No dig, No pull.

If you wait around long enough, you are back in fashion. And so it is with gardening. Long considered the pursuit of the old fogies, it is now an essential part of our healthy regime. Except the methods of farming have changed to tie in with a greener, healthier planet.. To add to the constant stream of bad news, the Earyh is facing a global soil crisis. 34% of the agricultural land is seriously degraded and by 2050 this will have grown to 90%. Each year 75 billion metric tons of arable soil is eroded from farmlands. This is due to the horrific advice handed down to farmers by supposedly expert world bodies.

In the Sudan, , a fertile source of wheat from Roman times, the Canadians came in and said, We know about wheat. We grow wheat in Canada. They forced the Sudanese to engage in a cross ploughing technique which meant that what was meant to be super efficient for huge mechanised ploughing and harvesting. Instead the topsoil dried out, the winds lifted the soil and carried it down to Zimbabwe in Southern Africa, leaving Sudan barren. The Canadians went home, taking no responsibility for their catastrophic mismanagement. All overseen by the FAO.

In Ireland we had a man called Mansholt, who came across to Ireland from Germany, ridiculed the Irish for engaging in varied forms of mixed farming, told them they had to modernise, get bigger farms, concentrate on one aspect and get rich. If anyone has ever driven through Eastern Europe, you will see huge expanses of mono-crops, no animals, no birds, polluted rivers and a barren landscape. Animals are reared indoors, fed those dreadful nuggets/pellets. Never see a blade of grass, or a ray of sinshine, not to mention the refreshing rain.

In Ireland, we are, seemingly a disgrace, as we have one of the lowest coverage of trees in Europe. And what we have is often that dreadful Nordic spruce, under which nothing grows , in which , nothing lives and it sucks up all the moisture, leaving the soil depleted and dead.

Enter our hero (you), the casual gardener, adopting the new way of gardening:

No till, No dig, No pull.

When the land is ploughed or tilled or even dug, the soil is exposed to sunlight and immediately begins to degrade and die. To preserve itself, . the soil reacts by quickly sprouting fast growing plants to cover this gaping wound. We call these elastoplasts of nature, weeds and start to pull them out. The new way of gardening means working with the soil, using lots of rotted compost to nurture it, aerate,it , feed the fungi and bacteria and create a lovely place for the seeds to grow. We should not plant neat lines of the same crop. Instead we should put varied plants together. This keeps both soil and plants healthy. Having a garden that looks a bit higgeldy- piggeldy is good. Neat lines with no weeds, bad.

Any plants we do not want, we should leave in the ground and allow them to die back naturally. . The root systems are good for the soil.- the roots, fungi, bacteria, earhworms, insects, birds are all in communication. Even the slugs and snails have their uses.

Before planting, we should try to add rotted manure and mulches to the soil. We can do a certain amountnof weed control using mulches. Under no circumstances are we to even consider adding chemicals. If we can try doing this, then inch bu inch, row by row, we are improving the soil, producing some great things to eat and improving the climate. . sSnging the song is optional

But there is more.

There is a huge health benefit for us. We come from the earth and when we die, we return to the earth. We need to be in contact with the earth, physically. By using our hands we come across the microbiome which enters our bodies and eases and heals out gut.

Medically speaking, the gut is where it is at the moment. There has been a huge amount of illnesses connected to poor digestion, poor functioning of the intestines, stomach, and bowel. By introducing all these healthy bacteria into our bodies, we are keeping ourselves in harmony with nature. We are a tightly interactive system of universes of millons and millions of tiny bacteria, fungi and un-named organisms.

Besides all that, gardening takes us outdoors into the fresh air. We become aware of the changing seasons, the changes in the temperature, weather and the yearly cycle of the Earth. We get physical work. We bend, carry, lift. . We walk, breathe, stop and look around. We become problem solvers, more self reliant. We have a sense of purpose and get a sense of achievement when the seeds actually produce an end product. We have to learn lots of new skills. Because we are growing more fruit and vegetables, we add these to our diet. Shop bought produce is often 3/4 weeks old and has been steadily degrading since the moment it was picked, loaded into transport, stored in fridges and finally , laid out on supermarket shelves. We can be sure that the glossier, more perfect it is, the less nutrition is there and the more chemicals have been added. Fruits are waxed to look glossy.. Pour water over them and see for yourself.

By getting outside, we are moving our bodies, getting fresh air and by doing so, reducing the risk of chronic diseases. We are getting free doses of vitamin D from the sunshine. We become emotionally better balanced and become more patient.

Gardening is akin to meditation. We concentrate on the tasks on hand and leave worrying aside for a while. This is restful for our minds and even though we are doing physical work, it is strangely restful. It is a sort of spiritual experience as we see our own place in the cycle of life and experience the awesome beauty of birds, insects, raindrops on a branch, the feeling a breeze in our hair.

Deciding what to grow is not difficult. Pick a spot, Clear away some of the growth,. Make space. Add the compost and cover with mulch. After a few days, add seeds. Water. well and often. Containers are good for potatoes, tomatoes, garlic and leeks. When planting tomatoes, add onions, garlic, carrrots in among the mix. Plant a few fruit bushes and trees. Raspberries are easy enough and look after themselves. Strawberries will happily grow among the roses. . Lettuce, spinach and kale can be a bit of a challenge and fight against the slugs, but using a raised bed or containers can avoid this.

The Romans had huge faith in the healing power of the cabbage and no garden was complete without it. The leaves were lightly cooked., the stalks often eaten raw. When left to ferment, it became a medicine used to cure all sorts of ailments. The leaves placed on the breast of a breast-feeding mother eased the pain of mastitis. A good tip, even today. Just pop a leaf into the bra.

Onions are also hugely health giving. and that includes chives, spring onions, echallottes and leeks. They also add to the tastiness of a meal.. Most herbs, which are very easy to grow, were added to food as a cure for illness. They also help to control garden pests. That is why placing them among the plants is wonderful.

Of course, flowers are wonderful. I have a succession of flowers so that something is always blooming in the garden. We start with the snow-drops, crocus, daffodill. Now, the primroses are here with the grape hyacinth, buttercups are in the hedgerow.. Dandlions bloom just when the bees need them. Viotels peep out from rocks. Soon we will have the white thorn, apple , pear and cherry blossom, until all the summer flowers splash into colour. .

This is a win, win, win situation. Personal health and well being improve, the soil is nurtured, the air is cleaner and there are delicious things to eat. .


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