Gardeners Look To Past For Sustainable Practices

    Times Record News –


    WICHITA FALLS, Texas – A few weeks ago, I read a really good article in the Times Record News about U.S. Sugar Corp., out of Clewiston, Florida, using horse manure on its sugar cane fields. In the third year of this program they are seeing the benefits to the soil fertility and lowering the need to add nutrients.


    This came about because of the large amount of horse manure available there during racing season, and the need to dispose of it. This is yet another win-win situation. This is not a new idea by any means. The Shakers were doing this in the 19th century, as I imagine most farmers did back then.


    If you have farm animals, you have manure. The Shakers actually wrote “The Gardeners Manual” in which they detailed how much to use, how to plow it in, and when to add lime to soils. They also touted making and using compost. They were organic before anyone used that word! The Shakers were very well known back then for the quality of their crops and the seeds they produced and sold. They looked at the Earth as the living organism it is and believed if they cared for it correctly, it would care for them in return.


    They also believed it was their duty to share their knowledge to help everyone else prosper. Evidence abounds from throughout history that if you don’t care for you land, you ruin it. Cotton farmers continually replanted in the same palace each year, depleting the nutrients form the soil. The Dust Bowl resulted from over farming the Great Plains and removing the native grasses that help anchor the topsoil. Through a good portion of the 20th century, as chemical additives came along, farmers were encouraged to use these products to increase crop yields.


    The soil suffered, which is an unfortunate down side. I’m not anti-chemical. I just use them sparingly and with great care. Fortunately, large production farms and small home gardeners have been turning back to the ways of our grandparents and great-grand parents in how we treat our land. We are listening to the people who have been doing it the old way for years.


    Our large Land Grant universities have been doing field research and discovering you can bring in a great crop without bombing it with chemicals. They’ve also discovered you don’t have to till the soil after each crop. Dr. Lee Reich is a huge proponent of no-till gardening and he has the gardens to prove it. Google him, find his books, go to his Web page. I’ve tried it with good results in my garden spot, and I will continue to do it. I always till one spot each year just to see the difference. Keep in mind that you don’t want to plant in fresh manure. Either let it sit and compost it before using, or spread it at the end of the season and let it compost in place.


    You can purchase bagged manure from our local nurseries. I have a neighbor with horses and a large pile in the back of his pasture. I’m going to see if they’ll let me haul some of that over to the garden spot and I’ll share vegetables next spring. Another win-win situation.