January 2016 Farm News

Sustainable horticulture

Sustainability can be measured in many ways.  Currently we discuss our ability to manipulate plants to make them undesirable to attacks from insects or diseases, but we seldom discuss some of the other benefits of sustainable horticulture.  As we all know, meteorologists measure drought index levels throughout the United States. The west (California) has been in a high or extreme drought for many years.  Farmers and states have been fighting over who owns the water.  Atlanta, Georgia was in extreme drought conditions 3 or 4 years ago.  RFD-TV weekly monitors crop conditions and projects bushels per acre in the central plains.  Some states are using recycled water that has been filtered and chlorinated and deemed safe to drink, sending it back into our homes.  Sustainable horticulture is the answer.

Sustainable horticulture saves water.  In fact, every year for the last 4, Abby Farms had reduced our water consumption.  It’s a fact that microbial rich soil with a higher root density rate requires less water for growth.  When you farm soils that have not been saturated with soluble salt fertilizer that kill the microbes, the soil digestive system functions at a higher capacity, thus reducing the need for water.  Organic matter turned into humus retains moisture.  Larger roots and more hair roots also retain moisture.

I met a tree farmer several years ago who was watering crape myrtles for four hours a day in July.  He told me that he could not get enough water on them to keep them from wilting causing the boss to drive by and yell at him.  The ground was flooded, there was standing water in the field and still the crapes were wilting.  What he did not realize was that the soluble salt /sodium level in his field resulting from extensive fertilizer applications killed all the microbes and his roots were basically sitting in a high salinity soil from using cheap fertilizer that had components such as potassium chloride or muriate of potash.  Potassium is a needed element that holds on to water but you should use the correct type.   Creating a stable environment for microbes to feed, live, grow and play is essential for a high-fueled soil.  Feed the microbes and save water.