Kyle Stenersen of Humble Roots Farm grows produce in healthy soil without the use of synthetic nutrients.
What’s so bad about synthetics?
ESSENTIALLY, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides used in conventional gar-dening
are chemical compounds not found in nature.
“Nature doesn’t know what it is, so nature doesn’t know what to do with
it,” Folds says.
Synthetics usually produce impressive results almost instantly but a decline
in soil quality over time, Stenersen says, leading to ever-increasing demand for
fertilizer and ever-decreasing soil quality. It’s a vicious downward spiral.
In addition to the negative effects on soil, synthetic fertilizers adversely
impact the local water system. Rainwater and irrigation runoff put high levels of
nutrients into local waterways, causing certain organisms to grow very quickly,
which in turn kills others.
A highly visible example is the green algae blooms often seen on the surface
of Greenfield Lake in Wilmington. Algal blooms deprive the aquatic environment
of oxygen, which leads to mass die-off of other species, like the fish in the lake.
Synthetic pesticides tend to kill beneficial organisms, as well as detrimental
ones. This leaves both garden soil and areas touched by runoff susceptible to
subsequent invasion of harmful species that would normally have been sup-pressed
by native, beneficial organisms.
Synthetic pesticides also kill many pollinators, which are crucial not only to
gardens but to the larger ecosystem, not to mention honey production.
It’s alive! The soil, that is.
THE alternative to synthetics is to add life to
the soil itself; that is organic gardening.
Organic gardening isn’t new. In many ways,
it’s a return to the methods our great-grandparents
used. Now, however, we have access to the science
explaining why those age-old techniques worked.
Plants are nourished by the soil they grow in. We
now know that, much like our own bodies, soil has a
A tablespoon of healthy soil has billions of invis-ible
microorganisms, all working to support the
life of larger organisms like the plants in a garden.
In the same way that eating yogurt adds good
bacteria to your gut and makes you healthier, nur-turing
the microbes in your soil makes your garden
Similarly, just like a round of strong antibiotics can
wreck your digestive system, pesticides and herbi-cides
kill soil microbes and damage the microbiome
plants depend on for nourishment.