Gardening and Soil

Albert Bates  The Biochar Solution

Civilization as we know it is at a crossroads. For the past 10,000 years, we have turned a growing understanding of physics, chemistry and biology to our advantage in producing more energy and more food and as a consequence have produced exponential population surges, resource depletion, ocean acidification, desertification and climate change.

The path we are following began with long-ago discoveries in agriculture, but it divided into two branches, about 8,000 years ago. The branch we have been following for the most part is conventional farming — irrigation, tilling the soil, and removing weeds and pests. That branch has degraded soil carbon levels by as much as 80 percent in most of the world’s breadbaskets, sending all that carbon skyward with each pass of the plow.

The other branch disappeared from our view some 500 years ago, although archaeologists are starting to pick up its trail now. At one time it achieved success as great as the agriculture that we know, producing exponential population surges and great cities, but all that was lost in a fluke historical event borne of a single genetic quirk.

It vanished when European and Asian diseases arrived in the Americas.

From excavations on the banks of the Amazon river, clearings of the savanna/gallery forests in the Upper Xingu, and ethnographic studies of Mesoamerican milpas, science has now re-traced the path of the second great agriculture, and, to its astonishment, found it more sustainable and productive that what we are currently pursuing.

While conventional agriculture leads to deserts, blowing parched dirt across the globe and melting ice caps, this other, older style, brings fertile soils, plant and animal diversity and birdsong. While the agriculture we use has been shifting Earth’s carbon balance from soil and living vegetation to atmosphere and ocean, the agriculture that was nearly lost moves carbon from sky to soil and crops. The needed shift, once embarked upon, can be profound and immediate. We could once more become a garden planet, with deep black earths and forests of fruit and nuts where deserts now stand. We can heal our atmosphere and oceans.

Paul Taylor & Hugh McLaughlin The Biochar Revolution

The Biochar Revolution
Transforming Agriculture & Environment

A friendly, informative, inspiring and break-through reference guide for anyone interested in biochar or concerned about environmental issues.

This book has contributions from 18 biochar experts and authors

You’ll Discover
Ancient Solutions to Modern Problems
How to Produce Biochar
How to Test and Use Biochar
How to Change the World with Biochar
The Financial Benefits of Biochar
How to Garden and Farm with Biochar

Who should read this book?
Gardeners, biochar enthusiasts, small property owners, community gardeners, small and large farmers, sugar cane farmers
People who want to do something about climate change
Waste management districts, foresters, councils, government agencies
Policy makers in Australia, NZ, US, UK, and other developed and undeveloped countries

Jeff Fry    Biochar for Home Gardeners (Kindle e-book)

Building healthy soil to produce the most nutritious and most richly flavored food in our gardens is no small accomplishment, especially if gardens have challenging soil conditions to begin with. One powerful agricultural tool that can propel our soil health forwards in a hurry is biochar – a type of char used for agricultural purposes. This deceptively simple substance has unique structural and electrical properties that produce incredible benefits in our gardens. These include as much as doubling water-retention while improving water flow in sandy and clayey soils; swelling soil biology and activating its many functions; and improving nutrient holding-capacity by an eye-watering 20 times that of already healthy, loamy soil. If that were not enough, biochar is also essentially permanent, lasting thousands of years in the soil.

Biochar for Home Gardeners details how to

     

    • make biochar of excellent quality at home with rudimentary equipment;

     

    • “charge” biochar with nutrients, including how to use it to upgrade compost and make biochar bokashi (a ferment made with various household wastes);

     

    • crush biochar and apply it to soils for maximum benefit;

     

    • and, additionally, how to use biochar in animal shelters and feed to improve hygiene and animal health.

    Biochar is perhaps best known as the magic ingredient that an ancient South American civilization used to transform their hopeless clay ground into one of the richest soils on the planet. If it can do this, properly made and applied biochar is sure to improve gardeners’ yields and the nutritional content of their crops together with heightening the beloved garden-grown aroma and flavor.

    Eliot Coleman  Four Season Harvest

    If you love the joys of eating home-garden vegetables but always thought those joys had to stop at the end of summer, this book is for you. Eliot Coleman introduces the surprising fact that most of the United States has more winter sunshine than the south of France. He shows how North American gardeners can successfully use that sun to raise a wide variety of traditional winter vegetables in backyard cold frames and plastic covered tunnel greenhouses without supplementary heat.

    Inside, you’ll also learn:

    • Composting techniques
    • Simple Mineral Amendments
    • Planning and preparing your garden site
    • Seeds for four seasons
    • How to build cold frames, high tunnels, and mobile greenhouses
    • How to cope with snow
    • How to create a root cellar and other storage techniques
    • And much, much more!

    Coleman expands upon his own experiences with new ideas learned on a winter-vegetable pilgrimage across the ocean to the acknowledged kingdom of vegetable cuisine, the southern part of France, which lies on the 44th parallel, the same latitude as his farm in Maine.

    This story of sunshine, weather patterns, old limitations and expectations, and new realities is delightfully innovative in the best gardening tradition. Four-Season Harvest will have you feasting on fresh produce from your garden all through the winter.

    Eliot Coleman The New Organic Grower, 3rd Edition: A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener, 30th Anniversary Edition Since its original publication in 1989, The New Organic Grower has been one of the most important farming books available, with pioneer Eliot Coleman leading the charge in the organic movement in the United States. Now fully illustrated and updated, this 30th Anniversary Edition is a must-have for any agricultural library.

    Eliot Coleman’s books and innovative methods have helped innumerable organic farmers build successful farms in deep accordance with nature. The wisdom in this seminal book holds true even as the modern agricultural canon has grown―in large part due to Coleman’s influence as a wise elder with decades of experience. New information has been included in this edition to showcase the new tools and techniques that Eliot has been developing over the last thirty-five years.

    Inspired by the European intensive growers, The New Organic Grower30th Anniversary Edition, offers a very approachable and productive form of farming that has proven to work well for the earth and its stewards for centuries. Gardeners working on 2.5 acres or less will find this book especially useful, as it offers proof that small-scale market growers and serious home gardeners can live good lives close to the land and make a profit at the same time. The New Organic Grower is ideal for young farmers just getting started, or gardeners seeking to expand into a more productive enterprise.

    The Winter Harvest Handbook

    With The Winter Harvest Handbook, everyone can have access to organic farming pioneer Elliot Coleman’s hard-won experience. Gardeners and farmers can use the innovative, highly successful methods Coleman describes in this comprehensive handbook to raise crops throughout the coldest of winters.

    Building on the techniques that hundreds of thousands of farmers and gardeners adopted from Coleman’s The New Organic Grower and Four-Season Harvest, this book focuses on growing produce of unparalleled freshness and quality in customized unheated or, in some cases, minimally heated, movable plastic greenhouses.

    Inside, you’ll find Coleman’s clear, concise, and meticulous details [including many accompanying illustrations] on:

    • Greenhouse construction and maintenance
    • Planting schedules
    • Crop management
    • Harvesting practices
    • Marketing methods

    Coleman’s painstaking research and experimentation with more than 30 different crops will be valuable to small farmers, homesteaders, and experienced home gardeners who seek to expand their production seasons.

    A passionate advocate for the revival of small-scale sustainable farming, Coleman provides a practical model for supplying fresh, locally grown produce during the winter season, even in climates where conventional wisdom says it “just can’t be done.”

    Suzanne Ashworth   Seed to Seed

    Seed to Seed is a complete seed-saving guide that describes specific techniques for saving the seeds of 160 different vegetables. This book contains detailed information about each vegetable, including its botanical classification, flower structure and means of pollination, required population size, isolation distance, techniques for caging or hand-pollination, and also the proper methods for harvesting, drying, cleaning, and storing the seeds.

    Seed to Seed is widely acknowledged as the best guide available for home gardeners to learn effective ways to produce and store seeds on a small scale. The author has grown seed crops of every vegetable featured in the book, and has thoroughly researched and tested all of the techniques she recommends for the home garden.

    This newly updated and greatly expanded Second Edition includes additional information about how to start each vegetable from seed, which has turned the book into a complete growing guide. Local knowledge about seed starting techniques for each vegetable has been shared by expert gardeners from seven regions of the United States-Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast/Gulf Coast, Midwest, Southwest, Central West Coast, and Northwest.

     

    Andrea Wulf    Founding Gardeners    

    For the Founding Fathers, gardening, agriculture, and botany were elemental passions: a conjoined interest as deeply ingrained in their characters as the battle for liberty and a belief in the greatness of their new nation.

    Founding Gardeners is an exploration of that obsession, telling the story of the revolutionary generation from the unique perspective of their lives as gardeners, plant hobbyists, and farmers. Acclaimed historian Andrea Wulf describes how George Washington wrote letters to his estate manager even as British warships gathered off Staten Island; how a tour of English gardens renewed Thomas Jefferson’s and John Adams’s faith in their fledgling nation; and why James Madison is the forgotten father of environmentalism. Through these and other stories, Wulf reveals a fresh, nuanced portrait of the men who created our nation.

    See also Reader’s Digest Back to Basics