Updated: Nov 16, 2021
What should we think about at this time of the year?
The upcoming months are usually spent planning for next year. Most of the garden work is complete and tools are put away for winter. Whoever has a forest starts cutting firewood or preparing timber for next year. In spite of all the work, this proves to be a quiet period. It is the ideal time to ponder: What went well last year? What didn’t grow so well? What would I like to do next year? In our family, I take a piece of paper and write down everything that went well. I like to go into details because it is usually the small things that make the difference. And I do the same with the things that didn't go well. I always stay objective, because I want to do better next year. After all, you want to do these things for God's glory, too. In addition, neighbors like to watch what you are doing and you can be a testimony for them.
The next questions to consider would be: What do I want to do next year in terms of seeds or in fundamental areas like cultivation methods and soil improvements? Should I purchase a greenhouse to be able to start up seedlings better? Does one need to set up a hoop house to improve the cultivation of tomatoes? Since the year for a gardener or farmer does not start in spring, but in autumn, it is very important to think through these questions at this time.
Last year we set a goal of becoming more independent and to provide for ourselves.
1. In autumn, we bought almost all the seeds we needed for a year, because we didn`t know whether we could order or buy seeds in the springtime, when we needed them. These seeds are the kind that you can perpetuate. At this point, however, we have only succeeded in obtaining these kinds of seeds for tomatoes and peppers.
2. Another step towards self-sustainability is to create or recognize cycles. In the following paragraphs, I would like to go into a little more detail about the nutrient cycle.
The cycle of nutrients begins with the soil. The soil is the gardener's or farmer's capital. The better the soil, the better the yield, quantity, and quality. In the soil we grow our vegetables, which we want to harvest. They extract nutrients from the soil. After harvesting, plant leftovers remain and rot in the garden. Thus, the cycle ends.
In our nutrient cycle, some elements inside the vegetables that we consume are flushed down the toilet and are forever lost. Leftover food usually ends up in the compost. In the compost pile, we may add grass clippings, manure, straw, hay, or other organic material. Once decomposed, the compost is added to the beds and thus it gets back into the cycle.
There are other factors that influence this cycle as well. Green manure is another great option for soil amendment. If one part of the garden isn’t needed at the moment, one can sow clover, grass, alfalfa, mustard, green rye, or similar seeds. The nutrients are stored in the plants and when you work them in again, nutrients are slowly released back into the soil. Additionally, through their roots, plants provide the microorganisms in the soil with substances which they need in order to live. In other words, the more diverse green manure crops are, the better it is for the soil afterwards. Legumes, for example, bring nitrogen into the soil through nodule bacteria. During a thunderstorm, the rain brings small quantities of nitrogen into the ground. During heavy rain, however, the soil is washed out more easily and we in turn lose nutrients from our cycle.
You can also improve the soil by purchasing fertilizers. However, this is very expensive and it sometimes does not have the desired effect.
The cycle can also be thought of as a bank account. If you have € 10,000 in this account and buy things amounting to € 100 every year but only pay € 99 back, you might not feel any lack for a long time, but one day you will have so little money left that you won’t be able to buy anything. That's exactly how it is with the ground.
We have now looked at the cycle of nutrients, and we found that it takes a lot to be able to provide the plants with enough nutrients. Through appropriate soil treatments, we can also increase soil. By applying compost to the ground, we not only bring back nutrients, but we also increase the life of the soil. Not only worms but also insects and other organisms get food and a place to live. Bacteria, fungi and algae also contribute greatly to a fertile soil. There are various other ways to multiply these organisms. Mulching is a great option. We mainly use it with beans, lettuce, Swiss chard, beets and, on a trial basis, potatoes. The advantage of using it is that, not only is life in the soil enhanced, but the soil is also protected from leaching and the water slowly penetrates through the mulch layer. Because the soil is protected, it cannot dry out.
In this case, adapted tillage is also very important. There are a few crucial things to consider. The soil must not be worked too deeply nor too intensively, and never when it is wet. Working too deeply can ruin years of hard work. It should be noted that you always build healthy and fertile soil from above. By working the soil too intensively, the soil organisms will be disturbed and destroyed. We should consider, as well, whether turning the soil roughly is enough or whether it needs more tilling. If you have to till intensively, the ground will be nice and smooth, but next time it rains, it will be completely muddy. If the soil is too wet, tilling makes lumps in the soil, thereby destroying the soil flora. You will be able to notice this the following year, when crops that are planted there grow worse. It would be ideal to keep the ground covered at all times, either with harvestable crops or with green manure plants. When you have harvested, you should only till the soil at the surface (a maximum of 3 cm) and sow green manure if you do not want to plant another crop. When the green manure has grown nicely and you need that plot, mulch the area beforehand or, if possible, cut the plants into small pieces with a cutting roller. Then, again, till only a maximum of 3 cm. This way, the life in the soil will not be disturbed and the soil will stay loose, thanks to the roots remaining in the ground. Of course, this is not possible with all crops. Potatoes cannot be placed in soil that is only 3 cm deep. You will need deeper tilling. But wherever possible, you should work the soil as little and as shallowly as possible, but as often and as deep as necessary.
In conclusion, there are different ways to make the soil more fertile. Ellen White wrote the following:
“If the land is cultivated, it will, with the blessing of God, supply our necessities. We are not to be discouraged about temporal things because of apparent failures, nor should we be disheartened by delay. We should work the soil cheerfully, hopefully, gratefully, believing that the earth holds in her bosom rich stores for the faithful worker to garner, stores richer than gold or silver. The niggardliness laid to her charge is false witness. With proper, intelligent cultivation the earth will yield its treasures for the benefit of man. The mountains and hills are changing; the earth is waxing old like a garment; but the blessing of God, which spreads a table for His people in the wilderness, will never cease.” Country Living, p. 17
My name is Hendrik Wewerke and I have turned my hobby into a job. As a result, I'm outside as often as possible. I learn something new from nature every day and am daily amazed at how wonderful God is. In addition, I am studying social work so that I can later do social farming. I live with my parents and siblings in the beautiful country of Austria.