Healthy vegetable gardens do more than provide a beautiful area in your yard. They repay your labor with nutritious food and a healthy varied diet. Vegetable gardeners are in tune with the environment, giving back to the soil what they take from it. Abundant vegetable gardens start with healthy, rich soil. Compost and mulch contribute to that natural wealth.
About 11,000 years ago, the first farmers began to select and cultivate desired food plants in the southwest Asian Fertile Crescent – between the ancient Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Although we believe there was some use of wild cereals before that time, the earliest crops were barley, bitter vetch, chick peas, flax, lentils, peas, emmer, and wheat. About 9,000 years ago, Egyptians began to grow wheat and barley. About the same time, farmers in the Far East began to grow rice, soy, mung, azuki, and taro.
Then, about 7,000 years ago, ancient Sumarians established the first organized agricultural practices that made large-scale farming possible. Of particular note, they established irrigation as a way to nurture crops where none were possible before. Vegetable gardeners today use many of the same techniques established in early history. But today’s vegetable gardeners have millennia of experience behind them. Trial and error today is success or failure at the margins. Failure is not disaster.
As in centuries passed, a successful vegetable gardener cultivates the garden before planting for three main reasons: to eliminate weeds, to distribute air and nutrients throughout the soil, and to conserve moisture. Preparation of the soil is the single most important step in assuring abundant harvests.
Weeds are the most powerful enemy of a healthy vegetable garden. Letting them multiply in your vegetable garden will create much work and disappointment through the growing season. And when your vegetables begin to grow, removing weeds can your new vegetable plants beyond repair. Weeds also steal the precious nutrients necessary to produce healthy vegetables.
Rather than sacrificing the new garden to a patch of weeds, the successful vegetable gardener will cultivate the bed often, breaking up the soil to maintain healthy air, moisture, and heat to facilitate desirable chemical processes that produce abundant plant food. Ancient growers learned by trial and error the importance of keeping the soil loose around young plants. Early farmers deposited rotten fish beneath their crops as fertilizer and then used tools of shell and stone to nurture healthy soil and get plentiful air to the roots of their crops.
As important as air is water, even when the vegetable garden is a promise waiting for new seeds. Consider the process of “capillary attraction” – the ability of a substance to pull another substance into it. When you dip one end of a strip of blotting paper into water, you’ll see that the moisture moves up the invisible channels formed by the paper’s texture. But when you place the side edge of the blotting paper into water, the moisture won’t move upward. In a vegetable garden, capillary attraction describes the attraction of water molecules to soil particles. Well cultivated, loose soil maximizes capillary action, maintaining an even distribution of moisture throughout your vegetable garden soil.
This post has been seen 316 times.