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Garbage in, Garden Out, Linking the Kitchen and the Garden

Updated on February 19, 2015

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Ronald A. Newcomb, Adj. Professor, SDSU College of Sciences, at the fault rupture, Laguna Salada Fault following the 7.2 quake
Ronald A. Newcomb, Adj. Professor, SDSU College of Sciences, at the fault rupture, Laguna Salada Fault following the 7.2 quake | Source

Mint to Repel Fleas

As odd as it sounds, mint is really a hot flavor, which, when diluted seems to cool the tongue. Bugs are not so lucky. While mint can be ravaged by various larval forms of insects, fleas seem to have a real aversion to mint and it can be used to help keep them out of your garden.

Since mint flavor comes mostly from mint oil, or menthol, even mint tea can be sued to dissuade fleas.

If you have mint, then you periodically have waste mint from insect damaged leaves, stems, and spent mint, that is, mint used to flavor a liquid like tea, and so have left over materials. All of these can be dried and broken up or blended in liquid and spread in the yard to help repel flees.

My Aquarium

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Sore Throat? Try Sage Tea

Sage is a great herb. It flavors fowl, can be used in teas as flavorings, but is really remarkable at soothing sore throats from colds, or other more temporary irritations.

Try it sometime. Yes, you can use the herb from the store, but if you can get fresh sage from the garden or even better, from the wild, simply boils it and sweeten with Stevia or honey and sip the tea.

For the novice that first few sips, maybe even the first few cups might seem a bit strong, but after a while you will very much look forward to your sage tea. So much so, in fact, that I make it periodically just for the flavor, but always with a sore throat.

My soils are well fed

My Soils and worm garden (garbage is placed under the bricks and rocks, very healthy worm populations thrive here.
My Soils and worm garden (garbage is placed under the bricks and rocks, very healthy worm populations thrive here. | Source

Radish Tea for Colds

Radishes, especially red radishes can be used as a natural, mild cold cure. Now here I am not claiming it completely cures a cold, rather that it significantly reduces the symptoms of a cold.

This is popular in Mexico and it seems to be helpful in reducing symptoms. Simply cut up the radishes and poor boiling water over them. Let them steep. If these are red radishes, steep until the red blanches from the skin, then sip the tea. This help clear the sinuses, sooth the throat, and generally reduce the time and severity of the symptoms.

Radishes fresh from the garden seem to work best, so use fresh garden vegetables over store bought any day of the week, when available.

The Fecundity of the Garden Relates to Organics added to the Soils

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The Best Cough Remedy: Honey Onion Water

This sounds strange, tastes great, and will stop a cough faster than codeine cough syrup, and it is a lot better for you than codeine or other drugs.

Take an onion, slice or dice it, then pour honey over it. Allow this to stand for about a half hour before the first dose is used. This can stay in the bowl for two days able be used again and again, simply add a little more honey when you need to.

What you are doing with the honey, beside the fact that it is soothing itself, is using the concentrated natural sugar solution through osmosis to draw out the liquid of the onion.

Don’t worry, the liquid tastes more like a flavored honey than onion water per se. This is not hot flavored, it is intensely sweet, less so that pure honey of course, it is diluted, but take three or four tablespoon full when a cough is bothering you and try not to swallow is hard, than is, the throat wants to clear material out, so tries to squeeze the throat when swallowing. Just let it trickle down before completing the shallow, shallow slowly each of the three or four spoonfuls.

You will find several things the first time it happens: 1) it really tastes good, 2) your cough is gone, 3) you will probably attribute this lack of cough to chance or something other than the honey mixture. After repeating this several times before you realize just how effective these two ingredients from the garden are and, you will always have honey and onions available during cold season.

Everything Goes Back Into The Soil

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Milk for the soil?

Does your soil lack body? Are you ashamed to take it out and display it to your friends? We can help with milk! Milk has something for every soil.

Yes, it sounds strange but mixing milk and water then adding this to your garden can help to establish a healthier soil by feeding the microbes needed for healthy soils. These include algae, bacteria, viruses, protozoa, fungi and mites.

As with all systems, feeding the lowest life forms, bacteria and fungi builds the system from the ground up. So here, building soil organisms from the feeding level helps to develop a health soil.

Several important items to remember, first, the primary role of sol microbes is to recycle molecules and make them available to other “higher” organisms. Higher in the sense of size and complexity. Even a bacteria is enormously complex, but the larger and more complex the systems an organism has, the more complex the molecules it can and will use for growth and maintenance. Second, the smaller microbes are more or less always in the soil unless pasteurized by fire or, say, a chemical spill, but that isn’t likely. Fires, however, have done more damage to soil microbes than probably any other natural disaster. So, if your soil is fire damaged starting with milk or other very simply food items very much helps to rebuild those colonies of organisms needed, again, to recycle molecules.

The most important nutrient to normal growth and development are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, but sulfur, iron, and calcium, along with other nutrients are also required for a healthy plant, and therefore, for a healthy soil.

Microbes make these nutrients available by breaking down complex molecules into more usable forms. They do this partly by life processes, that is absorbing and giving off molecules, and partly by body building and dying. In dying they provide more complex molecules

All of these processes take water, some take oxygen, some require anaerobic conditions, that is, a lack of oxygen.

Aquarium Setup with Leaves in the Bottom

Yes, even in aquariums, placing leaves below the sand substrate feeds the tank and plants.
Yes, even in aquariums, placing leaves below the sand substrate feeds the tank and plants. | Source

Feed the Microbes

Much of what we are writing about here relates to the feeding of microbes. Everything organic that goes into the soils, while it may be useful to plants directly, or to, say, worms, also feeds protozoa, lgae, bacteria and fungi.

Don’t downplay the importance of these microbes, but don’t overestimate the need to add them to your soils. While some will die off if the soils becomes too dry, most will last for years without water in a dormant state. As above, fire is an exception to this rule.

So what are they doing in the soil while inactive? Like a bunch if tired teenagers, most are simply sitting around waiting for something to drink and eat, and the two usually go together. Where there is water and organic matter, there is food. We simply try to enhance this.

Quorum Sensing in the Garden?

We are going to introduce you to a fifty dollar word, actually, two word phrase: Quorum Sensing. The reason you want healthy soil is to prevent quorum sensing. This is something that triggers accelerated growth of bacterial, and I think several other microbes. This tends to happen when one bacteria colony finds little competition for food and sufficient others in the colony to start a rapid expansion of the colony.

This doesn’t happen in healthy soils. There is too much competition for the food and water available and so each colony helps keep the others in check. This is especially true in what is called the rhizosphere. “Rhizo-“ means pertaining to roots, so this is the sphere around the root, or the root zone. Many bacterial and fungi are associate directly to roots and live partly inside the roots themselves. Others help break down nutrients so the plants can use them. Some fix nitrogen, that is, take the atoms and gas from the atmosphere and make it available for use by the plant. This is especially true with the pea family plants.

This is true for inorganic molecules as well as organic molecules. Remember, when you hear “organic” think “carbon.” So inorganic means without carbon in this sense. It is fungi, bacteria, water, and roots that break up and break down rocks into dirt, then soil and make the minerals available for plant and then animal use.

What is misunderstood by some gardeners is that these microbes cannot use inorganic chemical fertilizers. This is not the case except where the concentration is too high and they do slow down competition and do some damage. It is the case that worms are more sensitive to chemicals, but even here there is an exception on root damaging nematodes. Frankly, they prefer chemical fertilizers and can rapidly grow under those conditions wiping out significant areas of roots, most noticeable in grass fields, especially lawns and sports fields.

I have observed fields fertilized for years with organic fertilizers and, when a coach asked what these small spots were, I explained what nematodes were and that organic fertilizer would help keep them in check since organics not only contain microorganisms that compete with the nematodes buy also promote other organisms which compete and kill nematodes directly.

He made fun of my advice, and paid the price

Returning to the scene of the crime, if only a typical garden variety of crime, a year later those same spots by the harmful nematodes covered about 1/3 of an acre. I asked him what he was fertilizing with and he said he changed to a cheaper commercial fertilizer.

I looked at those dead zones and reminded him of our earlier conversation and the fact that he didn’t believe me. Now he does. Far from saving money, the school had to replace a fair amount of turf at a high cost of time and labor. Needless to say they returned to organic products.

This effect is likely caused by direct contact at the surface of concentrated chemicals with microbes and the ability of the nematodes to resist being killed as they are larger, but then something similar to quorum sensing, they start reproducing rapidly and spread quickly without competition on the surface.

So, yes, there is evidence of at least some damage by inorganic fertilizer and probably why those applied via a garden sprayer work so well as they dissolve and dilute the chemicals.

Again though, for the microbes to reproduce they need organic molecules. Milk is such a food. Milk feeds autotrophs (bacteria and algae that create their own food) and heterotrophs (all other life forms that eat other things). All of the web of life is based on this level of organisms, so feeding these creates the environment needed for the other to live.

Got Nematodes?

About half of the million or so nematode species are quite beneficial. Just keep feeding the soils and the beneficial nematodes will control the harmful nematodes.

Sugar is better for the soil than in you, so, if you have sugar, dissolve ½ cup of sugar into 2 gallons of water. Be sure it is well dissolved, then spray heavily on the area with nematodes . It stimulates fungi growth that kills the nematodes. Then mulch the area to keep the fungi alive and stop using artificial fertilizers which weaken the plants and encourage nematode invasions.

Now the garden doesn’t care that the sugar is refined or not, like your body the other nutrients in unrefined dried cane juice or even those many types of refines sugars with some nutrient added back in will do. We are feeding fungi which can take inorganic minerals directly from the soil where higher animals cannot do so.

A Fun Story

I have talked and written about my friend Loren Nancarrow who was also on the local news (Channels 8, KFMB and KGTV 10 in San Diego).

We had a large fire in San Diego and Loren reported, as he often did, about the soils, and, in this case, the damage done by the fires to the soils.

I emailed him and told him to spray diluted milk onto the soils to help reestablish the microbes in the soils. The next night, there I was, in his news report on the local news. But something hit me, and I wrote to JW August his producer and said the neighbors would find cats roaming their yard after spraying with milk trying to find the source of the milk!

Two years later Loren sent a link to an article where farmer tested crops sprayed with milk against those that were not sprayed with milk. The original spraying was don’t on the seedlings, and so the plants were fed directly through their foliage. As expected, they out produced the test plot (the one grown under the same conditions but without the milk) by about 25%.

The kicker came in years two and three when the increased crops continued without the direct spraying. Why? Because the milk fed the soil organisms for years after the spraying.

I still wonder of the local cat population ever figured out why the field smelled like spoiled milk!

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