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Garbage in, Garden Out, The Recycling Gardener, Floods and other Weather

Updated on January 16, 2015

The Mighty Mississippi

Gardening after the Flood

We mentioned a few floods previously, how about the mundane floods that happen almost annually, say, in the Mississippi watershed basin?

Well, here again, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that these floods mineralize farmland, and build deltas like at the end of the Mississippi, the delta.

The bad news is that people keep getting in the way. Farmers (some I am related to by marriage) plant in these lowland areas because the soils is so rich and usually the water is close enough to the surface that you don't have to water much, if at all. Then we decide we want to live where we work and build a house there because, after all, the three last years have not flooded, so maybe the river isn't going to flood again.

Yeah, right...

Of course it floods again, so, instead of pulling back, we build a dike or levee, which can work for a long time, but in general, you are merely pushing the water into someone else’s yard. However, we keep on building and losing houses and telling Mother Nature to move on. No one checked to see if Mother Nature had ears, or, if she did, if she cared what you think. She always wins. She really isn't all that nice. Ask the Wildebeest in Africa who are almost always running for their life. They are on the menu.

Now we move to the end where the river creates these beautiful bayous and delta land. What we didn't realize 200 years ago when New Orleans was build is that the delta is not permanent. It is built on the edge of a rather large hole called the Gulf of Mexico. Of course, that hole is filled with water.

There’s that word again.

Well, is seems that while the delta forms, water continues to migrate into the sediment and the entire delta keeps moving very slowly out to sea, it keeps falling slowly into that hole.

This didn't bother the people who know the river, I mean, ol’ Huck Finn wouldn't be bothered by that, but he didn't build on it either. Why? Because the river floods almost every year and replaces the delta material that falls down into that hole. When enough settles as the water spreads out and slows down, and, as it hit salt water and precipitates the finer sediment, then the delta is forming, getting larger. When insufficient amounts settle, the delta very slowly disappears.

Now we have a bit of a problem again, we want to dredge the river to navigate, and we create another hole. We also stop the river from meandering and put in levees to control the floods so sand is no longer deposited on the delta. Well, this process is called delta building. We stopped the delta building by channeling the river. Delta movement has not stopped. So, if the earth warms (this has yet to be determined), and the water rises, that might not be the right place to measure it because it is slowly sinking, and occasionally, like when Miss Katrina washed by, large areas are rapidly eroded in a matter of hours and days. What is going to rebuild it? Nothing as long as we control the river.

Sorry, but that is a cold hard fact.

The other alternative it to haul in billions of tons of sediment which could be simply from dredging the river and pumping it onto the delta. That might make sense, except the volume of work is really beyond us. Mother Nature offers to help but we keep turning a deaf ear. Heck, we even rebuilt the levees she tore down. However, without more sand, the delta is simply going to keep moving away from the continental shelf and into the gulf.

Water can be good or bad, it can be helpful or harmful, it can be constructive or destructive, or both in a different sense or different location at the very same time. Often, this is determined by what people do.

If Katrina had happened before we controlled the river, and before New Orleans was there, it would have been a flood helpful to the soils upstream, caused the river to change course here and there by breaking through meanders, and then a delta building event. However, because people were there, it became even more destructive, and actually eroded the delta.

So, when you move into and area, know you will have to put up with ‘mother nature,’ and she is not always your friend. We hope to introduce you to ways you can become more friendly and make ‘mother nature’ your friend more often than not.

There are many garden styles, and a few do not fit well into this material, but it might still help you to read it to understand a little about natural systems and how they interrelate.

If you enjoy your garden looking like a desert environments, then do not recycle your wastes into the garden. However, if you would rather have your garden some that plusher, heavier, healthier, and richer, more like Hawaii, then, read on.

Just like those good people who sell us their fish emulsion, you want to recycle everything possible back into the soils to create a rich, dark soils that make and hold nutrients and water and which grow healthy plants.

For the fish emulsions people it makes sense to use everything possible in making the company profitable, take full advantage of the stock you have. For the gardener it is the same. Why throw away something that can benefit your garden only then to go out and by fertilizers?

But we are a little insane. We eat seedless grapes then out to the health food store and buy expensive grape seed extract. If it were just grapes, no real problem, but we do similar things with many foods.

No wonder we die of so many chronic diseases.

More people's soils suffer from the chronic disease of malnutrition, in science, called oligotrophication, insufficient nutrients.

Floods bring in new soils, minerals, and sometimes a little organic material (at the surface and edged, sometimes a lot of organic materials). So ask yourself if you are in that situation, what is here in the soil, and subsoil, and to improve that, what do I need to provide.

If you have sandy loam, you needs as much organic material as you can provide. If you have lots of organic waste, then bury that and let nature take its course. Fungi, bacteria, worms, and other biota will slowly break down that material into organic compounds you need in the soil.

You need to think long term. Once more, what do I have and how do I cooperate with nature to return this to productive soil?

We can recover from small and large floods.

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Weather, Climate, and Your Soil

Recycle everything you can into your soil to build it and make the soils more alive and vibrant, to build both the flora and the fauna in your little piece of the world.

Since I am limited in my knowledge it is more than a little difficult to know where you live, and that’s the bad news. The good news is that you know where you live.

While this seems a bit simple, you need to consider the effect of what you are applying from this information to your circumstances. If you are living in an area where the ground freezes for weeks or months, you are not likely to be digging your soup into the soil during the winter, but you can make a mulch pile since it generates its own heat. If you live close to a pond or river and the ground is wet, you don't want to bury garbage as the lack of oxygen, the anaerobic condition will make methane out of the carbon. Your neighbors would make phone calls you might not enjoy.

If you live in the desert then things are not going to break down easily and you really need to bury things in order to maintain a nice looking yard. Let on the surface things dry out and this is not appealing to anyone. If the sols are exceptionally sandy then work these techniques into one area at a time and remember it will take longer for the materials to break down.


Because the bacteria and fungi the soil need to recycle organic matter need moisture. If you moisture level is too low, then the time needed to break things down is lengthened. During the wet period, things will work better. The soils will slowly change in character and become dark and filled with carbon, but will like always be fast draining.

So consider the climate you are living in before you set out to try some of these ideas. It may be that during the spring and summer you dig things into the soil and during the cold winter you create mulch, compost, or a worm bed. In the southwest we don't have many places like that so we can apply these techniques pretty much year around

We want to take you down the path of organic ideas. Show you the way you can benefit from the nature that is all around you, especially in your garden. Ideas about things you can do to make a difference, at least in your life and yard.

Ideas are not physical things, they are mental things, metaphysical things, thoughts, if you will, but thoughts and ideas have consequences when acted on. These are ideas than can be put into action and you can see the results in a healthier garden that is more alive, more interactive, good both for the garden, and for you.

All ideas do not have to be proved by science either. Deductive reasoning can show you many true things or, false things, false thinking perhaps, without scientific testing.

Science used inductive logic, you observe facts then think of a theory that might explain that fact, then test the theory. You logically induce a reason or explanation for that fact from the test, but one failed test can wipe out the theory.

However, when you start with general principles (such as: All organic materials are capable of being recycled) and work down to a reasoned answer (This rotting apple is organic, therefore it can be recycled naturally), you can quite often come to better conclusions than waiting for a test to prove a hypothesis.

The principals of organic gardening were true even in the dust bowl days when “science” told us to strip farm and throw away all that plant material, sterilize the soil and use synthetic fertilizer. Of course, that was only part of the problem with the dust bowl, a big part was drought, but it was a significant contributing factor.

Let’s take a journey then, into your kitchen cabinets, out into the garage, maybe even onto the play yards and see what we find when we poke around a bit and see if we can't come to some good conclusions about what can help the soils in our garden, how we can recycle and reuse things, and stop throwing quite so much into the trash?

Won't you join me on this journey?

Water can be friend of foe to the gardener


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