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Garbage in, Garden Out, The Recycling Gardener, My Philosophy

Updated on January 25, 2015

My Dad

Ground Breaking History

My dad piqued my interest in gardening, and I picked up the ball when he left, partly from the need my mom had for someone to do gardening (my brother picked up the ball on the mechanical side), and partly because I found true beauty in what he grew. (Apparently he saw true beauty in women he was not married to.)

Dad did really creative work turning our canyon, which started at the back of the house, with broken concrete walls, railroad tie steps, and used bricks both inside and out. He terraced the canyon to create a yard and I watched, participated in the entire process.

We lived on a canyon in Mission Hills, San Diego, that shared one of the first nurseries in San Diego and I could see a little part of it from our yard. Started by the fame Kate Sessions the American Botanist who planted much of Balboa Park for the Pan-American exposition in 1914. Mission Hills Nursery still serves the public today. I worked there briefly while in College.

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Philosophy and Worldview

Your worldview frames your philosophy. There are two major worldviews (millions of minor worldviews, or subdivisions within those two). These two would be called theism (there is a God), and atheism (there is no God).

Over 160 years ago atheism made some huge errors by assuming in a Naturalistic framework that biology was simple, and so were organisms. The inside of cells were simply filled with protoplasm that had some unknown but simplistic functions.

Well we bloody well know better than that now, don’t we?

The cell is so complex we still have not learned all of the micro-machines that make it operate and have no means whatsoever of reproducing them without using something that already contains them.

In other words, the error was, and still is, in thinking 1) we know everything, and 2) life is simple.

So when I look at any produce of nature of man I see if it is 1) a natural product (animal, vegetable, mineral), or 2) A natural product changed by some processing (refined sugars and oils, mineral salts, ammonia, wood pulp, rock dust), or 3) a derivative product (paper, chemical compound, soda pop) which some organism or process can return to a useful state in the garden.

I am especially fond of recycling things humans should not eat, often when my own kids brought them home (sugar or other refined carbohydrates, soda pop, donuts, candy, margarine, highly processed or engineered food products).

Nature is a very high functioning system which is needed to support that which is most rare in the universe, life.

If you pretend to understand life, then you just jumped into the “ignorant” box (category).

We have a system that works very well but into which mankind can function very well to improve localized areas, and into which man often makes mistakes.

Yes, we can destroy very large areas of the earth (I have seen Hiroshima and Nagasaki), but we can also learn from mistakes, and rebuild.

Life is both fragile and resilient. I can squash a bug with my finger, but use it to fertilize my flowers which it was just eating. I can do this because the complex processes of living things, the web of life, is still not fully understood.

My aquariums, various sizes, small tanks unfiltered

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My Aquatic History

Raised in San Diego, I have spent untold hours in the oceans fishing, body surfing, swimming, water skiing, scuba and skin diving, spearfishing, etc. But more time learning about natural systems of raising fish.

A century ago, that same error, those naturalistic assumptions created aquariums where water was constantly changed, purified, cleansed, animals such as snails specifically excluded, filters constantly changed, and so on.

I had two friends, Jim exemplified this philosophy and Eric badly abused it. Jim was a zoologist who kept thousands of fish in dozens of tanks, changed 25% of the water daily, kept nothing in the tanks so he could keep them polished and clean. Without realizing it he kept (rightly) throwing biological elements into the tanks which kept his fish healthy. He raise all of his own live foods is quite different environments and fed only living foods to his fish. He was a true expert but did not integrate his thinking on biology into his practices.

Eric called to inquire why he could not keep his fish alive. Said I, “how often do you clean your tanks?” said he, “When all the fish die.” Said I, “try living in your house but you can’t use the toilet any more, you need to use cans, and you need to leave the cans in the house.” He thought for a minute then, said I, “how do you clean the tank?” said he, “we wash the tank and the gravel, then bake the gravel and sterilize the tank with Clorox.”

So his new tank started with no bacteria or fungi, which could help break down waste, and had no plants to absorbed the nutrients generated by these living organisms on the waste.

My tanks are biologically filtered, filled with plants, and I change 10-15% of the water annually. There are many organisms in the tanks, two types of snails, multiple plants, rocks, wood, and so on. My fish die of old age, and I leave them in the tank for the snails and shrimp to eat.

In other words, nature has a complete and balanced method of dealing with all of this, we just need to think symbiotically, holistically, we need to integrate our thinking and put all of the elements together we see in nature precisely because we do not know everything, we have not fully discovered the complexity of nature.

Frankly we are in the dark ages of science where they simultaneously think they know everything while they explore and test to see what they do not know.

Claiming to be the high priests of knowledge (“how dare you question science!”), natural science has so many specialty fields, it is almost impossible to synthesize truly useful information from them.

Here, I speak as a chief scientist on multiple research projects for a College of Sciences at a major university.

In Japan...View from the Tower in Yokohama

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This tower has an observation deck in "Landmark Tower., Minato Mirai 21 district of Yokohama city. I took the other photos from that deck in 2012.
This tower has an observation deck in "Landmark Tower., Minato Mirai 21 district of Yokohama city. I took the other photos from that deck in 2012.
This tower has an observation deck in "Landmark Tower., Minato Mirai 21 district of Yokohama city. I took the other photos from that deck in 2012. | Source

Japanese LED Greenhouses

I have just watched a fascinating video on a Japanese greenhouse where plants are stacked in shelves with their own LED light sources. The light wavelengths are carefully selected eliminating what we would call “white” light, and they created a perfect “clean room environment” for their plants. The only things alive were the people, covered in cleanroom clothing, and the plants. No bugs, no bacteria or fungi.

This should remind you of my friend Jim except they do not have Jim’s quite expert feeding of live foods.

I have tasted foods grown like this. The texture is exquisite, the food fresh, and perfect, the favors is, well, missing.

Why? Because there have made simple mistakes by excluding other living organisms and in their control of the environment.

My Garden


The Garden Complex

Like the huge mistake science made 160 years ago and from which we are still recovering, gardens are remarkably complex because they are filled with remarkably complex organisms and organisms have remarkable complex systems that are currently still beyond our knowledge.

“How dare you question science!!”

Ask yourself, why are we still exploring and testing theories if we know everything? Are scientists priests of some type, that is, either in contact directly with the Most High, or, conversely, sovereign gods themselves that cannot be questioned? Reductio ad absurdum (reduced to absurdity).

I have been playing, working, studying in this complex world for fifty years, and, like other scientists, am still learning, but do know that integrating organic and natural processes means incorporating living things even though we don’t currently understand all of the whys.

Webcam Image


My Promise to You

Google search for “Garbage in, Garden Out, The Recycling Gardener” to find other articles.

I promise that if you incorporate my teachings of recycling everything practicable into your garden that your soils will be alive and healthy, and your gardens fruitful and productive precisely because I don’t know everything and my philosophy is to put everything practicable back into the soils to feed the organisms and allow the organic systems to take control and make useful nutrients from that food.

So the basics: 1) Recycle everything possible back into your soils to rebuild them. Treat them as if they were a prairie where live was lived and entire animals and plants dies, feel over, and nature took its course recycling then entire creature of plant in a relatively short time. Back into the soils it went, nourishing other organisms creating yards of topsoil that have fed us as a country and others around the world for a century. 2) find out what things you have in your house such as Epsom salts, root killer, baking powder, baking soda, ammonia, or scale remover which, in some concentration are useful to your garden, and, apply them when appropriate (don’t by baking powder just to spread it in the garden). And, 3) Start to trust the natural systems in place to rebuild your garden. Trust the natural system and question the scientific information. It is one heck of a lot more biased than you might think.


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