The soil likes compost, and sweat

Home - Santa Fe Real Estate Guide - - PERMACULTUREINPRACTICE - NATE DOWNEY

I know it’s a lit­tle early to be think­ing aboutThanks­giv­ing, but farm­ers and gar­den­ers al­ready are. Tools have been sharp­ened, fruit trees have been pruned, and compost is be­ing dug deep into the liv­ing land. Seeds are be­ing sown in lit­tle black com­part­ments filled with moist soil. Plant nurs­eries are buzzing with that happy smile of spring.

Soon I’ll be per­form­ing a phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity known as dou­ble dig­ging. It’s a bioin­ten­sive gar­den­ing tech­nique that I learned fromHow to Grow More Veg­eta­bles by John Jeav­ons. Bioin­ten­sive gar­den­ing is quite a work­out, so it’s not an ac­tiv­ity that I do ev­ery year. But ev­ery year I choose to do it, the pos­i­tive re­sults are ob­vi­ous not only in the gar­den but also with re­spect to my spir­i­tual well­be­ing.

Dou­ble dig­ging typ­i­cally starts with sev­eral good-sized piles of home­made compost, and it ends with that same com­post­mixed 24 inches deep into the soil. Talk about a plush bed. A dou­ble-dug gar­den means lus­cious bliss if you hap­pen to have a root sys­tem.

The process re­quires spe­cific tools, in­clud­ing a sturdy gar­den fork, a rec­tan­gu­lar spade, a wheel­bar­row, and a four­foot-by-two-foot slab of ply­wood. Jeav­ons’ tried-and-true strat­egy as­sures you will not get in­jured — as long as you do it right. My ex­pe­ri­ence is that Jeav­ons is tech­ni­cally cor­rect. Fol­low his di­rec­tions to a tee, and you’re fine. But one wrong move — one lousy short­cut— and you­may be call­ing your chi­ro­prac­tor or start­ing a life­long yoga regime. For a how-to video, visit www.grow­bioin­ten­sive.org.

An­other ac­tiv­ity that’s less body-in­ten­sive, plant­ing with the lu­nar cal­en­dar, is one that I have been in­spired to try again this year. This bio­dy­namic tech­nique sug­gests that yields are in­creased when above­ground crops and un­der­ground crops are planted in ac­cor­dance with the size and shape of the moon. Like bioin­ten­sive gar­den­ing, ev­ery time I’ve tried any bio­dy­namic tech­niques, they seem to work. Both meth­ods are big on build­ing healthy soil. Both wor­ship compost.

There is also a lot of cross­over be­tween per­ma­cul­ture and bio­dy­nam­ics. Both sys­tems stress the im­por­tance of an­i­mals (in­clud­ing worms) in the gar­den. Both stress the im­por­tance of flo­ral di­ver­sity. Both pro­vide a holis­tic ap­proach to farm­ing and gar­den­ing that is eco­log­i­cal, eth­i­cal, ef­fi­cient, pro­duc­tive, and fully in­spired by decades of suc­cess.

But here’s the real rea­son that I want you think­ing about Thanks­giv­ing. On the week­end be­fore Turkey Day 2016 you might not have time to shop. That’s be­cause this year the North Amer­i­can Bio­dy­namic Con­fer­ence will be com­ing to Santa Fe Nov. 16-20, and you won’t want to miss five days of hands-on work­shops, in­spir­ing key­notes, and the chance to rub shoul­ders with hun­dreds of bio­dy­namic farm­ers and gar­den­ers from across the con­ti­nent.

I caught up with­TheaMaria Carl­son, a con­fer­ence or­ga­nizer, on a re­cent con­fer­ence-prepa­ra­tion mis­sion. When asked what she liked to plant­most in the gar­den, “I like to plant di­ver­sity,” she said, not skip­ping a beat. No mat­ter who gets elected pres­i­dent, it ap­pears Santa Fe will still have much to be thank­ful for this Novem­ber. For more info about the con­fer­ence and bio­dy­nam­ics, visit www.bio­dy­nam­ics.com.

Nate Downey, the au­thor of Har­vest the Rain, has been a lo­cal land­scape con­sul­tant, de­signer, and con­trac­tor since 1992. He can be reached at 505-690-7939 or via www. per­made­sign.com.

PHOTO COUR­TESY JOBYL BOONE

A dou­ble-dig­gin’ colum­nist

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