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plants

The Soil Food Web: Taking Organic Gardening to the Next Level

The Soil Food Web: Taking Organic Gardening to the Next Level

Organic gardeners are faced with a unique challenge; by putting health and environment first, we set ourselves up for a neverending struggle against pests, disease, and lackluster growth. In the absence of chemicals, the organic grower has to get creative and work twice as hard to achieve the desired results.

This, at any rate, is the popular narrative, one that undoubtedly prevents many hobbyists from going the organic route. Sure, we'd all love to do the environmentally friendly thing, but we also want a flourishing garden without too many hassles, and we're conditioned to believe this is only possible through chemical applications. But what many people don't realize is that by relying on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, they actually create more work, rather than less, for themselves.

Most gardeners have probably heard that synthetic chemicals destroy beneficial organisms in the soil, but for many this concept is too abstract to grasp. Who are these organisms anyway? What are they up to? How can I know they're helping if I can't even see them? In their book Teaming With Microbes, Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis demystify the world of the soil food web, identifying key players and their roles and offering detailed advice on how to protect and manage this ecosystem for maximum results.

Lowenfels and Lewis make the compelling argument that many of problems plaguing our lawns and gardens are the direct result of the home horticulturalist's reliance on chemical products which destroy microbial life. The result is a garden that depends on application after application of fertilizer and pesticides in order to survive. Conversely, a healthy soil ecosystem controls pathogen populations, provide plants with essential nutrients, and form relationships that encourage vigorous growth and healthy immune systems. 

From Outer Space to Endgaget Exchange: Advances in Growing

From Outer Space to Endgaget Exchange: Advances in Growing

In the realm of innovative growing techniques aeroponic growing is among the more obscure. It challenges just about everything the average person knows about farming by cultivating crops not in soil or even water (as in hydroponics) but in open air. To understand aeroponics, imagine a plant plucked from the ground, roots and all, and held in place so that the roots remain suspended.  An artificial light source supplies the energy needed for photosynthesis and a nutrient-infused mist is applied at periodic intervals. Direct, efficient uptake reduces water usage by an estimated 90 to 98 percent compared to traditionally grown crops, fertilizer by 60 percent. A sterile growing environment and the plant's healthy immune system eliminates the need for pesticides altogether. When not absorbing water and minerals, the roots receive a direct, abundant supply of oxygen, and the delicate seedling grows faster and more robustly than its soil-bound counterparts. Soon a crop is ready for harvesting. 

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