Garden News, February 2018

               Garden News                  Our New Soils Czar

Even though the weather is cold and the garden is lying dormant, it doesn’t mean that plans have not been made toward another successful season in 2018.

One notable improvement for next year is a dedicated effort to organically improve the soil in our beds. We have been lucky to recruit our new “Soils Czar” Allan Pallay to help us out with this project.

I asked Allan a few questions about his interest in soils and composting; here are his thoughts on the matter.

How did you become interested in soil? There are 3 sources of my interest in soil.

1. About a year ago I become aware of the beauty and wonder of the chemical and biological processes that happen in soil.

2. I also became aware that the degradation and loss of top soil is a significant long-term threat to the wellbeing of humanity; a threat that may be greater than climate change.

3. The ability of our garden to continue to provide produce for people in need is dependent on the maintenance of the health of our soil. These factors have prompted me to spend some time studying soil science and to begin applying what I learned to our garden soil.

Why have you focused on composting? After harvesting most types of garden vegetables, soil nutrients are diminished and need to be replenished. Two ways this can be accomplished are by applying chemical fertilizers or by applying compost. Chemical fertilizers help in the short term but can: potentially degrade soil over the long term; be bad for the environment (in a variety of ways); and are expensive.

What about compost? Creating compost involves making a pile of plant residues (the remains of garden plants, fallen leaves, grass clippings, kitchen waste, etc.), in such a way that enables microorganisms to turn the pile into rich soil. Applying this compost soil to the garden soil improves it over the short and the long term. Furthermore, using compost is good for the environment (and is aesthetically pleasing to me) because it recycles what otherwise would be thrown away.

How long have you been volunteering to help in the UUFP garden? I have helped out with the garden from the beginning but my involvement had been minimal until about a year ago when my involvement increased. Thus, I have less long-term hands-on gardening experience than others in the group. Therefore, decisions on the soil management are made collaboratively, with me and the garden Czarinas (Ginny Knight, Kay Price, Christi Dunning and Bev Jensen).

What draws you to helping out? In addition to the reasons given in the first question, I am drawn to help because I get to interact with the lovely and amusing people I mentioned in the last question.

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