The new communication book, Don’t Suffer, Communicate!, points out that communication is an exchange of information. The garden is a great communicator. It is always telling us something, whether we understand the message or not.
A year ago we noticed that the raised beds were not producing as abundantly as in the past: a communication. We did soil testing on all the beds. Sure enough, the testing indicated that they were severely depleted of essential nutrients. So, time to enhance their diet.
This season especially we have added lots of good stuff to the beds. Aged manure (there are advantages to living in ranching country!), compost, compost tea, and “green manure” – cover crop plants. The cover crop mixes are food for the vegetables we grow. As a very experienced California farmer explained once, “Half of what I grow is for people, half for the garden itself.”
The cover mixes include lots of legumes, which make nitrogen available for all plants in their neighborhood. They include plants that reach deep, like daikon radishes, to bring up nutrients that are far down. The mixes are planted densely and their roots keep soil loose. When chopped down all this green matter is worked into the soil or simply decays into the soil.
We have planted some beds entirely in cover crops; in others we are intermixing the covers with our fall and winter vegetables: greens of all kinds, lettuces, beets, cabbages, broccolis, rutabagas, turnips. Those veggies are snugged right up next to the power providers.
Now we wait and pay attention. All this re-nourishing is our communication back to the garden. “We heard you. Is this what you would like?” And we can count on it, the garden will tell us. It is the best of communicators: completely honest and unencumbered by ego.