Mill Pond Garden will be hosting an open house from 10-11:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 15. Visitors can observe how Mill Pond Garden practices the five principles of carbon farming in large, undisturbed garden beds with wonderfully productive and beautiful results.
For tickets, go to millpondgarden.com. The garden will also feature abundant rhododendrons, roses, azaleas, clematis, wisteria, weigela, irises, daylilies and more, with lots of gorgeous color.
Carbon farming is an ancient practice that has recently been revived across the country on large and small farms and in private gardens. The practice is gaining momentum as something individuals can do to help stop climate change by restoring carbon to living soil.
Plants extract carbon in the form of carbon dioxide from the air through photosynthesis and turn it into sugars – carbohydrates in the sap that travel down to plant roots, feeding the microbiome of beneficial soil bacteria and fungi that store and share carbon with a multitude of living creatures in the soil.
The soil itself becomes a carbon storage bank. Looking at a handful of black soil from the forest floor, or healthy soil from a farm or garden, the blackness comes from carbon compounds, called humates. This carbon makes the soil rich, beneficial to many small living, living, and sticky creatures, causing the soil to granularize and creating air and water spaces around the soil particles. This rich root zone of topsoil is called the rhizosphere – literally the root zone.
Modern agricultural practices of tillage and chemical use destroy the soil and the living biome, which over time decreases productivity, amount of yield, soil aeration, and disease resistance. Farmers have found that these bad practices gradually reduce income and increase costs and labor. The soil loses its ability to hold moisture and aerate, the health of crop plants declines, and agriculture requires even more pesticides and fertilizers, in a never-ending and costly cycle of loss.
The five principles of carbon farming are: limited soil disturbance, soil armor, plant diversity, living roots and integrated animals.
Limited soil disturbance means no tillage. Delaware has a large amount of modern no-till agriculture. Instead of plowing or discing the fields, the old cut crop and debris are left in place to house and nurture the soil biome, and the seeds are planted in tiny slits or perforations through this layer of “armor ” of the ground.
Plant diversity means that plants do better with neighbors of different species, which was once the case with Native American Indians, who grew crops of corn mixed with beans, squash, sorghum, peppers, tomatoes , potatoes, lettuces, edible weeds and grasses for bigger harvests. of all. Mixed cropping discourages pests and diseases. Home gardeners can do less work and get better results not only in vegetable gardens, but also for all ornamental plant beds and lawns.
Jen Nelson, executive director of the Delaware Association of Conservation Districts, said, “One of the key tenets of soil health is do not disturb. This campaign is a fun way to remind and engage farmers about the important relationship between tillage and soil health. To practice no-till is to preserve the soil armor principle of carbon cultivation by keeping the carbon in the soil.
Delaware farmer Blaine Hitchens said, “No-till saves crop residue year-round and plants it right in. Hitchens uses this practice on its farmland near Laurel to improve soil health and reduce its input costs.
According to the Sussex Soil Conservation No-Till program, the main benefits of the practice include decreased erosion, reduced cost of inputs, improved soil health, reduced soil compaction and reduced litter. ‘evaporation.
Another principle of carbon farming and gardening is “living roots”, i.e. leaving all old plant roots in the ground, even after the tops have been cut for harvesting in case of culture. This leaves the microbiome intact and functioning.
The fifth principle of “integrated animals” means that animals and their waste end up in the soil, instead of fertilizer, thus supplementing the food needs of plants. Animals means all small animals in the biome and rhizosphere down to worms and their droppings, fallen dead animals such as birds and mice, and especially for farmers and gardeners, manure from horses, cows or of chickens spilled on top or dropped by animals. who are allowed to feed on pasture.
Following nature on earth holistically is what allows all parts of nature to thrive best, a perfectly renewable and sustainable path, the path humans must take to survive.
A summary for home gardeners could be included in these practices: Fertilize flower beds with animal manure or plant compost and encourage all living things to live in the garden. Feed worms and birds and beneficial creatures of all kinds by leaving cut and mown leaves in laws and/or beds. Leave the old vegetable plant roots in place and in the spring add new ones in narrow seed slots or start laying them down. Make large and diverse ornamental plant beds with trees, shrubs, perennials, ground covers all mixed together. Except on lawns, leave all fallen leaves and tops of dead perennials in place each fall and winter. They can be felled or removed just before spring. Stop using commercial chemical fertilizers (all salts), mulch (rich in heavy metal minerals), pesticides and herbicides, which are toxic to the biome. The only non-toxic mulches for the biome are pine bark, pine needles, straw, or cardboard. The best mulch is a compost of leaves and other organic materials, or preferably ground covers. Fill with plants.
If gardeners and even more farmers embrace carbon farming, a large amount of carbon dioxide can be taken out of the atmosphere and reintroduced into the soil where it becomes a large part of thriving life, creating a warmer planetary climate. happy and more stable. Big results can come from the small personal actions of the many.