The Path to Nutrient Dense Food
Our health is suffering enormously, because our food does not contain the essential nutrition that the cells of our bodies need to function normally.
This is partly because our soils no longer contain the elements and life needed to grow nutrient dense food but I believe it is also due to the fact that we are using seeds bred to make money for the shareholders in the multinationals rather then bred to nourish people as our old seeds were. We must learn again how to grow strong healthy soil, in many cases from scratch. Environmental Fertilisers have been dedicated to supporting farmers on a large scale to do this for many years but have not had the time or resources to make this information or the products available to home gardeners. The team at Environmental Fertilisers also sees this method of gardening/farming as being an answer to the earths growing carbon losses because gardening/farming like this sequesters carbon. They are committed to doing good work on a large scale.
Here at Koanga we have largely focused on saving seeds but now wish to also address soil health especially for home gardeners
It was quite a shock to me initially to discover that, after 30 years of organic gardening and making tons of compost and all certified organic, that my veges had Brix readings that were far too low to maintain human health. I have worked hard since, listening to people like Arden Anderson, Weston A Price
(www.westonaprice.org) and Grant from Environmental Fertilisers, to discover what I was missing.
I no longer believe being organic, even certified organic, is enough. Our food must be nutrient dense if we are to survive many more generations. Eating nutrient dense food means we are eating food that is basically complex sugars. These complex sugars are what many of the big American health food companies are now selling back to us in the form of such products as Glyconutrients (Ambratose etc). For many people these products are making a huge difference, but I believe the power and sustainability lies in returning to being nourished by our food.
These are the key understandings I now have:
- Bio Intensive is totally valid and provides wonderful tools for the home gardener following the basic principles of deep soil aeration, composting, growing and returning carbon etc. See the Koanga Garden Guide for more info or John Jeavons The Sustainable Home Garden
- Our heritage veges, fruit, herbs and flowers are critical in all of this and my feeling is that even though our scientists are now showing us that our heritage veges and fruit do contain more nutritional benefit than selections made for agribusiness, we still have a lot to learn here and I believe there are many benefits to be gained from using our heritage plant material that is currently unquantifiable by any science I have seen. Check out the Institute website for results of NZ research that is currently being done www.koanga.org.nz
- We MUST listen to the advice of Reams and others, and balance our available calcium and magnesium at a ratio of 7:1. If we don’t do this our plant roots simply can’t utilize the minerals that are there, no added micro organisms will survive, our plants will not photosynthesise to their potential, and we waste loads of time and money and can not grow nutrient dense food. (Incidentally Reams wrote one of the chapters in Weston A Price’s book Nutrition and Human Degeneration). This basically, means (for 99% of us) growing healthy soil is firstly about getting loads of active calcium into our NZ soils.
- We must also achieve a ratio of phosphorus and potassium of 1:1 in order to maximize photosynthesis and achieve our aim of nutrient dense food.
- We must work hard to raise the humus levels so that our minerals and micro organisms have a home to live in the soil, when conditions aren’t ideal, and so that they don’t get washed out. (The humic acid in EF nature’s garden is there to do this while we get our act together).
- Once we have achieved major progress on above we can inoculate soils with mycorrhizal spores and they will be able to live in the soil and help our plants photosynthesis to their full potential
- When our plants do not have the food they need to form complex sugars in their cells, the sugars in the plants remain as simple sugars. Simple sugars are insects and fungi food so we have problems with pests. Insects and fungi can not digest complex sugars which are human food.
The following instructions are the best and fastest way I know of to achieve the production of nutrient dense food. I’m sure there are as many ways as there are gardeners, however this may be a good start for you until you feel comfortable with your own resources and processes. It is the process I’m using while I learn to incorporate into my soil the calcium and other minerals from our own environment that are needed. It is a similar process to that Grant takes farmers through to achieve high Brix food on a large scale.
Do a Reams soil test (ask at Koanga shop) that will give you an account of the minerals available to the plant roots, as well as the soil pH, ergs, humus levels, and paramagnetism levels…. if you simply wish to begin by doing a pH test yourself then buy yourself a pH testing kit.
Buy a refractometer from the Koanga shop which includes detailed instructions for use and a chart showing Reams expected and acceptable Brix levels for nutrient dense crops. Brix values indicate sugar levels which are an indication of nutrient density.
Balance soil pH. Most garden crops need a pH of around 6.4. The fastest and best way I know of to bring your pH up to 6.4 is to add EF Bio-Lime (micronised biologically enhanced calcium) at a rate of 2.5kg per 10sq metres on sandy soil (per 0.5 of a point you wish to bring your pH up) or 3.5kg on loam or 4kg on clay. If you don’t have access to EF Bio-Lime use agricultural lime (it is slower acting) but not dolomite unless your soil test report shows you need the magnesium. Mix this into your soil to a depth of 20cm. If you are double digging incorporate it in through the entire soil profile. It is critical that you do not use Dolomite instead of EF Bio Lime or agricultural lime. If you do not have your Calcium:Magnesium ratio at 7:1 you will upset the balance even more and for every kilo of magnesium you add in this situation you will lose 1kg of available nitrogen. This is what I was inadvertently doing in my garden for years and so ended up applying, at great cost to me, lots of extra nitrogen in the form of liquid manure etc.
If you need to take your pH down then use 0.5kg sulfur per 10sq m for every 0.5 point you want to take it down on sandy soil. On loam 1.25 kg and on clay 1.5kg
If you don’t have the pH at close to 6.5 you will not achieve the production of nutrient dense food as the plant roots can not utilize many of the minerals needed unless the PH is correct.
Apply EF Nature’s Garden (biologically enhanced phosphorus and trace elements, with seaweed and fish and humic acid, natural growth hormones and beneficial soil bacteria and fungi (70 species-) at a rate of 2 large handfuls (200gms) per square metre every time you plant a new crop in your bed, until you achieve good soil test results or high Brix readings, or you find another way to achieve high Brix readings. Apply EF Bio Rocket at a rate of 1 handful (50gms) per square metre (best under the individual plants) if your soil test report says you need it or it shows very low ergs, especially on gross feeders like corn, and pumpkins. The above fertilizers have been created to suit over 99% of New Zealand soils, if applied correctly.
Do a weekly Brix – test at the same time of the day each time. If your Brix test is less than 12 apply foliar EF Vege Foliar at a concentration of 1:50 – 1:100 (100-200 mls per 10 litres in the back pack sprayer which will cover several hundred square metres of garden). Test your crop 2 hours after spraying to make sure you are raising the Brix. The aim is to keep the Brix consistently over 12. If you are working with fruit trees apply EF Fruit Foliar at the same concentration. You can use your refractometer to decide which concentration to use.
Once you have this system happening, the life in the soil will begin to increase carbon/humus levels. There are loads of ways home gardeners can support this process – making charcoal, making high carbon compost (i.e. make it with a high percentage of material that is high in carbon and leave it to break down more slowly so that the carbon stays in the compost rather than going off as C02), use Bio Intensive techniques such as growing carbon crops in winter and summer.
You can now focus, as home gardeners, on things like adding Bio lime or agricultural lime or crushed shells or burnt and crushed bones and shells to our compost heaps, getting our wood ashes recycled, adding seaweed fish by products, animal manures, rock dust, rock phosphate, etc. These are all the ways I already knew about but found were in the long run ineffective at growing nutrient dense food without the critical soil mineral balances in place first. We have to keep in mind that if we build our compost heaps with manure and plant material that has a low Brix to begin with we will never achieve high Brix vege. We will simply have to make loads more effort to bring in the minerals we need, and to fully recycle what things we aren’t that we could be (bones for example).
If you use the above system, and add EF Bio Lime twice in the first year, add EF Nature’s Garden twice in the first year, and Bio Rocket twice it will cost you around $1.90 per sq metre, $19:00 per 10 sq metres or $190 to cover 100 sq metres, or $1900 to cover 1000 sq metres, which for many of you will be enough area to grow much of your veges and fruit. If you think about things carefully, and put medium and long term local alternatives in place, this feels very reasonable to me. It is our health, and the future of the human race we are talking about.
I’m very grateful to those that have been concerned about these issues and who have done the amazing research and years of hard work to bring this knowledge forward again, especially those I connected with and learned the most from: Weston A Price, Dr Carey Reams, Arden Anderson, Sally Fallon and Grant from Environmental Fertilisers. All power to the good spirits in the universe!!
If you are interested in growing nutrient dense food for your family, I would recommend you read a copy of Nutrition and Human Degeneration written by Weston A Price. I have spent over 30 years studying the relationships between our health and our food and our soil and have written a booklet on Growing Nutrient Dense Food. In addition the following books (added to Nutrition and Human Degeneration) are those I consider contain the essential core of the issues, and the solutions:
- Nourishing Traditions Sally Fallon
- Eat Fat Lose Fat Sally Fallon and
- The Untold Story of Milk Ron Schmid
- Ferment and Human Nutrition Bill Mollison
- Sugar Blues William Duffy
- The Cholesterol Myth 1