Gardening Is Biology not Chemistry


Go into the gardening department of any box store and you’ll find rows and rows of chemicals: fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides. How did we get to thinking that growing food was a chemical process? Gardening professionals will tell you how much nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and other minerals such as boron, calcium, and magnesium, to add to your gardens. They’ll recommend adding lime to neutralize the acidity in soil. The list of chemicals experts suggest adding will empty your wallet. It makes you wonder how plants managed to survive before humans came along. Somehow they managed to make it to the modern era without the aid of humans.

Plants with roots appeared in the evolutionary record more than 400 millions years ago during the Devonian period. It’s only during the last 300 years that humans began developing mineral supplements and fertilizers. The process for creating nitrogen by fixing atmospheric nitrogen is barely a 100 years old. For over 400 million years, plants did splendidly without our help. The length of time plants have “required” human intervention isn’t even a blip of time. There are 86,400 seconds in a day, 31,536,000 in a year. The number of years humans have been spreading large quantities of chemicals on their fields and gardens is around a hundred years. Compared to the number of years plants with roots have been around, over 400,000,000, it is like 8 seconds out of an entire year. Insignificant. Nada. Zip.

When pioneers moved into the grasslands of the Great Plains, they discovered grasses ten feet and taller, growing profusely in arid conditions to boot. These grasses had been growing for eons, without the aid of any human fertilizers or minerals.

The most productive ecosystems on this planet, are the great rain forests along the Pacific Northwest Coast. These forests produce more biomass per acre than anywhere on earth. And they do this year after year, century after century, millennia after millennia, all without the assistance of our chemicals. From what gardening experts tell you, you would think that producing so much vegetation would quickly deplete the soil and strip it of all nutrients. Yet it never happens. The plants growing in the forest never run out of nutrients. Neither did the grasses of the Great Plains. And they fed vast herds of Bison for eons.

If these productive ecosystems can flourish for thousands of years without ever needing a drop of fertilizer, a teaspoon of pesticide, a sprinkling of herbicide, a spritz of fungicide, why can’t our gardens produce endless baskets of leafy greens, pecks of beans, and bushels of corn without chemicals? Have you ever stopped to consider that? Do our gardens and fields really need any of the bewildering array of chemicals the experts push, the box stores sell, and the chemical industry produces?

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