Tag Archive | "Food4Wealth"

Ecological Vegetable Gardening

Ecological Gardening

This guest post is by Jonathan White of Food4Wealth.

High yielding, low maintenance vegetable gardening that’s perfect for our modern-day lifestyle

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When we think of organic gardening and permaculture we tend to conjure up images of bearded warriors dressed in overalls who dedicate their lives to working long days in their vegetable plots.  Whilst this may be a wonderful way to live your life, it doesn’t suit the average suburbanite with a full-time job and a hefty mortgage.

Growing food is typically seen as either an art form or damned hard work.  It’s no wonder that very few people produce enough food to feed their family.  But what if a technique came along that was so easy and so prolific that even the busiest corporate executive could grow a significant portion of their family’s food in less time than it takes to drive to the shops.  Ecological gardening just might be the answer.  In my experience, it’s the ultimate modern-day convenience vegetable plot.

An ecological garden is an ecosystem made up of edible plants, and it behaves in exactly the same way as a natural habitat.  Over time, you become more of an observer than a gardener as you watch Mother Nature do most of the work.

The wonderful thing about nature is that she works tirelessly, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Nature follows very simple laws and works in the same way, on any system, anywhere in the world.  To understand ecological gardening, observing natural ecosystems can provide us with the answers we need.  A natural ecosystem is made up of thousands of living and non-living components all coexisting in a given area.  Each living component occupies its own niche space and the role of the niche space is very important to understand when creating an ecological garden.

Let’s look at an example.  Imagine a giant rainforest tree crashing to the ground after standing tall for hundreds of years.  Such a large tree would have filled an enormous niche space.  Lying in the soil, hundreds of dormant seeds spring to life, desperately fighting for their opportunity to occupy the best real estate in the forest – the empty niche space.  The niche space is quickly filled and harmony is restored.

When we look at a traditional vegetable garden with this type of insight, what we see is a very unnatural system.  There is very little diversity and a lot of empty niche spaces.  Nature enforces her will on vegetable gardens in exactly the same way she does a rainforest, and this means that empty niches spaces will be filled as quickly as possible.  However, in a traditional vegetable garden there are no desirable seeds waiting to fill the niches spaces, so weeds fill them instead.

The solution to this problem is to create a garden that has tightly filled niche spaces so that weeds don’t have any opportunities.  We can achieve this by using a planting arrangement that mimics a natural ecosystem.  This type of planting arrangement also creates a range of highly protected micro-climates.  This ideal growing environment causes your plants to last much longer.  Greens don’t bolt to seed as soon as a hot spell hits and cold sensitive plants are more protected as well.  The planting arrangement also creates a natural form of pest management.

Managing an ecological garden is different to managing a traditional vegetable garden.  With an ecological garden, there is far less to do.  As you become the observer and allow nature to take over as head gardener, you will notice that the garden is in a continual state of gentle change, just like a natural ecosystem.  It can be difficult for the traditional gardener to stand back and observe, as many of us instinctively like to control things.  This style of gardening calls for a great deal of faith in natural laws.

Absolutely everyone from farmers to inner-city townhouse dwellers can create an ecological garden.  It may seem strange, but if you have never grown food before then you are, in some ways, at an advantage.  Like all industries, the gardening industry can get stuck in doing things a certain way and most seasoned gardeners will inevitably over-work the garden.  As a species, human beings prospered when we learnt to cultivate food using tilling and other traditional agricultural methods, so it’s difficult to turn back to where we came from – nature.  It might even feel like a step in the wrong direction.  But if we can let go of our need to control every living thing on the planet, and start to work with nature, we actually gain more control by being able to grow food more efficiently than ever before.  It’s a paradox – but it works!

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Composting Can Save You Money

Composting – It Can Save You Money!

This guest post is by Jonathan White of Food4Wealth.

For many people, composting is just an alternative way of dealing with rubbish.  It prevents the garbage bin from getting full and smelly.  It’s also a way of disposing of grass clippings and leaves, which saves many trips to the garbage depot.  Whilst these things are valid, they are not giving compost the full credibility it deserves.  Compost can be very valuable when used in the right way.

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I have a completely different way of looking at compost.  To me, composting is a way of building valuable nutrients that will, one day, feed me and my family.  I only use compost on my vegetable gardens.  The way I manage my vegetable gardens means that composting is an integral part of the whole food production system.  I create compost as a way of collecting nutrients in one form (waste), and turning them into another form (food).

The average person buys food from a shop, consumes it and then sends the waste away.  This is simply buying nutrients, taking what you need for that precise moment, and disregarding the remainder.  It’s a nutrient flow that only flows in one direction, like a fancy car roaring down the road.  You admire the car for a moment, but after a second or two, it’s gone.

My goal is to slow down the car and then get it to do a U-turn.  I want to keep the nutrients within my property where I can capitalize on them.  By doing this, I am able to use the nutrients again, so I don’t have to buy them for a second time.  Surely, that’s going to save me money.  It may seem strange to think of nutrients in this way when we can’t even physically see them.  However, all organic materials contain nutrients.  My goal is to get those nutrients out of the form they are in and into a form that is useful to me and my family.

To put it in a different way; composting is a vehicle in which we are able to create a nutrient cycle within our property.  We are part of that cycle because we consume the nutrients when they are, for a brief time, in a useful form.  Then they return to the compost and slowly make their way into another useful form where we consume them again.  This cycle can go on and on indefinitely.  Of course, there will be many lost nutrients that you will never see again, but with a little diligence, you will be surprised at how much compost you can create, and hence, how many valuable nutrients you can recycle.

My composting system is large because I have a few large vegetable gardens.  I believe that the size of your vegetable garden should be determined by how much compost you can create, and not merely by the amount of space you have in your backyard.  To run a rich, high yielding vegetable garden you need to have some sort of soil conditioning plan, and the best thing for your soil is a generous layer of good compost on the surface a few times per year.

If you can create your own compost from the organic waste that you generate in your everyday life, then you can have a vegetable garden that is self-sustainable.  Once it is set up, it will never need nutrients in the form of store-bought fertilizers.  You will have established a flow of nutrients, and your nutrient-store will grow bigger and bigger, year after year.  Applying compost to your garden will have a very positive effect on your soil structure and fertility.  With good soil structure and plenty of organic material, you will be able to release nutrients that have been locked up and unavailable to your plants.  You will be speeding up the flow of nutrients, thus increasing your yield significantly.  Your soil will become alive and healthy with micro-organisms and soil bacteria that are beneficial to creating the conditions for proper plant growth.  Your vegetables will contain all the essential nutrients in the correct proportions, giving your body the vitamins and minerals it needs to function at its best.

Composting is very easy once you make it part of your everyday life.  A small container on your kitchen bench to collect scraps and a daily trip to the compost bin is all it takes.  It’s a small effort for huge rewards.  The golden rule in making compost is never to have large clumps of a single type of material.  Thin layers of hot and cold materials work best.  Cold materials include leaves, shredded newspaper and dried grass clippings.  Hot materials include fresh grass clippings, manures, weeds, discarded soft plants and kitchen scraps.

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Problem with Traditional Vegetable Gardening

The Problem with Traditional Vegetable Gardening?

This guest post is by Jonathan White of Food4Wealth.

Traditional vegetable gardens require an enormous amount of hard work and attention – weeding, feeding and strict planting schedules.  There is also the problem of seasonality, allowing beds to rest during the cooler months producing nothing at all.  Then we are told to plant green manure crops, add inorganic fertilizers and chemicals to adjust imbalanced soils.  It takes a lot of time, dedication and a year-round commitment to grow your own food the traditional way.

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But does it really need to be that difficult? Let me ask you these questions.

  • Does a forest need to think how to grow?
  • Does its soil need to be turned every season?
  • Does someone come along every so often and plant seeds or take pH tests?
  • Does it get weeded or sprayed with toxic chemicals?

Of course not!

Traditional vegetable gardening techniques are focused on problems.  Have you noticed that gardening books are full of ways to fix problems?  I was a traditional gardener for many years and I found that the solution to most problems simply caused a new set of problems. In other words, the problem with problems is that problems create more problems.

Let’s take a look at a common traditional gardening practice and I will show you how a single problem can escalate into a whole host of problems.

Imagine a traditional vegetable garden, planted with rows of various vegetables.  There are fairly large bare patches between the vegetables.  To a traditional gardener, a bare patch is just a bare patch.  But to an ecologist, a bare patch is an empty niche space.  An empty niche space is simply an invitation for new life forms to take up residency.  Nature does not tolerate empty niche spaces and the most successful niche space fillers are weeds.  That’s what a weed is in ecological terms – a niche space filler.  Weeds are very good colonizing plants.  If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be called weeds.

Now back to our story.  Weeds will grow in the empty niche spaces.  Quite often there are too many weeds to pick out individually, so the traditional gardener uses a hoe to turn them into the soil.  I have read in many gardening books, even organic gardening books, that your hoe is your best friend.  So the message we are getting is that using a hoe is the solution to a problem.

However, I would like to show you how using a hoe actually creates a new set of problems.  Firstly, turning soil excites weed seeds, creating a new explosion of weeds.  And secondly, turning soil upsets the soil ecology.  The top layer of soil is generally dry and structureless.  By turning it, you are placing deeper structured soil on the surface and putting the structureless soil underneath.  Over time, the band of structureless soil widens.  Structureless soil has far less moisture holding capacity, so the garden now needs more water to keep the plants alive.

In addition to this problem, structureless soil cannot pass its nutrients onto the plants as effectively.  The garden now also needs the addition of fertilisers.  Many fertilisers kill the soil biology which is very important in building soil structure and plant nutrient availability.  The soil will eventually turn into a dead substance that doesn’t have the correct balance of nutrients to grow fully developed foods.  The foods will actually lack vitamins and minerals.  This problem has already occurred in modern-day agriculture.  Dr Tim Lobstein, Director of the Food Commission said. “… today’s agriculture does not allow the soil to enrich itself, but depends on chemical fertilisers that don’t replace the wide variety of nutrients plants and humans need.”  Over the past 60 years commercially grown foods have experienced a significant reduction in nutrient and mineral content.

Can you see how we started with the problem of weeds, but ended up with the new problems of lower water-holding capacity and infertile soils.  And eventually, we have the potentially serious problem of growing food with low nutrient content.  Traditional gardening techniques only ever strive to fix the symptom and not the cause.

However, there is a solution!  We must use a technique that combines pest ecology, plant ecology, soil ecology and crop management into a method that addresses the causes of these problems.  This technique must be efficient enough to be economically viable.  It also needs to be able to produce enough food, per given area, to compete against traditional techniques.

I have been testing an ecologically-based method of growing food for several years.  This method uses zero tillage, zero chemicals, has minimal weeds and requires a fraction of the physical attention (when compared to traditional vegetable gardening).  It also produces several times more, per given area, and provides food every single day of the year.

My ecologically-based garden mimics nature in such a way that the garden looks and acts like a natural ecosystem.  Succession layering of plants (just as we see in natural ecosystems) offers natural pest management.  It also naturally eliminates the need for crop rotation, resting beds or green manure crops.  Soil management is addressed in a natural way, and the result is that the soil’s structure and fertility get richer and richer, year after year.  Another benefit of this method is automatic regeneration through self-seeding.  This occurs naturally as dormant seeds germinate; filling empty niche spaces with desirable plants, and not weeds.

Unfortunately, the biggest challenge this method faces is convincing traditional gardeners of its benefits.  Like many industries, the gardening industry gets stuck in doing things a certain way.  The ecologically-based method requires such little human intervention that, in my opinion, many people will get frustrated with the lack of needing to control what’s happening.  Naturally people love to take control of their lives, but with this method you are allowing nature to take the reins.  It’s a test of faith in very simple natural laws.  However, in my experience these natural laws are 100% reliable.

Another reason that traditional gardeners may not like this method is that it takes away all the mysticism of being an expert.  You see, this method is so simple that any person, anywhere in the world, under any conditions, can do it.  And for a veteran gardener it can actually be quite threatening when an embarrassingly simple solution comes along.

I have no doubt that this is the way we will be growing food in the future.  It’s just commonsense.  Why wouldn’t we use a method that produces many times more food with a fraction of the effort?  I know it will take a little while to convince people that growing food is actually very instinctual and straightforward, but with persistence and proper explanation, people will embrace this method.

Why?  Because sanity always prevails…

…eventually!

This post was contributed by a guest writer. If you’d like to guest post for Naturally Earth Friendly please check out our Become An Author page for details on how YOU can share your tips with our readers..

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Restore Our Basic Life-Supporting Systems

How to Restore Our Basic Life-Supporting Systems; Water, Air and Soil

This guest post is by Jonathan White of Food4Wealth.

The breakdown of our food growing systems poses one of the biggest threats to our survival.  Our existence depends upon our agricultural systems, but what do our agricultural systems depend on?  The answer: water, air and soil.  These basic elements support all life-forms and without them, life as we know it cannot be sustained.

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In nature, food grows as part of an ecosystem.  An ecosystem is an ecological system that is made up of many biological parts, or components, that all interact with one another.  These components are mostly made up of organisms such as plants and animals.  They feed on each other and depend on each others’ presence to survive.

Just as plant and animal components are dependent on each other, basic life-supporting systems – water, air and soil – are also dependent on each another.  For example, the flow of air affects rainfall and rainfall affects the flow of air.  In addition, life-supporting systems are dependent on the components and vice versa.  For example, soil is created by plants and plants are created by soil.  In summary, components are dependent on life-supporting systems and the life-supporting systems are dependent on components.  However, it gets even more complicated than that.

Within the basic life-supporting systems – water, air and soil – there are sub-systems.  If we take a look at water, it can be broken up into many sub-systems, including: rainfall, surface water, ground water, humidity and transpiration.  It is not necessary (or even possible) to understand everything that’s going on within an ecosystem, however it is very important to understand this:

Each and every component, system and sub-system is important in running the overall ecosystem.  When you disturb one, the others start to fall apart.

Humans once lived as part of ecosystems.  We were just one of many ecological components within an ecosystem.  We were also part of the food chain; sometimes preyed upon, but mostly a predator.  When we discovered cultivation we discovered many advantages, such as being able to grow staple crops in relative density.  By clearing an area of its natural components we have been able to increase the quantity of a single, useful component such as a commercial crop.

A typical farming operation strives to eliminate as many ecological components as possible so that a predetermined yield of a specific crop can be obtained.  For example, a farmer sows 10 acres of wheat and expects to achieve a yield within a certain range.  If it’s a good year he will achieve the upper end of the range and if it’s a bad year he will achieve the lower end of the range.  This offers him a relatively secure livelihood and he can live his life in accordance to the money he makes from his predetermined yield.  It makes perfect sense from an economic point of view.

However, this only works when the basic life-supporting systems are working, hence, adequate water, air and soil.  The problem is that these basic systems are part of an ancient ecosystem that is long gone.  The soils that we now grow crops in were part of a natural ecosystem and the millions of components that once existed were a critical part of keeping the basic life-supporting systems healthy and functioning.

By stripping the land of natural components we start to see the degradation of the basic life-supporting systems – water, soil and air.  When a large number of living components are removed, these natural systems break down because the components and the systems are interrelated.  As a diversity of plants and animals are replaced with a single species of crop, we start to see effects on the way the basic water, air and soil systems operate.  Water moves faster and is not filtered by a variety of plants.  This usually lowers the ground water and leaves the surface hotter and drier.  The hotter surface moves the air in different ways causing rain clouds to travel away from the area causing localized drought conditions.  Overall fertility is lost from soils as water moves out of the system at a greater rate.  The temperatures are hotter in summer and colder in winter as there are fewer plants to thermoregulate the area.  Rainfall becomes more unpredictable as the air current is affected by hotter ground temperatures.  It eventually gets difficult to grow the commercial crop.

Modern-day human intervention can offer short-term solutions, but cannot fix the cause of the problem.  Irrigation from bores cannot provide a sustainable solution to the breakdown of the water system.  Irrigation only lowers the ground water further making the problem even bigger than it was.  The use of groundwater is not a bad practice in all cases, but it doesn’t fix the root problem.  Likewise, inorganic fertilizers will not repair the soil systems.  If a soil is being leached of nutrients due to water passing through it too quickly and hungry hybrid crops feeding on it, it will not be repaired by adding more minerals.  The same forces that are depleting the soils are still happening, so the soils will continue to become depleted.  Inorganic fertilizers cannot restore soil structure and cannot build new soil, like a natural ecosystem can.

Commonsense will tell you that if there are no natural soil-building systems in place and soils are being lost and degraded, then fertilizer dependence must increase.  Year after year more fertilizer will be needed to obtain the same yield.  Remember, the farmer depends on a predetermined yield to fulfill his lifestyle, but now there is a greater cost to maintain that yield, in the form of store-bought fertilizers.  As costs increase, net profits decrease and eventually the whole operation becomes economically nonviable.  When you add market instability and retail competitiveness to the equation, you can see how difficult it would be to survive as a farmer.  The solution, so far, has been to cut the amount of human labor on farms because they are the most expensive part of the operation.  This is done by increasing the size of the operation and the equipment.  Large conglomerate companies can grow crops over thousands of acres, tended by very few humans.  In ecological terms, this means less diversity over a larger area, which means less natural components and less natural systems in operation.  Of course, the result is that the basic life-supporting systems; water, air and soil, will be ruined at a quicker rate.  Surely that means that even these massive operations will eventually become too costly to run.

The only way to keep an ecosystem alive and healthy is to make sure the basic life-supporting systems – water, air and soil – are intact.  This applies to any patch of land, whether it’s a native forest, a farm or an urban garden.  Every ecosystem is just a smaller part of a larger ecosystem.  In fact, the whole planet could be referred to as a single ecosystem.  What we do on a local level may only cause a tiny effect, but if a significant number of local people start doing the same thing, then it will cause an effect on a slightly larger scale.  If this is replicated on a big enough scale, then eventually, our actions can affect an entire planet.

There is no buffer that can protect you from the global breakdown of the basic life-supporting systems – water, air and soil.  However, you can cause an effect on your immediate surroundings.  To restore our basic life-supporting systems – water, air and soil – we need to increase the number and diversity of biological components.  Diversity is the answer.  Remember, an ecosystem has millions of components, systems and sub-systems operating in a given area.  These systems need each other for their survival.  We can add diversity to our backyards and farms in the form of plants and animals.  Once we start to add biological components, they will start to support more biological components.  The addition of biological components, in the form of plants and animals, will start to build soil.  This in turn will slow down the flow of water and keep it in our property.  Trees and other plants will reduce and capture water lost from ground evaporation, mulch soils and create niche spaces for more life-forms.  Your property will be better regulated in terms of temperature and humidity.  It will be cooler in summer and warmer in winter.  This, in turn, helps the plants to yield more, creating more biomass and better soil.  There will be more opportunities for life forms and the basic life-supporting systems; water, air and soil will be more supportive and better able to meet your needs.  As these basic systems become healthier, more sub-systems will appear.  Systems within systems will start to rev up and biological components (plants and animals) will increase in number, diversity and health.

To give you an idea of how this may look in real terms, imagine this; a backyard that had a massive number of edible and non-edible plants of differing size, shape, habit, colour and form.  Also, imagine a diversity of domestic and wild animals, native and introduced, edible and non-edible.  Now, try to imagine a system where these plants and animals coexist in a way that they fed each other and, at the same time, create surplus food for humans.

Using a mixture of edible and non-edible plants is important.  Not everything within the system should be directly consumed by humans.  Non-edible plants create the structure that supports the edible species.  They should be planted in sensitive areas such as hilltops and drainage lines and in strips along contours on slopes.  They act as water filters, native habitats, climate controllers and soil builders.  Edible plants fill in the spaces only after the basic supporting structure is in place.

Ecosystems are in a constant state of change and so are sustainable food growing systems.  This makes it very difficult to predetermine the yield from year to year.  The system needs the freedom to change as the components and systems evolve.  This is the most difficult part for humans to understand.  In our current way of farming we strive to make each year the same so that the yield can be predetermined, even when the conditions are changing.  Sustainable agriculture calls for a massive faith in natural laws and absolute respect for the basic life-supporting systems.

I have seen many agricultural systems, but very few sustainable ones.  I have even seen several organically-certified farms that are practicing agriculture in a way that is depleting the basic life-supporting systems; soil, air and water.  Rather than buying inorganic fertilizers, they simply purchase organic fertilizers.  These organic farmers have little understanding of natural systems and just operate in a similar way to traditional farmers, only their job is more difficult without the use of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides.  The food they produce may be free of chemicals, but they are slowly killing the basic life-supporting systems; water, air and soil.

To make the world a healthier place is not difficult.  Even if you don’t get the design as perfect as you possibly could, just the addition of a diversity of plants will create a positive effect on the basic life-supporting systems.  However, if you can get the components arranged in a way that they feed off one another to create a cyclic flow of energy, then you are starting to mimic a natural ecosystem.  As the site matures, the basic life-supporting systems – water, air and soil – will start to be restored.  That is when the system becomes self-sufficient and will provide excess food for humans, with minimal effort.  In fact, at that point, we will have returned to the past and, once again, be just another ecological component within an ecosystem.

This post was contributed by a guest writer. If you’d like to guest post for Naturally Earth Friendly please check out our Become An Author page for details on how YOU can share your tips with our readers..

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ECO-Organic Vegetable Gardening Is It Magic?

ECO-Organic Vegetable Gardening Is It Magic?

This guest post is by Jonathan White of Food4Wealth.

We all know how much hard work there is in growing vegetables – digging, weeding, crop rotation, watering, fertilizing, planting winter crops, resting beds, spraying pests and weeds – the list goes on and on.  So imagine a vegetable garden that didn’t need any of these things.  Imagine a garden that never had pests, never needed digging, didn’t need to be rested in winter, had no need for crop rotation, had virtually no weeds, needed very little water and virtually looked after itself.  But to top all that off, this garden produces many times more than a traditional vegetable garden and regenerates itself year after year, all by itself.

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Surely, that would be magic!

How could a vegetable garden like this exist?  Easily!  The answer is in nature.  Natural ecosystems are very healthy and diverse and don’t require any human interference.  If we are able to take the same natural laws that are found in nature and apply them to our garden, we are able to reproduce the same results.  And that’s exactly what the Food4Wealth method has done.

The Food4Wealth method is based on science.  It follows very sound ecological principles.  It’s a way of setting up a natural ecosystem using edible plants, and it uses the types of plants we all like to eat.  The special planting arrangement mimics nature so the same interdependent relationships between the living components exist.  These relationships are mutually beneficial for the various components, so the vegetable garden actually runs all by itself.

The people in the family who own the Food4Wealth plot are actually one of the important living components.  They perform a similar task to a grazing animal in a natural ecosystem.  The Food4Wealth plot actually benefits from regular harvesting, just as a natural ecosystem benefits from regular grazing.  These plots are so prolific, that they need almost daily harvesting.  Regular harvesting maintains the ideal vegetation balance required to run the garden like a natural ecosystem.  It’s the ultimate win win situation.  Harvesting is good for the people, but it’s also good for the garden.

The biggest challenge that faces modern agricultural practices is to incorporate pest ecology, plant ecology, soil ecology and crop management into a method that is reliable and efficient.  And until now, that has never been achieved.  The Food4Wealth method naturally combines all of these factors without any effort.  You see, nature has had these things under control for millions of years.  It’s only humans who have made things more complicated.

But the path is now clear, because Food4Wealth has laid the foundations for a healthier, more efficient and reliable way to grow food.  It’s a simple method that sets things up as nature intended, so that problems simply don’t exist.

So, to answer the question – is it magic?

No, it isn’t magic, but it sure feels like it.

This post was contributed by a guest writer. If you’d like to guest post for Naturally Earth Friendly please check out our Become An Author page for details on how YOU can share your tips with our readers..

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Grow Healthy Fresh Organic Food Without All The Problems

Is It Possible to Grow Healthy, Fresh Organic Food Without All The Problems?

According to Jonathan White, owner of the popular website Food4Wealth, the answer is yes!

Why most people struggle

According to Jonathan, there’s a reason why so many people struggle with vegetable gardens despite so much help being offered to them today…

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“The biggest challenge is convincing traditional gardeners. Like many industries, the gardening industry gets stuck in doing things a certain way. And for many dedicated veterans, it can actually be quite threatening when an embarrassingly simple solution comes along,” Jonathan tells us, “And that’s exactly what this method is – EMBARRASSINGLY SIMPLE.

How Jonathan conquered vegetable gardening with a unique approach

“In my experience, the study of natural ecosystems reveals everything we need to know about growing food. After all, Mother Nature has been doing it this way for millions of years,” Jonathan tells us.

Jonathan focuses on the unique approach of creating a natural habitat that is made up of edible plants, without digging, weed pulling or harmful pesticides.

Was it worth it?

“From my own results I can say, with absolute certainty, that this is the way we will be producing food in the future. It’s just commonsense. Why wouldn’t the world want to use a method that produces many times more food with a fraction of the effort?

And Jonathan is not alone. There are many success stories that you can read on his website, Food4Wealth that should, at the very least, inspire you to give it a try too.

To learn more about Jonathan’s solution, and his story, along with dozens of other stories from people who have also tried this solution, visit Food4Wealth.

What others are saying…

“The information you provide will be of great benefit especially to people who have never planted a garden before” – Keith Taylor
Click here to read the full review

“I liked that someone could put it in a small area, and didn’t have to till it or spend hours and hours on it, and it’s organic!” – Jeannie Nobles
Click here to read the full review

“I have converted my existing garden bed using your system of planting.” – Moira von Keyserlingk
Click here to read the full review

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Ecological Gardening

Gardening Ecology: Basic Life Supporting Systems (Part 3)

This is a guest post by Jonathan White of Food4Wealth

This is Part 3 and the conclusion of a series about the basic ecology of a garden and how it helps to restore our basic life-supporting systems. This includes water, air and soil. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

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There is no buffer that can protect you from the global breakdown of the basic life-supporting systems – water, air and soil. However, you can cause an effect on your immediate surroundings. To restore our basic life-supporting systems – water, air and soil – we need to increase the number and diversity of biological components. Diversity is the answer. Remember, an ecosystem has millions of components, systems and sub-systems operating in a given area. These systems need each other for their survival. We can add diversity to our backyards and farms in the form of plants and animals. Once we start to add biological components, they will start to support more biological components. The addition of biological components, in the form of plants and animals, will start to build soil. This in turn will slow down the flow of water and keep it in our property. Trees and other plants will reduce and capture water lost from ground evaporation, mulch soils and create niche spaces for more life-forms. Your property will be better regulated in terms of temperature and humidity. It will be cooler in summer and warmer in winter. This, in turn, helps the plants to yield more, creating more biomass and better soil. There will be more opportunities for life forms and the basic life-supporting systems; water, air and soil will be more supportive and better able to meet your needs. As these basic systems become healthier, more sub-systems will appear. Systems within systems will start to rev up and biological components (plants and animals) will increase in number, diversity and health.

To give you an idea of how this may look in real terms, imagine this; a backyard that had a massive number of edible and non-edible plants of differing size, shape, habit, colour and form. Also, imagine a diversity of domestic and wild animals, native and introduced, edible and non-edible. Now, try to imagine a system where these plants and animals coexist in a way that they fed each other and, at the same time, create surplus food for humans.

Using a mixture of edible and non-edible plants is important. Not everything within the system should be directly consumed by humans. Non-edible plants create the structure that supports the edible species. They should be planted in sensitive areas such as hilltops and drainage lines and in strips along contours on slopes. They act as water filters, native habitats, climate controllers and soil builders. Edible plants fill in the spaces only after the basic supporting structure is in place. Ecosystems are in a constant state of change and so are sustainable food growing systems. This makes it very difficult to predetermine the yield from year to year. The system needs the freedom to change as the components and systems evolve. This is the most difficult part for humans to understand. In our current way of farming we strive to make each year the same so that the yield can be predetermined, even when the conditions are changing. Sustainable agriculture calls for a massive faith in natural laws and absolute respect for the basic life-supporting systems. I have seen many agricultural systems, but very few sustainable ones. I have even seen several organically-certified farms that are practicing agriculture in a way that is depleting the basic life-supporting systems; soil, air and water. Rather than buying inorganic fertilizers, they simply purchase organic fertilizers. These organic farmers have little understanding of natural systems and just operate in a similar way to traditional farmers, only their job is more difficult without the use of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides. The food they produce may be free of chemicals, but they are slowly killing the basic life-supporting systems; water, air and soil.

To make the world a healthier place is not difficult. Even if you don’t get the design as perfect as you possibly could, just the addition of a diversity of plants will create a positive effect on the basic life-supporting systems. However, if you can get the components arranged in a way that they feed off one another to create a cyclic flow of energy, then you are starting to mimic a natural ecosystem. As the site matures, the basic life-supporting systems – water, air and soil – will start to be restored. That is when the system becomes self-sufficient and will provide excess food for humans, with minimal effort. In fact, at that point, we will have returned to the past and, once again, be just another ecological component within an ecosystem.

This post was contributed by a guest writer. If you’d like to guest post for Naturally Earth Friendly please check out our Become An Author page for details on how YOU can share your tips with our readers.

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Ecological Gardening

Gardening Ecology: Basic Life Supporting Systems (Part 2)

This is a guest post by Jonathan White of Food4Wealth.

This is Part 2 in a series about the basic ecology of a garden and how it helps to restore our basic life-supporting systems. This includes water, air and soil. Read Part 1 in the series here.

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Modern-day human intervention can offer short-term solutions, but cannot fix the cause of the problem. Irrigation from bores cannot provide a sustainable solution to the breakdown of the water system. Irrigation only lowers the ground water further making the problem even bigger than it was. The use of groundwater is not a bad practice in all cases, but it doesn’t fix the root problem. Likewise, inorganic fertilizers will not repair the soil systems. If a soil is being leached of nutrients due to water passing through it too quickly and hungry hybrid crops feeding on it, it will not be repaired by adding more minerals. The same forces that are depleting the soils are still happening, so the soils will continue to become depleted. Inorganic fertilizers cannot restore soil structure and cannot build new soil, like a natural ecosystem can.

Monoculture farmer spraying fields with fertilizer.

Commonsense will tell you that if there are no natural soil-building systems in place and soils are being lost and degraded, then fertilizer dependence must increase. Year after year more fertilizer will be needed to obtain the same yield. Remember, the farmer depends on a predetermined yield to fulfill his lifestyle, but now there is a greater cost to maintain that yield, in the form of store-bought fertilizers. As costs increase, net profits decrease and eventually the whole operation becomes economically nonviable. When you add market instability and retail competitiveness to the equation, you can see how difficult it would be to survive as a farmer. The solution, so far, has been to cut the amount of human labor on farms because they are the most expensive part of the operation. This is done by increasing the size of the operation and the equipment. Large conglomerate companies can grow crops over thousands of acres, tended by very few humans. In ecological terms, this means less diversity over a larger area, which means less natural components and less natural systems in operation. Of course, the result is that the basic life-supporting systems; water, air and soil, will be ruined at a quicker rate. Surely that means that even these massive operations will eventually become too costly to run.

The only way to keep an ecosystem alive and healthy is to make sure the basic life-supporting systems – water, air and soil – are intact. This applies to any patch of land, whether it’s a native forest, a farm or an urban garden. Every ecosystem is just a smaller part of a larger ecosystem. In fact, the whole planet could be referred to as a single ecosystem. What we do on a local level may only cause a tiny effect, but if a significant number of local people start doing the same thing, then it will cause an effect on a slightly larger scale. If this is replicated on a big enough scale, then eventually, our actions can affect an entire planet.

to be continued…

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Ecological Gardening

Gardening Ecology: Basic Life Supporting Systems (Part 1)

This is a guest post by Jonathan White of Food4Wealth

This is Part 1 in a series about the basic ecology of a garden and how it helps to restore our basic life-supporting systems. This includes water, air and soil.

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The breakdown of our food growing systems poses one of the biggest threats to our survival. Our existence depends upon our agricultural systems, but what do our agricultural systems depend on? The answer: water, air and soil. These basic elements support all life-forms and without them, life as we know it cannot be sustained.

In nature, food grows as part of an ecosystem. An ecosystem is an ecological system that is made up of many biological parts, or components, that all interact with one another. These components are mostly made up of organisms such as plants and animals. They feed on each other and depend on each others’ presence to survive.

Just as plant and animal components are dependent on each other, basic life-supporting systems – water, air and soil – are also dependent on each another. For example, the flow of air affects rainfall and rainfall affects the flow of air. In addition, life-supporting systems are dependent on the components and vice versa. For example, soil is created by plants and plants are created by soil. In summary, components are dependent on life-supporting systems and the life-supporting systems are dependent on components. However, it gets even more complicated than that.

Monoculture farmer holding grain in his hands.

Within the basic life-supporting systems – water, air and soil – there are sub-systems. If we take a look at water, it can be broken up into many sub-systems, including: rainfall, surface water, ground water, humidity and transpiration. It is not necessary (or even possible) to understand everything that’s going on within an ecosystem, however it is very important to understand this:

Each and every component, system and sub-system is important in running the overall ecosystem. When you disturb one, the others start to fall apart.  

Humans once lived as part of ecosystems. We were just one of many ecological components within an ecosystem. We were also part of the food chain; sometimes preyed upon, but mostly a predator. When we discovered cultivation we discovered many advantages, such as being able to grow staple crops in relative density. By clearing an area of its natural components we have been able to increase the quantity of a single, useful component such as a commercial crop.

A typical farming operation strives to eliminate as many ecological components as possible so that a predetermined yield of a specific crop can be obtained. For example, a farmer sows 10 acres of wheat and expects to achieve a yield within a certain range. If it’s a good year he will achieve the upper end of the range and if it’s a bad year he will achieve the lower end of the range. This offers him a relatively secure livelihood and he can live his life in accordance to the money he makes from his predetermined yield. It makes perfect sense from an economic point of view.

However, this only works when the basic life-supporting systems are working, hence, adequate water, air and soil. The problem is that these basic systems are part of an ancient ecosystem that is long gone. The soils that we now grow crops in were part of a natural ecosystem and the millions of components that once existed were a critical part of keeping the basic life-supporting systems healthy and functioning.

By stripping the land of natural components we start to see the degradation of the basic life-supporting systems – water, soil and air. When a large number of living components are removed, these natural systems break down because the components and the systems are interrelated. As a diversity of plants and animals are replaced with a single species of crop, we start to see effects on the way the basic water, air and soil systems operate. Water moves faster and is not filtered by a variety of plants. This usually lowers the ground water and leaves the surface hotter and drier. The hotter surface moves the air in different ways causing rain clouds to travel away from the area causing localized drought conditions. Overall fertility is lost from soils as water moves out of the system at a greater rate. The temperatures are hotter in summer and colder in winter as there are fewer plants to thermoregulate the area. Rainfall becomes more unpredictable as the air current is affected by hotter ground temperatures. It eventually gets difficult to grow the commercial crop.

to be continued…

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What is Ecological Gardening

What is Ecological Gardening?

This is a guest post by Jonathan White of Food4Wealth

The term Ecological Gardening seems to be gaining popularity. But what is it?

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What is ecological gardening?

Natural ecosystems are generally diverse and there are a number of intricate interdependent relationships occurring between the living and non-living components at any given time.

Put simply, each component relies and benefits from its interaction with other components.

They fuel up on each other, causing the system to be able to sustain itself. If one part of the system gets ‘out of whack’, the whole system is affected.

High yielding, low maintenance vegetable gardening that’s perfect for our modern-day lifestyle.

Ecological Gardening aims to create a system where nature works for us, and not against us. It is actually quite easy to have a weed-free vegetable garden. You simply do one of two things.

Firstly, you avoid having empty niche spaces. And secondly, you make sure there is something desirable to fill niche spaces, should they become available. That’s just one simple example, but Ecological Gardening can easily prevent a number of problems from ever arising.

​Ecological Vegetable Gardens

An ecological garden is an ecosystem made up of edible plants, and it behaves in exactly the same way as a natural habitat. Over time, you become more of an observer than a gardener as you watch Mother Nature do most of the work.

Rows of vegetable crops, a traditional field of produce.The wonderful thing about nature is that she works tirelessly, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Nature follows very simple laws and works in the same way, on any system, anywhere in the world. To understand ecological gardening, observing natural ecosystems can provide us with the answers we need.

A pristine natural ecosystem is made up of thousands of living and non-living components all coexisting in a given area. Each living component occupies its own niche space and the role of the niche space is very important to understand when creating an ecological garden.

Let’s look at an example. Imagine a giant rainforest tree crashing to the ground after standing tall for hundreds of years. Such a large tree would have filled an enormous niche space. Lying in the soil, hundreds of dormant seeds spring to life, desperately fighting for their opportunity to occupy the best real estate in the forest – the empty niche space. The niche space is quickly filled and harmony is restored.

Who Should Set Up an Ecological Garden?

Absolutely everyone from farmers to inner-city townhouse dwellers. It may seem strange, but if you have never grown food before then you are, in some ways, at an advantage. Experienced gardeners may like to see themselves as adopting some ecological gardening techniques, but find it difficult to let go of the need to control the system.

Like all industries, the gardening industry can get stuck in doing things a certain way and most seasoned gardeners will inevitably over-work the garden.

As a species, human beings prospered when we learnt to cultivate food using tilling and other traditional agricultural methods, so it’s difficult to turn back to where we came from – nature. It might even feel like a step in the wrong direction.

But if we can let go of our need to control every living thing on the planet, and start to work with nature, we actually gain more control by being able to grow food more efficiently than ever before.

It’s a paradox – but it works!

Setting up an ecological garden

Any existing vegetable garden can be converted into an ecological garden. Firstly, get your pathways laid out so that you never have to walk on your garden beds again. After that, get a good composting system going and apply it to the soil surface. Then plant densely and diversely.

If you don’t have a vegetable garden, my suggestion would be to create a classic Esther Deans ‘no dig’ garden to get you started. Once erected, simply follow the ecological gardening method.

Hands holding dirt with plant seedling.

Mini-ecological garden

If you live in a unit or townhouse with no soft ground you could create a mini-ecological garden using a series of containers.

Polystyrafoam boxes with drainage holes are ideal. Fill them with good potting mixture and arrange them side by side using as many as you can fit onto your verandah or patio.

Rather than developing a large composting system, you could purchase a worm farm and add the worm casts to the soil surface as fertilizer.

Once the boxes are set up, simply adopt the ecological gardening method.

The Ecological Gardening Method – Key Principles

  • Plant densely
  • Plant a diversity of plants within a given area
  • Get a good composting system set up and use the compost as a surface mulch on bare patches
  • Allow some plants to go to seed
  • Only interfere with the system when a single species of plant over-dominates and simply scratch out excess plants when they are small.

​Conclusion

My experience with Ecological Gardening has been phenomenal. I have been able to combine natural weed management, soil ecology, pest ecology and crop management into a very simple and easy method.

In fact, I have been able to create a garden that requires very little attention and produces far more than a traditional vegetable garden, simply by applying sound scientific principles. And from the incredible results that I have achieved, I can say, with absolute certainty, that Ecological Gardening is the way we will be producing food in the future.

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