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Gardening Health- Alfalfa Meal : The Growing Well Newsletter

And the weather swings continue…

Well – October started out with a really warm and humid week – sheesh!! Somehow the humidity is easier to handle in summer… and we’ve come nowhere near a frost never mind a freeze. That means there are about 3 more weeks to safely plant – and we now have 35% off of all of the perennials, trees and shrubs! All our plants have been well maintained all season and are more than ready to settle in to their new homes. Come and check out the selection.

Warmer fall weather also gives me time to talk about one of my favorite resources for gardening health. This makes for a slightly longer newsletter – You have been warned! 😊

That favorite resource is alfalfa meal and the HUGE value it brings to any gardening activity - and WE FINALLY HAVE IT IN STOCK!!! There’s enough for everyone! It is critical to rehabbing gardens, trees, berries, veggie plots – I use at least 500 lbs a year and sometimes a lot more! It’s safe to mix with absolutely any product you’re adding to your soil and I use it in every blend I make.

I learned about alfalfa meal in my first year as a solo landscaper. It seemed that everything that I had been taught before I went out on my own was thin at best – and I had to really get an education… No one was teaching what I needed to learn so I went foraging in books. I had been given John Sabuco’s Best of the Hardiest and it had this delightful one page description of alfalfa meal and what it could do to help plants establish smoothly (he also mentioned willow sawdust but try and find THAT to experiment with!!). I’ve since found that alfalfa meal works for almost any garden problem. It supports both bacterial and fungal expansion and is a slow-release fertilizer in its own right. How can that be? Alfalfa meal is a protein meal and that means it is a source of nitrogen. That’s great but it also has a range of minerals including calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and it contains a natural fatty-acid growth stimulant called triacontanol. It’s also a great feed supplement for animals of all kinds – just try some with your laying hens…you’ll see what I mean!

Why am I bringing this up right now?? Because fall is the BEST time to re-mineralize soils, support weakened trees (ask about creating your own tree rehab mix) and start new projects - and alfalfa meal is the backbone for all of that work.

A word about re-mineralizing…why on earth should you do it?!? Because you get most of a new body every 6 months – and every part of your body is renewed (including your bones) many times during your lifetime! And this is true of all of the animals (two and four legged) that you’re responsible for. Everything that you (in all the permutations of you!!) eat comes from plants, who grow (usually) in the soil. Why make a big deal about this? Because there has been a general loss of soil quality and vigor over the last 80+ years (ask about THAT reality!!) - and - farms and gardens are human made events – at their best…a dance between natural systems and human needs – at their worst – war. The goal is to create the dance…and YOU are in control of that dance to a very large degree in your own yard.

Think about this - That renewed body mentioned above is only as strong as the building blocks used to actually build it. There are thousands of enzymes (that have critical minerals at their core) that are needed for clean DNA replication. What you eat really does become who you are and what you will become – and this is true for you, your children, your pets, your plants, your livestock and the planet as well. Think positive and you can plan on running a triathlon, or just coming home healthy from work. Think negative and remember that all of those degenerative diseases (that affect every kind of plant or animal) are often based on enzyme insufficiency and mineral deficiency…those same diseases that are draining farmers’, families’, communities’ and countries’ financial and emotional resources. It’s a fascinating series of links from the quality of soil to the quality of food (and I’m always happy to talk about it!) but let’s get back to the “fun” part – getting your soil system to dance!

Here are some regional realities true for all:

New England soils are VERY old soils (thousands and thousands of years and post glacial at that) and VERY abused soils (think Pilgrims, land clearing and modern housing construction).

New England has a high annual precipitation rate – so calcium (and other nutrients) leach out of the top soil layers and down into the lower levels. And this year has been even wetter than usual – LOTS of minerals have moved…

Soil is a living structural composite – a vital mix of everything living and dead blended with particles of all sizes. It’s not a dead, concrete like substance that you have to drill into to plant in.

There are no “BAD” soils (or “good” soils for that matter) - there is only the soil that YOU have to work with and what it takes to make it productive for YOUR needs – and perhaps the planet’s needs as well…

Compost does NOT have all of the minerals needed to grow healthy plants - unless the materials that made up the feedstock for the compost had all of the minerals – a very thin reality! Having said that though, compost piles are a great place to work in raw minerals and get them bound into the organic mix.

What is a raw mineral anyways?? You actually already know one and have probably used it– and that’s common garden lime. Garden lime is dolomite (locally mined) or calcium carbonate (from elsewhere). In either case, it’s a raw rock mineral that’s been ground and then “prilled (made round)” to make it easier to spread. What are some other raw minerals? Azomite, greensand, leonardite, humalite and the list goes on. There’s also the truly raw mineral – local stone dusts. I use a combination of a Mt. Tom basalt (from the Holyoke range) and a Pandolph Perkins schist -from the quarry in Sterling, Ma. We used both of those in the mineral mixing class at the store last weekend (great class!!!). Use as many raw minerals as possible when building new garden beds and compost piles. This will recharge the soil’s battery for the long haul. If you’re really curious about re-mineralizing then check out this link.

This information is so important (at least I think so!) that we’re running a class on Re-Mineralizing Soils for Native Plant Support on 10/27, 1:00-2:30pm. You’ll get a chance to feel all of the minerals and help to mix the pile that we create, ask as many questions as you want – and then take home what you want for your own personal projects. We weigh out the mix at the end and you pay only for what you need. You’ll also have all of the information needed to run your own mixing party wherever it makes most sense to work -minerals are HEAVY!!!! They are ROCKS after all! Workshop is $15 and includes handouts plus the cost of the mineral mix.

And check here for a worksheet on our website with some of the formulas that I work with all the time. --------------- You’ll find alfalfa meal is in every recipe.

There are a couple of other workshops planned:

There’s a Growing Great Garlic workshop on 10/20, 1:00-2:30pm. Everyone loves garlic (or most people do!) but growing it does have some tricks and we want to make sure you know what they are. And it’s currently TOOOOOOO WARM to plant garlic! Please wait until the soil temperatures drop by quite a bit. Workshop is $15 and includes handouts plus the cost of the garlic you choose.

And – at the beginning of November, 11/4 – mid- morning to mid-afternoon (and depe

nding on the weather!), we’re going to Build an HK (Hugelkulture) Bed behind the greenhouse from all of the wood left over from clearing the sales area. What is an HK bed? Check here for a brief worksheet. ---------------- This will be a work in process and you can stop in and ask questions at any point in the day – as mentioned earlier – weather dependent… 😊

Remember to call the store – 978-632-0991 – to reserve your space and to let us know what other topics you’d like us to cover - either in the newsletter or in-person workshops.

Helpful Documents Click Here for Nutrient Dense Hugelkulture and Mineral Amendment Recipes.

- The Good Earth

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