Mud and Toil

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Editor’s note: Our special guest and expert gardener from Episode 85 submitted this supplement to his extensive commentary. Although it requires a lot of prep work, his “Special Sauce” for creating the ideal soil for all your gardening needs will certainly beat just digging holes in the ground and backfilling with native clay. Get out there and garden!

A wise people once deployed the motto, “Work Will Set You Free.” In this material plane, all freedom results from work. The word “liberty” shares the same root as libra, meaning balance. Nature is always balanced; it is the epitome of physical truth. When we have done our work we are free to play, but there should always be play in the work and work in the play. Anyone who has taken an epic road trip or vacation knows the sheer amount of planning, packing, upkeep, and unpacking necessary to have such a good time. 

Nature never lies. Since the beginning of civilization, people have retreated to the wilderness to refresh their concept of truth and regain balance. Nature is the patient master who is willing to share her secrets with indifferent brutality and bountiful rewards. The more time you spend in nature, the more you align yourself with truth. And truth is defined by surviving the tribulations of time. 

The Creator created us in his own image, which is to say that the Creator created creators. What separates us from animals is our creativity. We are living 3D printers. We draw our ideas from the heavens and manifest them on the material plane. We are the only creatures who can do this here. When we live our lives as net consumers instead of net producers, we squander our humanity and merely exist as domesticated animals. 

The Aryan words “paradise” and “garden” also share the same etymology: they both mean “a cultivated or built enclosure.” In Germanic mythology we are said to live in Midgard, the enclosure between the higher and lower realms. The Bible says that man existed in paradise before gaining sentience and the ability to cultivate the garden, rather than just being another type of fauna within it. A perfect garden is the wilderness, but as humans we are here to mimic the Creator, and cultivate our own garden so we can align ourselves with truth. 

The most important aspect of any garden is the soil. So let us deploy our low time preference, and prepare our gardens for success by giving them almost everything they need up front.

Mitgartner’s ⚡️E C R E T ⚡️A U C E

The health of a plant reflects the soil in which it grows. The root zone of a plant is like an animal’s digestive system. Just as our guts are highly regulated for moisture, temperature, flora, etc., so should be your garden soil. The perfect soil sits at around 75 degrees, moist but not saturated, contains a spectrum of mineral and organic particles ranging from microscopic to several inches, and is a full ecosystem in its own right. You should be able to dig it and manipulate it with your bare hands. Water and air should be able to enter and exit through various sized capillaries. To achieve this, I will hereby share my preferred soil mix for you to experiment on your own. 

Organic matter comprises one-third of the mix. This can be mostly decomposed leaf litter, finely shredded paper or cardboard, coconut coir, sphagnum moss, rotting wood chips, moldy bedding straw, wood shavings from your hamster cage, or similar. If you have access to broadleaf forest understory, rake back the top layer (1” of leaves) to expose the darker decomposed litter which has lots of fungal (mycelial) webbing; this is the stuff you want. Harvest this from small patches and rake the fresher leaves back over it so you don’t disturb the forest floor too much. 

Sand: This one is fairly self-explanatory, and free is better. Sand helps with drainage and also exudes minerals over time. But beach sand is too salty; creek sand is best. Only harvest what’s yours and/or legally allowed. 

Native soil: This one is also self-explanatory. I usually use native soil for 25% of my mix, but less if it is too clayey, sandy, or silty. 

Compost: About 10% of the mix. Similar to organic matter listed above, though more nutrient rich, with finer particles and completely decomposed. This can be made from kitchen scrap compost, municipal green waste compost (make sure there is no sewage sludge, because some municipalities DO put that in there), composted yard waste, or any other thoroughly rotted, nutrient dense organic material. 

Gypsum: Maybe 5% of the mix. Mainly used when clay is present to improve drainage. Add more for heavy clay, or add none if no clay. 

Rock dust: 2-5% of the mix. A type called Azomite is sold for horticultural applications, though people have success with dust sourced for free or cheap at their nearest quarry. Rock dust imparts very necessary but often overlooked micronutrients into the soil which all plants need. It’s finely ground so bacteria can more easily make it available to the plants. 

Composted manure: 2-5% of mix. Save some for top dressing the seeded or freshly planted beds. Chicken manure is cheap or free and works the best. Free manure can be acquired from local egg farms. They may charge $10-20 to load it into your truck, or they might let you dig it by hand. Get the stuff at the center of the pile which has composted the most. Make sure to use a barrier between your truck bed and the manure, or else you will no longer be invited to pool parties. Other avian manures work well if you can get them. Bat guano is top notch, though not easily obtained for free. Ruminant animal manure can become too salty, use it with discretion if your water source is already somewhat salty, like in the southwest. I have seen pig manure work well, though I suspect it is high in salt too. Horse manure must be thoroughly composted and urea leeched out through rain or watering between turning. 

And for the final solution…a soil drench!

Once your plants are in or seeds have been planted, it is best to jump start the soil biology with a nutrient drench. Fill a 5 gallon bucket with tap water and let the sun pull the chlorine out of it for one full day (disregard this step if you use non-chlorinated water. All domestic tap water is chlorinated). Per 5 gallons, mix 5 counts full-flavor (aka black strap) molasses, 5 counts liquid fish emulsion (animal blood works too), 5 counts hydrolyzed kelp (if you can’t find liquid kelp, sprinkle the powder into the mix). Stir and aerate this mixture. The sugars in the molasses and the oxygen will activate the microbes in the other ingredients as well as the soil. And a healthy ecosystem will develop in your soil within a few days. 

This may sound like a lot of soil prep, and it may be more than you normally cultivate, however if done correctly, your soil should carry your garden through the growing season. Your plants will be strong enough to resist drought, disease, pests, lack of pruning, or over pruning. Take the time to front-load the effort, and be amazed at the ease for the coming months. 

You can cover your soil between planted areas with wood chips, straw, shredded paper, cardboard or a mix of all these.

The final step is to water everything in thoroughly. Animals love the concept of Blood and Soil, so you may want to keep your dog out of your garden while unsupervised. Congratulations, you’ve just taken multitudes off stress off of you, and your plants. 

Best of luck with your gardening efforts, and Hail Victory!

– Mitgartner 

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