Keeping the soil in our 18 gardens healthy and fertile without the use of any commercial fertilizers requires constant effort and attention. We carefully follow a rotation plan and we use cover cropping. Our goal is to produce 2 cover crops that are tilled back into the soil for every crop that we harvest.
We don’t use any off-farm inputs to fertilize. Instead we use compost we make here, the litter from our chicken coops, and manure from our animals. We like to think that we harvest sunshine and rainwater. They produce the grass, which feeds the livestock, which make the manure, which fertilizes the gardens, which feed us. It’s a beautiful self-contained system, designed by nature.
Even though humans have been farming this way for thousands of years, these practices are rarely followed anymore, having been replaced with the use of chemicals and synthetic fertilizers.
But we’re happy doing it the old-fashioned way. Yesterday morning I shoveled out the horse’s stall, where he likes to hang out during the heat of the day. I took the wonderful fertilizer that he deposited there and spread it on the garden that produced our garlic this year. About this time next year it should be producing tomatoes and other goodies for us, thanks to a recipe of seeds, soil, rain, sunlight, compost, human labor and a dose of horse manure.
That’s a good combination.