How to Increase the Microbes in the Plants we Eat!
Humans have a microbiota made up of microbes which will defend us against unwanted disease and ailments.
In the same way, plants do too and we can benefit from theirs by eating a diet that is rich in organic fruit and vegetables.
And the best source of such organic fruit and vegetables is wherever and whenever possible to grow your own!
If you are lucky enough to grow your own, here are 5 ways to enrich their plant microbiota!
1. By growing organically and resisting the use of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers as these can all have a detrimental affect on the communities of microbes in plants and in their roots too. If you can follow organic principles and avoid the use of chemicals, you will automatically optimize the health of your plants' microbiota in your vegetable garden.
2. By saving your own seed supply. It is important to know that plant microbiotas are actually passed on from one generation to the next through their seed. Unfortunately, some seed companies are known to use chemical pesticides and herbicides and these may have a detrimental impact on the plant microbiota. This limits the microbial diversity that is passed on to the seeds. In addition, some companies will go so far as to clean and treat their seed during processing in ways that also harm plant microbiotas. If we can save our own seed or alternatively buy our seed from sources that we know use organic practices, we will help safeguard the relationship between the plant and its microbes.
3. By adopting a "No-Dig" gardening way. This is growing in popularity and is recommended both for gardens and for farms. When you minimize soil disturbance by not digging the soil, it can also help to minimize the disruption to those microbial communities among the roots too. When you adopt a "no dig" system, you leave the soil undisturbed and keep adding organic matter which the worms will break down and take down into the soil. You plant directly into the soil and just keep the weeds at bay with a light hoeing from time to time. We have changed to a no dig method on our own allotment and it has been 100% successful.
4. By adding inorganic matter. As mentioned in #3 above, if you can make your own compost or source different types of organic matter (such as manure, mushroom compost or composted green waste) and then spread it over the surface of the soil in a thick layer, it greatly improves the soil structure. This method increases the soil's nutrients and water holding capacity. It provides a great environment for microbial and fungal populations around the plant roots. Starting your own worm farm is another good idea.
5. By adding your own microbial populations. Yes, it is even possible to do this. The method is to douse the soil with compost teas or plant ferments to increase the diversity of microbes. Here are a couple of recipes on how to make your very own nutrient-rich tea or ferment.
A recipe for Comfrey fertilizer
You can grow comfrey (preferably confined to a pot as it can spread easily). Stuff a sack full with comfrey leaves and then soak in an old bucket of water. Leave to steep for about 6 weeks in an out of the way corner as they can be rather pungent.
After that time lapse, put the leaves in your compost bin to rot and bottle the stinky comfrey tea feed and store in a dark place until needed. The comfrey feed is perfect for any plants that have fruits and flowers as it is high in potassium. To use, dilute one part to ten parts water in a watering can and water your chosen plants once a week.
A recipe for left over crops for fermented plant juice
Use 1 kilogram or just over two pounds of plant material - such as left over carrots, beetroot, cabbages, carrots and kale (with as much variety as possible) together with an equal weight of molasses. Chop or shred the plant material and place in bowl before mixing thoroughly with the molasses. Pack the ingredients into large jars and seal with fine muslin cloths and rubber bands to keep the inside free of debris or insects. Leave for seven to fourteen days to ferment at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. The appearance of bubbles will indicate fermentation is under way. Strain the liquid (it should have a sour smell) and bottle and label it. Burp the jars from time to time as fermentation continues. Dilute one tablespoon to a watering can of water and use regularly as a foliar feed or as a soil drench regularly.