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Sustainability lessons from a gardener: Soil carbon

September 2, 2018

What do African smallholder farmers and the tomatoes on my balcony have in common? The need for soil carbon!

Let me explain.

When I first heard the term soil carbon I honestly thought it was a scam. You must know I’m a trained forester and environmentalist at PhD level. Still, the idea that with certain agricultural practices you can increase the carbon content of soils and claim that as fighting climate change, seemed a bit far fetched to say the least. But it works.

If you have a very poor, degraded soil, like many African farmers do for example, simple things can dramatically improve your soil. Composting or always covering the earth with leftover leaves or other plants (cover crops), can increase the carbon content of your soil, meaning your soil becomes healthier and simply better.

Why am I telling you this? Because you can do the same at home in your garden or even on your balcony. I had an aha- moment just yesterday coming back from a weeklong business trip. Despite my worst fears, all the plants on my balcony survived without watering! This wasn’t “thank God”. It was due to my habit of using the tomato beet as my bio waste deposite.

This is a healthy soil cover. Humidity stays in longer, texture is added and all kinds of microorganisms get a home. And the plants love it! Seriously, this is climate change mitigation in practice: you need less mineral fertilizer or none at all, organic waste is recycled back into the earth, without losing nutrients and carbon to landfills or even worse, burning.

I think it would even be better to compost and I might start that soon. But if like me you just have a few pots and beets on your terrace or garden, you can add organic matter directly as ground cover. Be bold, go wild.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    September 3, 2018 14:20

    Katikám, mindig akartam mondani, nem olyan régen olvastam egy cikket a Spiegelben. Két kutató ki akarta találni, mi történik egy talajjal, ha az erdö teljesen le van darálva róla (Costa Ricában). Megkértek egy közeli gyümölcsfeldolgozó üzemet, hogy a hulladékukat (kifacsart narancshéj) a területre öntsék ki. A kutatók a projektre nem kaptak pénzt, ezért abba hagyták. 15 év múlva lehetöségük volt rá, hogy visszalátogassanak. Annak idején egy jó pár tonna narancshéjat öntöttek ott ki. És láss csodát 15 év múlva egy komplett kis erdö nött a helyén. Szóval a szerves anyag hulladék, biztos nagyon jót tesz a talajnak. Puszi

    • September 3, 2018 14:49

      Abszolút! Nálam most konkrétan a mogyoróhéj van legfelül. A pisztáciahéj, ami ugye nem tetszett, már nem is látszik.

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