Home food production can be joyful and fulfilling but can also end in frustrating failure, if you are poorly prepared. It is all about understanding the process and avoiding the hapless coin toss. The goal of this series of articles is to increase the likelihood of pleasure rather than pain. The home garden should be the ultimate wellness tool for yourself and your family, so I trust these tips will push your food producing passion.
Caution: In our world of information overload, many of us have grown accustomed to dumbed-down, fast-food delivery of information. This series requires a little more effort than that, but I can promise you that that effort will be richly rewarded. There is nothing more important than producing your own chemical-free, nutrient dense food and this series is designed to make you a master food producer. If you collect these articles, you will have the perfect reference tool for the future.
Tip No. 1 – Strengthen Your Cell Walls with Calcium and Silica
If you are seeking problem-free gardening, a prime consideration is cell wall strength. The cell wall is the physical barrier that helps to prevent marauding pathogens and insects from feasting upon the energy-rich contents of the cell centre. Your goal is to buckle the penetrating hyphae of the powdery mildew fungus on your zucchini, or to blunt the mandibles of the chewing insects. So, what determines cell strength, and the moat-like protection it provides? The two minerals that toughen that barrier are calcium and silica. We shall look at calcium first.
Calcium governs the uptake of multiple minerals, along with its cell-strengthening capacity. Calcium also impacts soil pH, so a calcium-deficient soil is usually acidic. Several key minerals become less plant-available in low pH soils, and these minerals are linked to flavour, shelf life and resilience.
Sorting your soil pH
It is a simple process to check the calcium status of your soil with a DIY soil pH test. A kit can be sourced from the hardware chains for around $16. These kits allow up to 100 pH testing opportunities, so you can use them on different plots and even on different pots. The perfect pH for your soil is 6.4. At this level, most minerals are most available to your fruit and vegetables, and this is one factor that will help sponsor the production of nutrient dense food with forgotten flavours and enhanced medicinal qualities.
How to adjust your soil pH
If you discover a soil pH of 5, for example, you are usually lacking either calcium, magnesium, or both. If your soil is light and sandy, then you probably require both minerals. The best choice for these soils is a combination of lime and dolomite.
If you have discovered that your soil pH is 7 – 8, your best option is to use gypsum to displace magnesium and sodium, improve soil structure and address your all-important calcium requirements.
Feel free to call the NTS Help Line on +61 7 5472 9926 if you require further guidelines.
Calcium by direct injection
Minerals vary in their mobility, and calcium is the least mobile of all minerals. This means that it is sluggish in moving into and around the plant. Calcium is required for fruit and vegetable quality, pest resistance and flavour, but this slow coach does not always get to where it is most needed. Hence, there is great gain in bypassing the soil, with a direct delivery through the leaf.
Foliar application of calcium can be one of the single most productive home garden strategies. Say goodbye to blossom-end rot on your tomatoes and capsicums and bitter pit on your apples, and increase pest resistance on all crops through this direct delivery of calcium. Always aim for the underside of the leaf, as this is the location of the tiny pores called stomata. These entry points can fast-track the uptake of calcium and other minerals.
The key here is to use a chelated calcium. Trio™ from the Life Force® home garden range is perfectly suited, because it also contains a little magnesium and boron. Boron is critically important because it is a calcium synergist that improves calcium uptake. Boron also ensures that your corn cob fills to the top, that your fruit and vegetables are not misshapen and bumpy, and that you maximise the number of fruit or vegetables that form from each flower.
Cell strength with silica
The second player in the cell-strengthening duo is silica. This mineral is actually the second most abundant mineral on the planet. The clay and sand component of your soil is made from silica. However, recent research has revealed that there is a major silica drought amidst this abundance. Something we have done with our chemicals, our chlorinated water and our neglect of soil biology has shut down silica availability. Most soil tests reveal a screaming shortage of the available form of this mineral. This can have a major impact on our gardening fun, because silica can be so important for plant resilience.
Here are some of the roles of silica in your soil: silica is the building block for phloem and xylem, the nutrient pathways into and around the plant. For this reason, the uptake of all nutrients has a silica link. Silica determines stem strength, which, in turn, governs how well the solar panel (the leaf) performs, to capture sunlight and CO2 for photosynthesis, the most important of all plant metabolic processes. Silica immobilises excess sodium, which is becoming an increasing problem in many regions.
However, the most important recent finding about this forgotten mineral relates to plant immunity. We now understand that plants have a dynamic immune system that helps them fight against insects and disease. It has been discovered that immune elicitors can be one of the home gardener’s greatest allies, because they can be an essential key to chemical-free home food production. The stronger the plant’s immune system, the less the need for chemical intervention.
A series of recently published papers have revealed that plant-available silica may be one of the most powerful known immune elicitors. The secret here is to foliar spray silica to fast-track cell strength and encourage robust plant immunity. The good news is that NTS can supply a 1 L bottle of Photo-Finish™ (plant-available silica, kelp and humic acid) to offer a new dimension to your stress-free gardening future. This concentrated liquid is diluted at 25 mL per 10 L water. It is most cost-effective as a foliar but it can also be used to drench the root zone of plants with problems (at 5 mL per 9 L watering can, applied over 4 m2).
Whenever possible, we will offer a discounted special, relative to each instalment of this home gardening series. Until the end of November 2016 we are offering a pack called Life Force® Cell Strength™ at a very attractive price, to encourage you to spread your wings and improve your gardening skills. This pack includes a 500 mL bottle of Life Force® Trio™ Refill Concentrate, a 1 L bottle of Photo-Finish™ and two sets of Life Force® pH Strips. Normally retailing for over $43, until the end of November 2016 this pack will be available at the special price of $29.
The two sets of pH strips in your pack can serve three important roles. They can be used to monitor the pH of your own saliva and urine. They can also be used to monitor the pH of plant sap and they can offer guidance as to your crop's need for extra potassium during the season.
A healthy human has a urine and saliva pH of 6.4 (just like the soil). If you are acidic in either or both locations, then you need to make some urgent changes to sustain your own resilience. You can use your pH strips to monitor your own acid/alkaline balance.
Sap is extracted from the leaf with a garlic crusher and this simple monitoring strategy can be a reliable guideline as to your progress in sustainable food production.
Finally, the pH strips can be used to measure the sap from the young/new leaves and old leaves of your crop. Ideally, the sap pH should be the same for both. If the older leaves of the plant have a lower sap pH than the young/new leaves, this is a good indication that your crop requires more potassium.
Until my next addition to this ten tip guideline, I wish you all productive, problem-free gardening.
If you have any queries, or wish to place your order for the Life Force® Cell Strength™ pack, please contact NTS on firstname.lastname@example.org or +61 7 5472 9900. You can also order the Life Force® Cell Strength™ pack online by clicking here.
DISCLAIMERS: Offers listed above are available in Australia and directly through Nutri-Tech Solutions only. All prices listed above are in AUD and are not inclusive of freight – freight ex Yandina will be charged accordingly. Specials not valid in conjunction with any other offers. Offers listed above are available until 5:00pm AEST, Thursday 30th November 2016.