The Vegetable Garden

The Problem with Traditional Vegetable Gardening - page 2

  • Written by Jonathan White, Environmental Scientist

Now back to our story.  Weeds will grow in the empty niche spaces.  Quite often there are too many weeds to pick out individually, so the traditional gardener uses a hoe to turn them into the soil.  I have read in many gardening books, even organic gardening books, that your hoe is your best friend.  So the message we are getting is that using a hoe is the solution to a problem.

However, I would like to show you how using a hoe actually creates a new set of problems.  Firstly, turning soil excites weed seeds, creating a new explosion of weeds.  And secondly, turning soil upsets the soil ecology.  The top layer of soil is generally dry and structureless.  By turning it, you are placing deeper structured soil on the surface and putting the structureless soil underneath.  Over time, the band of structureless soil widens.  Structureless soil has far less moisture holding capacity, so the garden now needs more water to keep the plants alive. 

In addition to this problem, structureless soil cannot pass its nutrients onto the plants as effectively.  The garden now also needs the addition of fertilisers.  Many fertilisers kill the soil biology which is very important in building soil structure and plant nutrient availability.  The soil will eventually turn into a dead substance that doesn’t have the correct balance of nutrients to grow fully developed foods.  The foods will actually lack vitamins and minerals.  This problem has already occurred in modern-day agriculture.  Dr Tim Lobstein, Director of the Food Commission said. "… today's agriculture does not allow the soil to enrich itself, but depends on chemical fertilisers that don't replace the wide variety of nutrients plants and humans need."  Over the past 60 years commercially grown foods have experienced a significant reduction in nutrient and mineral content.