In 1989, in the third grade, I had an amazing teacher. She would use any tool possible to try to teach her students everything that she could about the world around them, especially the world that you could not see with the naked eye. Simple things like evaporating sea water to show us how much salt was left over. One day she brought in some dirty brown water in a jar along with a microscope. This day changed my life.
Fast forward about 6 years. This teacher has now retired and owns a water garden nursery, along with her son and another retired teacher. The three of them were the ultimate teaching trifecta when it comes to the pond and plant world. Everything from caring for Koi and Shubunkins, to designing the layout of the ponds to ensure proper filtration and protection of the fishes from predators.
The filters were fun to learn about, there absolutely no chemicals involved. Filtration was achieved using pea gravel and the mint/peppermint plant. This concept amazed me. The plants took the compounds in the water that could harm the fish and used them to grow, and smell amazing. Towards the end of that summer, I was tasked with cleaning out one of the filters. Once I removed a portion of the gravel, I found that an entire world of microorganisms had moved in. I had been told of them in the past, but now it was time to check it out with my own eyes. It was messy, but I had a great time. This was the beginning of my journey.
Over the years I was able to put all of my knowledge to use, built some ponds for myself and others. Rescued a few ponds from people who bought chemical products for instant “fixes” to their problems, not realizing that they were band-aids at best. When the problem would return, it would be much worse than before. Most of the time that problem was an algae bloom “Green Water”. Change a little water to remove some excess nutrients, and wait. That is all that is required, for the most part.
In 2005, I was stationed in Al Asad, Iraq. The Chaplain took us to a place that was off limits to everyone except groups that were lead by a religious leader. This place goes by a few names in English; Spring of the Lion, Al Asad Oasis, Abraham’s Oasis and Abraham’s Well. Yes, that Abraham. Hence the reason for the “Accompanied by the Chaplain Only” access. Believe it or not, water is not nonexistent in the desert. Where there is water, there is some form of life. In this water, that form of life was thousands of Mollies, a type of fish that is common in the aquarium hobby. This water was very shallow, baking in the sun all day long, and yet all of this life was thriving. Nature knows how to balance itself when it is left to do what it does best. When people don’t let nature do it’s thing, by interfering or using chemically manufactured inputs, nature is destroyed. The pictures below are only 5 years apart.
I do not know what was done beyond cutting down the vegetation. In all of that dry heat, the vegetation will not decompose fast enough. It will lay there as a “Mulch” and prevent the vegetation from regrowing. Eventually it will become dry and be blown away by the desert winds, but by this time the damage will have already been done. With no living roots, all of the soil dwelling microbial life will go dormant, then most likely die off. With no vegetation to attract insects and shade the water, the Mollies will not be far behind. Now it is just a wet hole in the middle of the desert. This Oasis has existed since the time of Abraham. Look what we did to it in less than a decade, trying to “help”.
This does not have to be a permanent problem. By gathering, multiplying and reintroducing even just microbial life, aerobic bacteria and fungi, to the surrounding area this Oasis can be brought back to life. This is the same thing that Mother Nature will eventually accomplish. Although it may take years, or even decades for her to do it alone.
Let’s help Mother Nature. Through very simple and inexpensive processes, we can turn “dead soil”, which requires chemical inputs to grow even the simplest of grasses, in to the healthiest, most beautiful lands on Earth.
It is easily possible to replace commercial fertilizers altogether. By utilizing local resources, all needed materials can be acquired for little to no cost. All of the amendments that you need are very simple to create, although some take up to 6 months to steep. The ones that take the longest are shelf stable, and can very easily make six gallons at a time. Although it can be scaled up or down as far as need be. Six Gallons is enough to amend 6,000 gallons of water and would be enough for a 100 acre farm for approximately easily 5 to 10 years.
Realistically the yearly cost per acre to fertilize and protect your plants is somewhere in the neighborhood of $50. If you have access to the quantities of ingredients for free, like waste products from other industries, such as sawdust from a mill, you can get down into the neighborhood of $20 per acre per year, including labor. Using all natural products sourced locally. Even if you are not seeking an Organic Certification, this is a win/win situation for you and for the environment.