The Importance of Having Your Own Garden

With each passing year, it is becoming more important that you have your own garden if you want to be healthy. Acid rain and sulfur and other acid fertilizers are removing the water soluble calcium in the soil. The rain water that I have been testing this year has been running about 6.0 pH. The USDA reports a significant decrease in calcium in our foods over the last 50 years. The calcium in our food is much more available to our bodies than calcium supplements.

Sometime I would like to go into detail about my research about calcium, but for now I will just share this — calcium is required for each cell in our body to be replaced. If calcium is not available, the cell cannot be replaced and degeneration occurs. Calcium is much more important than just for our bones and teeth.

It is important to put high calcium limestone on your garden each year to replace the calcium lost to acid rain and what is removed in the produce you harvested.

Another important reason for having your own garden is to be able to provide food for yourself and your family if our food supply in the grocery stores becomes disrupted. Food is a necessity of life, and we as a nation have become dependent on other countries and states on the other side of the US to supply a significant amount of our food. Knowing how to raise your own food is an important back-up plan. We need to share with each other things that work and things that don’t work in gardening. Gardening is an ever learning process.

Weeds in the Garden

by Myron Horst

I have observed that it is easy for gardeners to get focused on the wrong things in gardening. Weeds are one of those things. I have observed people going to great lengths and expense to control weeds, as if gardening is all about controlling weeds, rather than producing an abundant crop of nutrient dense food. Controlling weeds becomes a big burden for them and takes the fun away from gardening. Weeds and grasses can be an important fertilizer, they can be a curse, or they can be a lesser part of the gardening experience.

This past winter, someone sent us the link to the “Back to Eden” video. It is the story of a man who implemented a method of gardening very similar to the Ruth Stout method of using mulch to control weeds, except he used a lot of Bible verses to make it sound like it was God’s method of gardening. It was an impressive video with great pictures of beautiful plants. He portrayed his method as an almost no work method of gardening. We decided to try the method on two rows in each of our gardens. It was not “no work” gardening!! It was a lot of work loading the wood chips into wheel barrows and wheeling it into the garden and spreading it. I was glad we did not have to cover both of our gardens with wood chips.

Recently I looked at the “Back to Eden” garden again and realized that it was only about 1/3 the size of our smaller garden and 1/6 the size of our large garden. I was surprised at how few plants he really had in the garden. There was a lot of space between the plants. What is easy to do on a very small scale in a hobby garden for fresh eating can become very labor intensive if you are trying to grow most of your food. If we are going to produce enough health giving food to sustain ourselves and our family, there has to be a better way.

Carey Reams, who discovered how to grow high quality, nutrient dense food, said that one of the best ways to control weeds is to plant rows close together so that the plants shade out the weeds. We have tried that method for the last several years and it has worked very well for us. It has allowed us to spend little time on weeding. We now spend much more time harvesting than weeding. We garden intensively in rows.

The first thing is to get the right nutrients in the soil. We spread about an inch and a half of composted chicken manure on the garden in the fall and plowed it under. Each year we put down some soft rock phosphate and high calcium limestone. The first year, put down about 50 lbs of soft rock phosphate per 1000 square feet and 100 lbs of high calcium limestone per 100 square feet. Each year after that a smaller quantity of each should be put down to replace what was removed and depleted during the year.

In the spring, we rototill the garden and plant the rows of green beans, corn, and other row veggies in rows 24 inches apart. The potatoes we plant 30 inches apart. This spring we made the mistake of planting some of the sweet corn 30 inches apart. That allowed significantly more grasses and weeds to grow. The rest of the story we will tell in pictures.

After the plants emerge, we use this small tiller to cultivate out the small weeds. It has only a 14 inch tilling width and easily goes down the rows planted 24 inches apart. It only takes about an hour and a half to till a 1/4 acre garden. We then hoe out the weeds in the row. In the sweet corn and potatoes we cover the small weeds as we hill the corn or potatoes. It is much faster than hoeing out the weeds. About a week or so later, we run the tiller between the rows again. This is the last time it needs to be tilled. By then the plants are starting to shade out the space between the rows and the weeds don’t have a chance.


This is 10 rows of green beans 50 feet long. There are another two rows of green beans that are to the right of the picture.  Notice how the rows have grown together, shading out the weeds and shading the ground from the sun and reducing the drying out of the soil. When a wider row spacing is used, it allows sunlight to reach the soil and germinate lots of weed seeds. The ground has the desire to always be covered.


Does planting the rows close together reduce the yield? Not if there are enough nutrients in the soil. The first picking of green beans was four buckets. The second picking was last Monday with about 13 buckets of green beans.


The third picking on Friday produced another 15 1/2 buckets of green beans. The beans had very few bug holes and when cooked were tender and delicious; nothing like what you buy in the store. The yield so far is the equivalent of 5.6 tons per acre and there are still more beans growing on the plants. Cathy and the girls canned about 200 quarts of beans and froze another 100 quarts. We all helped pick and snap the beans. It took much longer to pick the beans than what we had spent total in weeding. The outdoor canner was great because the ladies could can 26 quarts at a time and it kept the heat out of the house.


The zucchini was planted in a row and the squash and pumpkins to the left were planted 5 feet apart in each direction. That is a 6′ step ladder with a sprinkler on top which shows how tall the squash plants are. I am realizing that watering the garden before it gets really dry is an important part of controlling weeds because it allows the vegetable plants to continue growing rapidly and stay ahead of the weeds.


This picture illustrates the goal with weeds: make the weeds unhealthy and the vegetable plants healthy. The weed in the center is bug eaten and the beets are strong and healthy. Too often, it is the opposite. The key is learning how to feed the vegetables and not the weeds. Nitrogen will make weeds grow just as fast or faster than the vegetable plants that we want. Too much nitrogen attracts bugs to the plants we want. Soft rock phosphate and high calcium limestone are important elements in the soil. It is also important to foliar feed the plants with a spray each week to keep the brix of the leaf above 12 so that the bugs leave it alone and go after the weeds. The foliar sprays that we use are in this article: http://www.jehovahjirehfarm.com/articles/2010/07/13/an-incredible-substance-raw-milk/

This year we also discovered another foliar spray that dramatically raised the brix of our pasture grasses and some plants in the garden. It is important to test how a foliar spray is working by testing the sap of a plant leaf with a refractometer. The same spray can cause the brix to drop in some plants and raise it in another. The formula is 4 of our raw pasture raised eggs and a tablespoon of feed grade molasses in a gallon of water. It puts a glossy shine on the leaves.


Weeds and grasses are an excellent fertilizer, as the trees in our American chestnut orchard illustrate. These trees were planted as nuts only five years ago. The gate is about 9 1/2 feet high to the cross bar. The trees have grown so dense that it is difficult to walk through the orchard. We repeatedly hear that it is important to keep the weeds down so that they don’t compete with the plants that we want. You often see orchards where they have sprayed RoundUp under the trees to control the grass and weeds. We did the opposite in this orchard. When the trees were smaller, we allowed the grass and weeds to grow 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall before we mowed it. It was not unusual for some of the grass to be above the hood of the lawn tractor. What we were doing was building topsoil with the grass. The roots of the grass go down about the same distance as what the plant is tall. When it is mowed off, the roots of the plant die off until they are about the same size as the plant that is above the ground. Those decaying roots made topsoil to the depth of two feet. By repeatedly allowing the weeds and grass to grow tall and mowing them off year after year, it created a soil that allowed the chestnut trees to grow rapidly. The same principle can be applied in the garden. After a crop is harvested for the year, rather than tilling up the ground and letting the ground be bare, allow the weeds and grass to grow, but mow them off before they produce seeds. Use the weeds to your advantage.

The Lazy Days of Summer??

The August 2011 edition of Country magazine has on the cover: "Easy Season, Relax and enjoy the dog days". Summer might be the lazy days for air conditioned city folks, but they are not lazy days here on the farm. We have been trying to apply the wisdom of the old proverb: "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:  Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,  provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man." (Proverbs 6:6-11)

In addition to all our other work, we have been busy canning and freezing as much of our nutrient dense food from the garden that we can so that we have nutritious food to feed our family this winter when all the colds, flu bugs and other sicknesses are going around.

Sweet Corn 2011
This is a bucket of high brix sweet corn (25 brix) from our garden. Our family loves corn and we grow a large patch of sweet corn. Last year the stink bugs destroyed our last planting of sweet corn. This year Cathy was determined that we would get all our sweet corn. Unlike other bugs that are deterred by high brix plants, stink bugs love sugar. We found a repellent that really works. We used a mixture of liquid laundry soap that we got from a health food store and mixed it with water and sprayed it on the ears as the corn was nearing maturity. We had to spray it twice. It turned some of the outer husks brown, but it didn’t affect the corn. Watering with a sprinkler seems to help reactivate the soap also.You can find more at this link: http://www.ehow.com/info_8607847_stink-bug-repellent-home.html

Cutting Corn
Cathy and some of the children cutting the corn off the cob. The corn is first husked, then the silk is removed. Then about 100 ears are blanched at a time in a large outdoor cooker/canner. The corn is then cooled in water, cut off the cob and put into freezer boxes. This year we put 98 quarts of corn in the freezer.

Canning Veggie Soup
Cathy and Kara in the process of canning 41 quarts of beef vegetable stew. In the lower left corner is canned beets. Cathy learned an easy way to wash a large quantity of beets and potatoes. You put them in the washing machine with an old towel and set it on the gentle setting. It works well and takes the work out of washing all those vegetables.

Cooking Under Pressure
There are also times to sit and relax and learn how to cook under pressure! Here Cathy is reading a new cook book about how to use her new 10 quart pressure cooker. She is waiting while salsa is being canned in the the outdoor canner. She and the girls made and canned 76 pints of delicious salsa that day. Salsa is great on eggs – fried, scrambled, and omelets.

Daniel with Spinning Wheel
Recently, our son Daniel made an electric spinning wheel using a sewing machine motor and foot control. It is amazingly simple and works well.

Oh the non-lazy days of summer, when we go to bed feeling like we accomplished something and we feel more prepared for winter. This winter we will sit by the wood stove in the evening and enjoy a good book or use that new electric spinning wheel.

Extending the Growing Season

As we continue our quest to grown as much of our own nutrient dense food as possible, we decided it was time to build our own greenhouse this year. It is placed in Cathy’s kitchen garden so that she can grown greens through out the winter. We based the design of the greenhouse on the design of our chick brooder buildings where we start the baby chicks. The brooders held up well the last several years with all the big snows. The roof is steep enough that much of the snow slides off. The greenhouse is designed so that we can take it down in the summertime if we want to. Or we might just remove the plastic covering and cover part of the frame with greenhouse shade cloth so that we can grow lettuce and other greens in the shade during the heat of summer.


All of the bows are up and it is almost ready for the plastic covering.


We made the bows of the green house out of 2X4’s. Where the 2X4’s were joined together, pieces of plywood were glued and nailed on either side of the joint. The rafters are 8′ long and the side walls are 5′ high on the upper side and 6′ on the down hill side. The bows are spaced 4′ apart. The ridge pole that connects the top of the bows together was not yet installed in this picture.


The finished greenhouse – 12′ X 32’  The cost of materials was less than $300. If you build it yourself, a greenhouse is very affordable. The plastic on the sides can be rolled up to provide ventilation when it gets too hot inside.


Melody gathering spinach in the greenhouse with one of her cats. The spinach was overwintered in two cold frames before the greenhouse was built.

An Incredible Substance – Raw Milk

Raw milk is a much more valuable substance than what most people realize. Everything that we have fed it to has become more healthy. Our family consumes about 7 to 10 gallons of the stuff a week. The yogurt that we make with it is usually mild and not very tart. We noticed a difference in our children’s health one winter when our cow was not producing milk. The children had more sickness, colds, etc. than they had other years when our cows were producing milk.

We feed the baby chicks raw milk and it has made a significant difference in their health. The chickens grow much better and we have very few die. The milk also seems to make the chicken meat more tender. We have found that calves and lambs that we bottle feed do much better on raw milk than on milk replacer. Raw milk is one of the best protein sources for laying hens. We don’t give the hens milk very often because we do not have enough extra milk, but we have used it when a flock was not doing as well as it should, and they improved with the raw milk added to their feed.

Last summer we discovered another valuable use for raw milk. In our garden, there were a number of different types of vegetables that were low brix. We tried different types of foliar sprays that should have raised the brix. Instead, they lowered the brix. The Brix Talk discussion board did not have any solutions. I couldn’t find a solution anywhere. So I asked God to show me what to do. He brought to my mind that in the Bible the Land of Canaan (what is now Israel) was called a land flowing with milk and honey. I always assumed it meant that it was a very productive area that produced a lot of milk and honey. This time the thought that came to me was, "What if milk and honey put on the plants would make them more productive?" I did a test and sprayed some milk and honey on various plants in the garden. About an hour later I tested the brix. To my surprise and joy the brix had risen 3 brix on most of the plants. The brix of clover raised from 8 brix to 13 brix. We have used the milk and honey spray on our garden this year with excellent results.

When the brix (sugar and mineral content) of the leaf of a plant is above 12 brix, insects will leave the plant alone. The high sugar content of the plant causes alcohol to be produced in an insect when it eats the high brix plant. It gives the bug diarrhea which results in dehydration and death. We had heard that when the vegetables in a garden are high brix, the insects will leave the vegetables alone and start attacking the weeds. We found it to be true. Insects attack plants that are low quality. In poor soil the weeds are higher brix and the vegetables are low brix. When the plants have the right amount of calcium and phosphates the opposite occurs. The weeds are low brix and are attacked by the bugs and the vegetables are high brix and the bugs leave them alone. Conventional agriculture mindset is to spray anti-life chemicals on the plant to kill the bugs, and then feed the poor nutritional quality vegetables to us. The following pictures show some weeds that the insects were eating.


The bugs attacked the weeds in the corn patch. The brix of the corn leaves was 15 brix.


Japanese beetles were eating on the weed in the center of this picture which was in the potatoes. We did not have any problem with potato beetles eating the potato plants. The brix of the potato leaves was about 12 brix.

We had a problem with the Japanese beetles eating our grapevines. After we sprayed the grapevines twice with milk and honey about a week apart, the beetles left. The milk and honey mix that we use is:
3 1/2 gallons of water
1/2 gallon of raw skim milk
1 cup of honey

I put the milk and honey spray in a pump up bug sprayer and sprayed the plants. It might be possible to get the same results without using the honey. I have not experimented with that yet.

Recently I read an article in a farming magazine, The Stockman Grass Farmer, about a dairy farm in Nebraska that had raw skim milk that was a waste product from making butter and cheese. To get rid of the milk, the farmer applied it to his pastures. He found that where he applied milk it made a significant improvement. It significantly increased the microbes in the soil and the growth of the grass. Further test plots showed that the raw milk applied once, at the rate of three gallons per acre, increased the yield of the hay by 1200 pounds per acre! Their conclusion was that raw milk could be worth two to three more times more money as fertilizer!


Several weeks ago we bought another cow – a Guernsey. Why a Guernsey?

One reason is that my grandfather had a purebred Guernsey dairy herd and sold "Golden Guernsey" raw milk. My father talked about how good the golden Guernsey milk was. We found that we like it better than our Jersey milk. But the real reason that we wanted a Guernsey is that some recent research has found that there are two different types of milk protein – A1 beta casein milk protein, and A2 beta casein milk protein. The A1 beta casein is what most people who have casein intolerance are allergic to. Goat and sheep milk are A2 beta casein. There is a "controversial" claim, based on 16 years research, that the A1 beta casein which is drunk by most people in the US could be a cause of diabetes, heart disease, autism, and schizophrenia in people with immune deficiencies. It is also claimed that the A2 beta casein does not cause these problems. Research has showed that 96% of the Guernsey breed of cows have the A2 beta casein, while the Holstein (black and white) breed from which most of the milk in the US is produced, has the A1 milk protein. Obviously this is very damaging information for the dairy industry and there has been considerable attempt to suppress the information about A2 milk.

For more information read
http://www.naturalnews.com/026684_cows_diabetes_protein.html or the
book Devil in the Milk by Keith Woodford.

Another use for milk is to help a person refuse what is bad and choose what is good. In the Bible, Isaiah 7:15 says that Jesus would eat butter and honey so that He would know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. That is one of the benefits of adequate calcium in the diet. I have heard that the proper type of calcium, according to a person’s body’s need, can help an alcoholic give up alcohol, or a smoker give up cigarettes. The proper calciums can also help children calm down and be well behaved without the use of mood altering drugs.

Raw milk can also be used to cure a number of chronic diseases. The Weston A Price Foundation has a very interesting article about raw milk being used to cure a number of different diseases. http://www.realmilk.com/milkcure.html Recently we purchased the book Milk Diet as a Remedy for Chronic Disease, by Dr. Charles Sanford Porter. It is a reprint of a book that was originally printed in 1905. This book goes into great detail about how to conduct a milk fast to cure sickness.

Raw milk can also be an important survival food. It is a food that can be produced fresh every day year round and consumed without further cooking or processing. This idea came from the Bible, Isaiah 7:21-22: "And it shall come to pass in that day, that a man shall nourish a young cow, and two sheep; And it shall come to pass, for the abundance of milk that they shall give he shall eat butter: for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land."

Raw milk is a valuable substance. It is unfortunate that it is illegal to buy or sell raw milk here in Maryland. Perhaps some day…

Update, August 9th:

One thing I failed to mention in last month’s article is that the milk and honey foliar spray did not work for us on green beans. It actually decreased the brix. The foliar spray that we use on our beans is:
4 gallons of water
12 tbsp molasses – we use feed grade
16 oz. Cola soda – a source of phosphoric acid
4 tsp hydrated lime
10 tbsp liquid fish
4tbsp seaweed powder
8 oz. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sea salt

We also alternate the above foliar spray with milk and honey on our sweet corn. Our sweet corn was 26 brix this year. 24 brix or higher is in the excellent range.

Monsanto – Too Big to Fall?

Here in the Washington DC area you often hear Monsanto running ads on the radio touting how they are helping farmers feed the world and how they are supporting sustainable agriculture. However, Monsanto is anything but a supporter of sustainable agriculture. They are a giant agricultural chemical and genetically modified (GMO) seed corporation that has done much damage to sustainable agriculture. Many people have lamented how Monsanto has been able to "legally" run rough shod over farmers in developing a monopoly in the agricultural world.

Last month, a little reported, but very significant event happened. France’s Supreme Court ruled against Monsanto, saying that the agrochemical giant had not told the truth about its best selling weed-killer, Roundup. Monsanto had falsely advertised Roundup as being "biodegradeable" and claimed that it "left the soil clean".  Roundup is not biodegradable and it does contaminate the soil.

For years we have been told that when Roundup is sprayed it kills plants, but when the chemical comes in contact with the soil it is neutralized. It has been said so often that many believe it to be true. France’s Supreme Court’s ruling shows proof that Roundup is not neutralized in the soil. The use of Roundup is one of the leading reasons why Monsanto has developed genetically modified seeds. The plants grown from their genetically modified seeds can be sprayed with Roundup and will not die. That enables farmer to spray their fields with Roundup and kill the weeds after the corn or soybeans have come up and not harm the corn or soybeans.

Keep watching. Someday – maybe in the distant future – but someday, Monsanto and their Roundup will likely disappear, never to be seen again.  "I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.  Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found." (Psalm 37:35-36)

Monsanto’s philosophy is built upon the evolutionary mindset that there is no God and that genetic selection (including genetically modified organisms—GMO’s) is THE answer to improving food production and feeding the world. What is being missed is that while genetic improvement has increased food production, the nutrient density of the food has decreased along with human and animal health. More food has to be consumed to supply the needed nutrients and as a result, obesity is increasing among children. The majority of people and animals today are either on pharmaceutical drugs or natural supplements to try to have some semblance of health. This is a testimony that Monsanto’s method of genetic selection is not THE answer.

God created the soil full of minerals in the Garden of Eden. The soil has been declining ever since. It has been documented that in the last 60 years that the mineral density of the soils has significantly decreased. We need to first rebuild the mineral and organic density of our soil. Then we can select for genetic superiority. The seeds that have been genetically selected by Monsanto to grow in mineral depleted soils do not have the proper genetic expression to grow in nutrient rich soils and produce nutrient dense foods. Many organic farmers and gardeners have discovered this and that is why there is a growing interest in heirloom seeds. The heirloom seeds in improved soils produce higher protein food and nutrient density. Along with the nutrient density is a significantly improved flavor. Our mouths tell us what food is best for our bodies by how good the food tastes.  When a tomato looks like a tomato but acts and tastes more like a tennis ball, you can be sure that that tomato was genetically selected for some other quality than nutrient dense food. Listen to your mouth and eat what is good! If it has a poor taste quality it is poor quality food. That is true of meats and eggs as well.

Links to articles on Monsanto
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8308903.stm
http://www.midnorthmonitor.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2160916  – An article showing how the "inactive" ingredients, the trade secret ingredients, that make Roundup more potent have been found to cause human liver cells to die.
http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/20080627/n1

The American Chestnut Orchard

As many of you know, the American Chestnut Foundation has an American chestnut breeding orchard located here on our farm. Recently a new sign was put up so that you can see where the orchard is located. The orchard is located on the right side of the lane, up the hill behind where the sign is located. The American Chestnut Foundation is working to develop a blight resistant American chestnut tree by cross breeding the American chestnut with the blight resistant Chinese chestnut. The cross bred chestnut trees are then back crossed with an American chestnut a number of times until a blight resistant chestnut tree is obtained that is 15/16 American chestnut. Currently, there are about 500 trees in our orchard. The oldest trees are four years old and the youngest ones were planted this spring.

The American chestnut was at one point the most important tree in the forests from Maine to Georgia. The chestnuts provided abundant food for many species of wildlife. The wood is beautiful and is great for cabinet making and furniture. In addition, the wood is excellent for outdoor projects as well. It has the rot resistance of redwood, but it is much harder and more wear resistant. In 1904 an imported fungus caused a blight which started killing the American chestnut trees. By 1950, approximately four billion trees on some nine million acres of eastern forests had been destroyed by the blight. Only a very few American chestnut trees remain today. When the American chestnut trees died out, a lot of wildlife went with them because a lack of food. The oak tree replaced the chestnut in many areas. However, the acorn does not compare in food value to the chestnut.

Chestnut orchard sign
Chestnut orchard
This is the entrance to the chestnut orchard. Note the deer fence to keep out the deer.

When I do volunteer work, I often feel like I receive a greater blessing than the ones that I help. This has been true in our work in caring for the chestnut orchard the last three years. When we moved here, the chestnut orchard was the worst piece of ground on our farm. The Department of Natural Resources had sprayed RoundUp and killed all the vegetation before they planted the chestnut trees. As a result, instead of grass, it was the most awful plot of thistles and other weeds! The trees grew poorly. For the next two years, I would let the thistles grow until they started making a flower bud, and then I would mow the orchard. I know that some of the people from the American Chestnut Foundation thought that I didn’t mow often enough and that my plan for getting rid of the thistles wouldn’t work.

This year I received the blessing from my labor. I discovered that in taking care of the chestnut orchard I had learned an important lesson on how to take a poor plot of ground and turn it into a highly productive soil. In addition the thistles are gone! The thistle plant is at its weakest point when it is starting to produce a flower. Its energy is being put into making seed rather than into growth. By repeatedly cutting it at that stage it is weakened and eventually killed. The chestnut orchard is now the best plot of ground on our farm. It was in the chestnut orchard that we discovered how to increase the brix (sugar and mineral content) of the pasture. This summer the brix of the clover in the orchard was as high as 17%, up from only 7% last year. We are using what we learned in the chestnut orchard to improve the soil on the rest of the farm.

So how did we improve the soil in the chestnut orchard? We did it by letting the grass grow tall and then mowing it short. The roots on grass go as far down in the soil as the grass is in height above the soil. If the grass is four inches tall, then the roots are about four inches deep. If the grass is a foot tall, then the roots go about a foot deep into the soil. When the grass is cut, the roots die back to the same amount that is left above ground. By waiting until the grass was a foot or more tall before we mowed it, it meant that we were adding a lot of organic matter a foot or more deep into the soil in addition to the grass clippings that were added on top of the soil. In other words, we are creating topsoil a foot or more deep. Not only is organic matter added to the soil, but also carbon is being sequestered in the soil as the roots die back. The grass takes the carbon out of the air in the form of carbon dioxide and puts some of it in the roots.

The results in the chestnut orchard this summer were amazing to me. I noticed significant growth in the trees throughout the summer. Last year the tallest trees that were at the end of their second growing season were about 42 inches tall. Last year the American chestnut foundation said that our orchard was one of the best growing orchards in Maryland. This year, with a similar amount of rainfall, the tallest trees at the end of their second growing season were seven to seven and a half feet tall! This was accomplished without any fertilizer.

So why doesn’t this principle of soil building work on your lawn? It is because a lawn is not left to grow a foot or more tall over and over through out the summer. If a lawn is cut when it is six inches tall, it is only adding organic matter into the top six inches of soil. The deeper the top soil, the better the growth of the plants. That is one reason why raised beds tend to be more productive. They add topsoil on top of the topsoil in the soil which increases the total number of inches of topsoil for the plant to grow in.

Two year old tree
This two year old chestnut tree is 7 1/2 feet tall. The 2×4 is 8 feet long.

Tree planted this spring
This is one of the chestnut trees that was planted as a seed this spring.
You can see Sugarloaf Mountain in the background.