The Importance of Plant Health

From Chapter 17 of "Healthy Garden Healthy You" by Milo Shammas

We see so many good reasons to grow plants organically for our health. First, the taste is far better than any retail or conventionally grown fruits or vegetables. Corporate agriculture has commoditized our produce for the sake of profits not taste. This loss of quality in favor of profits has been demonstrated in hundreds of different types of food fairs, taste comparisons, farmers markets and your local supermarket. Organic produce is more appealing and flavorful because of the variety and abundance of available nutrients it absorbs.

Second, and most important, organically grown plants are nutrient dense; they have every nutrient available to them as they grow and develop. This nutrient density is the quantity and quality of nutrition plants contain from having consumed all their needed nutrients. You could say people are well nourished when they eat fruits and vegetables from plants that were well nourished themselves.

A third distinction between organic and artificially fertilized plants is the bioaccumulation of toxins in chemically treated plants. This is a fancy way of saying plants grown in conventional soils pumped full of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides are detrimental to a living, healthy body. Toxins accumulate in our bodies as we age and consume more contaminated food. The older a plant, animal or human becomes, the more it will accumulate metals and other toxins in the body. Eating organic produce from your own backyard garden is your best insurance against accumulating toxins in your body.

The fourth reason to grow organic is to promote a better environment. When you grow your backyard garden in a healthy, organic way, you contribute to environmental health on an interconnected global level. If you consume healthy foods and apply only natural and organic soil amendments and fertilizers, you have made a conscious decision to care for the environment. These actions have a far greater reach than you might imagine. When everybody employs organic methods, the benefits become global.

The Healthy Cycle
Plants need a naturally well-balanced and dense variety of nutrients for healthy growth and to yield their fullest potential. Healthy plants strive to remain top competitors for their sustenance. Their well developed, more robust roots, stems and leaves are naturally more resistant to pests and diseases. If you minimize weeds in your garden by removing them by hand, you allow your fruits and vegetables to compete against and prevent other, non-desirable plants from becoming established. This ensures your desired plants absorb all of the nutrients.

Most importantly, healthy plants pass on essential nutrients to the next generation of plant growth. After a plant dies, do not put it into the garbage. Instead, do one of two things. Either compost it or turn it back into the soil to allow microbes to digest it and release nutrients the living plant once consumed. Living organisms break down the dead plant into a plethora of nutrients for future plants grown in that soil. This is how nutrient dense plants lead to healthier soil for the next generation. Ideally, this positive loop continues until soils can sustain healthy plant growth with minimal use of fertilizers. There will always be a deficit, simply because as something is always being taken out of the soil, even in minute amounts, whatever is lacking must be replenished. Nutrients are like a bank balance. When you pull money out of your account, you have to make a deposit to restore the original account balance. Whenever you borrow from the soil, you need to reinvest in it.

Conversely, if you directly feed plants water-soluble, synthetic fertilizers that contain only primary macronutrients and micronutrients, the soil account is depleted without being replenished. This depletion undercuts the living soil organisms that degrade organic matter. This practice may eventually lead to the complete depletion of microbes, leaving nothing in the soil to digest dead plant matter and excrete nutrients for new plants. Plants grown this way then have to rely on nutrients applied as fertilizer, with much lower nutrient density. A plant grown in oversimplified N-P-K fertilizer cannot match the nutritive quality of a plant grown in nutrient rich organic soils. Without a constant supply of organic nutrition, plants have no way to obtain trace elements for strong healthy growth. Consequently, they will not be able to contribute as much to the overall nutrition of the consumers of the plants, the animals we consume and ultimately us.

Healthy plants provide a high concentration of nutrients to the food web. All living things benefit from healthy plants, starting with the microorganisms that live in the soil. Life benefits every time we work a healthy plant into the soil and till it under. The next generation of plants benefits because the soil they are grown in is healthy and contains an abundance of nutrients for its continual growth. Animals are healthier because they are consuming healthy plants. Ultimately, humans are the greatest beneficiaries of this cycle, because we are the highest on the food chain. The entire cycle simply translates to human health.

The Global Garden
The healthier the plant, the more carbon dioxide it uses, which leaves less in the atmosphere to contribute to the greenhouse effect and global warming. Through plant respiration, more oxygen goes into the atmosphere so we have better air quality. Plants use CO2 and provide us with the oxygen we need for motor functions and metabolism. Every time you choose to make a healthy decision for yourself or your family, chances are good that the environment will benefit from it. Even if you did not grow all of your food, and most people in modern countries do not, you can help the health of the environment and further perpetuate your own health. When you buy organic produce from a farmers market, you get your produce via a truck that transported it over a short distance As a result, feeding you requires less fuel and creates less pollution. When you buy a packaged product in a store, (tea as an example), even if it was grown in India, if it was grown organically, you have helped the environment since chemical fertilizers or pesticides were not applied. When you apply an organic fertilizer or soil to your backyard, you aid the recycling of organic materials that would have been thrown away. Ask your neighbor for his leaf litter, and build a compost pile in your backyard. I grew up in an urban setting and still managed to maintain a regular compost pile. I even added chicken manure from the few chickens I raised in the middle of the city. There is no reason not to compost unless you live in an apartment.

Consider the popular phrase, "Think globally. Act locally." Global health starts with human health. If you care for yourself and your family and make conscious choices daily, if your garden is healthy and you care for it naturally, you have just made a global environmental impact.

Milo Lou Shammas
Founder and Formulator

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