The intern’s blog: living like Leanne

Adding nitrogen the natural way: that’s a little bag of nitrogen on the tip of Leanne’s finger

From SAGE member Trevor Moore

Our SAGE intern, Leanne, has not been idle over the last couple of weeks. Last time we left her she had carefully wrapped her garden beds in tarpaulin that would cause the plants that make up her green manure to decompose. Leanne showed me some of the plants that make up the green manure. They are a mix of plants that is determined by the farmer or gardener depending upon the condition of the soil. Legumes provide nitrogen, oats provide bulk.

Leanne pulled up a legume and showed me the little nodules on the roots that contain nitrogen. Using plants like this to revive the soil saves money; many farmers buy nitrogen, at some cost, to fertilise their soil. And that cost adds to the price you pay. More than that, the artificial addition of elements is not sustainable. SAGE’s philosophy is for sustainable food and sustainable methods to grow that food.

The broadfork: great exercise in a good cause

Gardening is hard work, though of course it is rewarding. But it does involve physical effort. Leanne introduced me to the broadfork and then encouraged me to use it to dig over some of the bed that she has been preparing. A broadfork is basically two forks welded side by side. It’s heavy. Using one is hard work but it does have the benefit of being in the open air. Kyle Levier, who is her mentor, is travelling north this weekend to collect the seedlings that Leanne will be growing. She’ll depend on these seeds for income and the first plants – the silverbeet and lettuce – should be ready for market within two months.

Next time we’ll find out how they’re going and growing.

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