Volume 10, Number 5                                                 May 18, 2007

The Farmer

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Getting "Grounded"

by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Mu’min Muhammad

You have heard the phrase, getting "grounded". According to the dictionary the verb to ground means: 1. to have a ground or basis for, 2. to provide a reason or justification, and 3. to instruct in fundamentals. People who have been divorced from nature and living in artificial environments may loose their connections with basic realities. Growing your own food in your garden will definitely help you get "grounded", because the Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught us that "agriculture is the root of civilization". If we intend to separate from this present wicked civilization and build our own, then we must be grounded in the reality of creation and not the illusions produced by our slave masters’ children.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught us that we must have some of this Earth that we can call our own. Now, if after Hurricane Katrina and how Blacks were treated in New Orleans, you still do not want some land that you control, well you are not "grounded". If after the repeated news stories about E. coli in spinach, carrots and broccoli; contamination in baby food, pet food and feed for animals; pieces of metal in loaves of bread; refusal by foreign countries of America’s genetically modified corn, soybeans and rice; the mass entry of non-tested foods from foreign sources; and you still want to live on concrete 20 stories off the ground completely dependent upon the "merchants of death" to eat, well you are just not "grounded". However, for those of you who want to get "grounded", let us get started.

First of all the Earth is 7,926 miles in diameter consisting of 196,940,000 square miles of which 57,255,000 square miles is land according to the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. However, of the 7,926 miles of the Earth’s total diameter, we humans live on the very top surface of the crust of the Earth and our life on this Earth is dependent upon just a few inches of those total miles. If we mess up those top inches, we are out of here.

According to earth science, the thickness of the Earth’s crust varies between 3 and 43 miles and is composed mainly of basalt and granite. In all the Earth's crust occupies less than 1% of Earth's volume.

Soil in which we grow crops is a very then layer on top of the crust. Soil is considered a three phase system, consisting of solid, liquid, and gas. The solid phase consists of minerals and organic matter, including living organisms. The liquid phase is known as the 'soil solution', and is the phase from which plants take up nutrients. The gaseous phase is important for supplying oxygen to the roots for respiration.

Cultivation, earthworms, frost action and rodents mix the soil producing a porous crumbly aggregate suitable for planting and germination. Topsoil is the uppermost layer of soil, usually the top 2 to 6 inches. It has the highest concentration of organic matter and microorganisms, and is where most of the Earth's biological soil activity occurs.

Plants generally concentrate their roots in, and obtain most of their nutrients from this layer. The actual depth of the topsoil layer can be measured as the depth from the surface to the first densely packed soil layer known as "hardpan". The topsoil layer is formed from the deposition of eroded material as well as decaying organic matter. Without topsoil, little plant life is possible. It takes approximately 500 years for one inch of topsoil to be deposited under normal conditions, but there are 25 billion tons of topsoil lost each year to erosion.

In earth science "humus" refers to any organic matter which has reached a point of stability. In agriculture, "humus" is often used simply to mean mature compost. Compost is the aerobically decomposed remnants of organic materials.

Chemically speaking, organic simply means any compound whose molecules contain carbon. However, when talking about growing food, organic means they were grown without the use of conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers, human waste, or sewage sludge, and that they were processed without ionizing radiation or food additives.

In a future article we will go into the macro aspects of the ground or land. However to get you started on your own home or community garden, we will concentrate on the micro or small aspects of a piece of ground where we will utilize the information in the above descriptions and definitions.

In March of 2006 we were blessed to be a part of a fact finding visit to Cuba, sponsored and accompanied by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. In Havana, Cuba we were struck with the number of vegetable gardens on almost every piece of vacant land in the city. We also noticed that they used a form of gardening called "raised bed" gardening.

In the above information we found that plants grow in the topsoil or about only 2 to 6 inches of the Earth. A productive topsoil will consist of humus materials and ample porosity for water and nutrient uptake while providing oxygen to the roots. Since many of us live on concrete and some of the Black communities were actually built on top of land fills and toxic waste dumps, bringing in new topsoil is advisable in many cases. You can set up these raised beds right on top of concrete and still get excellent results.

Recently the Ministry of Agriculture built a set of raised beds for Minister Farrakhan’s personal garden. Because the Minister had already built compost piles and had aged horse manure into a fine humus that had been mixed with sand, we used it as the main filler for the raised beds. We stacked and staked two four by four inches by 16 feet treated lumber to form our 8 inch high beds.

For those of you who do not have access to composted horse manure mixed with sand we suggest a mixture of one part topsoil, one part composted cow manure and one part fine mulch, such as pine bark mulch. All of these ingredients can be readily found at Home Depot, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart or garden stores. There are more expensive premixed potting soils, however you would be paying for the convenience and not the substance.

An added value of setting up raised beds is that you control the soil content and reduce the amount of weeds that you will have to fight if you plant directly in your backyard ground. However, if you have a piece of ground that has good humus and earthworms, you might just want to till it up and plant and fight the weeds in "hand to hand" combat (smile). Be sure to contact your local Agricultural Extension agent in your county and ask them how you can get your soil tested for toxicity and fertility or you can purchase soil testing kits at garden centers. Otherwise just bring in your own topsoil and compost and "get grounded".