Rock Dust: Mother Natures gardening secret!

Photo: istockphoto.com
It turns out the earth needs its daily minerals as well. It turns out the earth needs its daily minerals as well. It's been 45 years since Rachel Carson published her cautionary book Silent Spring. Since then, people have been searching for alternatives to chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Just a few minutes of Internet surfing will uncover a myriad of "organic" and "natural" fertilizers and, lawn-care concoctions. Ironically the oldest (older than the Stone Age) and most effective fertilizer is overlooked or even unheard of by most gardeners. Rock dust is just what you think: different types of rock, ground into a fine powder (technically, smaller than #200 meshes). When added to the soil it causes regeneration, so the soil regains its optimal healthy state. Gardeners have described it as "magical," but the logic behind this ancient fertilizer is quite simple. Rock dust mimics the slow process of the Earth's own ecosystem to replenish soils and restore the biosphere. During various Ice Ages over the past two million years, slow-moving, two-kilometre-thick glaciers pulverized, ground up and transported rocks over great distances. These ground rocks, or rock dust, re-mineralize the earth and act as a host to micro-organisms that enrich our soil. However, since the last Ice Age approximately 12,000 years ago, minerals have gradually leeched out or been eroded from the soil. In fact, most of our soil lacks the broad spectrum of minerals needed to maintain its health. And weak soil leads to weak produce. Recent studies have shown that the vitamin and mineral content of fruits and vegetables has dropped significantly in the past 40 years, in many cases by over 50 percent. These mineral-deprived plants have weaker immune systems so are more prone to disease and infestations. But when rock dust is added to the soil, the improvement is noticeable. Plants grown in its re-mineralized soil are so resilient, they don't need pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers or any other chemical products. Gardeners using rock dust have reported increased yields and giant harvests of vegetables: eight-kg-carrots and six-metre-tall tomato plants. Grimmway Farms, the largest organic-produce farm in California, has started using rock dust and is so impressed with the product, it created its own brands under the names Cal-Organic and Bunny Luv Organics. Andy Lopez, of The Invisible Gardener on PBS, swears by it, so much that he has special rock dust workshops where he not only extols its merits but also hands out rock dust loot bags for all attendees! Rock dust is equally effective on lawns, allowing the soil to hold more moisture while increasing the root-mass density of the grass. This sets the ground for healthy grass. Recently, rock dust has become the darling of the golf crowd, where the quest for the perfect lawn sometimes means using litres of chemicals. According to the New York Times, golf greens are increasingly "going green" by using rock dust. For some, this will involve developing some patience since, like any organic product, results with rock dust are not instantaneous. It's not the same as applying quick (but toxic) chemicals to suddenly make the dandelions disappear. George Spoerri, owner of Agrowinn Rock Dust, recommends re-mineralizing the soil in combination with re-seeding for best results. According to Spoerri, our fatal mistake with lawns is to do one and not the other. Weak soil means the grass can't take root, which means there is an empty spot in the soil that is quickly taken over by dandelions and other opportunistic weeds. Since rock dust strengthens the soil, the root mass of the grass can build up and leave no rooms for weeds. It may take a little longer, but rock dust is a long-lasting, greener solution to a gorgeous lawn. For a rock dust souce near you, go to Remineralize The Earth. Whether you're planning your vegetable patch or flower garden or just hoping your lawn returns, consider tilling the soil with some rock dust. This is one green innovation you'll never regret.