Since we bought our house and small acreage five years ago, we’ve been gradually working on it, building out the area for the School, adding tanks for our rainwater collection system, and creating a big, wonderful garden.
The structural elements of the food garden are finally done- raised beds, a little greenhouse, and a big fence so the deer don’t reap the rewards of our labour. Since that hardscaping was completed, we’ve been able to focus on refinements in our gardening techniques, and one big piece of this has been moving towards a no-till approach.
No-till gardening or farming is just what it sounds like- the soil is not dug up or disturbed in the usual way every year. Instead, once the basic soil is mixed up and put into the raised beds in our case, additional nutrients and amendments are added on top or gently mixed in to just the first few inches.
This allows fungal mycelium, bacterial colonies, and larger soil life like bugs and worms to thrive and build homes without being harmed and the soil reset every spring. These critters do our tillage for us, chopping up the mulch and amendments we add on top, and dragging the smaller pieces underground to be digested into food for the plants.
When you think about how any natural ecosystem works, you realize that it’s all no-till, in that no one is going through the wild forests and plains every year with a plow, mixing in chemical fertilizers and planting seeds for the year.
The other thing that’s really noticeable about natural ecosystems is the lack of bare ground. Nature abhors a vacuum, and naked soil is prone to erosion, nutrient loss, and degradation into sterility. This is something I’ve known for years as a gardener, even before our no-till adventure, and it was my main worry in starting the system. How would I get rid of all the weeds that land in my garden if I couldn’t till them up each Spring?
One answer is thick layers of mulch, which create interface areas that improve soil life diversity and help it hold water and nutrients, in addition to suppressing weeds. The other answer is to work with Nature, accepting that soil shouldn’t be bare, and planting something in every square inch you want to keep healthy.
Cover crops, as these plants are known, can be used in many ways. Some, like vetch or fava beans, are grown for a short time and add nitrogen to the soil in the vegetable off season. Some, like radishes and mustards, kill pathogens in the soil and fight disease and compaction.
In our garden, we’ve been using lots of mini-clover, which grows in a tight green mat and suppresses weeds, as well as adding lots of nitrogen. This tiny-leaved clover, which looks as cute as it sounds, is a perennial, creating a thick but short sod layer around the base of our bigger plants.
In more open areas, we have been using German Chamomile, which I wanted to experiment with because its essential oils are said to repel pests and disease, as well as improving the aromatic terpene content of plants it grows near.
Plus, Chamomile is very useful on its own, and I find its little yellow and white flowers to be so cheery when they peek out at me from everywhere.
Chamomile is one of the first plants we worked with Spagyrically, and it is a great medicine to reach for in all kinds of imbalances. I think of Chamomile whenever a condition is tense, physically or emotionally, as it brings relaxation, cheer, and flow with its solar warmth.
The classic use of Chamomile is for digestive upset, and for this, even a simple tea can be amazingly effective. The sweet apple-scented taste has a bit of a bitter edge, showing its liver tonic properties and stimulating movement in the digestive tract. Bloating, nausea, acid reflux, and general stomach upset all respond well to a cup of Chamomile tea, and it is gentle enough for babies and pets.
Our sweet pit bull, like many of his kind, has a sensitive allergy-prone belly, but when he is feeling off, all it usually takes is a strong cup of Chamomile tea and he gets right back to his clowning antics. Like most dogs I’ve known, he loves the taste, and when he hangs out with me in the garden, I sometimes find him munching on the Chamomile flowers.
That bitter note that can be found in the tea is very strong in our Spagyric Essence of Chamomile, and just a few drops of it can transform the tensest, tightest gut into an open, relaxed, state, bringing appetite back and helping digestion. And, since nothing makes a person cranky quite like gut turmoil, its slight sedative and uplifting energy is also welcome, helping you rest and heal, or just get back to work with a better attitude.
Chamomile is also a strong anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, and so may help the underlying cause of digestive imbalances along with relieving symptoms. In our garden, we use a tea of Chamomile as a spray to prevent damping off, powdery mildew, and other damaging fungus, and it works better than any harmful chemical fungicide could. As a Spagyric, these properties are enhanced, and so if an imbalance affecting the gut is also rooted in inflammation or infection, our Essence might be a healing support for long-term use.
This Essence can also be used primarily for its relaxing properties, and a larger dose of it is a balanced nightcap, bringing deep sleep but without grogginess in the morning. When I’m out working in my garden, I often bump into the plants that have re-seeded prolifically, and their sweet smell has a lovely effect of both relaxation and cheer, which is a good description of the Essence’s effect, too.
As Chamomile marches through our garden, I hope to collect enough to make some new Spagyrics with it (if our dog doesn’t eat it all first!), but in the meantime, our Spagyric Essence of Chamomile will be there for me and anyone else needing relaxation, digestive balance, and a happy mood.
For more articles in my Weed Love series, click here.