Tag Archives: microbes

1438113254346If I told you that the secret to health and wellbeing, to vitality and longevity, is all in your gut, would you believe me? Well, it's true! Science is discovering everyday what scientists, doctors, healers, medicine men and women, gurus and good eaters of old have known for perhaps thousands of years: that the seat and fate of our health sits in our gut.

We are literally swimming in, surrounded by and made up of trillions of micro-organisms. An estimated 100 trillion, in fact. So many that at least 4.5kg of an average adult's weight is made up of micro-organisms - and the vast majority of them are good for us, living symbiotically on and in us - covering our entire skin surface and functioning in every organ, tissue and our blood. We cannot live without these amazing colonies of organisms, which we have both evolved from and evolved to co-exist for mutual benefit.

Science is literally discovering new bacteria and micro-organisms inside and on us daily, and understanding more intimately the role these friends and foes play within us. We know that eating a healthy, balanced diet, made up of natural foods that these microbes eat and thrive on works wonders for maintaining healthy populations of good microbes. Equally so, a poor diet, made up of foods that assault and starve our internal friends, results in poor health and wellbeing.

Many cultures have understood for perhaps millennia how important a nourishing diet is for our gut health, and how our gut health influences all other systems of our minds and bodies. It is no coincidence that as humans have adopted a processed, denatured, unhealthy diet that we are, for the first time in human history, experiencing epidemic proportions of diet and lifestyle related disease - most of these directly related to poor gut health.

So what can we do? The answer is surprisingly simple and easy. EAT MORE NATURAL FOODS. Avoid denatured, chemical-laden, processed foods. Keep it real, keep it organic, local, fresh and as close to its natural state as possible. Every time we eat is an opportunity to nourish our body, to nourish every living cell and 100 trillion microbes that rely on us for sustenance. Choose prebiotic foods - foods that your existing microbes can feed and thrive on. And choose probiotic foods - foods that already contain high concentrations of beneficial microbes that we can add to our gut: fermented and transformational foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, kefir, sourdough, fermented beverages, yoghurt and cheese, to name just a few.

With 100 trillion micro-organisms living on and inside us, how can we ever dine alone?

If you would like to know more about your gut health and the fascinating world inside us, follow me at Fermental As Anything! and Australian Kimchi Appreciation Society.

We also run regular workshops and classes on Korean kimchi, Korean and other cooking, and gut health.

Well, it’s official. I’m am definitely over this excessive rain, and so are my chickens, dogs, cats, guinea pigs and everything in my garden, including my plants and trees.

While a couple of weeks has done a lot of good in the garden, greening up everything, helping food production and growth, and bringing frogs and other life, the pendulum has swung and enough is enough. I am beginning to see signs of water logging in some beds, the chickens are unhappy and I’m seriously behind on all major projects around the house. Including just the ability to catch up and clean up since before Christmas.

The bad news

So what happens in our gardens when they start to get water logged? What does water logged mean? How much rain is too much rain, and what damage can it cause in the short term? When the ground simply can’t absorb or drain anymore water, water starts to sit in the soil, and for too long, which causes loss of macro and microbial life, such as worms, beetles, spiders and other arthropods, plus all the good bacteria, protozoa, nematodes and many more, through either mass exodus or death.

At the same time, organic material in and on the soil, such as compost, mulch, manure, etc reaches maximum water absorption and starts to rot. This can cause problems when the rain stops and the sun comes out, in the form of smell from decaying matter, and the usual suspects that this brings, such as flies, maggots and others. This drenched, rotting matter can also stay wet in the soil for longer than needed when rain stops, continuing to rot plant and tree roots if too close to them.

At the point when plants and trees simply cannot ‘drink’ any more water, or store any more water in their roots, root rot can set in if roots are not in well draining soil, causing damage or death. This will occur faster in species that don’t like ‘wet feet’, while others will survive and withstand wet feet for longer periods.

The signs

When a garden bed or soil has reached maximum absorption water will appear to sit on the surface in puddles, or garden beds with borders can even fill up. If this water sits in the bed or soil, without any drainage, for more than a day (after already prolonged rain), damage can set in. Roots literally drown. At this point, maximum saturation has occurred and detrimental processes kick in. Some plants or trees may show signs of water logging quickly, such as yellowing leaves, rotting of leaf veins, leaves falling off, wilting and softening, darkening of root colour, with usually a decayed smell, as the skin or bark of roots is rotting. Other signs include young shoots and tips dying off, stunted growth, low or no seed or fruit production, and often swelling. Any or all of these equal stress for the plant or tree. And of course any seeds or seedlings planted are very unlikely to germinate or mature due to swelling and rotting.

A little science

Water logging causes problems for plant and tree roots in a few ways:

  • ŸRoot function is reduced because of limited oxygen and CO2 diffusion
  • This attracts organisms that feed on decomposing roots
  • This also the prevents the stems, leaves, etc of the plant from obtaining nutrients and water (even though there is too water in the ground and roots)
  • Water logging in summer and warmer climates is much more damaging because root oxygen-CO2 exchange is a lot more active and demanding. Plants and trees can often survive water logging much better in winter or cold climate soils
  • Aquatic and marginal aquatic plants, plus some ‘wet feet’ plants and trees, can survive very well in water logged soils
  • Some soils are more water logging than others, because of their denser texture and poor drainage qualities, and will remain very wet for longer periods after rain has stopped

Some short term solutions and remedies

  • After heavy, prolonged rains or flooding, wash or sweep up organic and other matter which may have collected along pathways, drains and surfaces, to prevent this material from polluting and decaying on or near garden beds. In floods especially, this matter can be polluted or contain toxins. Do not handle without gloves.
  • Avoid walking or moving on soil to reduce compaction and muddying soil. Only work your soil again when it has suitably dried out and is ready to be worked
  • On inspection, gently remove as much water logging affected parts of plants as possible – leaves, shoots and tips, branches, etc, plus pull out and dispose of any dead or affected plants and trees
  • After flooding, do not eat edibles for a while, as they may contain pollutants. Discard any suspect plants or fruit, especially edibles that are eaten raw
  • Avoid growing edibles in soil or beds you suspect may contain toxins, especially edibles eaten raw and quick grow crops like salad greens
  • Because of leaching in floods and water logging, apply a suitable fertiliser and mulch to the soil once conditions are favourable again
  • Quality foliar (leaf surface) fertilisers can also help to rebuild and nourish water logged plants and trees
  • Once you think plant and tree roots are no longer water logged, water them well, as they can suffer from not enough water, even after a flood or heavy prolonged rains

Some longer term solutions and remedies

  • Seek to improve your soil structure and drainage properties through healthy cultivation and soil fertility, such as increasing the humus content
  • Try aerating your soil and beds with a deep soil aerator
  • Create mounded or raised garden beds for planting where possible
  • Increase drains and drainage around and away from garden beds to divert rain and flooding where possible
  • Create flow stoppers to slow down water flow into certain areas when flooding or heavy rains
  • In lower areas that are more susceptible to water logging or flooding, choose water loving plants and trees, or those more tolerant of wet feet and wet soils

With a little common sense and planning, gardens be improved to prevent, reduce or minimise water logging and light flooding. Low areas or beds can be raised, or managed differently, such as growing different plant species. Soils can be improved to drain better. General drainage and water flow can be improved around gardens and properties. There is usually always a solution to water logging and flooding challenges. It just requires a little work and design. Best of luck!