humus

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The spectacular installation by Sicilian artist Giuseppe Licari presents a fanciful network of tree roots, which seem to transform TENT’s central space into a mysterious underworld: the roots project downwards from the ceiling as if the trees are growing above it. The title of the work is ‘Humus’, referring to the soil layer that is essential for the growth of trees and plants, but which is indeed absent here. The relationship between humankind and nature, growth and decay are central themes in Licari’s work, which resonates with an echo of Arte Povera.

Become a Biodynamic Gardener, and grow your own. Learn about “the buddy system” and “companion plantings” as well as composting and crop rotation. Certain plants benefit by growing near other plants: tall crops can provide a canopy for shorter crops; leeks will repel carrot flies; include flowering herbs and perennials to attract beneficial insects. 

Illustration:  Genevieve Simms 

If you have every wondered what a Staghorn Fern (Platycerium superbum) looks like after 25 years of cultivation, now you have an idea.

This Australian native is normally found in rainforests, where it grows on trees and creates a “nest” where humus accumulates.

Like many orchids, bromeliads, and other ferns, it is an epiphyte (a non-parasitic plant that lives on another plant, instead of rooting in soil).

These plants are excellent at deriving or accumulating nutrition from their environment (pooling water, efficiently using water vapour, and deriving nutrition from organic detritus).

In nature, these plants are also important habitats: becoming micro-ecosystems that support insects, amphibians, reptiles, and other organisms.

#epiphytes #ferns #Staghorn fern
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Humus, Tent Rotterdam 2012. The spectacular installation by Sicilian artist Giuseppe Licari presents a fanciful network of tree roots, which seem to transform TENT’s central space into a mysterious underworld: the roots project downwards from the ceiling as if the trees are growing above it. The title of the work is ‘Humus’, referring to the soil layer that is essential for the growth of trees and plants, but which is indeed absent here. The relationship between humankind and nature, growth and decay are central themes in Licari’s work, which resonates with an echo of Arte Povera. photos via

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Just over two weeks later, and you wouldn’t even know I had mulched the area with Rhubarb leaves.

Now next year’s crop can benefit from this year’s leftovers!

These successive layers of organic matter slowly build up a rich organic soil: just last year, this entire area was grass, but I covered it in newspaper and wood chips, and the worms turned the grass and paper into 3 additional centimeters of black humus.

Don’t be afraid to keep adding organic material, especially high-carbon “browns” like paper, leaves, bark, conifer cones, dried grasses, wood chips, twigs, and straw. Most of it breaks down incredibly fast, and provides a sponge-like soil cover that becomes a habitat for mycelium, worms, and a number of beneficial microorganisms. Outside of the desert, you’d be hard-pressed to find bare soil in nature, so why garden that way?

Related: What’s in a Mulch?; Creating Forest Soil

#mulch #rhubarb