Artwork for podcast GREEN Organic Garden Podcast
Replay of Agrarian Food Web | Soil Health and Sunflowers | Patti “Amazing” Armbrister | Hinsdale, MT
17th March 2019 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 01:19:43

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This episode was originally  posted August 2018. It’s a great resource for building soil health. If you want to join the Patti Armbrister Fan club send me an email!




Connect with Patti Amazing Arbrister on Facebook at her Agrarian Food Web Page!

I’ve been wanting to see some podcasts on you know the organic gardeners when we talk about soil health and composting and the principals of cover crops

they just turn their lights off and don’t want ot talk because they are doing organic gardening and

every single farmer

including your household vegetable gardeners

they’re doing production organics

they’re on a fast pace to destroying their soils and don’t know it

finally on fb yesterday, the day before

one of my friends, she is a leader in organic gardening, she made a video on the same topic,

when I started hearing about soil health she didn’t think they were talking about her, when she realized the principles are about her

they have this mindset

they are above and beyond soil health

they are some of the ones the fastest

What are they doing? To ruin their soil.

These are the principles for regenerative farming or gardening

1.  Minimum disturbance to low disturbance

  • boar bottom plow
  • shovel
  • chisel
  • roto tillers

use a broad fork

a real shallow device

That’s minimum disturbance

2. Keep the soil covered 24/7

365 other then the day you are going to pull the weed mulch

soil should be covered

so when you look at it you should either see

dead organic matter 

wood mulch/chips that you’ve added or you should 

see live plants

never see bare ground

next rule or principal

3. Plant diversity

more plant diversity

Companion planting

farming solar rays of sunlight that is coming to the earth

as those plants do photosynthesis then they are dropping root exudates ~ they leak them out of their root system for the 

soil food web

Uses those sugar and carbohydrate

Then they deliver to the plant something the plant needed. They do this with signals depending on the root exudates.

Let’s say it’s a corn plant, it needs nitrogen. And next to it is a, tomato and a tomato needs calcium.

sending different signals

biology brings back different

nitrogen is getting created by protozoa, then eating the fungi then pooing it out

form of the bacteria fungi, attached to the roots

The plant couldn’t use it until it went through the stomach of the protozoa and it poops it out. Kind of like a seed….

so it could sprout

nutrients become available to the plant. The more plants and species of plants in that group the more sugars there is in the soil life and more diversity of the nutrients cycling around in the soil.

too good a job

too much calcium

sending the signal


  • the corn
  • peas
  • beans

need it and it’s available to them too. So it’s like a sharing event taking place.

So the more diversity there is the healthier

Next rule or principle is to 

4. keep a living root in the soil as many days out of the year

meaning if we’re gonna take out a crop

just got done with the spring

spinach or arugula

bed is empty now,

as soon  it is done I chop them down and they become part of the leaf litter

the next succession of plant

pepper into that spot

For the biology of the soil, there is always a living root there, always giving off root exudates. This exchange is always going and can go year round if we have a perennial plants in the system!

This is awesome!

There is another thing that happens with the root structures

A carrot is obviously a taproot, it has a singular taproot can break up hardpan

radish can break up the hardpan.

The hardpan is created by us

  • walking on the ground
  • driving an implement
  • tractor in the farm gound
  • train as it is going by my house

the train is 200 yards from my house, making the ground bounce and causing compaction

taproot breaks that compaction layer up

softer soil

worms will feed off that decaying root

make channels

just the tap root looks like it is just the tap root but it has a long long skinny root, but it’s several feet on the ground, then the worm able to go down the channel and burrow. Let’s say next to the plant is a carrot


thousands of roots in a mat


next to the carrot

root system is called biological tilling

  • softening the soil
  • ammending

and making it better from the soil from their root system.



Some of the carbon is getting stored into the soil

versus one type of crop, if we are having a field of corn, we have one type of root in the soil

those are the principles

think about the principles

You’re an organic farmer who just prepared the seed bed

roto-tilled the bed.

dead organic matter

deep as your tines will go 4-5-6 inches deep

bottom half 6-inches deep

roots have to break thorough that in order to have a system of any kind going on

so they come down

root turns on the direct

across the hard pan turns on a angle because it is looking for nutrients and water but it can’t grow through it so they are  fighting for the nutrients and water.

So what does someone who has a large acreage like 2 acres or 10 acres without a tractor?

You would use a tractor and then plant a cover crop. But you’re gonna cut it down or a roller. 

lays it into a mat

then they go in with a no till drill, that has a disc, two little discs

opens a furrow

that drops seed in

roller that goes over that that has a way to pack it down.

seed soil compact

no-til planter

Liz Carlisle

This is awesome! This is what a lot of Liz Carlisle’s book The Lentil Undergound is about right? If we know these are  best practices why aren’t we doing it? and I was talking to Megan Cain the other day and she was saying she tries to put something in the same day she takes it out so she doesn’t have bare soil. That’s good advice for me because I am the worst at getting my seeds in the ground!

there’s another thing they call inner seeding

we could inner seed

  • peas
  • beans
  • clover

In between the corn, so they are growing the whole time the corn is growing. We may not harvest them, like the clover, but we could harvest the beans or peas, we might be walking on some beans or peas

a lot of the inner cropping

the inner crop is just to help with fixing the nitrogen and keeping the roots cool

So you have a cooler soil, where it’s not getting dried out by the wind but not super cool

soil biology, creates some heat, so that soil temperature might not be major difference but it’s better then dry air exposed


soil life

exposed tilled soil

if they are there they’re dormant, not doing anything

They have to have moisture

not over a 100º

doing their thing

Anytime we have exposed soil on the surface that’s expose to the air and wind

wind demonstration

traveling before some soil erosion

  • white t-shirt
  • plastic mat
  • pan of top soil
  • leaf blower to generate the wind with

With a mph reader

They said everybody start watching the t-shirt, it’s already running at 2-3 mph think we haven’t seen anything it, but you look down and the dirts all over the t-shirt….

so tiny

already moving

can’t see them by the human eye

if we can’t see we don’t conceive it, that it’s already happening. He had it go up to 20 mph, you could see the soil rolling and bumping,  rolling and

on top of this little mph

20mph is a little wind. The other day we had in eastern Montana 90mph

you can’t even just stand, you’re just left with rocks

soil exposed


is on top of this soil

And it would also help like in the forests where they fires are burning to hold in the soil there too.

So those are the main principles are those five things

They have tried all the principals separate from each other, they do work to a certain extent, but if you put all five of them together

You get incredible responses!

You can turn soil that is almost on the verge of decertification and turn it into healthy soil in three years! 

We can start whenever the person can wrap their head around starting

once we decide it doesn’t matter what time of year. Let’s say it’s fall, 

You would normally go in and pull your tomatoes

I would never pull the root out of the ground, I might cut the plant off, but let it do it’s natural thing and let it catch snow and it will slowly break down into the system

as long as it isn’t diseased, if it’s diseased take it out.

first thing is

I try to catch people in the fall

you should maybe leave that. Once you recognize these principals it will save a lot of labor and time! And wonder we haven’t done it all this way all the time?

I never thought about that before, if you leave it there, what do you do in the spring?

That’s nature’s way is already starting to decompose it

We have the most decomposing going on right underneath the snow

decomposing already taking place with the moisture of the snow, it will be already breaking down

In the spring we hope you have some mulch left, a system in the spring…

A worm can take a whole leaf, and pull it down their den 3 foot deep. So a lot of that stuff is just going to disappear. You get into this. 

I have a friend I her into this started this 3 years ago

third year of white dutch clover in the walkways

Already she is like I need to get more mulch

leaves in the fall. I told her in the future you want to be thinking about growing a cover crops to put in for the mulch.

  • green living
  • grass seed plants
  • all winter

In certain areas, you would be able to cut it, and use that as a straw mulch. It will be green when you cut it and it will turn into something that looks like straw.

I was going to ask you about the clover. I guess I was just thinking is the bees like the clover. You also posted the pictures of her garden right? 

put it

turns into

She has it between all of her beds, she mows it when it gets 4 inches tall,mows it late evening when the bees have already left

She mows the walkways and lets the leaf littler from the clipping go into the beds

  • feeding the plants
  • plant is stressed from the cutting
  • releases nitrogen into the soil