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CC Audio - Dynamic Gardening - Part 3
The Session Overview below is provided as a courtesy to those who prefer to read than listen, yet on each call additional insights are given which round out the subject.
Secrets of the Soil
The secret to healthy plants and massive production lies within the content of your soil. Building the soil is the number one focus of a true gardener. Farmers that go the extra mile to insure their soil is mineral-rich and microbially active enjoy the rewards of fewer destroyer insects, more bees and other beneficial insects, greater disease resistance, larger crop yields, and produce that both tastes better and lasts longer on the shelf.
Organic gardening that is simply chemical free will not insure the most positive garden or farming results. You must go further to obtain dynamic effects in plant health and production – you must build your soil.
There are a few things you may want to think about in order to trust the processes of Nature over any other recommendations of the agriculture industry.
1) The secret is in the soil.
2) Soil composition is everything.
3) The best soil for your garden is the soil you make yourself.
4) Low weeding - Using the following method puts an end to last year’s weed seeds from sprouting again, leaving just the seeds in your self-made compost piles (so be careful what goes in). No herbicides required!
5) No till - Building compost piles on top of your last year’s garden eliminates the need to plow or turn the soil. Your soil will be soft and ready to plant – and more bioactive than ever.
6) Insect safe - By following these methods the richness of your soil is taken into the plants causing the plants to send out a natural “aroma” that repels destroyer insects and attracts beneficial insects. No insecticides required!
7) Better tasting, more nutritious produce – Produce grown in nutrient dense, bioactive soil tastes more vibrant and lasts longer on the shelf with very little loss in nutrient profiles.
8) Larger yields – Crops grown in nutrient dense, bioactive soil produce larger fruits & vegetables as well as more per plant.
9) Healthier, more stress-resistant plants – Healthier plants withstand stresses from heat, cold, drought and disease better than conventional and ”organic” where little attention has been paid to building soil quality.
10) Less work & economically sound – Once your soil is established and your garden is designed in ways to support the garden – simply growing and reseeding on its own, very little input will be required on your part to keep it going. Even the fertility of the soil and the practice of building a compost bin can be discontinued since your entire garden will be a self-sustaining, bioactive bed of ongoing nutrition for your plants – just the way the Creator designed it to be!
Biodynamic & Permaculture Gardening
Biodynamic and permaculture gardening are two approaches that take the concept of “organic” to new levels. They produce exceptional results because they are designed to work more closely with the Natural Order than the typical “plant, fertilize and kill insects” approach characteristic of both commercial farming and much of the organic farming practices of today.
They are mentioned here because biodynamic and permaculture gardening are two practices that also involve methods of building life in the soil, though they are more complex than is necessary for a beginner gardener, or a balcony gardener, or a homeowner just wanting to grow some of their own food in their backyard with the least amount of effort (given busy schedules of today).
While both biodynamic and permaculture gardening methods provide valuable insights worth exploring at another time, the main focus of this discussion is about building a soil composition that produces dynamic plant health and yields far beyond the norm – and with the least amount of effort – within your first year!
As evidence of how successful this can be, my new garden at a new home in 2015 yielded over 1,000 lbs. of produce in about 1,000 SF of garden space. The only area that had difficulty was where I had used a compost
The methods I will share with you today incorporate some of the simplest and most effective ways to build soil health that have been drawn from natural common sense, listening to the success stories of other gardeners, and from my observations of how Nature does it.
Who Fertilized the Forest?
How can a forest exist for thousands of years without someone bringing by store-bought fertilizer to spread around? There is something built into the ecosystem of a forest that simply fertilizes itself.
If you Build Your Soil Correctly
If you build your soil correctly and grow your garden more in ways similar to the ways Nature grows a forest, your garden will thrive year after year with less and less input from you – the gardener.
When Nature Grows a Forest
What are some of the basics of soil building that we can glean from the ways Nature grows a forest?
1) Nature builds soil in the fall & winter and draws from that soil to develop new growth in the spring & summer.
2) Soil building begins in the fall with the accumulation of leaves on the forest floor.
3) The extra moisture from fall rains increase microbial & mycorrhizal (mushroom) activity in the soil which consume the leaves, the browning plants, and the wood from fallen branches or trees.
4) Worms play an essential role in this process (more for gardens than for forests).
5) Nutrients collected from the soil, water, sunshine and air by the plants during the spring and summer go back into the soil through this decomposition process.
6) Nutrients in the soil are then taken up by the plants in the spring and summer.
7) The additional microbes (bacteria), fungi and worms in the soil (due to fall and winter moisture) assist in the uptake of nutrients by the plants.
8) The process of self-fertilization begins all over again in the fall.
How to Mimic This Natural Process to Build Dynamic Soil
Building soil, as you can see, is a year round process. In fact, Nature is creating new soil every time a leaf falls, flower drops, an apple hits the ground, or a plant completes its cycle and dies. In essence, to Nature, the entire surface of the ground is a giant compost bin in the constant process of recycling all that falls to it.
Fall, winter & early spring are clearly the times of the greatest soil building efforts by Nature, although truthfully, soil building takes place year round. Here is a few tips:
a. Use only natural fertilizers (manure, straw, plant leaf matter, clay minerals, etc.).
b. Building your garden this way is one of the secrets to growing pest-free plants and crops using biologically-rich, fertile soils.
c. Use simple no-till methods of farming and gardening (naturally reduces weeds and enriches the soil’s microbial life).
d. Build your soils by mixing in straw and leaf matter, then letting the bed compost over the winter to convert to nutrient-dense soil by spring.
So now you have 2 choices,
1) Turn your entire garden into a winter compost pile in the following manner:
2) Create a new compost pile, preferably in, or immediately adjacent to, your garden (providing easy access for the worms and microbial life to travel from compost pile to garden throughout the year).
Here’s the Secret:
Put all of your best nutritional sources for soil and plants into your compost piles (more so than your garden). Let Mother Nature digest the nutrition first and convert it into extremely bioactive forms. Then spread this richness over the whole of your garden!
If the worms and the biology in your compost pile have predigested the nutrition, your plants will take the nutrients up more readily, producing maximum plant health and greater production yields.
How to Build a Garden Compost Pile and Worm Cultivator to Create a Biodynamic Soil Composition
1) Identify a location for a compost pile, either in the center of your garden, off to the side, between two beds, or on the entire surface of your garden.
2) Wooden bins also help when space is small. Whenever possible, make sure the worms drawn to your compost pile have direct access to the earth below, free to come and go at will. When you want more worms, don't cut them in half, just feed them!
3) Balcony gardens can use an empty planter box (or empty section of a planter box), beginning with a layer of soil on the bottom (for the microbial life).
4) All garden beds not being used for winter produce can become a surface compost pile of leaves, grass clippings, straw, alfalfa and garden scraps during the winter - producing exceptional results during the spring!
5) Dig a shallow hole (or as deep as you like) saving the dirt close to the hole (or for a no-dig, raised bed approach, import soil from another source, like a local company that specializes in making composted soil blends. Or take soil from one of your own previously aged compost piles).
6) Thoroughly mix into this excavated or imported soil, a combination of Silica Rich, leaf matter, whole or shredded, straw, hay, alfalfa, grass, kitchen scraps, garden cuttings. Roof moss also works.
7) More now than ever, local gardeners and farmers are making aged compost and selling it to consumers. What you will learn here is how to make your own. Trust me, your formula will likely be better than theirs.
8) (In a change from the audio) I no longer believe in adding bark products to your compost or soil mixtures. Even coco peat (coir) can diminish productivity due to its barky nature that draws nitrogen from your soil. Leaves and straw/hay/grass or alfalfa are superior for adding nutrients and humus material which hold moisture better than bark or wood. Add pumice if additional drainage is required.
9) Leaf matter adds an excellent component of moderate fungi and abundant beneficial bacteria to your compost bin in place of woody products. Leaves also add valuable information to the soil collected from both the heavens and the earth during the previous year.
10) The purpose of plant matter, especially leaves and straw or hay, is to retain moisture in your compost bin and provide excellent food for the worms.
11) Pumice, a volcanic product increases drainage, aeration, and mineral nutrients to the soil.
12) Sprinkling Silica Rich onto each layer of compost material adds minerals which accelerate friendly microbial and fungal development.
12) Caution: Do not use Peat Moss in your garden or in your potting soil. Peat moss, so commonly used in the gardening world, is very difficult to remoisten once dry and contains almost no nutritional value for your plants. Even Coco Peat (coconut fiber, coir) has its draw backs! The larger, rougher sizes of coco peat increase drainage, while the smaller fines of coco peat hold some moisture, yet both can draw nitrogen and other nutrients from the soil, and may promote more fungi than is desirable for your specific plants. Most vegetable plants require more bacteria than fungi in the soil. Woody products feed the fungi. Alfalfa and various grain straws are superior to Coco Peat for moisture retention and drainage.
13) Over the spring and summer seasons, place your garden cuttings, kitchen scraps, grass clippings and leaves from nearby trees into this pile. (Leaves are one of the most valuable and abundant fall compost materials. Collect your own, and your neighbor’s leaves, if they are simply going to send them to the dump, and store them for later use in your compost piles.)
14) Other components from outside sources that can be added to your compost pile are outlined toward the end of this description.
15) Layer the compostable scraps about 1-3 inches deep followed by about an inch or two of amended soil mixture each time (speeds decomposition due to the extra microbial life in the soil, and keeps the smell & gnats away).
16) With each layer or two, spray or soak the compost pile with EM-1 to provide an additional mineral and biological diversity to the compost soil.
17) Cover the top of the pile with straw, or more leaves, a layer of moss, coconut fiber, fine bark mulch, or other suitable material that will shade the composting material below, hold in the moisture, and become part of the compost with subsequent layers.
18) Continue with this layering process until the pile is 6-18 inches above ground level, then choose a new location for your next compost pile as you wait for Nature to do the work she does best on the first one.
19) Using Silica Rich and compost teas, it may only take anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months to convert the majority of the pile to nutritious, microbial-rich garden soil, now loaded with valuable worm castings.
20) When the time comes, either use this compost pile (which will shrink in height to close to level with the garden) as your next garden bed, or dig it up and spread this worm-abundant, mineral-rich, biologically active soil mixture about 1-2 inches deep across your garden surface as far as it will go.
21) Then protect the worms and the natural biology in this soil mixture from the sun and from drying out by topping your garden with a 50/50 mixture of coconut fiber (to hold moisture in) and a blend of good garden soil freshly amended with Silica Rich. Then spray the top layer again with EM-1.
22) When you are ready to plant seeds, pull back the top ½ inch or so, as per your seed depth instructions, lay out your seeds, then cover again with this topping soil (or simply cover your seeds with a fresh layer of aged compost mixture). Adding a small amount of coconut fiber
23) If you are transplanting, dig your hole and place a handful of the worm casting soil blend into the bottom before setting the plant.
Additional Richness in Your New Soil Mixture
Here are a few suggestions for what can be added to your compost pile/soil mixtures to enrich their composition even further:
• Rice Bran
• Rice Hulls
• Alfalfa Meal
• Raw Milk
• Fish Meal
• Kelp or Seaweed
• Mushroom Compost
• Roof Moss (worms love it!)
• Dried (or liquid) Molasses, raw honey, or other natural sweeteners
• Silica Rich
Most of these can be obtained from your local grange, nursery, farm & garden store, or online.
The addition of Silica Rich and EM-1 to your compost pile, will result in faster digestion of the material, with greater quantities of the minerals and nutrients being extracted from the composting plants and clays. The positive impact on garden plant life is multiplied several times over.
What About Horse or Cow Manure?
It is true that these bring in a host of beneficial microbes and nutrients into the soil, although they can also bring in the weed seeds from the pasture and unknown conditions from the animals. Animals fed antibiotics, hormones and GMO corn develop diseases uncommon to farming 100 years ago.
Since the above compost method is considered a “cold” compost rather than one that would heat up and kill any seeds, it is important to minimize seeds going into your compost, unless you would be OK if they volunteered in your garden (sprouted).
Weed seeds that get buried 6 -12 inches or more in your garden are less likely to germinate than those closer to the surface.
Cold composts rely on the abundance of worms, bacteria, fungi, and humic acids to clean up pathogenic inputs. If you see an abundance of worms all the way through your compost, it is more likely to be safe for your garden. They are doing their job. What goes in a worm, even if it is pathogenic, comes out as beneficial bacteria (probiotics). What comes out the back end of a worm is called “worm castings” and is loaded with beneficial bacteria, nitrogen, and other nutrients ideal for the garden.
How to Attract the First Worms to a New Compost Pile.
To the bottom of your compost hole (or compost pile), first toss in 1-2 inches of gravel, then add 6-12 inches of branches with leaves (green or brown), then add 4-6 inches of fruit (like watermelon, cantaloupe, apples, pears, plums, etc.), and more leaves or roof moss (a thin layer, maybe 1 inch thick, to prevent packing of the leaves).
Top this with a 1-2 inch layer of dirt mixed with Silica Rich and Bokashi or sprayed with EM-1. Then cover with a compostable shade covering like straw or coconut fiber, fine bark mulch, roof moss, etc. Keep moist, but not soaked, for a few weeks and worms will come from all the nearby tree and shrub roots (where they love to hang out), to feast on your goodies. You will have the beginnings of a great worm bin for quickly turning your garden scraps into fertile soil (takes 2 weeks to 3 months).
Do I need to turn my compost pile?
If you layer your compost pile correctly, you will never need to turn the pile. The worms will distribute the nutrients and microbiology evenly. The more you turn a pile, the more the nutrients oxidize and evaporate.
Turning a pile also disturbs the biological communities that the worms have just created. Now they have to start all over.
If the pile gets stinky, then turning the pile is necessary to add oxygen to the pile which will cut the smell. If you mix more Bokashi and Silica Rich to the pile as well, the smell will quickly disappear.
When spreading or adding compost to your garden, disturb the newly formed compost soil the very least amount possible. This will insure a higher survivability of the worms and the biological communities they have created.
Now here is how to enrich your garden soil and improve the health of your plants all the more (even without the above recommendations!).
Walk your garden with an open heart and talk to your plants about all that appeals to you. The plants will anticipate your admiring gaze and caressing touch. They will strive to grow for your approval and for your unique benefit.
Many blessings of health & success,
Enjoy the simple gifts from Nature!
Dynamic Gardening Part 1 - Vermicomposting
Worms in Your Soil are the Prime Indicator of Soil Health
Dynamic Gardening Part 2 – Soil Composition
The Importance of the Soil's Biological Terrain, Soil Composition and Humus Soil Depth on Plant Growth
Dynamic Gardening Part 3 – Build Your Soil
How to Build Your Soil for Maximum Plant Health & Production
Dynamic Gardening Part 4 – Worm Castings
Worm Castings & Red Wrigglers – Your Garden's Best Friends
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