Soil “ The main characteristic of Nature's farming can…be summed up in a few words. Mother earth never attempts to farm without live stock; she always raises mixed crops; great pains are taken to preserve the soil and to prevent erosion; the mixed vegetable and animal wastes are converted into humus; there is no waste; the processes of growth and the processes of decay balance one another; ample provision is made to maintain large reserves of fertility; the greatest care is taken to store the rainfall; both plants and animals are left to protect themselves against disease.” - Sir Albert Howard, An Agricultural Testament
Mulch 1. Inhibits weeds 2. Holds in moisture 3. Prevents erosion 4. Provides habitat for soil flora & fauna 5. Keeps soil temperature stable 6. Holds in N 7. Slowly builds humus 8. Prevents soil compaction Leaves Straw Cardboard Ramial Wood Chips Bark Sawdust Burlap Newspaper Mulch to 4” or more, especially in dry climates Mulch deep for veggies, shallow for trees Always leave space for stems!
Rhizosphere : Area of soil directly affected by a plant’s roots. Often mirrors spread of above-ground branches and leaves.
Mycorrhizae 8 miles of fungal hyphae in 1 cubic inch of topsoil Mycorrhizae are symbiotic partnerships between plant roots and fungal mycelium 90% of plants have one or more mycorrizhal partners With Mycorrhizal Partners Without Mycorrhizal Partners
Compost “ Behold this compost! behold it well!” – Walt Whitman
Compost Elements “ Brown” Carbon-rich Material “ Green” Nitrogen-rich Material Air Moisture Neutral pH Microorganisms Fungi Macroinvertebrates
Carbon & Nitrogen Ideal C:N Ratio: 25:1 More C in cool, damp environments, or more frequent turning More N in warm, dry environments, or greater water-retaining covering Layer Carboniferous and Nitrogenous materials in the pile
Aerobic Compost Necessary Elements 1. Support (internal structural integrity or external bin structure) 2. Critical mass (3’ cube minimum) 3. Stable C/N ratio (25:1) 4. Proper moisture (consistency of wrung-out sponge) 5. Proper aeration (turn every 2 weeks - 3 months) 6. Thermophilic temperatures (140° F +) Advantages Fast Forgiving Disadvantages Labor-intensive Oxidation causes destruction of some organic N & CO 2
Anaerobic Compost Necessary Elements 1. Airtight container or covering 2. Proper moisture (consistency of moist sponge) 3. Stable C/N ratio (25:1 – 15:1) 4. No aeration! 5. Slightly acidic pH (6.5 – 7) Advantages Preserves more N Can be done indoors Disadvantages Requires specific blend of microorganisms (purchased Activator mix) Finicky Can go smelly
Composting Techniques Least Energy-Intensive Sheet Compost Pit/Trench Compost Heap Windrows Movable Pile Raised Bed Bins Tumblers Most Energy Intensive
Compost Tea Ingredients 5-Gallon Bucket Aquarium Bubblers Water Burlap Sack full of Muck Leaves of Comfrey, Borage, etc. Muck: 25% Manure (fairly fresh) 45% Green Material 30% Carboniferous Material Marinate at 135° – 160° F for 3 Days Use as fertilizer & foliar amendment Use within 2 hours or keep Bubblers going to keep aerobic microorganisms alive
Urine 95% N 60% P 32% K Average pH of 7 Can defoliate plants through direct application, due to salts Dilute (10-20 parts Water to 1 part Urine) for fertilizer “ If I urinated into a pitcher of drinking water and then proceeded to quench my thirst from the pitcher, I would undoubtedly be considered crazy. If I invented an expensive technology to put my urine and feces into my drinking water, and then invented another expensive (and undependable) technology to make the same water fit to drink, I might be thought even crazier. It is not inconceivable that some psychiatrist would ask me knowingly why I wanted to mess up my drinking water in the first place.” – Wendell Berry Carol Steinfield: Liquid Gold http://www.liquidgoldbook.com/
Humanure Feces should be composted aerobically at 150° F for 1-3 months to kill all pathogens Add sawdust or other dry, high C material to feces to eliminate odor and balance C/N ratio Prefab Composting Toilets tend to be anaerobic fermenters that take a long time to compost their contents Is it safe to compost human waste in your backyard? You bet! Joseph Jenkins: The Humanure Handbook http://weblife.org/humanure/default.html