by Sleepy himself
A lot of people are talking about organics now a days but they are still stuck in the chemical fertilizer mind state. To me true organics means you make your own nutrients. The foundation of organics is the soil and compost is the key to great soil. This month I wanted to talk about making compost. I obtained this knowledge from practical experience at the Maharishi University regenerative organic agriculture program in Fairfield, Iowa.
The Soil Food Web
The soil food web was created by Dr. Elaine Ingham. The soil food web uses living beneficial organisms to do the work of making nutrients available to the plants. Plants need organic material, but don’t have the enzymes to break it down. The ground contains all the minerals your plants need to grow. Bacteria hold the highest amount of nitrogen along with many other nutrients your plants need. Without a thriving beneficial soil food web your mineral component and nutrient component will not be available to your plants.
Your plants release exudates (sugars, amino acids and minerals) through their roots. These attract bacteria and fungi to the roots by putting out the food they want to eat. If the microorganisms (nematodes, arthropods, and protozoa) are present they will eat the bacteria and fungi to make nutrients available to the plant.
If you give this process what it needs and let it do its thing you don’t need any bottled nutrients. Fungicides, pesticides, and tilling will destroy the soil food web. The best way to insure you have a good soil food web is to make your own compost.
Every year leaves fall off trees. Animals and humans walk on the leaves and crush them into small pieces. Over time the pieces of leaves decay into the soil. This is nature’s way of supplying nutrients to the soil. How do we mimic this process? By making compost. Compost is decayed organic material used as plant fertilizer. To make compost you will need hay, wood chips, plant material, manure, and water. You can use food scraps, coffee grounds, and some other things you’ll find on the internet but it can be harder to get the ratios right and it might take longer. You want a good nitrogen to carbon ratio or green material to brown material.
Carbon materials are branches, stems, dried leaves, wood chips, sawdust, shredded brown paper bags, corn stalks, egg shells, straw, peat moss, or even wood ash. Nitrogen materials are manures, food scraps, green lawn clippings, and/or green leaves. You need to make sure your materials are wet but not soggy.
You’ll begin by piling everything up in at least a 3 ft wide by 3 ft tall pile. It needs to be that big to work, but you can make it as big as you want from there. You can use 5 gallon buckets for the ratio. 2 buckets of hay, 2 buckets of wood chips, 1 bucket of manure and then just keep piling it up and add water as needed. In a couple of days you will need to flip the pile.
Compost should maintain a temperature of between 131°F ( 55°C) and 170°F (77°C) for 15 days and the pile turned a minimum of five times within that time period. Accurate temperature records are needed to satisfy the NOP standards. You don’t have to follow these rules unless you’re paying to be certified organic.
Ideal: 50% saturation…
Grab a handful of the compost and squeeze it. If water drips from your hand its too wet. If you don’t see any water it’s too dry. At 50% saturation water should appear between your fingers but it shouldn’t be dripping.
Take the top third and put it to the side. Then take the middle of your old pile and start the bottom of your new pile. Then take the top you moved to the side and make it the middle of the new pile. Then take the bottom of the old pile and make it the top of the new pile.
Churn, churn, churn…
Soon you will have near perfect soil to do the job. This takes time. Just remember patience. Work hard to stay natural. It’s the way of life that these plants want and need.