- Chapter 2: Raw Material to Produce Nutrient-dense Soil
Take a peek at this chapter's activities. That will set our focus for where we're headed in this topic.
As the facilitator for your nutrient-dense soil production, my goal first is to create in each mind a clear and building awareness of and for any and all resource points of raw soil material, and the nutritive value scale of each type, and some specific material.
Corrugated cardboard has some surprising nutrients, but as a processed plant material, is sorely lacking in key nutrients, like living organisms and most of the original minerals the donor plants contained. On the other extreme is fresh-mown lawn and wild pasture grasses, manures, rotting hay, and most fresh yard plant debris.
Let's examine some common raw soil building material.
Trees are generally of deciduous or evergreen species. In the two groups the nutrient content of leaves/needles and the wood vary substantially. For each group's sub-species, even more variation exists. Between tap root deciduous trees, like oaks and locusts, v.s. near-surface root species, like alder and cottonwood, the nutrients available to the roots are very different. Deep tap roots carry ancient nutrients from near-pristine original deep sub soils. Near-surface roots' nutrients depend on nutrients essentially derived from geologically-recent decayed plant material and native soil that has supported thousands of years' plants growth. More about this situation in the desertification part of this chapter.
Rather than list lots of tree species and typical nutrients found in each - the actual nutrients per tree vary according to the location it grew in - my intention here is to make you aware of the varying nutrients each species and sub species has, plus the location of each tree that donates raw material to your soil provides.
You might wonder about the apparent acidity of evergreen needles and decaying trunk wood. In my years of use of these, mixed with greater parts of deciduous plant materials, there's been unnoticeable acidity issues in plants I grow in the new soil. In fact, to me it appears that evergreen needles enhance the soil nutrients. With a little common sense, my estimation is that the sap content of needle leaves brings in nutrients not found in Fall leaves that are finished their useful season and contain very little sap.
It's perfectly true! This guide will help you rethink your soil and plant nutrition system. Instead of relying on commercial soil amendments for plant nutrition, now you have the potent natural nutrient production system in your hands that sets your garden far ahead of any that rely on the toxic and deficient chemical fertilizer industry!
Rethink the concepts of those plant wastes and products that can be high density nutrient soil and fertilizer in two weeks. See all toxin-free plant materials for the nutrient-rich soil materials they are. Chapter 10 details how to turn these materials into worm castings that are much more nutrient-dense than the compost soils.
Yes! Your Soil Production Can! Calculating How Much Raw Material You Need
See your entire garden in the new light of growing too much with the over abundance used to produce even more fertile soil.
The amount of raw food plant material any garden produces is never enough to produce enough new soil to renew next season's nutrition.
Here is how I find enough raw material to replenish my gardens' soil each season.
First, though, let's rethink a too-common view of all the plants that can, and usually do grow in every garden.
Social and emotional experiences with plants range from great acceptance to loathing and making every effort to eradicate specific plants!
This is not acceptable for your best gardening experience! Throw out any idea that there is a weed growing anywhere!
Actually, "weed" applies to that tomato plant that is a huge mess and needs yanking out or a heavy pruning! Even fruit trees become "weeds" when they cease to produce from disease or just too much bother to care for anymore.
Every garden produces too little raw compost soil material from desirable plants alone.
That's why I share with every gardener who asks about making natural soil; "See those "weeds" in light of their contribution to your desired plants' health, and your own health. See nutrient-depleted soil in light of it as a raw ingredient of your soil production to revitalize it. Know healthy gardening in the light of both the plants' health and your health eating those healthy plants as nutritious building materials for your body to gain and remain disease free."
Understanding all plants in this light opens a whole new source of nutrient-dense soil production!
Now, instead of hating "those danged weeds," every weed that you see will be a prized addition for your nutrient-dense soil!
Not only that, but in the necessary volume of raw material your garden requires for renewing lost nutrients each new season will come mainly from "unwanted" plants! Believe me when you experience this change of heart for and about "weeds," it makes all the difference for your garden's health, and your own health from enjoying the rich food produced by your garden soil!
The sheer amount of raw material necessary to produce enough soil for each season is surprising to gardeners the first time this fact is calculated. It really is surprising! This is where those "weeds" become more valuable than their weight in gold.
Many unwanted plants produce higher woody material content than desired flower and food plants. This woody material breaks down more slowly than softer parts, making for soil that holds its structure and root growing factor longer. Roots grow rapidly in soil that is moderately fine with a high content of woody mass that allows air and water penetration and absorption. Woody stems and thick leaves provide this harder material.
Another great factor of "weeds" is they grow profusely for most any given garden! Another factor I find particularly beneficial is wild grasses that can be mowed frequently through the season. Their leaf tips contain high nitrogen, perfect for the grass layer in our compost pile!
The main reason for the way weeds benefit our soil production is their added volume to the small volume food plants provide our soil production.
One key to gauging the volume of raw organic material you need for a given compost pile build is to multiply the amount of soil needed to fill a desired grow bed or the cubic volume needed to cover a specific location by a factor of four. This is approximately the volume of raw material necessary to decompose for that grow bed or soil area you want to apply the fresh soil to.
Now, with this computed volume in mind, next take a fairly large box and jam it full of tightly pressed raw organic material. Jam it in tight as you can. Multiply the height, width and length of this box to get the volume of raw material in it. Compare this volume to the multiple of four times the volume of soil you need to fill the grow bed or apply to the selected area. Another way to visualize the necessary volume of raw material is simply to divide the multiple of 4x the needed soil volume by the volume of a box that is stuffed with raw material.
Your goal here is to get a clear idea of how much raw material you need, and compare that amount with the amount you have.
Most gardeners discover that the raw material they have is far too little for the soil they require for a given area. As you understand from your own experience, "weeds" will become a most desirable source of nutrient-dense soil production!
On this thought, revisit nearby vacant lots, the abandoned farm field over grown with grasses and weeds, and maybe even plants like clover, sweet clover, and alfalfa. Noxious plants work too, but your composting pile heat becomes a major factor for killing-off their seed. Even so, for any noxious weed sprouting in your garden, now it becomes invaluable raw material for the next compost pile build!
Now, let's go back to that box we stuffed with raw material. Now, add all the weed material you find. Include small tree branches, material from road and street sides, abandoned lots, the neighbors' chemical-free pant debris. green grocer wastes, cardboard, some paper, organic packaging, restaurant vegetable wastes, sea and fruit packing plant wastes, and yours and the neighbors' kitchen vegetable wastes. If a beach with seaweed is nearby, and you can gather dry weeds, add this nutrient-dense raw material.
This chapter's exercises:
- Gauge how much volume of new soil your growing beds need for one season. Multiply this amount by 4 to see how much raw material is needed.
- Make an inventory list for the usable raw materials available, where each is located, and if applicable, when available.
Exercise 2 may be your most valuable asset for soil production. The availability of material varies all the time, so have an over-supply all the time. Only refuse too much incoming material when your space is way over flowing, since it is quite likely that the supply will vanish when you need raw material the most, let's say in late Summer for your Fall planting pile build.
Do online searches for clean, chemical-free raw material.
Tree chipping service (Your location, county, suburb)
Power line clearing service (Your location)
Chicken farm (Your location)
Horse stables (Your location)