Sunday, January 10, 2016

Section One: Chapter 4 Let's Build It!

Chapter 4: Let's Build It!

Apartment dweller! May I have your attention!

This project may well seem ONLY for outdoor gardeners!

Fact is, your INDOOR garden can easily produce nutrient-dense soil!

The entire system I share is scalable to any size operation. Inside your home, use a flower pot, a wood box with screen bottom setting on a water-holding tray, a plastic pail with many holes in the bottom and half way up the side(s), even an old water can with many holes punched in bottom and sides!

The point is this: Even if you add raw organic material to the top of your planters to decompose right on top of the soil your plants grow in, producing rich, nutrient-dense soil should be a major part of your garden health and your own nutritious food. Just follow along as this book unfolds. Scale the methods, ideas, tools, and concepts to your indoor gardening space. It works!

On with the book!

Hallelujah! We made it through the tough stuff!

For the sake of me not knowing your experience, or lack of experience with composting, let's assume you are a newbie to producing soil this way. In fact, I continually meet Master Gardeners who never knew how simple and easy hot composting really is, nor do their know the extreme benefit to plant and consumer health this nutrient-dense soil provides. If you are a Master Gardener, I do apologize for what must feel like a put down, But the old saying goes here: "If you don't know that you don't know, how would you know?"

Let's learn together!

The two activities in the last chapter focused on gathering raw materials.

Here's Activity One for this chapter
  1. First things first! If not done already, make sure there is enough of each type of raw material for building each part of the pile. If there is enough first layer material but too little second or third, either wait or place the first layer then wait and collect the next layer material. The build can take all the time necessary to build as material becomes available. However, be sure to follow the "recipe" as it is key for success!

Here's a little concept drawing with the first four layers. Remember those small branches? That first layer is 6 to 8 inches thick entirely of these short branches. This provides critical air flow bottom to top through the pile above.  Next the "brown," dead, dry more woody material is a 4 to 6 inch layer. On top of the brown about 2 inches of green or rotting grass clippings. The fourth layer will be a couple to 4 inches of small branch material again.

Here's a photo of my pile building just today, January 10, 2016.

Follow these main points for a successful build.

A. Maintain air flow through the layers

B. Shred or tear paper and cardboard to less than 8 inches across the wider dimension

C. For matted leaves, grass, paper and cardboard, add thin layers to the pile and separate these layers by adding equally thin layers of branch material to keep the material from matting.

D. Form the sides vertical as possible.

E. The highest the pile should go so as to not compress the lower layers to tight is 5 to 6 feet. 

F. Be sure to add branch material through finer material to keep from matting

G. About half way up, stop and soak the pile. Climb on top and walk-jump the pile to compress far as you can. This aids the heating as the materials are compressed together.

H. Cover the top with fine soil from a finished pile or sand, sod or wood chips. Something to keep moisture in much as possible, while permitting air flow and entering water.

Remember those weeds? The way I see these nutrient-dense treasures may become your vision too. That means the weeds growing randomly in the garden are prize soil producing elements which you welcome and even show a little favor for until they are mature enough to be a substantial part of the next pile build.

But, let's have a little common sense here, too! Weeds competing with food plants reduce available nutrients, so I follow a simple method to discourage weeds in food plant beds. I plant each bed's plants quite a bit closer than common recommendations. For two reasons.

The first is that common gardening advice comes from gardeners used to native, nutrient-depleted soils. In our nutrient-dense natural soil, the plant thrive planted at half the spacing necessary in nutrient-depleted soils.

The other reason for planting closely is weed discouragement. Shaded soil from close planting makes it difficult to impossible for seed seed to sprout, or grow if they do sprout.

Another benefit that you will love natural soil for is the ease of pulling roots out. Only large, established plants will develop large enough roots to make pulling out a bit difficult. Young plants of any kind take merely a slight tug to pull the entire roots out.

Your pile built?

Now, Activity Two

Reread the building guide. Note any differences the pile you are building requires.

The rest of Section One, except for chapter 10, follows up the pile build with fairly straight forward, simple guides to assure that your soil is truly the nutrient-dense growing medium you desire.

The many years I've produced soil this way taught me numerous "secrets" about the process with many different raw materials and numerous factors such as weather, watering, weed seed control, uses and post production nutrient addition. These and more topics appear in following chapters.

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