Friday, April 18, 2014

Pasture to Garden - part 4 (part 2)

Continuing ...........

3- sprinkle crushed coral, as a source of calcium and slow, over time pH adjustment. I gather coral rocks from the beaches here. By placing them on the hot coals in my woodstove, the coral cracks and crumbles. Once cooled, I'll smash them up a bit with a hammer. 
....chunky burnt coral.....
.....after I've worked it with a hammer. Largest pieces are 1/2", plus lots small gravelly/dusty stuff.....

4- sprinkle crushed burnt bone, as a source of phosphorous. Some calcium and pH effect. I gather old bones from livestock pastures here. And friends & neighbors save me their bones from chicken, pork, beef, etc. I just pop them into the woodstove and retrieve them when the fire has cooled. Some bones crumble easily by hand. Others need a little encouragement from a hammer. 
....chunky burnt bone....
....after I've worked it with a hammer. It pulverizes pretty easy.....
I mix the coral and bone together for easier application. What amount do I use? For this demonstration area, I used one of those red dish pans that I used to measure out the wood ash. That's a hefty amount, but this soil has been in pasture for decades without any improvement, so it can use it.

5- generously sprinkle lava sand for mineralization. Around here we use lava sand for making concrete, so sand is easy to come by if you wish to our chance it. My own driveway is a source of sand for my garden. The lava gravel gets gradually crushed by the vehicles, producing sand. So I'll harvest it by the shovelful, dump it through a 1/4" screen, and return the big lava pieces back to the driveway. 

6- generously sprinkle moist, homemade compost that hosts plenty of micro organisms adapted to the sunny areas of my homestead. I use enough to cover the soil surface. In fact, this is such a large area that I will use all the compost that I have on hand! My compost contains plenty of green and brown plant material, various manures (sheep, horse, rabbit, chicken), biochar soaked in chelated urine, and lesser amounts of ash, coral, bone. Each new pile is seeded with micro organisms from the previous pile. The main reason I use compost piles is to grow a raging colony of micro organisms for adding to the gardens.
Some of my compost piles have been aged, that is, they have completely cooled down and worms have invaded. In this photo, Crookshank has found a worm and is seeing if it's good to play with. 

I'm also going to mix in some fresh, still warm compost with the aged stuff. No science behind this idea, it is just that I need all the compost I have and it wouldn't hurt to use a bit of both. 

7- lightly sprinkle sugar atop the compost layer. This is controversial, but I think that it helps the microbes get a jump start. I only use sugar in soils where I am initially introducing micro organisms. I don't believe that healthy, established garden soils need it. 

8- cover it all with 3-4 inches of fresh grass clippings. In my experience, mulching is very important. I live in the tropics where the sun and wind quickly dries out the soil. Once the soil dries, it becomes hydrophobic, becoming extremely difficult to get evenly wet again. I don't do overhead irrigation like commercial farming, so mulching is a good way to go. 

I was really fortunate and got a nice rain after applying everything just before mowing for mulching material. So I decided to run the rototiller quickly over the surface, mixing everything up, then apply the grass clippings. 
....ready for mulch....

9- make a sacrifice to the rain gods for very, very gentle rain. 

Well, step #9 you can skip. But if you like dancing wildly in your front yard, go for it! 

After a few weeks you can actually see the difference in the soil. As time goes on, if I keep the soil mulched with a minimum of 2 inches of clippings (adding more as needed) the soil will retain moisture and stay soft enough to dig. A big difference from the unimproved soil in other areas of the homestead.

If I have it available I like to rototill in an inch of volcanic cinders. The cinders "lighten" the soil and help retain moisture. Each cinder piece is full of holes, nooks, and crannies which hold water really well but also allow air circulation. So the soil stays moist but drains well. I have a couple of pits of cinder on my property but its getting harder and harder to reach it as I mine it for my new garden areas. Eventually I'll run out if I keep expanding my gardens. Unless of course I discover another pit.

I didn't mention biochar as one of my amendments, although there is some in the compost. Biochar is still controversial. I don't know how beneficial it is nutrient-wise. But I have had success using it for moisture retention. It sort of evens the moisture levels out. It's not as effective as volcanic cinders. But I'm still toying around with it and experimenting. Since I have seen some positive results with biochar treated vegetable beds, I will continue to add it to the soil. I make my own, not buy it. I don't think that I would purchase it. Being a trendy item, it's expensive. When I use biochar, I soak it in chelated urine or manure tea prior to adding it to the compost pile. I almost always apply the biochar via the compost, rather than by itself. If I have an area that I'm targeting for biochar treatment, I will make one compost pile that contains a lot of biochar. 
This is what the char looks like when it comes out of the TLUD stove. I'll soak it overnight in a bucket with chelated urine, then hit it with one of the handheld stick blenders (NOT my kitchen one, for sure!) It chops it up quite nicely. Then the whole mess gets poured onto the hot compost pile. 

No comments:

Post a Comment