Posts Tagged ‘Organic Compost’

Green Manuring: Using Legumes for your plant beds

We use green manuring to help with our composting.  Green manures allow us to fertilize and add more organic matter to our soil.  Green manuring is a method of putting back into the soil living plants at the peak of their growth.  We do this by using leguminous plants (like mung bean, kadios, peanut and other wild plants) or we also use wild sunflowers. The plants are harvested at their peak or right before they flower, and then the plants are ploughed back into the soil.  This process brings in more nitrogen, organic matter and living plants into the soil.  Legumes for example take in a lot of nitrogen from the air through the bacteria that live in their roots.  Grasses also create green matter, which breaks down into humus.  So what we are doing here is a method of composting on the bed itself.

The limitation of green manuring though is that you are not able to control the quality of humus in the soil.  It also does not necessarily improve the soil’s structure long term.  In fact, the wrong use of green manuring can decrease the soil’s organic content.

How to Green Manure:

  1. Plant your leguminous seeds.  Water until germination occurs.  Then water constantly.
  2. When the plants begin to flower, it is time to turn your legumes or plants into green manure.
  3. Using a hoe or other material, chop, mow or cut the green manure plants at its base. We allow our cuttings to wilt for a few days.
  4. Incorporate it into the soil by digging or by shallow cultivation.  You can dig a trench 4 inches deep, 6 inches long and as wide as the bed size.
  5. The time it will breakdown will vary from 6-8 weeks.

Green manure can be sown almost anytime but the best would be at the start of or the end of the rainy season. This is because you need a lot of water for the green manure to decay properly.  The middle of the rainy season on the other hand is too wet and tilling the soil at this time might destroy your soil structure. We also do green manuring each time we start a new bed, to prepare an unused or exhausted soil for the next planting.

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Biodynamic Composting

Here’s something you should remember. You don’t feed the plants. You feed the soil.  Thus, the key to having vibrant plants would be to have fertile soil.  And feeding the soil means that you enrich it with organic matter or compost.  Our flowers and vegetables derive more than 90% of its nutrition from our compost.

Biodynamic or organic compost can replace any chemical fertilizer. Biodynamic compost especially builds the soil and reduces pest attacks.  Your compost will increase your yield and improve the life of your soil in the long term.

If you would like to start your own composting, here are a few tips:

1.  Gather materials that you already have around you.  You can use any animal manure you can find near your area.  It is best to use   fresh animal manure.  If the manure is dried, moisten it first with water and pulverize before using.  Gather and shred the weeds you have or the grasses that are around you.  You can also use rice straw.  Our farm uses shredded fallen leaves, aged manure, chopped up straw and dead seaweed, plants, compost and sawdust.

2.  Identify your compost site and take some time to build a simple composting shed with a roof made of natural materials, or a compost bin.  To make a bin, enclose an area of about 1 square meter.

3. If you can, it would be great to add earthworms.  If you already have some earthworms, just put them in the bed.  If not, just have the compost piles and the earthworms will come once the piles are composted.  See Vermicomposting.

4.  Place a layer of plant materials like leaves, grasses and weeds about 15cm thick.  If your material is courser, make the layer thicker.  If you have materials that tend to compact make the layers thinner.  Next layer is 7cm of animal manure. Then layer with 7 cm of lime or ash (you can do away with this layer.)  Lastly, add a thin layer of topsoil, enough to cover the surface of plant materials.  This is one complete later.

Repeat the layers (plant, ashes, soil) until your pile is 1.5 meters tall.

5.  Biodynamic compost is different from other composts because of the biodynamic preparations or specially prepared weed and herbal materials.   There are 6 preparations used: 502 (yarrow), 503 (chamomile), 503 (stinging nettle), 505 (oak bark), 506 (dandelion), and 507* (valerian.)  The preparations do not add bacteria or fungi but instead stimulate the life energies of pile so indigenous bacteria and fungi will be attracted to the pile and break it down.  These 6 preparations have been included in one preparation called the Prepared 500.  We get ours from Greg Kitma of PhilBio.  Our process is just to sprinkle or spray the prepared 500 over the compost pile.

6.  Keep the compost bed moist all the time. You can do so by watering the area at least twice a day, one in the morning and another before night falls. To retain moisture, you can put shredded cardboard or newspaper on top of the area or heaps of dried leaves.

7.  If you followed the layers, you should have no problem and your compost would be ready after 6-7 weeks. You will know it if your compost pile begins to heat up after 3 days.  Just allow it to continue decomposing until the temperature falls.  There is no need to turn the biodynamic compost or to place air channels.

8.  How do you know it is ready for use?  Your pile would have shrunk to ½ or 1/3 its original size.  You will also not see the original materials and it will have a sweet woody smell.  It would appear like normal soil when it is ready to be used. Just put it around your plants, the way you apply fertilizers. The compost produce should serve as a significant and wise replacement or substitution for chemicals and commercially available fertilizers. In no time, plants will be more productive and healthier than ever.

*You may want to plant some compost plants.  Corn, sorghum, napier and wild sunflower are good compost plants.