I had a dig in the compost today and was pleasantly surprised to find the most perfect soil example to share with you. (see video below). The soil was moist but not sticky, light and fluffy (humus), full of biology, and it smelled so good you would want to eat it!
To make soil by composting, we mound organic material on the ground following 3 guidelines.
The compost pile needs;
Mass – (minimum 1 cubic metre) – this is to ensure the pile warms up and maintains moisture.
Moisture – soil biology and microbes need moisture to survive, reproduce and break things down. Note, the water source ideally needs to be non-chlorinated as chlorine destroys microbes.
Material – soil biology requires food in the way of organic material to eat and convert into nutrients. Cut or break organic matter up into small pieces.
In the compost mix pictured we have added cow, horse & chicken manure, hay mulch, woodchip, charcoal, grass clippings, paper and cardboard, leaves, garden waste and vegetable food scraps.
To activate and speed up the composting process we use the following;
1. Seaweed – encourages microbes within the soil and contains many vital micronutrients that help protect plants against stress and disease.
2. Microbial innoculants – these populate the pile with beneficial microbes, the more microbes, the more activity and the faster the break down.
3. Fish discards or fresh carcass – (only when they become available) this will bring in tough, fast working microbes to break down matter.
The pile will shrink over time, which is when we either harvest the soil or add more organic matter.
The most important thing to take into account is the moisture. If you notice a lot of ants, mice or rats in your compost then it is an indicator that it is too dry. Both seaweed and adding microorganisms will increase and help maintain the moisture. If the weather is particularly dry you may also consider covering the pile with a tarp to try and trap some condensation.
The soil microbiome has a tremendous influence on our own microbiome which contributes to personal health and well being. So when thinking about growing produce, don’t overlook the importance of a microbe rich, healthy soil not only for the health of your plants but also for the health of you and your family.
Happy Soil Building!
At the end of the day, farming is all about producing food. Blog author Sonja Kallio writes about supporting farmers and growers to adopt a regenerative approach with growing, to increase the nutrient density of food for a healthy population and a healthy planet.