“Dry” Compost Tea?

BeautifulWeeds

Last week’s Homegrown Food Summit 2017 was awesome. Lots of great comments and interaction, plus I picked up many new readers.

Welcome aboard, everyone.

My presentation Seven Ways to Feed Your Garden for Free! (you can get it here, along with dozens of other presentations) featured Rachel at one point demonstrating our amazingly stinky anaerobic compost tea.

Compost_Barrel

Some people don’t like the smell, though the plants don’t care.

In the comments on my presentation, Jill Nicholls shared with me a “dry compost tea” method she’s been using:

“I have found that making ‘dry’ compost tea eliminates the smell. It works best with soft leafy green material such as comfrey or rank weeds. Just put into a lidded container dry(doesn’t need to be sealed just covered). Leave until rotted. This varies with temperature, a few weeks in summer, longer in cooler months. Add water as you use the now thick slick compost. I find a ratio of 20 water to 1 compost tea works for me.
It begins to smell only after water is added. prior to that it smells a bit like sweet hay.”

I imagine the materials must be at least slightly damp or they wouldn’t break down at all, but this sounds like a method worth trying. Why not?

I think I’ll cut some weeds and give it a try.

If you’re interested in diving much deeper into the composting rabbit hole, this book is for you.

Have a wonderful Sabbath rest.

 

*          *          *

 

I will love You, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.

The pangs of death surrounded me,
And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid.
The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me;
The snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried out to my God;
He heard my voice from His temple,
And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.

Then the earth shook and trembled;
The foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken,
Because He was angry.
Smoke went up from His nostrils,
And devouring fire from His mouth;
Coals were kindled by it.
He bowed the heavens also, and came down
With darkness under His feet.
10 And He rode upon a cherub, and flew;
He flew upon the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness His secret place;
His canopy around Him was dark waters
And thick clouds of the skies.
12 From the brightness before Him,
His thick clouds passed with hailstones and coals of fire.

13 The Lord thundered from heaven,
And the Most High uttered His voice,
Hailstones and coals of fire.[a]
14 He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe,
Lightnings in abundance, and He vanquished them.
15 Then the channels of the sea were seen,
The foundations of the world were uncovered
At Your rebuke, O Lord,
At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.

16 He sent from above, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.
17 He delivered me from my strong enemy,
From those who hated me,
For they were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But the Lord was my support.
19 He also brought me out into a broad place;
He delivered me because He delighted in me.

20 The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands
He has recompensed me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
And have not wickedly departed from my God.
22 For all His judgments were before me,
And I did not put away His statutes from me.
23 I was also blameless before Him,
And I kept myself from my iniquity.
24 Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness,
According to the cleanness of my hands in His sight.

25 With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful;
With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless;
26 With the pure You will show Yourself pure;
And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd.
27 For You will save the humble people,
But will bring down haughty looks.

28 For You will light my lamp;
The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.
29 For by You I can run against a troop,
By my God I can leap over a wall.
30 As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

31 For who is God, except the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?
32 It is God who arms me with strength,
And makes my way perfect.
33 He makes my feet like the feet of deer,
And sets me on my high places.
34 He teaches my hands to make war,
So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

35 You have also given me the shield of Your salvation;
Your right hand has held me up,
Your gentleness has made me great.
36 You enlarged my path under me,
So my feet did not slip.

37 I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them;
Neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed.
38 I have wounded them,
So that they could not rise;
They have fallen under my feet.
39 For You have armed me with strength for the battle;
You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.
40 You have also given me the necks of my enemies,
So that I destroyed those who hated me.
41 They cried out, but there was none to save;
Even to the Lord, but He did not answer them.
42 Then I beat them as fine as the dust before the wind;
I cast them out like dirt in the streets.

43 You have delivered me from the strivings of the people;
You have made me the head of the nations;
A people I have not known shall serve me.
44 As soon as they hear of me they obey me;
The foreigners submit to me.
45 The foreigners fade away,
And come frightened from their hideouts.

46 The Lord lives!
Blessed be my Rock!
Let the God of my salvation be exalted.
47 It is God who avenges me,
And subdues the peoples under me;
48 He delivers me from my enemies.
You also lift me up above those who rise against me;
You have delivered me from the violent man.
49 Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the Gentiles,
And sing praises to Your name.

50 Great deliverance He gives to His king,
And shows mercy to His anointed,
To David and his descendants forevermore.

Psalm 18, NKJV

David-the-good-books-revised

Composting Fish Right in the Garden

composting fish

Composting fish? You bet.

Jim comments:

“David the Good you are an inspiration. I am a brother gardener with similar methods but with a tenth of the knowledge and experience as you.

Since you are focusing on the wonderful world of rotting stuff I wanted to relate a recent experience to you and your fans.

We garden in Alaska and the whole composting thing is a big challenge for us. Because our average temperature is so low it literally takes years to compost material.

Last year we unfortunate had a chest freezer go bad and it sat for a week before anyone discovered the problem. It was full of red salmon fillets and buffalo meat from that we had harvested the previously.

After we cried about the 250 lbs. of rotting meat we did what a lot of coastal Alaskans have done for 100’s of years. We added the meat to the garden.

We garden in raised beds so we dug out the dirt and placed the fillets (half of a red salmon each – about 2 pounds) in the bottom of the bed. The salmon was layered in the beds about 6 inches apart over the entire bottom of the beds and covered with 10 inches of dirt. We put approximately 20+ fillets (10 whole fish) in each bed.

We planted potatoes, peas and broccoli in the beds and away we went. Luckily the bears left the beds alone and the plants prospered.

We got a bumper crop of peas and broccoli and the potatoes were the largest we have ever seen. The potatoes were the fancy purple kind and they grew 3.5 feet tall with 1” stalks.

They gave us a surprise by producing potato berries in large bunches. These berries are like large grapes. Unfortunately they were everywhere and the dog ate some and proceeded to vomit toxic berries for two days.

Lesson learned there!

So rotting stinking fish flesh worked wonderful and the plants did not show any over fertilizing problems as you would think.”

Oh heck yeah.

When life gives you ruined meat… turn it into potatoes!

In a related idea, a reader emailed me this:

“My uncle told me a planting method for the papayas in which you dig until you reach water (which here it only takes about 6 feet), refill the whole until there is no water showing, start a wood fire at the bottom of the hole, and fill the whole with organic matter.”

Another place for composting fish, perhaps?

I’ve not heard of that precise method and it sounds like a lot of digging, but it’s not all that different from the melon pits I discuss in Compost Everything. That book also contains details on how to make fish emulsion in a barrel… just in case you don’t feel like digging.

Nature composts everything… why not do the same? Composting fish really isn’t that crazy. Remember the Pilgrims and the Indians? Why have we forgotten what our ancestors knew well?

Just go for it. Giant potatoes!

 

*Image at top via Maarit Lundbäck. Creative commons license.

David-the-good-books-revised

Easy Lasagna Gardening the FREE Way

Patricia Lanza’s book Lasagna Gardening inspired a lot of people, including myself.

I was reminded of the sheet-mulching / lasagna gardening method a couple of weeks ago when I re-watched Geoff Lawton’s excellent film Permaculture Soils.

There’s a spot out back near our gardens that often gets soppy wet in the rainy season. It also has hard clay and rocks beneath the grass. Yet I wanted to do some gardening there.

The solution? A quick bamboo-sided “lasagna gardening” raised bed.

lasagna gardening

Easy Lasagna Gardening on the Cheap

Lasagna gardening is all about making lots of layers – here’s my latest video demonstrating this easy way to build a garden fast!

Are you ready to build your own lasagna garden?

It’s all about the layers… let’s get layering!

Layer 1: Manure and Seaweed

I started with a thin layer of cow manure and seaweed to encourage the soil life to eat up the grass and start loosening things, plus to provide nutrition.

lasagna gardening manure

Geoff Lawton throws down just manure, but I have lots of seaweed available here and it’s loaded with good stuff.

For those of you in the states… watch out when using manure. It can destroy all your hard work!

Layer 2: Cardboard Weed Block

I bought Rachel a chest freezer… and it came in a great big cardboard box!

Naturally, I had to find a way to use that in the garden. Weedblock it is!

First, I laid the cardboard over the bed to get a rough size:

lasagna-gardening-cutting-cardboard-weedblock-layer

Then I stomped it into place. I wanted it all the way to the edges of the bed so pesky grasses won’t come through.

lasagna-gardening-stomping-down-cardboard

Layer 3: The Random “STUFF IT” Layer

After the cardboard was in place, it was time to start throwing down some biomass.

I used pigeon pea bushes and heliconia leaves.

lasagna gardening pigeon-peas-layer

You can also use whatever brush you have lying around. Leaves, shredded paper, chunks of wood, whatever.

Layer 4: Kitchen Scraps

lasagna gardening kitchen scraps layer

Why not?

Layer 5: Kitchen Scraps

The next layer was a thin one, made from sifted soil from my chicken coop.

lasagna-gardening-kitchen-scraps-chicken-manure

This is manure and compost-rich dirt with bits of biochar in it. You can see this composting method here.

There’s not a lot of rhyme or reason to these layers so don’t overthink things. Just throw in the compostable material you currently have available and let nature do the rest.

Layer 6: The Final Compost Planting Layer

And, to top it all off, I added a bunch of mostly-finished compost:

lasagna-gardening-final-layer

You really don’t need to fill the whole top layer with compost, though. You could just mulch with grass clippings or leaves over the whole top, then fill some pockets with good compost and plant transplants in those… which reminds me, that’s what I did next. Transplanted!

Transplanting into the New Lasagna Garden Bed

I had some bird peppers and a single tomato seedling ready to go… so they went in!

lasagna gardening

And then they were nicely watered in to settle the roots:

lasagna-gardening-wating-in-transplants

I watered them with compost tea for a little extra “juice” to ease the shock of transplanting, but that’s not really necessary.

If you have lousy soil, a poorly drained area, a lot of pesky grass you want to cover without digging, or if you’re just interested in the idea, give lasagna gardening a try. It works and the area where you throw down cardboard and organic matter like this will become one of the richest areas in your entire yard.

Everything in this bed was free. Granted, I did have to buy a chest freezer to get the cardboard, but hey – you can get cardboard anywhere!

Finally, I have more on this and other methods of composting in my book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting.

Get your copy here.

And if you’ve done the lasagna gardening / sheet mulching thing in your own gardens, how did it work for you?

Let me know in the comments.

 

Enjoy this post? Put it on Pinterest!

lasagna gardening

David-the-good-books-revised

Virginia Gardening Inspiration

Ducks-in-virgina-garden

My brother Brian the Firefighter and his family live up in Virginia.

Over the last few years he’s been restoring a lovely older wood home located on a little less than an acre of land near the coast. His wife Danielle is a talented gardener with an artistic flair and my brother is good at building and getting things done. He also has an eye for detail so they make a great team.

My parents are visiting them right now and Mom sent me some photos of their gardens to share here.

First… my brother!

virginia-garden-brian-gardening

And the house (with one of my cute nieces in front):

Virginia-gardening-front-of-house

The soil in this area of Virginia is rich and loamy.

They’ve had great luck growing everything from Seminole pumpkins to peaches, raspberries, strawberries, herbs and sunflowers. vines-climbing-virginia-garden Virginia-garden-flowers

Towards the front corner of the yard, there is a peach tree surrounded by other edibles:

Virginia-gardening-back-of-house

Rosemary, raspberries, lilies…

And some years ago I gave Danielle a potted strawberry plant. Not only did she keep it alive, she’s multiplied it.

Check out this little strawberry patch, all from that one hanging basket:

Back-garden-virginia-garden-strawberries

Having a green thumb plus the right climate = happy strawberries.

As my parents were visiting, Brian was able to get a local tree-trimming company to dump a load of mulch in the yard:

dumping-mulch-in-virginia-garden

It’s hard to beat free mulch.

By the way: if you have access to shredded wood chips and would like to use them for more than just mulch, it’s easy to make them into lots of compost. Just layer chips with some hot manure – like chicken manure – or soak the pile of mulch multiple times in diluted urine. Get some nitrogen in there and the pile will break down nicely into high-quality compost for your garden.

Or, just have your wife and daughter help you spread it as mulch. It feeds the ground that way, too.

virginia-garden-spreading-mulch

Beyond gardening, my brother’s family also keeps chickens and ducks for eggs:

Ducks-in-virgina-garden virginia-garden-backyard-chickens virginia-garden-chicken-coop

My brother is very good at building things. I once watched him build a playhouse from an old wooden fence in about four hours.

We’re talking framing, floor, roof… Brian is good.

No matter where you look, there’s some of his handicraft, plus something growing.

container-garden-virginia-gardening grapes-in-virginia

Good work!

David-the-good-books-revised

More “Compost Your Enemies” Sightings

Compost_Enemies_Kiwi

The “Compost Your Enemies” meme is spreading.

darkskywv reports:

“Mr. and Mrs. The Good~ Today I wore my “Compost Your Enemies” T-shirt to the Mother Earth News Fair in Vermont, as promised. You would not believe the number of compliments, thumbs-ups, smiles, points-and-laughs, etc. I got. (I guess I shoulda worn pants too. Hahaa). Anyway it brought smiles to a lot of faces. I told some of them to look up your channel. Hopefully they’ll remember. Happy Machete-ing.”

Fantastic! Thank you.

And… spotted in Washington… could that be a… is it…?

Jason-compost-everything-shirt-in-garden-web

Yes, yes it is!

Jason-compost-your-enemies-shirt-web

It’s a Compost Your Enemies shirt, worn by a handsome bearded farmer! Thank you, Jason.

But it’s not just the guys getting into the act… lovely gardening ladies also like to compost their enemies, as Jen shows!

Jen-compost-everything-web

I just got my own “Compost Your Enemies” shirt at long last:

compost your enemies

This is too much fun – thank you, everyone.

Get your own “Compost Your Enemies” t-shirt here.

David-the-good-books-revised

A Refrigerator Garden / Container Gardening Hack

Refrigerator-garden

I’ve always wanted a refrigerator garden. Now I have one.

The internet is still down at my house but I managed to upload this video a few minutes ago:

This instant herb-garden-in-an-old-fridge should keep us supplied with seasonings for the kitchen.

The method of dumping lots of wood and carboniferous debris in the bottom is one I explain in more detail in Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting.

Also, the rap song from the video? You can get it here for a donation of any amount… or just for free, if you’re really cheap.

David-the-good-books-revised

18-Day Compost?

18-day compost

18-Day Compost? Possible?

Quite possibly. I watched Geoff Lawton’s Permaculture Soils again the other night with Rachel.

In it, Geoff makes a few extraordinary claims about his compost.

He says it’s possible to make compost in 18 days, and if Geoff says it is… well… it is.

18-Day Compost

That said, 18-day compost isn’t a new idea; it’s what the Berkeley Method does, though you need a shredder of some sort (lawn mower, anyone?) to move the process along:

One of the main keys to making a fast compost pile is having the materials, mainly the
carbon materials, chopped or shredded into small pieces. This can be done with a
shredder or chipper, or just by running the lawn mower over it. The material decays best
when the material size is between ½ to 1½ inches. The smaller size gives the material
more surface area for the compost microbes to work, and allows more air and water to
get through the pile.
However, in Permaculture Soils, Geoff doesn’t shred anything, but he also doesn’t seem to have much in the way of slow-to-break-down carboniferous materials. He has a variety of manures – including humanure! – and cut grasses.

Following this idea, over at Deep Green Permaculture there’s a solid DIY post on 18-day composting which reports:

To illustrate the point, a friend with a small with only a courtyard (in a rental property) wanted to attempt hot composting, and I helped him out with the project. He gathered a wheelie bin full of fallen leaves from his local street, one wheelie bin full of weeds from his garden, purchased a small straw bale for the sake of it. I helped him collect a few garbage bags of cow manure from an urban farm. It took us under an hour to pile it all up in reasonably thin layers (under 5cm) of each ingredient to get a good mix.

It was his first attempt at hot composting, and in around 18 days, he had over 1 cubic metre of rich, dark, compost to use in his garden. You couldn’t distinguish any of the original ingredients in the final product either, and it had a very fine consistency. Best of all, it cost him next to nothing – the straw bale was just a $17 luxury, it would have worked just as well without it, and without it it would have cost absolutely nothing.

Just think that 1 cubic metre is 1,000 litres, and if you think how much you pay for a 30 litre bag of potting mix (over $10) here in Australia, you realise what value this entails.

Compost is valuable, and if you make more in a faster period of time it helps you get beds going. Right now we’re entering the rainy season and I want a lot of compost fast. Our beds are being dug and planted and having it available to feed the growing crops would be quite helpful.

The Experiment

I decided to try 18-day compost using what we have available on our homestead.

The first thing I needed to do was build another bin, as I already have a batch of compost going. It should be done in a few weeks, but I wanted to start NOW!

Here’s what I created:

See how fast you can build a compost bin when you just have junk laying around your yard? Redneck FTW!

Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough material to get a solid start on this pile. I need to go cut some grass and gather some manure before I can make a good go of it. I’m not sure mango leaves are going to break down quick enough, though they do seem to rot a lot faster than cocoa leaves. They are the main “browns” I have, so they’ll just have to do. Even if turning regularly means I’ll get compost in a month instead of a few months, it’ll be great. I have made compost pretty quickly in the past by getting more air into the pile and rotating non-composted materials into the center, so we shall see. Maybe we’ll make 21-day compost. Or 19-day compost!

Stay tuned – I’ll be hunting biomass and will start this experiment soon. Our internet is out right now but I’ve tethered my phone’s connection via bluetooth to my Mac so I can keep posting until the line is back in service. It’s burning through my data plan like a drunk through cheap wine, but I haven’t run out yet.

Have a wonderful Lord’s Day and I’ll see you Monday.

 

*         *          *

 

Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.

O my soul, you have said to the Lord,
“You are my Lord,
My goodness is nothing apart from You.”

As for the saints who are on the earth,
“They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”

Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hasten after another god;
Their drink offerings of blood I will not offer,
Nor take up their names on my lips.

O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You maintain my lot.

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance.

I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel;
My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.

I have set the Lord always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope.

For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

-Psalm 16, NKJV

David-the-good-books-revised

Compost Your Enemies

Compost_Enemies_Kiwi

The “Compost Your Enemies” T-shirt is getting around.

My friends Kurt and Holly wore theirs to the zoo:

Compost-Your-Enemies

Harambe would approve.

Danny writes “I am proud of my choice in papel de bano, and will stand by it to the end”

compost-your-enemies-Danny

Danny’s other hobbies include permaculture and trolling literal thinkers YouTube:

danny-on-youtube

I laughed.

Danny also reports:

“Saw a “Compost Your Enemies” shirt @ the rare fruit expo in Manatee County today, I wore mine yesterday,  said what’s up to the guy. Just wanted to let you know The Gooders are out and representin’.”

That is awesome.

And… continuing on that theme, a fellow YouTuber – Plant Assassin – also sent in a Compost Your Enemies selfie:

Compost Your Enemies

He’s got some fascinating plants on his YouTube channel – worth subscribing.

Thanks, everyone. This is more fun than I deserve.

David-the-good-books-revised

Chicken Run Composting

Homemade-potting-soil-sifted-chicken-run-soil

I have a new post over at The Grow Network on chicken run composting the Back to Eden way.

Excerpt:

Throw Compostable Items to the Birds!

Yard “waste”, weeds, kitchen scraps, picnic remains… if it’s organic and will break down in a reasonable amount of time, throw it to your hens.

Back To Eden Chicken Run Compost

When you prune trees you can take the entire pruned branches and toss them into the chicken run. When all the leaves fall off, pull the branches out again and throw them into a hugelkultur mound, turn them into biochar, or use them for rocket stove fuel.

The leaves will be turned into compost by your birds, and then you can use that compost in your garden.

This mother hen and her chick started tearing into the leaves and garden “waste” as soon as I dropped it in the coop:

Back To Eden Chicken Composting

Chickens want to work for you if you give them a chance.

Click here to keep reading over at The Grow Network

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