Does Composting Destroy Weed Seeds?


Does composting destroy weed seeds?

We are regularly assured by composting experts that hot composting destroys seeds… yet I have some pumpkins that beg to differ:

composting destroy weed seeds

Those pumpkins grew as volunteers from one of my compost piles a few years ago. Granted, it wasn’t a regularly turned pile, meaning that they probably missed the hottest part of the compost… but how many of you have turned your compost regularly and still had little tomatoes or weeds pop up in it?

My bet is ALL of you.

Here’s an example of “hot composting kills weed seeds” advice from Aggie Horticulture:

“The composting process also naturally kills weed seeds. Properly managed, a compost pile should easily reach 140°F, which breaks down all organic matter, including weed seeds.”

They recognize the difficulty, though, as the next line reads:

“The key word is properly.”

My bet is that few gardeners reach that lofty, “proper” goal.

Why Our Backyard Compost Doesn’t Kill Weed Seeds


compost destroy weed seeds

A typical backyard compost heap isn’t insulated or turned often enough to maintain heat and rotate all the viable seeds in the compost through the hot center of the pile.

Yes, the heat generated by thermophilic bacteria in a hot compost pile is high enough to destroy seeds, but getting every bit of your compostable materials hot enough to kill the seeds takes very good compost management.

My old pile didn’t do it. It was built from reclaimed landscape logs with too many gaps to get everything hot. Plus, turning it was a pain.

I imagine if you owned a cement truck and packed the barrel of it with a proper mix of carboniferous and nitrogenous materials, then rotated it every day or so, and perhaps insulated the inside with foam, you could get that compost to heat up perfectly.

I’m joking. A bit.

My composting methods have gone from complicated to simple over the years as I’ve realized creating perfect compost doesn’t really matter.

Nature doesn’t create perfectly sifted, totally rotten-down brown humus. No, she throws logs and leaves on the ground. There’s always some finished material and some fresh material, some fungi eating at this and some insect boring away at that.

But let me back up. What prompted today’s post?

This Viewer Asked a Question

There was a comment that prompted today’s great big post on weed seeds in compost. Four words that led to 1145 words:


Martha asked this question on this anaerobic compost tea video I posted back in the summer:

My answer was:

“Good question. I try to avoid throwing plants with mature seeds into the tea. They never seem to get completely killed in hot compost piles, either, though, even though we hear all the time that “hot composting kills weed seeds!” It’s probably true for the ones in the middle of the pile, but I’m always getting volunteer tomatoes, wheat from straw, weeds, and pumpkins popping up even from hot piles. My guess is that this tea method will rot down most of the seeds if it sits long enough but not all of them.”

It takes a lot of faith in your compost-fu to deliberately throw in weedy materials, no matter how you’re composting.


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If you have spiny pigweed going to seed in your food forest, do you really think you’ll be able to throw that in your compost bin and then use the resulting compost in your spring gardens?

Do you want to take that risk?


But I Compost the Right Way!

That’s fine – I appreciate the thermometer and sifter brigade.

To those about to compost, I salute you!

I am totally sure that I could destroy weed seeds by hot composting if I thought it out properly. My interest, however, is more in gardening than in the processes that lead up to it. Making “perfect” looking compost isn’t as important to me as growing corn, pumpkins, beans, yams and fruit trees. I also don’t like spending money to make perfect systems.

If you enjoy it, that’s fantastic. I love the smell, look and taste (well, maybe not taste) of finished compost. I made some nice-looking stuff myself this year and just sifted it the other day:

composting destroy weed seeds

I made that compost with almost no work, though. No thermometers, no turning, no measuring ratios of carbon/nitrogen to get that 25/1 mix. No, I just threw it all on the ground in one of my garden beds.

And – oh YES – LOTS of seeds came up in it! Enough to start my new fruit tree nursery.

I view this as a feature, not a bug. Sometimes I just let compost piles turn into garden beds since there are so many volunteer edibles coming up.

But What About Killing Weed Seeds???

Right – that’s what you all want to know, right? How CAN you compost those pesky weedy plants?


My favorite method is to keep them out of the compost piles and gardens altogether.

In my former food forest I would just chop down weeds and throw them on the ground around my fruit trees and other shrubs. If they self-seeded and came back, I’d chop them down again.

Unlike delicate annual garden plants such as lettuce and cabbage, trees and shrubs don’t need to be perfectly weeded in order to produce. I just knocked down the weeds again and again, and every time I did, guess what?

Those fallen weeds rotted into humus.

Nature does this all the time. The winter freezes come once a year and toast all the weeds, letting them fall down and rot into the soil, improving it. The Bible instructed the children of Israel to let their land go completely fallow one year out of seven. Weeds regenerate the soil, as I’ve written before.

If you want to use weeds to feed your gardens, you’ll have much better luck in a no-till system where you throw a pile of seedy weeds on the ground, then cover them up with mulch… and then DON’T TILL!

If you till, you’ll bring those seeds up to the light and warmth and they’ll go crazy in your eggplants. Beneath a layer of mulch, however, they’ll eventually rot away safely.

Compost_960-webThat’s my two cents on composting destroying weed seeds. Yes, it can – but most of us aren’t doing it “properly,” so don’t trust too much in the magic of compost to pile-drive your pesky pigweed problems.

Personally, I prefer cold composting anyhow as I believe it keeps more of the good stuff in the pile instead of steaming away into the air. Nature almost always cold composts, and while that process takes longer I think it’s a simpler and gentler method.

Then again, I may just be lazy.

You decide.

And go get my book Compost Everything if you really want to transform your thinking on the wonders of composting. It’s even available as an audiobook, read by me.

And it’s funny.

Supercharging Garden Beds with Biochar and Compost


Biochar and compost, my friends. That’s what I’m doing this time.

And… freshly tilled garden beds are irresistible to chickens. Little punks.

biochar and compost and a chicken

Yesterday I shared how we started working the garden beds, along with a video. Today I have a follow-up video, plus a deeper look at my experiments.

After seeing Steven’s success with biochar and leeks – and after getting really sick and tired of how gluey the clay can get here – I’ve decided to make lots of charcoal to add to my beds.

biochar and compost

I did an open burn and managed to get over 15 gallons of biochar. It’s mostly from fast-burning materials like palm fronds and bamboo, with a big of hardwood and random sticks thrown in.

Charging Biochar

If you throw charcoal directly into your beds it soaks up the minerals for a time, lowering or even eliminating your yields; however, if you “charge” it first with some minerals and nitrogen, it acts like a reserve in the soil. Or that’s the theory as I understand it.

Being rather insane, I decided to soak the biochar in seawater and Epsom salt. And urine. And some compost. I only soaked it for a couple of hours, though, which may not be enough.

Biochar wasn’t the only amendment I added to the garden beds. I also sifted some compost with my redneck compost sifter, AKA a carefully bent hunk of hardware cloth:


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Some of the compost is being reserved for a new batch of potting soil I’m going to make to pot up some of my compost pile fruit trees, but some of it we put in the garden beds along with the biochar. Biochar and compost – what a wonderful combination!

Rachel helped with this part, even after all her vigorous broadforking.


There are few things I enjoy more than working in the garden with my wife.

Having a task in front of us and getting it done together is better than watching a movie or hanging around smoking a hookah. I think. We’ve never actually smoked a hookah together, so that’s just conjecture, really.

Next on the agenda is planting… when we do that, I’ll share it as well.

Stay warm and have a great Sunday. We’ve been unable to make it to church for weeks now due to our car and I really miss it. I hope you are part of a good fellowship… and also have a working vehicle. Eventually we’ll be back to our normal Sabbath routine. Not worried. We have food, gardens, a beach within two miles walk… hard to feel too bad about a busted car.

And we definitely have “two or more gathered together” in the name of Jesus here on our homestead.


The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Getting the Gardens Going Again



I apologize in advance to those of you dealing with January cold. Maybe this will send some warmth your way.

Back on Wednesday I posted that I was going to say “heck with it” and plant garden beds again even if the house sells before I can harvest.

I liked this comment by dfr2010:

Sounds like you made the right choice. Possible outcomes:

1. You get to harvest what you’ve planted, without moving.
2. You have to move, but get to harvest anyway.
3. You have to move, and someone else moves in … you’ve given them quite the potential house-warming present!

Doesn’t sound like there’s any real downside to me.

Heck, I’ve planted fruit trees across multiple previous properties at this point. People are harvesting and enjoying fruit now that they didn’t have to plant. No loss.

On Wednesday after finishing up some office work I took to the gardens and brought the camera with me.

You can see how I use a garden bed as a compost pile for a period of time, then rotate to another bed. I first did this on a lousy, sandy bed back in North Florida. The crops had done horribly in it, so I thought “hey, why not make THIS space the compost pile instead of piling up compost somewhere else?”

This is a crazy idea I like to call

Using a Garden Bed for a Compost Pile

This works great, as I share in greater detail in Compost Everything.

I don’t bother turning compost anymore.

I just pile up compostable materials and let them rot down over time.

If you do this in a garden bed, all the good nutrition that seeps out of the compost goes right into the soil beneath where your crops will find it when you later rake away the compost and plant the ground. Worms are also drawn to that area by the delicious rotting kitchen scraps.


Never have enough of the good stuff?

CLICK HERE to get David The Good's free booklet Stretch & Grow Your Compost!

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Look at this beautiful stuff!


After letting a bed rot down like this for 6 months to a year, you can then plant right on top… or steal some of that compost for another project, making sure to leave a bit behind for the crops to come.

I sifted out about 3+ gallons of good compost from this bed using a piece of hardware cloth. You can still see some eggshell pieces, or as Rachel calls them, “slow-release calcium”:


This finer compost gets used when I prepare beds, make potting soil and as food for my potted fruit trees.

The rougher chunks that don’t make it through the screen get thrown into the new compost/garden bed. I also chopped-and-dropped a self-planted moringa tree I’ve let grow there.


Moringa leaves can be used as a fertilizer all by themselves, so it’s great to have some growing near or even in your garden area.

As for the previous compost bed, I broadforked it with my trusty Meadow Creature broadfork to loosen the soil for planting.


Look at me! I’ve literally broadforked my head off!

Man alive, it feels good to get in the dirt again. As for the other beds which weren’t covered with compost, I used my grape hoe to get those weeded, then broadforked them as well.

Now I need to supercharge all these beds with long-term soil-building materials.

…but you’ll just have to wait to see how I do that.

Composting a Rat


Yes indeed, you can compost rats.

This one made the fatal mistake of irritating my wife by invading the kitchen at night.


Rat. In. Peace.

That’s what you get for eating my pumpkin seeds, vermin.


Never have enough of the good stuff?

CLICK HERE to get David The Good's free booklet Stretch & Grow Your Compost!

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And of course, I made a video:

Though I didn’t build a full “melon pit” with all the trimmings as described in Compost Everything, this rat will still feed the Seminole pumpkins I planted above its corpse.

Don’t let any potential soil fertility go to waste.

Compost everything.

Fish Blood Fertilizer


If you’ve read Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting, you’re already familiar with how I make my own fish fertilizer in big barrels.

Even if you just have a little fish blood lying around, don’t waste it!

The print edition of Compost Everything was out of stock for a few months due to some sort of issue with the printer and Amazon. I have no idea what happened, but it’s back in paperback now.


Never have enough of the good stuff?

CLICK HERE to get David The Good's free booklet Stretch & Grow Your Compost!

You'll transform your garden forever!

In other news, my YouTube channel is now just shy of 11,000 subscribers.

Screen Shot 2016-11-22 at 8.46.27 AM

I would love to put up some more of Rachel’s cooking in time for Thanksgiving, but she’s headed back to Florida for the week.

Fortunately, she brought a camera with her and will be filming a new tour of The Great South Florida Food Forest Project.I really look forward to seeing that… and seeing her again. She left this morning and I already miss her, especially since I now have to make my own coffee. Sad!

Updates from The Great South Florida Food Forest Project: Fall 2016



It’s been too long since the last update on The Great South Florida Food Forest Project.

Mom sent me photos from just before Hurricane Matthew limped past the coast. There was no damage after the storm but the clouds in the pictures look amazing.

First, take a look at the tropical almond (background) and the black sapote (foreground, right):


See that little Senna alata (AKA candlestick cassia) growing to the left of the chocolate pudding fruit tree? We planted some of those when establishing the food forest and they seem to have naturalized… all over the place.

Now take a look at the avocado seedling:


It’s over 6′ tall now and is a Thai type which makes huge avocados the size of honeydew melons. It just needs to get big so it can start bearing!

Here’s another look at the chocolate pudding fruit tree:


Definitely getting taller and it looks very happy. Those are passionfruit and yam vines growing in the fence behind it.

Now check out the starfruit tree:cassava-starfruit-florida-food-forest

Mom reports that this tree produces gallons and gallons of fruit twice a year with long harvest seasons. The fruit are very good and sweet. Quite refreshing. Note the cassava on the right side of the image. The fallen sticks all over the ground are chopped-and-dropped Tithonia diversifolia stems. Great food for the soil.

Here’s a good looking chaya growing in front of the neighbor’s fence:


That’s the deeply lobed variety as opposed to the maple leaf type. I have both growing in The Great South Florida Food Forest.

Out in the front yard, Dad prepared for Hurricane Matthew by cutting back the acerola cherry:dad-cutting-back-acerola-cherry-florida-food-forest


Never have enough of the good stuff?

CLICK HERE to get David The Good's free booklet Stretch & Grow Your Compost!

You'll transform your garden forever!

That tree bears year-round and has sweet fruit. It’s been a huge blessing to my nieces and nephews, not to mention the children of the many friends who visit my parents’ place. They all love fresh-picked cherries!

Another big blessing has been the mango tree. It bears large crops of fine-fleshed wonderfully sweet orange-fleshed mangoes.


The ferns on the ground beneath it planted themselves. I love those “accidents” of nature.

Here you can see the mango to the left, coconut palms in foreground left, moringa tree in center and the Thai avocado to the right. Yam vines (Dioscorea alata) are draping across the trees through the center.moringa-avocado-yam-mango-florida-food-forest

Now here’s a nice tree to see: the 6th Street Mulberry is flying!mulberry-south-florida-food-forest

That is going to be a lovely, multi-branched tree. It’s already been bearing fruit. Hard to believe it looked like this not long ago:


Here’s a view of the profusion from the other side. Isn’t this MUCH more interesting than a lawn?south-florida-food-forest-2016-fall

Moringa, cassava, mango, yams, sunflowers, mother-in-law tongues, ferns, orchids, starfruit, bananas… it’s a lovely mess of great plants!

Here’s another view of the starfruit with the moringa on its right:starfruit-moringa-florida-food-forest

And back around to the front yard again, on the other side, to see the tamarind and the canistel:tamarind-canistel-south-florida-food-forest

That canistel is now my height (tree in foreground) and the tamarind is almost 4 times my height. I love to see them both growing happily.

If you’re interested in starting your own Florida food forest, you’ll find inspiration and lots of ideas for plant species in my little book Create Your Own Florida Food Forest.


It’s also available in audiobook form, read by me.

This is a great way to use your property. As the trees mature, you get more and more fruit… for less and less work. My parents aren’t even “plant people” and they greatly enjoy seeing the trees grow and having all the extra fruit to share with friends and family.

Go for it – you have nothing to lose but your boring grass!

Three Ways to Use Logs In Your Garden (Instead of Throwing Them Away!)



Rotting wood and logs are a great addition to the garden.

I see so many people – particularly in South Florida – dragging logs and palm branches to the side of the road in bins for trucks to haul away.

Quit doing that! As I cover in my book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting and in glorious color film in Compost Everything: The Movie, wood is good for the soil. It breaks down into excellent humus which holds water. When you have poor soil, you want to increase humus and soil nutrition, not send it off to the city dump.

Here are three ways to use wood in your garden and increase your soil fertility long term.

1: Use Chunks of Wood for Garden Boundaries


When my Dad and I built The Great South Florida Food Forest Project, we picked up all the yard “waste” we could find from nearby neighbors and then piled it up, lining the pathsDirtBeforeAndAfter2with the thicker branches and logs.

In a very short period of time, those logs started breaking down into rich soil.

Most of them aren’t there any more and need replacing… but you wouldn’t believe how nice the sand looks where they used to lie.

The image on the left shows what the sand looked like before and after we piled up organic matter.

People love to complain about how “bad” the sand is down in South Florida and how nothing grows there. Yet they rake up all their leaves and throw away logs.

Poor choices.

2. Make Hugelkulture Mounds

A friend of mine cleared a big area of her yard to open up the light for her edible crops, to get rid of the invasive trees, and to make sure hurricanes didn’t send any 2,000lb chunks of tree through her roof.

Instead of making a big burn pile or sending them off to the city, she made a gigantic pair of hugelkultur mounds.

She dug trenches, filled them with wood, then took all the mustard-covered soil on the left and buried the rotting wood.


Now they are rich, flower and food-covered gardens.


Never have enough of the good stuff?

CLICK HERE to get David The Good's free booklet Stretch & Grow Your Compost!

You'll transform your garden forever!


Hugelkultur gardens are an idea I picked up from Paul Wheaton, who in turn probably picked it up from Sepp Holzer.

They can improve the soil for decades.

3. Turn Those Logs into Biochar


When life gives you fallen trees, why not turn them into charcoal and improve your soil for not just decades… but generations!


I burn big open piles because I don’t want to bother making kilns or getting fancy. Plus, I want to fight global cooling.

Though turning charcoal directly into your soil will suck up nutrients and drop your yields, soaking the charcoal first in something like compost tea will allow it to become a resource bank for the soil. Charcoal pieces hold in fungi, bacteria and nutrition like little condominiums, thanks to the intricate pore structure of wood.

Steven Edholm recently shared some tests he did in three garden beds and I reshared it here.


It’s time to think differently about fallen logs and branches.

Don’t view them as “too big for the compost bin” and send them off.

Every time you do that you are exporting fertility from your property. Don’t.

Instead, use one of these three methods and you’ll not only improve your soil, you’ll keep useful material out of the waste stream.

I’ve done all three and my plants love the help. You can too – and can even make it look nice. I once grew a nice cabbage inside a rotting chunk of log I picked up by the side of the road.


Worms, bacteria, fungi, beetles… all of these live in and out of the rotting wood and will happily break it down into rich soil for your garden.

Think differently about fallen trees and you’ll improve your soil long term. I guarantee it!

Turning Morning Glories into Fertilizer!



My new friend Matt just sent me this entertaining post where he devises a new and novel anaerobic compost tea… and puts it to work! -DTG


A couple weeks ago, I stumbled across a YouTube video from David The Good called Totally Insane Compost Tea Recipe that got me to thinking.  I had read about this idea a few years ago in Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture, and kind of filed it away as something to try later.

Well, it’s later…..

We’ve had a big morning glory problem in our gardens this year, with all of the late rain and hot/humid conditions, and I needed a way to dispose of it.  I had been yanking it up, and hanging the carcasses on the fences to dry out, or chucking it into the driveway where it hopefully will not re-root.  Morning glory is one of those weeds I consider noxious, even if the USDA doesn’t agree with me.  Once it gets started, it will take over quickly, and strangle plants and bushes.  If you pull it out, and don’t get every little teeny-tiny bit of the root, it comes back with a vengeance; kind of like horseradish.  And if you let it go to seed; well you just don’t want to do that.  It’s not something you can really “chop-and-drop” either, I’ve had plants re-root themselves and grow back after pulling it up.

Now unlike horseradish, I don’t know of too many redeeming qualities for morning glory.  I don’t think it’s really edible, the flowers are nice- but very short-lived, it does provide a living cover- but it tends to kill whatever it covers, the vines really aren’t good for doing anything with- unlike wild grapevines.

What on earth was it created for???

Well thank you David The Good for showing me a way to use morning glory, and reminding me about the benefits of compost tea.  Turns out The Creator actually had a purpose in mind for this noxious weed we call morning glory.


Never have enough of the good stuff?

CLICK HERE to get David The Good's free booklet Stretch & Grow Your Compost!

You'll transform your garden forever!

An unused, shady corner of our big garden had become an absolute massive jungle of morning glory.  Impossible to even walk thru.  I scared up a barrel, and started working on cleaning up this corner.29357749216_e56f02e924_z  Why the barrel?  Well, it’s one of the important parts of the compost tea; the other 2 parts – water, and weeds.  I spent several mornings pulling morning glory vines, and stuffing them down into the barrel.  I put a lid on the barrel to keep the mosquitoes out.  After filling the barrel, and packing it down, I had nearly 100 pounds of morning glory vines in a 40 gallon barrel!  I said we had a morning glory problem.  I filled the barrel up to overflowing with water, and let it work for a few days.  Oh, and if you watch the video all the way to the end, there’s that secret ingredient that I added as well.

After about a week in the heat,  I ended up with the WORST smelling liquid I’ve ever run across…

Click here to keep reading over at Matt’s blog


I love experiments like these. Thank you, Matt, for sharing your composting madness.

You can learn plenty more about crazy composting in my book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting.


*Photo at top by Lisa Ann Yount. Public domain license.

Chickens AGAIN!


I’ve written at least one “chickens are back” post in the past. Maybe two!


That is our little flock.

A rooster and three hens, lovingly gifted to us by a friend.

Rachel is quite happy:

Since moving, we have had to buy all of our own eggs. We have also had only the compost pile to deal with fallen fruit. Not all the mangoes look like these when they fall from above:



Never have enough of the good stuff?

CLICK HERE to get David The Good's free booklet Stretch & Grow Your Compost!

You'll transform your garden forever!

Though a pig might be more efficient for scrap disposal, chickens are also a formidable gardening tool.

They till the soil, manure, weed and eat bugs. I’d like to go the whole Justin Rhodes route with these birds even though there are only four of them.

By the way, Justin is offering the chance for a limited amount of people to join in on his “10 Hour Homestead” course and learn directly how he was able to grow 75% of his food in just 100 days of gardening… for less than 10 hours a week.

You can sign up here.

He is also doing a free webinar tonight only on “The Tools of the Ten Hour Homestead.”

The chickens we now have are not really a breed such as one might have in the United States. Instead, they are a scrappy little local yard fowl, suited to foraging and living in the tropics. Unlike many of the birds I’ve had in the past, the hens of this variety are good mothers. As Rachel says in the video, none of these birds started its life in an incubator.

I will let you know how these chickens work out. Stay tuned.

Could You Fertilize After a Collapse?


I was recently invited by my friend William to post over at The Permaculture Apprentice.

If you’re not familiar with William, he’s a hard-working permaculture-minded market gardener in Europe who shares his abundant knowledge freely on his site. We first met thanks to our mutual friend Justin Rhodes and now we compare notes regularly and have decided to collaborate on a few projects.

If you’re establishing a new homestead or hoping to make some money off your garden, I recommend you hang around William’s site and sign up for his newsletter to get his permaculture farm guide. His posts are very good, very meticulously researched and make for a much more thoughtful place than my slice of gardening anarchy.

Could You Fertilize After a Collapse?

If you can’t fertilize your gardens, your gardens will eventually fail.

There’s only enough fertility in the soil to last through a crop, or a few if you’re blessed with excellent local conditions – but after a time, your roots, grains and vegetables will simply refuse to feed you.

I once planted a row of corn in some infertile sand to see what would happen. The resulting stalks were ridiculous miniatures, looking as if they were created to complement someone’s model train collection. Worse than that, they failed to bear a single kernel. After lifting a few tiny blooms to the sky to scatter a few anemic grains of pollen, they died.

If I had decided to plant a nice big garden in that space, it would have done terribly… unless I had a way to feed it.


Never have enough of the good stuff?

CLICK HERE to get David The Good's free booklet Stretch & Grow Your Compost!

You'll transform your garden forever!

Ideally, a gardener would build up his soil first, then plant later. Sometimes, though, we just want – or need – to obtain a yield quickly.

If the grid collapsed tomorrow and the grocery stores closed, which option would you choose?

Option 1: Take a year to dig beds, observe the land, make compost, sheet mulch and improve the soil… and starve

Option 2: Say heck with the soil, till a huge area, throw down some 10-10-10 and plant a big plot so you can eat

Organic purism often gets thrown out the window when we face a crisis or an economic reason for gardening.

All we really want is food!

Yet the two choices I gave you aren’t really fair. Sure, you can’t build the soil into rich, high-nutrient loam with a perfect amount of organic matter and a wide range of beneficial microorganisms and fungi in a quick period of time… but you CAN feed your crops organically and get good yields with a lot less material and time than you might think…

Click here to find out how over at The Permaculture Apprentice!

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