Land and Pumpkins

building_soil

This morning I went to go look at a piece of land. It’s perhaps a little over a quarter acre, but is likely pretty affordable. If it is, I am interested. Even a quarter acre in the tropics can feed a family when well-tended.

I also posted a video yesterday which I was quite happy with. I know, there’s not a lot to it – but it’s funny.

Yesterday I also made it out to a local agricultural supply place.

On one side, there are pots and seeds and tools and fertilizer… and the other side of the store is a liquor store.

That really cracks me up. I suppose if your crops fail, you can always drown your sorrows.

I bought some fine potting soil as I need to get some things going, plus some fertilizer for the bananas and the pumpkins. Though I generally go organic, in this case I’m breeding pumpkins and have a lot – a lot – of vines to care for. Hauling enough manure wasn’t possible and they need a kick at the right time. My visa here is tied to my breeding efforts, so I need results quickly so I’m going with the recommendation of the locals.

Ah well. There will be time for ideological purity later.

When I get my own place, I’m going to build soil that will amaze the locals. Biochar, organic matter, grazing animals – we’re going to make things so fertile that there will be no need for any kind of chemical supplementation. In the rocky ground where my pumpkins are sprawling this kind of soil-building would take a few years – and I simply can’t see investing all the work into land I don’t own. I am adding organic matter and leaving the ground good, but going the swales, chop-and-drop, biochar and manure route takes time I may not have. Especially since I need to present some good pumpkins to the Department of Agriculture.

You’ve seen what I did in the past with dead, Florida sand – I can do the same with hard, rocky clay!

building_soil

It just takes time I don’t have right now.

For all of you in Florida, I’m praying you get through okay. Irma is nasty. We are fine here, but I have family in South Florida who have evacuated ahead of the storm, leaving behind their houses. I hope they have something they can return to after the hurricane has run its course.

God be with you all, my Floridian friends.

David-the-good-books-revised

Making Another Batch of Dave’s Fetid Swamp Water(TM)

making-fermented-plant-juice

As shared in my book Compost Everything, this method of feeding plants allows you to stretch fertility a long, long way and re-use “waste:”

Many people have written in to say how much they appreciate this simple method for creating liquid plant fertilizer.

As Gardener Earth Guy commented on the video:

“This is the absolute best garden trick I’ve learned in a long time. My banana have gotten giant, sweet potato have rope vines, and loquats are getting giant. What doesn’t get a chop n drop goes in the bin.”

You can throw in weeds, fruit, kitchen scraps, urine, manure… just find organic matter and throw it in. I like a wide mix. This is a pretty simple batch, only containing moringa, compost, cow manure and urine. I did get some Epsom Salts after making the video and will throw that in next. A 55-gallon drum like this can easily feed 10,000 square feet of corn for a growing season. I know – I’ve done it!

It beats making “normal” compost and having to spread it all around.

David-the-good-books-revised

Urine is a Great Fertilizer… EXCEPT FOR DRUGS!!!

pee-wee-crack

Seriously, is EVERYONE on drugs these days?

I mean, I’ve been known to drink coffee all day and sometimes chain-smoke my pipe while writing, then have a cocktail before bed… but pharmaceuticals? Not for me! CLEAN LIVING, man!

For years I’ve advocated the use of urine as a fertilizer. It’s truly an excellent plant booster and a free source of garden fertility. I believe God designed it that way on purpose.

Go ahead, water your plants!

Yet the question always comes up – “what if a person is on drugs?”

As Sheila wrote earlier this week:

Something to remember for your viewers. If they are on any
medications they may want to forgo the pee until they are off the
drugs. It all comes out through the kidneys.

Yeah, well… PeeWee Herman had something to say about that:

Don’t do drugs!

Actually, on second thought, maybe most of the “drugs” questions aren’t really about crack.

Some pharmaceuticals aren’t a lot better, though.

Anyhow, let’s think this through.

Drugs in Urine – Bad for the Garden?

Well, that’s a tough one.

Your plants are likely to be unaffected by the drugs that pass through your urine. I don’t like the idea of adding pharmaceuticals to the garden, but in my completely unscientific opinion, I would say it’s pretty unlikely that beta blockers, for instance, are going to mess up your beets.

Or Oxycontin render your carrots too sleepy to make roots.

Or heroin cause your tomatoes to start playing grunge music, then die at age 27 in a filthy hotel room.

Oh, sorry – I guess heroin is no longer a “legit” pharmaceutical. That was a few years back.

img004145

Anyhow, yeah… the drugs are targeted at human physiology, which is quite different from that of plants.

Yet it gets worse… drugs are polluting our water supply. One of the worst is “the pill:

“After the active ingredient in most birth control pills has done its duty preventing pregnancy, it begins a second life as a pollutant that can harm wildlife in waterways.

Not only is ethinyl estradiol quite potent — creating “intersex” fish and amphibians — but it is very difficult to remove from wastewater, which carries it into natural waterways. 

Since women around the planet take the pill, this is a global problem. The European Union is the first entity to seriously consider mandating the removal of ethinyl estradiol, also known as EE2, from wastewater. However, as researchers pointed out in Thursday’s (May 24) issue of the journal Nature, the question of whether to remove the pollutant is not simple.”

Personally, I think banning the pill is a great idea, but that’s unlikely to happen any time soon.

Personal Use

The question of using urine as fertilizer when drugs are in play is a personal one. I think it’s blown out of proportion.

Are you using urine as fertilizer, then feeding the produce to other people? Well, that’s NASTY!

Seriously, though – if it’s your own garden and you’re already taking these toxic substances medications for various reasons, I don’t think the little bit you might get back in your salad is a big deal. I wouldn’t want to take any pharmaceuticals if at all possible and wouldn’t want to eat produce contaminated with them, but if I were already on, say, meth proprotein convertase subtilisin kexin type 9 inhibitors, I wouldn’t worry about a tiny bit of it coming back to me via the garden.

My two cents.

You’ll find a lot more on the use of urine as fertilizer in my book Compost Everything.

David-the-good-books-revised

Maintaining a Banana Grove

Banana-grove

I let everything get away from me in the banana grove but I’m now starting to catch up.

We got a lot done this last Saturday and I filmed more so you can see how I’m cleaning and thinning out the many banana “stools” on our property.

Bananas are usually a heavily sprayed and fertilized crop but I’m managing them organically. I need to gather a lot more cow manure, plus maybe some seaweed and other materials. There are so many banana clumps to care for that it’s hard to get enough fertilizer to them.

Banana-grove2

Buying 10-10-10 and throwing a few handfuls to each stool would be easy.

Getting piles of manure isn’t.

There is a goat research facility up in the mountains – maybe I should go over there and see if I can get a few loads of manure.

There’s a thought!

David-the-good-books-revised

Fermented Plant Juice

fermented-plant-juice

This is similar to the Korean Natural Farming method of fermenting plant material anaerobically:

Multiple comments beneath the video claim that it IS the same method, but it isn’t.

Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 3.25.00 PM

This Hawaiian technique for creating fermented plant juice uses a lot of sugar and lacks leaf mould and sea salt. I am curious if it works well.

Some commenters claim it has done miracles for their gardens.

Youtuber Tom Fisher writes:

“I used your FPJ made out of Henbit and raw sugar and mixed it with EM1 and Bokashi Juice. The first spraying was FPJ and BJ. The plants took off right away. AMAZING!!! I sprayed our, and my neighbors flowers and shrubs with it and they are gorgeous! My garlic is over 30″ tall and my strawberries are a foot tall have have more flowers on them than I have ever seed in my life on strawberry plants. Thanks for an excellent video. You are a blessing to me and my family. Blessings to you!! My next batch will be Comfrey or Purslane.”

I may have to do a side-by-side test of methods to see how this works compared to the JADAM method.

Many compost tea enthusiasts will tell you that anaerobic fermentation is a bad practice, yet my own experiments have shown it to be a good source of soil fertility, particularly when compost supplies are low or you are gardening in sandy soil and need to optimize plant nutrition.

Pulling a bunch of materials from a wide range of plants is good for minerals.

Not having to bother with stirring or a bubbler or rapid application after creation is labor-saving.

So… I’m on the anaerobic train. Darn the microbes – full speed ahead!

I am gratified to see my own experience and experiments are backed up by both traditional Korean and Hawaiian practices.

Compost Everything!

David-the-good-books-revised

Free Nitrogen-Fixer Seeds

Nitrogen-fixers

I’m not picky when it comes to sources of soil fertility.

Sure, I could go the classic route and plant soybeans or peanuts, like farmers do, or I could go the grocery store and buy dry beans, peas and lentils, or…

…I could just go wander through the woods or even along the shoreline and pick up seeds from obvious nitrogen-fixing species.

Many, though not all, members of the bean and pea family, more properly known as Fabaceae, enjoy a special relationship with certain soil microbes which allows them to take nitrogen from the atmosphere – which is inaccessible to plants – and “fix” it into a form which plants can use.

Soybean-root-nodules

The roots of the plant share sugars and water with the bacteria, and in return, the bacteria give the plant nitrogen. It’s a fantastic design and one the gardener can put to work in his garden.

Once you learn to spot members of the bean and pea family, it because easy to find them.

If you don’t feel like you’re very good at plant ID, the book Botany in a Day has a lot of photos which will get you spotting plant families in no time.

Botany in a day

Though you’re not really going to learn botany in a single day – unless you’re some kind of a savant – Elpel does a nice job visually putting together plants into families and getting you going. You might not nail down a species right away, but you will be able to tell pretty certainly that the plant is in the hibiscus family or the soapberry family or, as concerns today’s post, the bean and pea family.

Nitrogen-fixing trees and plants are everywhere. In the case of the bay beans and Crotalaria I picked up at the beach, I know both of them fix nitrogen – and even if I didn’t know for sure, I could make a very good guess since they look like beans and are also nice and green in an area where they don’t have much right to look so chipper!

I’ll be planting these in rough areas and then later cutting them for use as compost while leaving the root systems in the ground. If you leave the roots instead of pulling them, you get more biomass in the soil and as the roots decay they’ll feed the next thing you plant.

Crotalaria isn’t edible (so far as I know) and the edibility of bay bean is disputable.

This woman, however, cooked and ate some – plus she made a nice privacy screen by planting a bamboo trellis with bay beans – but eat at your own risk. I’ll wait until I have more data.

Edibility is a nice plus with nitrogen-fixers but isn’t necessary. I’m mostly interested in feeding the ground for now.

If you’d like to see some of the many nitrogen-fixers I added to my old food forest in North Florida, check out this post.

Have a great Saturday – get out there and garden!

David-the-good-books-revised

Fertility is Everywhere

seaweed

You can find food for your garden in the strangest places.

Fallen leaves, manure, rotten wood, ashes, fish guts, urine, grass clippings… even seaweed and sea urchin shells will work:

I don’t have a standard mix of materials I add to my garden. Instead, I add whatever is currently available, from Epsom salts to rabbit manure, coffee grounds to moringa leaves.

I like a broad mix as I’m not only interested in making the plants look green, I’m also interested in maximizing their nutritional content, as Steve Solomon writes in his excellent book The Intelligent Gardener.

Start thinking about the many garden inputs available to you. Chances are you’re missing some great fertilizer opportunities.

Have a wonderful Lord’s Day – see you Monday.

 

*             *               *

 

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.

Be angry,[b] and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”

You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

 

-Psalm 4, ESV

David-the-good-books-revised
1 2 3 4