This week I released a long-form video called “Composting Secrets from a Humus Junkie.” In this post, I’ve edited the transcript and included the video so you can watch, read, or watch and read!
Watch the video:
The Transcript (for those of you who ain’t got no time for watchin’):
It’s no secret if you’ve been watching my channel that I have terrible soil.
I also got a frost which really made these beets look kind of ugly. We’ll get some beets out of here, but the tops of them definitely got burned. You can’t go from 80 degrees to 25 degrees in a day without the beets kind of going off time a bit.
However, I can’t do anything about the frosts, but I can do something about the soil. I’ve been working on balancing soil nutrients, making biochar, doing all kinds of cool stuff; but the thing that I really seem to always be lacking is humus. Humus is super important and I’m gonna tell you why!
The Importance of Humus
This book is by Sir Albert Howard, one of the fathers of modern organic agriculture. He writes:
“The effect of humus on the crop is nothing short of profound. the farmers and peasants who live in close touch with nature can tell by a glance at the crop whether or not the soil is rich in humus because the habit of the plant then develops something approaching personality. The foliage assumes a characteristic set, the leaves acquire the glow of health, the flowers develop depth of color, the minute morphological characters of the whole of the plant organs become clearer and sharper, root development is profuse, the active roots exhibit not only turgidity but bloom. The influence of humus on the planet is not confined to the outward appearance of the various organs, the quality of the produce is also affected. Seeds are better developed and so yield better crops and also provide livestock with a satisfaction not conferred by the produce of worn-out land. The animals need less food if it comes from fertile soil, vegetables and fruit grown on land rich in humus are always superior in quality taste and keeping power to those raised by other means. The quality of wines, other things being equal, follows the same rule.”
-An Agricultural Testament, Sir Albert Howard
That was written over 80 years ago and he observed what we have all observed and that is soil that’s rich in humus, that is, compost/organic matter, is happy. When I got my soil tested here it was less than two percent organic matter and that’s a function of geology in general. This soil eats humus, but today I’m going to share some methods and we are going to work on that together and you can see what I’m doing and maybe you’ll get some ideas for your own garden.
Composting With Chickens
One of my favorite things to do is to sift out compost from the chicken house. One of the great benefits of having chickens in confinement as opposed to just letting them free range and leave droppings all over your porch is that you can constantly feed in organic matter and then bring out compost so the chickens, instead of giving you just eggs and meat, are also giving you two excellent garden feeding products.
Number one, the soil and humus that they leave behind from all of the layers of carboniferous material and kitchen scraps and everything that they chew when they turn and they manure and they turn and they chew and they sift and they over and over again – you get that – but you also get the manure that is underneath the perches which is really hot stuff! We’re going to save some of that too for a different project but at the moment I can get – right now – literally a ton of compost out of this run because I haven’t really sifted that much.
I have both this area inside of the coop where they are a lot of the time and then there is the run outside which has a little more sand in it and probably a little less humus. Between those two you get a ton of compost which is huge.
If I had them just free-ranging not only would they get eaten by predators, they also wouldn’t give me this great yield.
If you look down here you can see this is the stuff that was not that doesn’t sift through right so this is a little rough for the garden this is still got a lot of carbon in it so this goes back on the floor and the rest that’s underneath this is garden gold. It’s so light and fluffy it’s perfect for the garden – full of humus! I’m gonna get some more of this in a minute but before that I’ll show you these perches right here.
These are just saplings and branches that we cut down and put across. Chickens like to roost and they can pick where they want to roost. I’ve got thinner and thicker areas; different birds like to be on different parts and they’re not exactly right over each other because then the birds will drop manure on the lower birds and you don’t want that, so they’re staggered a little bit out of the wall.
Having the perches along the back here when they come up at night, this area underneath the perches is just lots and lots and lots of chicken manure and chicken manure is way too hot to put in the garden directly unless you’re side dressing in very tiny amounts. It’s really hot stuff, which makes it quite useful for composting. You can smell the ammonia. Ammonia, folks – nitrogen! You smell ammonia, you’ve got nitrogen leaving into the air and we would rather have that mixed into some carbon. This is just pure sloppy chicken manure, this is really good stuff.
Our chickens aren’t actually completely penned up all the time. A lot of times when we’re home we’ll let them free range, particularly this time of year when they’re not too destructive in the garden. Like today it’s a little rainy. They can go out and go foraging through the woods, get extra minerals and of course those minerals that they get out of the woods then come back and when they leave the droppings at night those minerals are going to end up in our garden, so it’s a benefit to free-range them. It takes up less food and I can’t let them completely 100% free range or leave them open at night or that kind of thing. Some days are better than others, but they do get to go out and wander and get their exercise now and again and then gather fertility for my garden. We’ve got three game roosters right here that you can see that were given to us and they’ve not killed each other yet – which is surprising to me – but they grew up together in the same group they don’t fight very much and we’re hoping to mix in those genetics to the flock… but that doesn’t really have anything to do with humus, it’s just sort of interesting.
People ask me why I don’t use gloves. I’ve said it before, I will say it again: it is good to be exposed to a wide range of life: bacteria, fungi, etc. It’s good for your immune system. It’s good to connect you to the electrical currents of everything. Same reason I go barefoot as often as possible. Get your hands in the dirt! I don’t know if you saw Justin Rhodes’s video where Joel Salatin drinks right out of the cow trough that just freaks some people out but Joel Salatin is the boss, man!
Feeding Compost To the Grocery Row Gardens
These grocery row gardens are no-till – or I guess you could say minimum till, because occasionally we dig potatoes out of them and I rough an area up and plant something new – but they’re not getting tilled mechanically anymore and I’m not really double digging them or forking them or anything. These are long-term permaculture-inspired hedge-type systems that I wrote a little booklet about for anybody who wanted to try to do the experiment themselves and move along with it. We’re looking for people that can try this in different climates. So far we have people in Virginia, some people in the tropics, people in Australia, South Africa, and here I am in zone 8.
I want to keep this soil rich. This soil has biochar in it already which sticks around a long time and acts similarly to humus, but it’s not exactly the same. I have put in alfalfa pellets and that sort of thing but what I’m trying to do is close the humus loop with what we can do through chop and drop and what we can do through through pulling extra stuff out of here, feeding it to the chickens, then letting the chickens turn it into this beautiful rich humus and then throwing it back on.
We’re creating a loop. I was on an interview with Ice Age Farmer and we were talking about the difficulty of integrating animals with your gardening and one of the best ways I find I found, which we talked about a little bit, was having the chickens in a regular kind of a run area where you can basically concentrate their efforts down on building humus just like this, so you can cycle the nutrients out of your garden, and your kitchen scrap waste and all that stuff, and then put it through the chickens and get it turned into this garden gold without having to figure out your layers of carbon and nitrogen and all that. We got a little bit of soil in here, we got who knows what, but man it grows some pretty plants. Right now in this off season we’re still building humus over there and we’ll feed these gardens up and when I start planting this in about a month with the spring crops they’ll be full of life, with tons of soil fertility in them and then by the time they burn out again at the end of the season the chickens have made another load for me – another ton of humus!
Deep Mulching to Build Humus
Another way to build humus is the slow way, like nature does it. She gets a huge wood chipper and shreds all of the trees that fall down and then spreads a foot deep of wood chips across the ground every fall, every hurricane! Nature was designed by God to be a gigantic wood chipper.
I’m kidding, but nature does drop stuff on the ground, right? Leaves fall, sticks fall – it’s not quite so convenient or on such a massive scale as we do it with wood chippers, but the concept is kind of the same. If you deep mulch, what happens is that material slowly breaks down from the surface and doesn’t rob all of the nitrogen out of the ground like if you till carbon under. It rots down bit by bit and the soil organisms work it in and the worms start to carry it down and it gets chewed up and beetles and termites and everything work on it and you get beautiful long-term slow-release humus, a slow release food for the garden. And the other benefits of mulches, obviously, is they feed the fungi, they hold in moisture, they keep the roots cool during hot summers which is really important for fruit trees in Alabama, as bare ground around the fruit trees means that the top roots get burned by the hot sun. That doesn’t happen when you mulch around them, so I like to mulch around all of my fruit trees and give them a good layer of mulch and then that is a slow-release humus into the ground and when you have really bad soil it’s hard to go wrong with a deep layer of mulch, to just make that spongy, beautiful humus layer, rotting down slowly over time; and if you can get a source of wood chips, that’s excellent, but you can also mow your grass and throw it out there. You can also rake up fall leaves and throw it out there. The idea is just to put a nice layer on top of the ground that will slowly rot down and build humus, keeping the ground cool and spongy and feeding the fungi and making your trees so happy.
I have seen firsthand how trees respond to mulch when they haven’t been mulched and then you mulch them heavily. The next year they just explode into growth and it’s beautiful and it’s amazing and startling that something so simple as dropping a bunch of mulch on the ground can make such a profound impact on plants, and that, like Sir Albert Howard would say, is the power of humus.
Green Manuring Garden Pathways
I’m tilling my way through the paths here on three of the grocery row garden paths and this is an experiment. My friend Sam at Scrubland Farmz told me, “you know, you should plant those paths with something and then send chicken tractors through and you could build humans as you go in the grocery road garden!”
I like that idea so we’re gonna try it. This is a Planet Jr. wheel hoe with three cultivator teeth on it and this thing is remarkably good. This one was actually restored and somebody did a really nice job cleaning it up and re-coating it very professionally. This is an antique. If you wanted to get something similar to this, the Hoss wheel hoe is almost an exact copy and they’re very well made. I own one, I just don’t have it right now because it’s at a friend’s house forever.
I’m gonna tear this area up. These beds on either side of me are no-till they get the deep mulch, they get the compost and everything that we’ve been dropping, but these pathways I generally keep clean and cultivated and empty because they’re my walk space and I really didn’t want to throw a ton of mulch down there. But the idea of a green living mulch that we maybe cut later later, that’s going to give more nutrition to the soil and add humus in between the beds in a really simple way. These seeds are a mixture of winter rye and rye grain and wheat, all of which don’t mind the cold and should do just fine. It’s a little late to plant them but we’re not trying to get a harvest out of them, we’re just making life appear. We’re making humus like a boss. I’ve also got something else I’m gonna put in here. MIRACLE GRO!
No, just kidding. No, we’re putting in a miracle nitrogen-fixer. This is clove. It’s great stuff, and I don’t even care if this gets on the beds. Here, have some clover, beds!
Clover is a leguminous nitrogen-fixer and tends to reseed too, which is kind of cool if you don’t get rid of it. I don’t know if these things are actually going to live long enough to reseed. If you’ve seen my t-shirt, “my root exudate milkshake brings all the soil life to the yard,” which was something that our our wonderful love cat said. love cat comments regularly and she’s hilarious, and so I had Tom Sensible, another one of our regular good gardeners and a friend of mine, do a piece of artwork for it so we’ve got this t-shirt – “my root exudate milkshake brings all the soil life to the yard.”
The roots of living plants build the soil. They pump sugars into the ground, they have relationships with bacteria and fungi and they add life, and that’s just beyond the nitrogen-fixation ability of clover which is well known. I’ve got like a ton of it falling out right here because there’s a hole in this bag.
Grass Clippings in Compost
Your lawnmower is another good composting tool. I can’t stand those mulching lawn mowers. I like the bagging lawnmowers so you can get the grass clippings. Just take your grass clippings and throw them around something you want to feed. They break down really nicely pretty quickly and they feed the ground back again, so you can take the fertility and move it over there. Who cares about the grass? Take it and feed it to your fruit trees. Now I’m right here in my muscadine vineyard which sounds really hoity-toity, “muscadine vineyard”, but I’m here in my muscadine vineyard and I’m giving these grass clippings to the muscadines for a reason, because the grass here is absolutely crazy weedy. If I take this and throw it into my vegetable garden or mulch the grocery row gardens, I’m gonna be bringing in weeds. These grapes? I don’t care that much – it’s not a big deal and I will probably end up mulching over it with something else later but you got to be careful introducing weeds.
I don’t know if you guys have read Winning The War on Weeds by John Moody. John Moody wrote this book and Good Books Publishing published it. Winning the War on Weeds by John Moody, a no-till gardening handbook. He talks about how to how to reuse a lot of your your wastes and how to find mulch materials and that sort of thing.
As you can tell I’m kind of a book junkie, but he talks about the danger of bringing seeds into your garden. You have one time that you brought in seeds and it might end with seven years of fighting that particular weed until you get it under control again, so it’s better to practice preventative maintenance rather than having to later on go “oh shoot, I really shouldn’t have mowed that patch of pigweed and then used it to mulch my corn!”
Yes I gave the corn some soil fertility but I also made myself a horrible problem, so we give grass clippings to our fruit trees and in places where it doesn’t matter that much if weeds get introduced. Or we can use that fertility and use it as mulch, but there’s something else that we can do with the lawnmower that’s much safer and I think you’re going to like it.
Building a Simple Pallet Compost Bin for Fall Leaves
At the base of the sick cherry tree that FloraBama Homestead and I cut down was where we put our compost pile when we first moved in. We took a ring of wire and put in a compost pile and just dumped it all at the base of the tree and then dogs got into it over and over and over again and it was getting really really annoying because the neighbors dogs were just running over here and causing trouble and I was frustrated about it and it was ridiculous and then we got chickens and I improved things by just throwing stuff to the chickens and sifting out what the chickens did.
But I want to put another compost pile here and I’m going to put a compost pile here that is not going to attract the dogs, so I’ve got this compost here which I’m going to rake to the side. There’s a lot of good stuff in there. This compost will be sifted later. You can see it didn’t break down as ideally as it should, but another thing that you can see in this compost is that there are a lot of roots in it. Tons and tons of roots, because the trees will feed on it. Somebody asked me once on one of my videos titled “building an almost instant compost pile,” why in the world would I put down a metal sheet on the ground and then build a pallet compost pile over the top of it. The answer was: it’s at the base of a tree! People say “well, but the worms, the worms and the funguses and the beetles, and they’re supposed to move up from the ground, they’re supposed to get in there and chew it, David the Good, you’re stupid!
I’m like, you know what? You’re stupid, because you know what else comes up? The roots of the trees! They will eat it! Now I know this happens particularly in the tropics where the tree roots just grow year round, but also from my grandma’s place.
My grandma put a compost pile, this beautiful set of cinder blocks, actually a friend of hers built it, underneath a tangerine tree and then she started throwing all the kitchen scraps and stuff in there. Then, after a year or two, I said, “Grandma, there’s a lot of compost in there – that thing is like really full!” That yard waste and lawn clippings and shredded leaves and all that stuff had built up, so I said “let’s get in there and and see what we have,” so I started digging into it and realized that the entire inside of that block except for the top bit – the very top – was pretty much one big mass of tangerine roots! Those little weird orangey-yellow roots just filled the entire thing. Sometimes there is a time to compost where you put a bottom on the compost pile, but that’s neither here nor there.
We’re going to put in a compost pile real quick here and we’re going to make use of something. Speaking of making use, look at this – I had a piece of yam in this compost pile and it grew this big root, so I’m going to save this big root and stick it somewhere else this is a Dioscorea alata, probably. That’s pretty neat. I saw it was growing up the side of the tree and I said “man, we must have dropped a piece in there!” That’ll get planted out somewhere else, just gotta set it aside and remember it.
I reserved these okra stems which are pretty rotten now. I just threw them on the ground in a pile thinking I was going to use them for something like this at some point when I got around to it, and I’m throwing these rough okra stems in first, not because they are going to make great compost but because they’re going to hold some air space down the bottom. You want aerobic decomposition that means your compost pile should be built next to a treadmill. No, it means that you want air during the decomposition so you don’t get bacteria that are making yucky substances and stinking and not breaking it down properly. We want air in it so we put a little bit of an air layer at the bottom by throwing in rough material. You could use corn stalks or sticks whatever. Just a bulky kind of open space so when the stuff gets piled on top of it. If you’ve watched many composting videos you’ve seen people putting big PVC pipes with holes drilled in it, through the center and things like that, and the idea is you get some open space there in the bottom, before you throw the rest of it on, so there’s air coming from there, there’s air coming from the sides, there’s air coming from above. And now it’s time for a carbon layer on top of this, so I just need to do that about five more times.
You remember that chicken manure that we reserved? Oh my gosh is he gonna touch it with his hands? Oh oh no ew it’s so yucky I’m just gonna I’m gonna just use a stick oh it’s so gross for those of you guys who asked if we would do cooking shows no imagine how bad a cooking show would be if I was doing it? “I’m just gonna crush this egg with my hand, I’m gonna put my hands in the raw pork!”
All right, so we put a little bit of this that we had on reserve from the chicken coop. This goes in on top of this brown layer – this is our nitrogen – the nitrogen goes on the carbon. Oh my gosh that is so gross, oh oh that is disgusting! Youtube is going to demonetize this!
Go ahead and throw some more carbon on there, and the last most important bit here that you don’t want to miss is getting water in it because without water you don’t really have life. A dry compost pile is a compost pile that is not functioning. It’s not going to do what you think and it actually takes a lot of water to really do this well, and so as you make the compost pile don’t think like you’re gonna get to the top of the compost pile and then you’re just gonna throw a little water on it with a watering can or something.
No, you need to put gallons of water onto your compost pile as you build, layered by layer by layer so everything is completely saturated, otherwise you get these dry spots all the way through. If I even made a slurry out of this chicken manure here it would be a good idea and just watered it with that, but we’re kind of making the slurry by putting it on and watering it through, but you want lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of water and you want to get that nitrogen and carbon going, layer by layer.
Okay another thing I like to add to the compost pile is kitty litter. The reason I’m putting kitty litter in here – this is the clumping tidy cat – I’ll put a link below – Purina tidy cats clumping litter, I love this it’s amazing, I use it as a treatment for my toxoplasmosis! Now I put this in here because this is actually a really easy way to get clay – bentonite clay – which will stick. It will make the compost stick, as it actually helps build the humus molecules and when you have really sandy soils like we have here, this is important.
When I was in Grenada and we had volcanic clay, I mixed clay right into the pile. Every pile I made I put in soil from the surrounding ground to help build that humus, but here I buy a little bit of tidy cat, purina brand, tidy cat clumping litter for multiple cats -I don’t know why it’s for multiple cats – I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. This actually will help bind that humus up. Another thing that I put in here is a little bit of char.
CJ thought that this was charcoal that he made for his blacksmith forge, but I actually stole it when he wasn’t looking. This char is long term, so I’m actually charging charging biochar to help the exchange capacity of my soil. This is also a nutrient sink. It will hold on to some of the minerals that are coming through this pile and make it beautiful and make it last a lot longer and then again we just go back and we water it and we water it and we water it we’ll melt the tidy cat and we’ll dampen this entire layer of carboniferous shredded leaves.
We’re not going to get a really fast pile like this. We do have our carbon and nitrogen, but I’ll tell you these these oak leaves take a long time to break down. Some leaves like maple or sweet gum they’re really nice and fast they break down quickly. These are slow at breaking down but it doesn’t really matter because we have compost going in a bunch of different places in a bunch of different ways and eventually we will have some really nice, stable, fungally rich material here. If we had grass clippings we could put them in here and rot that down, if we have waste from the gardens, I’m just not gonna put the kitchen stuff in there that all goes to the chickens now because we had those dog issues. This is going to be a vermin-free pile because we’re just using leafy materials and the chicken manure which doesn’t seem to attract much of anything, and just layer after layer after layer. Some carbon, some nitrogen, some carbon, some nitrogen, some tidy cat, and you don’t have to add tidy cat and biochar but I highly recommend it if you have sandy soil. Consider both of those if you want that really nice long-term humus, particularly some place like South Florida where it’s really, really sandy. If you can get some clay from anywhere, even baseball diamond clay – if you have friends that are visiting you from North Carolina have them go out in their yard and dig a couple of buckets of that Appalachian red clay, make a slurry out of it, water your compost pile with it and make it stick! You’re going to get those minerals, you’re going to get that additional tilth, you’re going to get that higher exchange capacity and you’re going to get long-term persistent humus.
This entire process didn’t take very long to build a pile.
What will take long is shredding these leaves. If we didn’t want to go around with the lawnmower and run over all the shredded leaves we could just go and rake them up and throw them in there but they take longer, there’s more surface area it breaks down faster.
Another thing: I did say you could use grass clippings, but if you do that remember you’re gonna have that issue of the weeds again, so if you’re mowing areas where it’s just leaves and grass and not weedy, I don’t worry about that so much for weed contamination of the pile. This is why I’ve got CJ going around and mowing the edges of the woods. It doesn’t really need to be mowed, but those shredded leaves in the bags make pretty quick compost compared to just raking leaves and throwing them in.
Making a No-Work Compost Pile on the Ground
You don’t even have to go all the way to the level of making a enclosure of wire or pallets. You can just make a pile in your gardens.
I make piles out in the garden regularly and I just take material that we’re harvesting and whatever happens to be around. W
e had a bunch of cover crops and we had some leaves and garden wastes and I just piled it up all in this area over the summer and now as we’re coming into the next year this is all beautiful humus. Look this a no-work pile, except that I did turn it once, I admit I turned it once because I had a path I wanted to build so it did get turned over. There’s a lot of airy material in here right? A lot of open material because of all these canes, you can see on the outside it looks like oh gosh it’s just a pile of sticks! No it’s not. All that material underneath is really nice.
There’s some really good compost in here and all I got to do is come out here and sift it and we have made probably 80-100 pounds of compost, just by taking all of this old crop waste material. The stuff that’s on the outside that hasn’t rotted down and you can still see is normal. Just pick a spot in your garden and make a pile on it and if you have a garden bed that’s not doing particularly well, let’s say you’ve got some raised beds, right?
You’ve got raised beds – this is a trick I’ve done for a long time – you got your little backyard raised beds, that little bed over there didn’t perform all that well? Those lettuces were kind of yellow and sad? So what do you do well when you clean out the rest of your beds in the fall? Just take all the crop wastes: all of your spent tomatoes, your rotten melons, whatever that you’re pulling up, even weeds – provided they haven’t gone to seed – remember that you don’t want to introduce the weed seeds! but you yank up the weeds. You’ve got some wilted turnip greens you didn’t get around to cooking? Whatever! Pile all that on top of that bed: carrot peelings, kitchen waste, whatever doesn’t matter. That little four by eight bed or whatever size it is, a pretty little raised bed that’s not doing well? Pile the stuff on top of it! Just make a big old mound of junk on top of it, let it sit there all the way through the winter or into the spring. It depends on your climate how long it’s going to take. In the south it can still rot down during the winter, but if you’re further north it’s not going to really start rotting down until it warms up again ,then you can just let it sit until it’s really started to rot underneath, whether that takes one year or a few months, depending on your climate, when you dig down into that bed you’ll find that there’s this beautiful layer of humus. A few inches of humus on top, but not only that ,the effect of the humus keeps going down and down and down and down into the ground beneath it and all that leachate from it and the minerals and the soil life and the worms and everything are just working their way down further and farther and farther and so you get rich soil underneath and the humus on top and that bed will be beautifully fertile for a year or more after you do that. Just take it out of rotation! You don’t like how it’s acting? You got a bed, maybe you’re not using it? Throw a bunch of stuff on top of it – all your garden waste – just pile them up there, let them sit.
Or you can do what I do: you got a little waste space at the edge of the garden? I got my path going through here, horrible soil over here, I take a whole bunch of cover crops ,chop down stuff to clear out a new bed, it all goes on top of here and now we just got to come out here and sift this in a month or two and put it back into the garden beds. All that free compost, no-work compost, and no infrastructure compost. Super easy – just a pile!
Avoiding Poisoned Compost and Aminopyralid Damage
Now you might ask why not just buy some compost? Why not just get a load of manure? Why not go rake up straw and hay or something like that or put hay bales out and and treat them? Well the problem is that there’s a lot of persistent herbicides and contaminants that have gotten into the big agricultural stream. I had about a thousand dollars worth of plants destroyed one year with a load of contaminated manure from a field that had been sprayed with Grazon. The cows eat the grass, the grass does fine, the cows do fine – apparently – but then the manure is contaminated with this persistent molecule which will twist up and destroy all the growth in your garden for a year or two or more. I lost a lot of blackberries and some mulberries and pecans and multiple garden beds. An entire year was lost in part of the garden because I bought composted manure and it destroyed it.
And other people have had problems with straw bales, with rotten hay, with loads of horse manure and all kinds of things because this stuff is getting sprayed on grass crops.
Your grains and your hay fields are getting sprayed with this stuff and it’s persistent and it’s nasty. Now there’s other options, like cotton gin trash.
Around here they call it “gin trash” and it’s the waste to the cotton… but they spray the cotton fields with a lot of weird stuff too, and I’m not completely convinced that that’s a good idea. I may experiment with it and use some but I don’t really know what kind of pesticides might be in it or what herbicides might be in it and do I really want that in my food? No, I don’t really! So we try to work with what we have around here and then bring in things that we know are safe, like we’ll throw some seaweed in or some kelp meal, bentonite, stuff like that to boost the minerals.
We try to boost the minerals of our crops by using the mix that Steve Solomon made for me.
Solomon’s Gold mix boosts the minerals. It doesn’t give us humus, but what we do get is the growth of those plants containing minerals which then gets cycled into the humus and then gets returned back to the soil with the humus. We’re trying to do things as simply as possible to close the nutrient loop between animals and plants, to grow cover crops, to over seed green manure, to make compost piles and use the leaves that are falling, use the grass, use all the stuff to build humus because humus really is the life of the soil and if you don’t have enough of it things aren’t going to be happy.
One of the reasons I wrote Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting was because of that experience I had with poisoned manure coming onto the property.
How can we get all the humus we need without poisoning ourselves in a really messed up world where Big Ag and all these these poisons are just coming in from everywhere? We had to come up with ways to stretch the compost. We designed composting toilet systems, we created cover crop mixes and played around with worm bins and with making compost teas and all kinds of other stuff and then I wrote about how all these experiments worked out, what worked, what didn’t and how it worked and it became that book which has been very popular. I appreciate those of you who have left nice reviews of the book. I wrote it from my experience. I thought, “well, other people need to read this – this is going to be really useful!” and I’m happy to make the mistakes so you don’t have to and then write it down in the book and sell the book and make income so I can make more mistakes with the money that I gained from that income.
Thanks for joining me – catch y’all next time, and until then may your thumbs always be green!