I have been watching your videos with great interest for a while now, particularly those you did in Grenada. There aren’t many YouTubers doing good stuff on tropical gardening and you’re one of the best, informative and entertaining to boot.
My wife and I are in the Philippines on a couple of hectares adrift in a sea of monoculture GMO corn fields, swimming against the tide. I’ll spare you the details but we have put in a lot of the basics so far this past year, animals, fruit trees, nitrogen fixers, neem trees and fodder. Our dirt is maybe marginally better than yours in Alabama, heavy and clayey when wet, it dries as hard as terracotta when baked by the sun and pulverizes to the consistency of talcum powder. There’s no organic matter in it to speak of and the only thing we seem to consistently grow well are weeds. We are taking baby steps toward setting up our own program of mulch and compost production but until our trees get established enough to start pruning we’re kinda’ limited in what we can do onsite mulch-wise.
So your videos on swampwater have really piqued my interest. I actually started up a batch a few days ago (my in-laws already think I’m a lunatic so this didn’t really put them off too much) and I’m really looking forward to seeing the effects. I did have some questions though. First, do you find it better to just make up new batches from time to time or can you recharge a batch by adding new material? If so, when you do so is it necessary to allow it to ferment for any length of time or can you just keep using it? And finally roughly how much area will one 55 gallon barrel service?
Apologies in advance if you’ve already covered these questions somewhere else. If it’s easier just point me in the right direction and I’ll do the necessary digging.
I wrote back:
I found that about two weeks of rot time was usually good in warm weather. Sometimes I added more stuff to the mix and let it rot in, other times I dumped the barrel out and started over – usually when mosquitoes moved in.
On the question of area, that’s a tough one. Generally I would say a barrel was needed for about 2,000ft2 of crops. I didn’t bother diluting at all with corn and bananas, since they’re really hungry, so it might take more in that case. We’d feed every week or two. It does seem to add more life to the soil.
Also, if you have lots of weeds, you might consider feeding the weeds and chopping them down as mulch for your trees. Often weeds act to repair soil.
There’s not a lot of testable science in the swamp water method since inputs vary so much. Sometimes you have chicken manure to use, sometimes not. Sometimes weeds. Sometimes nitrogen fixers and moringa. Sometimes kitchen scraps. Sometimes rotten fish. It’s hard to figure out exact dosages. I’ve never burned anything with it, though, so so far so good.
Good luck – I hope your farm does great. What a marvelous climate for gardening!
I’ve made swamp water in various ways. The original “reveal” on this method is in my popular book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting. It’s a heckuva way to feed your gardens for free.
Yes swamp water is amazing. I’ve been making 5 gallon batches of it, takes about a month. Then using it on all my plants been seeing great results. I even went as far as digging into dynamic accumulators, and started searching vacant lots in my neighborhood to try and find some to use in my swamp water. Also adding Lactobacillus really gets the job done.
It would be cool to get an update from these folks.
Can I use rubber made trash containers to make this or do I have to use plastic or metal barrels?
I’m definitely not an expert but I’m sure you could use rubber trash containers. I feel like those might actually be superior to plastic since you’ll get less leaching, especially as they sit in the sun. I’m currently using a rain barrel made of food-grade plastic, mainly because I wanted the spigot. But if you have the tools and inclination to drill a hole and install your own spigot, or if you don’t mind just dipping a bucket in from the top, I can’t think of any reason why a rubber one wouldn’t work. I would stay away from metal barrels, though. Even if you could find one that’s watertight, it will eventually get rusty and then it won’t be watertight anymore.