Thursday, February 2, 2017

Project: Building Soil

   So, Monday I spent the day building soil. Why? Well, the above photo shows what our land is made of: red clay. The very right is the soil taken from the garden patch that I have worked on for the past two years. And it's great. So I'm trying to give my flower/vegetable garden the same soil as I have achieved in other areas. 
    Here's the process:

It starts with chickens
     Here are the chickens in our "raken" turning wood chips into fertilizing composted mulch.  We keep a few chickens bedded on wood chips under our rabbit pens. As the rabbits produce manure, the chickens till it into the bedding. It takes care of the manure produced by both rabbits and chickens and creates a wonderful mulch for adding to gardens.
This is what it becomes
    And here we have the finished product. I put this onto my garden in a thin layer. I have already added about three inches of wood chips to this area over time.

Me, gathering the next ingredient
   It may seem gross or weird, but donkey manure is a gardener's dream. It is packed with awesomeness and doesn't burn plants like horse or cow manure. And since we have a donkey, I have an unlimited supply. :)
Here it is, on the garden
    As you can see, this is just another thin layer. A little goes a long way with this stuff. Think of soil building like lasagna: layer over layer creates a great result. That's essentially what I'm doing: adding layers of ingredients to end up with the desired result.
Next ingredient? More chips!
    Now that I have in the fertilizing ingredients, it's time to put on another layer of ground-protecting, water-holding, weed-killing wood chips. I also added three wheelbarrow loads of chips to the raken so that the chickens can make more fertilizer for next time.

A close up of decaying chips
   I'm not sure why, but decaying wood chips is a beautiful sight! Here's a close up of the mold microbes that grow in the chips and help with the decay. Decayed chips means that, in essence, the chips are composting on their own, and therefore will speed up the composting process in the garden and the other layers,which (long story short) will allow me to plant sooner in this area.

Mulch on the garden, covering the other layers
   With the mulch on, the other layers won't be able to run off at the next rain. Mulch will also reduce weeds, hold water, and provide a rich, loose soil inviting earthworms and wonderful bugs into the garden. 

   And now, we wait. This is one of the beauties of natural farming: it's simple, slow, and yet still exciting. I'm certainly looking forward to planting here in the coming season!

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