The Organic Key

Making compost is a sustainable process.  Students at our Honduras Hope Dorm are developing organic gardens.  They make compost and are growing food to be used as a nutritional base.

Their next project will be to bring this technique to their mountain village and teach their families to grow without chemicals.  The students at the Dorm are champions.

Raw for Smoothies

Raw herbs and vegetables will provide maximum nutritional value for your diet.  All of the ingredients on the counter have been grown in compost, (mostly worm castings), coconut coir and vermiculite.

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From left to right:  frozen wheatgrass, moringa leaves, celery, spearmint, kale, beet greens and parsley.  Delicious when added to frozen organic blueberries and frozen mango.  I also add ginger, turmeric, flax seed, flax seed oil, unsweetened coconut, cinnamon.  I use almond milk or soy milk and some Trader Joe’s yogurt.  Thinking about adding a little garlic tomorrow. Substitute a smoothie like this for breakfast and watch the pounds disappear.

Science and Health Education

Why does it take some educators so long when it is so obvious?  Read the article and see why and how this can be done.  http://childrengrowing.com/2015/05/11/share-if-you-think-every-school-should-have-a-year-round-gardening-program/

Application for many students leads them to conceptual learning.  First seeds must be planted in their minds.Garden OCT 2014 413

Start When They are Young at Heart

I had a great afternoon at Allerton House in Hingham.  There is a real possibility that we may be able to start worm farming at Allerton.  The presentation on Square Foot Gardening was received with lots of enthusiasm.  Many of the people there have vegetable gardens that they tend however the location is less than suitable.  Summer plants need sun, sun and plenty of sun.  With the flexibility of raised Square Foot Gardens, finding sunny locations is not a problem with all the open space.

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It is important that people learn to enjoy organic choices.  It is my hope that as residents at Allerton get involved, they will share their joys, insights and enthusiasm for the beginning of sustainable living with their love ones.

I will be posting as this evolves.  I hope that I will be able to do justice while sharing their enthusiasm for composting with worms and Square Foot Gardening raised thirty two inches off the ground.

A Kelp Walk

Our farmland is polluted with years of spraying chemicals, pesticides and herbicides.  Many of the plants that we compost contain those same poisons.

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So where can we turn?

The ocean is polluted as well but the massive amount of water allows for the chemicals to become diluted.  We must consider however the runoff from land and roadways as part of the calculation.

Using kelp seems to be a reasonable alternative.  The kelp I am holding in the photo is from Nantasket Beach in Hull.  Students at Quincy High School determined while preparing for a science fair that the kelp needs to be washed twice in order to reduce salt content for composting.  The salt was causing red wiggler worms to be lethargic without a couple of rinses.  The students also found that too much soaking reduces mineral content found in the kelp.

Students too can make a difference.  Having a great chemistry teacher as a mentor goes a long way.  Having a wonderful wife to walk the beach with gets me there.

Happy Roots

Farmers are trying to improve the ability of water to reach the roots of plants by improving the organic composition of the soil. According to an article on agronomics in the January issue of Successful Farming, it takes five years to improve soil conditions 0.01% of no till composting. Water will penetrate the soil 0.4 inches more readily when 0.1% of the soil is improved with organic material.

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It is hard to imagine that it takes 100 years to produce one inch of humus in a deciduous forest. Yet we can use worms to compost 50% of their body mass daily.

The reason that Square Foot Gardening works so well is that most of the material in each square is organic. When using commercial composts however the percentage of inorganic material may be significant. When using worm compost the percent of inorganic material is very small. The other materials of peat moss (would prefer coconut core) and vermiculite both absorb water easily. The plants can only go through the process of photosynthesis if there is a sufficient supply of water and proper root development.

I am currently using worm castings for 25% of the Mel’s Mix formula. The roots always have access to plenty of water because of the organic composition of the medium used.

The equation here is to produce more yields in a limited amount of space. In addition, more nutrients are absorbed when readily available to the roots. We are all looking for mineral rich vegetables. Microbes in the soil create a natural environment for plants to grow without pest controls. A great book on this topic is Teaming with Microbes.

The Worm Ladies – Must See

Two weeks and the days get longer and there are sunny days a head.  It is time to get going.  Before the days of planting there is plenty to do.

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Visit the The Worm Ladies  http://www.wormladies.com/pages/about.html

Making worm castings for your seedlings will provide instant success.  The Worm Ladies can share valuable experiences.  I am giving compost tea, bokashi and worm castings in a Yankee Swap for Christmas.  The dollar limit is $10.00 but the recipient will get a $22.00 value.  One pound of worm castings sell at the local hydroponics store for $24.00 a gallon.  You can order worms and castings from the The Worm Ladies.

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The WordLadies do many interesting composting projects.  You should check them out.  http://www.wormladies.com/

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Students at the Randolph Community Middle School and Point Webster Middle School mass ( weigh ) the worms as a part of a Bottle Biology composting project.  Red Wigglers in ideal conditions digest 50% of their body mass daily. Worm casting can sell for as much as $ 120.00 for a 5 gallon bucket.

The most important factor for most of us is that vegetables grow very healthy and harvests are large when growing in this medium.

Do the Math – Red Wiggler Worms

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It was an exciting day for composting.  You will notice in the picture a cluster of eggs on the shovel that I was using.  Red wiggle worms do three things: eat, poop and mate.

When I was teaching horticulture at Quincy High School, students use to use video capture with a microscope to watch and record the baby red wiggler worms wiggling inside the eggs. Each egg contains 4 to 6 babies.  I would guess that there were at least a hundred hatched eggs in the compost pile.  The math gets exciting when we think that a red wiggle digests 50% of its body mass each day.  It really becomes exciting to think that those 4 to 6 hundred red wiggles will mate and reproduce the next generation of worms.  Red wigglers are hermaphrodites.

Mel’s mix doesn’t work very well without great compost.  I find that the industrial compost is on par with industrial food products.  The red wigglers help to decompose organic material rapidly which factors into great harvests.  Tonights harvest for dinner was yellow squash, lettuce, tomatoes and peppers.

We can all do this, One Square Foot at a Time.

Compost Tea of Your Very Own

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I continue to be amazed that the quality of compost is so important to chemical free gardening.  Superior compost is not a quick and easy process.  This is especially true if there is a lack of land to just dump compostable materials.  I haven’t been able to find a way to produce all that I need in a short period of time.  Organic at the grocery store is expensive and there is a reason why.

Compost tea is a way to boost nutrition directly and efficiently.  In the photo is an example of one technique that I use to make tea.

BUILD YOUR OWN BREWER

  1. Put a 5 gallon vat or plastic pail in the ground.
  2. With a second container cut a large hole in the bottom of a clear 5 gallon jug which is used for water coolers (Filtered water in Honduras).
  3. Secure with an elastic band a nylon stocking or mesh material over the mouth of the clear water jug.
  4. Turn the water container upside down and place it on top of the plastic pail or vat.
  5. Fill the water container half full with compost.
  6. The tea must be aerated so it must be stirred.  Instead of stirring, I use an aquarium pump to oxygenate the tea.  It runs twice a day for an hour at a time.
  7. Fill the water container the rest of the way with water.  Allow the water to past through and sit in the pail for at least a day.  The microbes will replicate and enrich the tea.

(If you do not aerate the tea it will begin to rot and smell badly.  Oxygenated compost tea will smell sweet.)

For those who would rather make the process simpler, just use a bucket half filled with compost and ad water.  You should probably cover it to avoid mosquito issues and stir it twice a day.