Building Dirt

Dry hedge dirt
Yikes! Gray. Not sparkling.

One thing that can cost a great deal of money at urban growing-operations (homestead, micro farm or any other term you’d like to use) is the dirt where you want to grow your plants in. This was severely highlighted when we moved into our house and the previous owners had decided to make all outdoor areas a wood-and-rock oasis.

The dirt patches that do exist, in the form of ground for the bushes that act as fencing, is severely depleted of nutrients and there’s weeds going wild. So good soil to grow in is scarce here, at the moment. I don’t want to spend a lot of money each year to correct this by going to a gardening center and buy bags upon bags of the stuff, when I can correct it – In theory – with some composting.

Nothing compostable leaves this property” – Shudra Way on Twitter

One of my favorite quotes from my favorite Australian there. Even if a lot of compostables leave my property its less these days. In fact, I even bring compostables to the backyard.

Hugelkultur
Simple Hugelkultur

One of the ways I’m building up soil and fertility is using a very easy version of Hugelkultur. I’m just using the compost-part of the practice and not the landscape, water way shaping aspects of the practice. The photo above tells the following story: Grow bed, some leftover card board, some store-bought dirt. The next layer is dry sticks from a nearby woody area and then more dirt. Top off with plants.

The sticks will break down and add nutrients over time, acts as a filler (so you need less soil) and will soak up more water so there’s less watering needed. All three qualities are great in my book. I’m guessing I’ll chop up some more sticks closer to winter and make wood mulch when the growing season is over and see how that work out.

worm pets vermiculture
They are shy, but I managed to capture one of the worms in this photo!

The second way I’m building soil and try to not waste resources is by using my new pets: Worms. Not been doing this for longer than 2 months so I’m not too familiar with the process really. Luckily, the pets know what they are doing and turn food scraps into compost without my help.

Two buckets standing in the shed seems to cover most of my needs, though two more wouldn’t hurt (there seems to be pockets of of time where both worm “bins” are full but I have food scraps, which is sad).

If anyone has some great resources about vermiculture to share, I’d be thrilled! I love the little creatures.

 

The third and final method I use, so far, is one I picked up from one of Khang Starr’s videos (link to video here) and its so simple its embarrassing really. I grow a lot of microgreen trays and the moment I harvested my first tray I looked down on the tray and thought “ok, so what do I do with this?”.

Week of Composting

Khang Starr to the rescue. I use a bin used for recycling and pour the post-harvest material into it. Chop it up, mix in a little soil to it, blend it together and then you wait some time (Starr says about 21 days, my experience so far is slightly longer than that, about 4 weeks) and boom; You get some sweet recycled soil you can grow new microgreens in. I just finished a cycle of sunflowers in one of the repurposed soil and it seems to be going great. With the way the weather is going right now I think I need to ramp up my micro greens up a bit, so more of these bins will be necessary to match the grow cycles. Going to be interesting to see if there will be a surplus after a bit.

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