Summer obviously is a very busy time at Frog Hollow Farm. Farmer Al frequently says “We are maxed out." I will add to that - “We need more space for composting on the farm.”
• We started the outdoor vermicomposting at Frog Hollow with four 100-feet beds. Last week, we had to remove one bed because it was in the way of the electric carts that are used to transport harvested fruit (peaches in this case). The contents of the bed were piled up into a volcano shaped pile. The vermicompost piles are moistened periodically to keep the structure of the compost made by the worms intact and also to prevent the microbes from completely drying up (including any worms that remain after trommelization). In terms of biology and structure, it is better to apply moist vermicompost to the orchard soil.
• For obvious reasons, it is harder to keep a volcanic pile moist as compared to a long bed. This is why we try to keep the finished compost in the form of a long bed. Obviously, we need more space somewhere on the farm or another farm!
• The vermicompost bed that was removed should generate about 5-7 tons (10000-14000 lbs) of material (wet weight of course).
• Another victim of the fruit harvesting season are the cardboard boxes. The cardboard fruit boxes are accumulating fast but the farm workers have no time to shred them. We decided to pile the boxes near the irrigation canal and mix and cover them with mud that the water district collects from the canal. The mud is rich in organic matter (a lot of birds flock to the mud in the spring when it has been freshly dredged from the canal) and the cardboard has high C:N ratio (very woody). This means that the cardboard/woody material will prevent/reduce any nutrient run-off from the mud into ground water. Proximity to the irrigation canal will make very easy to occasionally lightly water the HUGELKULTUR (raised bed gardening with decomposing woody material or decomposition in an old growth forest). We expect this pile to take about 2 years to slowly decompose.
• The vermicompost beds are watered 4 times a day for a total of twenty minutes. The watering system consists of small emitters (sprinklers) screwed into an irrigation line. We might be able to reduce the watering to a total of fifteen minutes. Once newly constructed beds have been thoroughly watered, the worms and added food material (fruit residues) maintain an adequate level of moisture. We are making this effort in order to save as much water as possible.
• Is climate change is like a compost pile? Yes but because the two ebooks I bought are not compatible with my software, I have to ask you to wait for another blog. The ebook I am referring to is “The cartoon introduction to climate” by Yoram Bauman and Grady Klein. I recommend it for kids and adults. In a nutshell, a properly maintained compost heap contains a host
of microorganisms that breakdown leaves, woody materials and fruit waste. And thus waste (I prefer fruit residue) is turned from “garbage” into gold (fertilizer anyone). But as those organisms eat and reproduce they generate heat. In fact, without proper maintenance a compost pile will get hotter and hotter until the microorganisms KILL THEMSELVES OFF (tragedy of the commons). Well what do we humans do? Well, we eat, we reproduce and generate heat (I mean through the use of fossil fuels not just reproduction). Just like microorganisms warming a compost pile, we are warming the planet. In the case of microbes, it’s waste energy. In the case of humans, it’s greenhouse gases. Fortunately unlike the microorganisms, we have some secret weapons. Smart people including scientists and farmers inventing new approaches and good policy ideas to guide our way. We have the ability to look ahead and make smart choices about the future.The ebook also explains all the problems associated with climate change etc..
• What about eating fruit? Is that good for you? Next week more on that hypothesis
Author: Christophe Kreis MLF Soil Consulting PhD, Molecular Biology/Developmental Biology, University of British Columbia, Canada. Christophe is co-founder of MLF Soil Consulting with his wife Monique. He started his career in basic medical research and after various positions in academia and industry Christophe slowly returned to his first passion Soil Ecology and Microbiology. It is his belief that human health is tied intimately to soil health through the production of healthy food. For this reason MLF Soil Consulting is committed to help farmers improve the management of their soil through composting, vermicomposting and biological analysis of microbial soil life.