Why pile dirt on dirt?


  • We will continue the discussion about humic acids that are produced in vermicompost and thermophilic compost next week. The vermicompost area is doubling in size this winter. Almost all the debris under the poplar trees has been removed (see photo) and an additional two beds (400 feet in length) will be built in the next two weeks.

  • The irrigation water used for the fruit trees will soon be turned off and we are trying to irrigated as many trees as possible with fungal dominated compost tea. All the compost teas are now being brewed with Frog Hollow vermicompost and thermophilic compost. In the past we used various mixtures of Alaskan humus and Frog Hollow compost to prepare the teas.

  • Marlene and Kristin are preparing another vegetable garden which will be planted in the spring (MacKinney block). I am helping them set-up a trial with tomatoes which are being re-planted in that block.

  • This week, I attended the California Compost Summit 2014, organized by the California Association of Compost Producers (a chapter of the United States Compost Council). The topic covered was “Compost- a key to solving California’s environmental issues”. One of the scheduled speakers was Governor Jerry Brown who accepted the invitation but had to cancel at the last moment.

  • A few highlights of the meeting. It was very interesting to see the interaction between the various groups that are part of this association of public and private organizations dedicated to increasing the quality, value and amount of compost being used in California. Basically there are three groups in this organization that sometimes have different views. There are the big commercial/municipal composters who have to watch the bottom line. There is a scientific advisor surrounded by a network of specialists (university extension faculty, master gardeners, agronomists) who does compost research at the University California, Riverside and whose function is to give unbiased scientific advice to the compost council. Finally, there are governmental regulatory agencies whose function is to protect the consumer and to protect the environment (i.e. CalRecycle, State Water Resources Control Board). Last but not least there are non-profit and corporate lobby groups (Californians against waste ). At the end of the conference there was a lively but polite discussion among these various groups in reference to new stricter regulations that are being proposed by the government under the influence of some of the activist groups. These discussions are difficult but it seemed to me that the issues will be resolved because all the participants were passionate compost and about California.

  • On a more scientific note, John Wick, owner of the Marin Carbon Project, presented a simple technique which can be used on farms to establish a catalogue of local microbes or to detect plant or human pathogens. This technique is based on the so-called microarray technology developed by the company called Affymetrix. This is something we could use at Frog Hollow (actually some of us have dreaming about this approach for a long time) and we will approach John Wicks and see if we can collaborate on a project. Hunter Francis, director of the CalPoly SLO Compost Program, described how in 2011 CalPoly embarked on the compost project, which recyles all the organics on campus and provides education for students, professionals and the general public. In the next few weeks, they are starting the Calpoop program with worms. Just to boast a little bit, Frog Hollow Farm and MLF Soil Consulting are ahead in the same time period. Kathy Johnson, Vice President of Kellogg Garden Products (a 90 year old California company which sells compost), described how she would ask her father, when she was a little girl, why did he bother “to pile dirt on dirt”. Today, she is passionate about compost and she showed slides of her work with farmers in Africa who were getting great results just by applying homemade composts to their vegetable gardens.

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.


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