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Re: Community garden nutrient inputs

  • Subject: Re: [cg] Community garden nutrient inputs
  • From: David Smead smead@amplepower.com
  • Date: Sat, 25 Jan 2003 19:28:17 -0800 (PST)

Tamsin,

As Steve pointed out with composting, climate makes a big difference.
There needs to be a distinction between worm based composting versus `hot'
composting that is micrcobial based.  The former takes many weeks to
happen, such as buring waste in a trench.  Hot composting needs frequent
turning, and reaching an internal temperature of say 50-60 C and breaks
down in a week or two.

Climate and original soil condition will also be a dominate concern when
building the soil.  If you have a source for manure, that is always a
great additive, but keep in mind the antibiotics that may be present, and
the threat of e coli if the manure is green.  If you can find an organic
dairy that composts the manure for a year before selling it - buy their
produce, and their manure!  I have a source for that near Seattle, but it
pays to get a lot at once since it is cheaper that way and makes the drive
more worthwhile.

I've also used composted manure from a local zoo, but again, antibiotics
is a concern.  I've used it to kick start a couple of plots where it was
buried quite deep below the topsoil..

Since I garden all year long, I try to feed the soil the same way, which
means shoving food between the growing plants frequently.  Everything
grown which isn't eaten goes back into the garden, and that can be a
significant source of fibrous material; asparagus stalks, tomato plants,
overgrown kale and broccoli plants, exterior leaves on cabbages, etc.

Some of the other soil food that I use include; spent grain and hops from
a local micro-brewery; grape stems, seeds and skins from making wine;
apple remains from making cider, coffee grounds from an espresso stand,
crab, clam and oyster shells, seaweed, leaf mold, leaves, straw, grass
clippings, and of course the material from my worm cage.

In new soil, you should measure PH and correct with some natural limestone
if necessary.  I've also added ground rock, high in phosphate to new
soils.  Once the soil is rich in organic matter, and fed regularly, the
need for adding any direct fertilizers to it goes away.  As Jon Rowley
says, "feed the soil, not the plant".

What you don't want to see in a garden is bare dirt.  It should have
plants growing out of layers of composting `soil food'.  Eventually you'll
be able to stiffen your fingers flat, and wiggle your hand and arm down
through the soil to your armpit - without tilling.  In such a soil, and
with the naked eye, you'll find copious quantity of the white blind
springtails and of course worms.  Under a 30 power microscope you'll see
an incredible assortment of working microbes - a soil teaming with life.

Unfortunately, too many people have the `pill' attitude - what magic pill
can we take for what ails us?  What magic ingredient can we add to the
soil to grow this or that crop better?  The answers to those questions
rely on the wisdom of the pill or fertilizer designers, and very likely
they have something to sell us.  As an ignorant consumers, should we trust
their advice?

The wisdom of the ages is encoded in the processes that still survive.
It's human nature to want to decode, and use snippets of our understanding
to enhance some desirable aspect.  It's no wonder that years later we
discover malicious side effects to our actions.  Perhaps sometimes it pays
to resist attempts to decode all that happens because we can't understand
it all at once.


-- 
Sincerely,

David Smead
http://www.amplepower.com


On Sun, 26 Jan 2003, Tamsin Salehian wrote:

> Hi,
> Just a question I've been thinking about while visiting our garden and also
> reading this list serve. How much 'stuff' (manures/compost
> ingredients/soil...) do different gardens have to bring in to keep their
> plots productive? As vegetable gardens are constantly harvested, is there a
> way with only a small amount of land to make them as self-sufficient as
> possible in the community garden context or is it preferable to take
> advantage of what others consider wastes and use them? I'd be interested in
> hearing what other gardens do...
>
> Our story so far:
> As our garden is quite young (cultivated for 6 months now) we feel that we
> should bring in more to feed the soil and are contemplating what we'll need.
> Ideally we'd like to rely on compost and some manures but so far we donšt
> have enough plant material make enough compost, and as our soils are a
> strange mixture of sand, seashells and little clumps of clay we really need
> to build up organic matter in the soil. Before summer started we purchased
> bales of pea straw from a farmer after harvest and a giant bag of 'dynamic
> lifter' (manure), as a group this was our main input to the garden.
>
> Our garden tries to plan issues as a group and learn from each other so we
> are having a group meeting to discuss what we want to do as a group and
> individually. This season everyone has had different techniques from
> collecting stable manure/leaves/seaweed to buying branded organic
> manures/fish emulsion/seaweed emulsion from stores. Digging down the soil
> texture looks like it will take a while or a lot of 'stuff' to change -
> which is a beautiful process to be part of.
>
> I'd be interested to hear how other community gardens tackle this, or
> whether it is an issue at all...
>
> Tamsin
> Melbourne
>
>
> ______________________________________________________
> The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org
>
>
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>
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>


______________________________________________________
The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org


To post an e-mail to the list:  community_garden@mallorn.com

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