Having long known the value of compost, of course a compost pile has been on the “to do” list at Tiny Forest but before I get to that I’m taking a detour into the real low down and taking a worm’s eye view of the soil problems on this land.
There has been neglect. The clay soil has been trenched all over for water lines and electrical lines and those trenches became conduits for erosion, washing the nutrients away in streams.
There has been abuse. Hills of trash and debris built up for generations have created air pockets in the soil. While some of the material has been breaking down, much of the plastic, vinyl, metal, glass and so forth will take ages to break down in future lifetimes, not this one. Meanwhile new top soil has formed over them and so to clear them away would not only be costly and lengthy and create new erosion problems, it will also mean disturbing the land again. Each time a bulldozer has been brought in to help with the clean up, especially those things I could not do myself, it has also disturbed something else. A bulldozer is a two-edged sword. I am learning to live with the junk cars peaking out of tree roots, knowing I will be fencing them off before the goats are let loose in these areas.
There has been abandonment. While neglect and abuse can be corrected and many people purchasing land nowadays will encounter trashed parcels they have to clean up, the combination of abuse and neglect here has been followed by a decade of abandon. Uncorrected, the soil composition has broken down and top soil has been lost. A field of wild blackberries attests to the acidification of the soil. There is little nutritional value which is why the crops failed this year. Rampant fungus outbreaks take over patches and kill vegetation. Wanting to avoid chemicals, I have found very little to combat the plagues of insects, the fungus and the starved soil.
So compost pile will wait a little while longer. I have been reading how African farmers are gaining hard-won victories on their depleted soils. If they can do it on African soil, which has endured generations of abusive and ignorant agricultural practices, I can do it here. On to the Tiny Worm Farm.
First I reorganized my storage and came up with two Sterlite tubs and washed and dried them.
Next I drilled small holes in one of the tubs for air circulation. There are holes on the lid and all around the upper sides. There are also smaller holes drilled into the bottom so it can drain.
After drilling the holes, I placed three old plastic containers in the second Sterlite container.
This one, without any holes, will be the base which will collect the nutrient dense worm juice as it drains from the top bin. The bin with the holes is placed inside the second bin.
The top with the drilled holes for air circulation and drainage is nested onto the second container.
Then I put in some empty toilet paper rolls, fruit peelings and plenty of dried leaves and hay.
Worms eat the equivalent of their weight each day. So if I start with a 1/4 pound of red wigglers, I need to make sure they receive 1/4 pound of food scraps (minus dairy, oils and meat) everyday. This is one beneficial way to return one’s trash to the soil. Worm castings and worm juice are nutrient dense and can power the crops next year to fruitful bounty, improving the immune system of the soil and the plants in a simple, natural recycling process. Here is a link to the worm bin plans I followed.
Stay tuned for the progress reports.