Sunday, February 13, 2011

Organic Matter Matters


The vegetable garden which is the main food producing garden on the island covers an area of 1700m2. Soil tests back in November 2010 for pH indicated a range from 9-10. If you go back to previous blog Care for Earth Growing Soil you can read how we went about lowering the pH through organic means with resources only available from the Island and Resort.



pH 9 November 2010




Adding food wastes and compost Organic matter

Redesigning the garden beds to reduce loss of organic matter from the soil was done first by digging the bed to the white sand layer then sealing with cardboard and filling with vegetable and fish waste from the kitchens. Compost made on site from food waste, jungle cuttings mulched with sawdust from the carpentry workshop and bio char also made on site from pyrolysis ovens was mixed with the removed sandy soil containing no organic matter or soil life. Finally a thick mulch layer was applied and all layers watered during the process. Snake beans were then planted.




pH 8 


One month later another pH soil test was done and observation for moisture retention and soil life present. pH was down to 8. Ants plus millipedes were present plus the mulch was retaining water and the soil below was cool and damp with obvious signs of organic matter decaying and mixing with the sandy soil. The beans were growing well with a vibrant green color. 

Now another 6 weeks on it was time to retest the bed. Sight observation had shown no yellowing of any plants unlike other beans in unprepared beds, or pest invasion with whiteflies. The bed had only been toped up with finished bean waste and we are collecting around 250 grams a week produce. The bed has now been fed with compost to the bases of the plants and mulched.



Mulched


Compost

In 10 weeks we have now reduced the pH to around 7.Soil life has increased as now there are worms, millipedes, beetles moulds ( Fungi) of various sizes indicating a complete food web of a compost pile as discussed in Permaculture A Designers Manual, Bill Mollison. These soil micro and macro fauna store, gather and concentrate easily leached nutrients to allow for slow uptake by the plant roots on their death.


Looks like soil  ?

Biota / Soil Life

When comparing the prepared bed and the untouched bed beside, noticeable differences are the inability to find any soil life or biota, moisture retention, organic matter and most of all the inability to dig with your hands into the bed at all. The prepared bed can easily be dug down to 100mm by hand.



No life

Mulched adding humus



The gardening teams have now retrofitted 10 beds this way and we have heavily mulching another 20 beds and apply liquid fertilizer 2nd weekly with all heading to a neutral pH. I look forward to confirming a pH of 6.5 soon.

We are demonstrating that "Organic Matter Matters " in adjusting Soil pH sustainably and without any animal manures  

Healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy people!!!









1 comment:

  1. When comparing the prepared bed and the untouched bed beside, noticeable differences are the inability to find any soil life or biota, moisture retention, organic matter and most of all the inability to dig with your hands into the bed at all. The prepared bed can easily be dug down to 100mm by hand.


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