Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Accelerating Eden

Biochar will accelerate formation of topsoil, but ten years is a long time to wait. In my ignorance, five years ago I set up two garden beds using the native loamy sand that remained after our property addition was leveled. The results were so meager that forest vermin weren't even stopping by for lunch. The next few years were progressively more productive after successive additions of compost and biochar enriched the channery soil. Last year, I decided to expand with a new bed by using a method known as lasagna gardening. Also known as sheet mulching, lasagna gardening entails putting down layer after layer of organic matter on top of a poor growing surface, then waiting six months for it to break down enough to plant.  The up front work was considerable, but I was well rewarded with a bed that was more bountiful than the two that had been enriched year-by-year with biochar and compost.  (Biochar and compost were also ingredients in the lasagna garden.)  The takeaway is that, with poor soil, you don't have to wait ten years for a productive garden. You still have to add layers to a lasagna garden every year and dig it all in, but if biochar is included, even that can cease after ten years.

This year, I made two beds using sheet mulching and a very deep compost bed, following the same approach, in which I plan to grow mushrooms. My future forest garden patches will be grown out of sheet mulch, also. Perhaps the hardest part about lasagna gardening is getting enough of the right ingredients, green material, in particular. I've had to reach out to acquire enough of this high nitrogen material for my beds. I collect buckets full of used coffee grounds from a local doughnut shop and tons of horse manure from a local stables. It is best to pre-compost manure with straw or other brown material, before adding to the lasagna garden, in order to kill pathogens by the heat of composting. I'm looking at integrating my acquisition of green material onsite through raising chickens. Geoff Lawton explains how.

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