Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Rough and Loose, Green then Brown - Two Gardening Mantras

An ant nest found under a mulch of coffee sacks. The ants were forced to move their colony because I was ready to work on the soil in this bed.

While attending the Organic MasterGardener course Ron and I learnt two very important mantras that continue to guide me as I work at building up the soil in all of the garden beds.
Coffee sacks and a woolen blanket have protected this soil bed until I had time to work on it.

The mulch is removed. The ants are moving out.

A deep watering of  the soil to encourage the soil organisms to get active.

The first mantra is 'Green then Brown'
To make compost whether insitu ontop of the soil or in a trench, or in a compost bin the materials need to be layered by alternating different types.
First the green. I harvested most of the comfrey now the flowers have finished and they are no longer visited much by the bees. It is high in minerals the tap root has brought up from deep in the soil and also high in nitrogen. Comfrey is the 'green' and was the first layer put on the soil.

Next I added shredded branches that are high in carbon as the 'brown' layer. 
The 3rd layer was coffee grounds that are high in nitrogen, a 'green' layer. Technically the grounds I pick up from coffee shops are also high in carbon because there are lots of paper products such as filters and paper cups in the bags. 
So the mantra goes, 'Green then Brown, Green then Brown' which translates to 'nitrogen-rich' then 'carbon-rich' then 'carbon-rich' and so on, until you run out of materials.

Time for the 'chicken scratch' while repeating the 2nd mantra, 'Rough and Loose, Rough and Loose.'
I make like a chicken, lightly mixing the layers together while leaving the surface uneven and light. I avoid standing on the soil as much as possible. This method creates the ideal conditions for supporting soil organism activity.

After a deep watering and the addition of  a final top mulch layer, the bed is ready to hand over to the soil organisms to do their job of making a rich friable soil. 
I ran out of time so put the coffee sacks, blanket and cardboard back in place but will replace it with shredded plant material as soon as I can.
'Green then Brown' - 'Rough and Loose'

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