Monday April 22, 2019
Steve Frailey here. Being Earth Day, I wanted to take the time and talk about organic farming. What we do daily on a very large scale (70+ acres), you can simply apply on a small scale in your own backyards. On our Organic Farm & Wellness Tour, we spend at least a half an hour going over what we have found to be very beneficial over our 35 years of organic farming. The principles that we use on a very large scale, may also be applied on a single ornamental potted plant, landscaping around your yard, fruit trees in your yard, or in your garden.
When a person has a weak immune system, various diseases or problems can arise. In my experience, the same thing applies to any living plant or tree. A healthy plant or tree that has a strong “immune system” keeps diseases and insects away, because such pests will seek out an easier meal from a weaker plant. Supporting plants with chemical fertilizers and pesticides only helps short term. In the long term, the weaker soil will result in plants with weaker “immune systems,” requiring the application of more and more of these harmful chemicals which end up in the food you eat.
The bottom line: Organic principles nurture the organisms in the soil, build healthy living soil and feed healthy living plants. Using organic principles just keep producing better and better environment for healthy living soil, just as nature does naturally in the forest. Leaves and branches fall to the forest floor and create mulch on the ground creating a perfect environment for worms in the forest soil to break these down into topsoil and feed the plants in the forest. It’s a very simple system that works.
Why Does Organic Matter?
Besides being more Earth-friendly than chemical fertilizers & pesticides, organic principles work with nature and the organisms in the soil to build healthier soil and healthier plants.
Food for thought: Chemical Fertilizers are manufactured using various chemical compounds such as ammonia. What happens to you if you drink ammonia? You die. What do you think happens to the living organisms in the soil when you apply chemical fertilizers with ammonia? The organisms in the soil are very fragile and the harsh chemicals destroy them, too. A chemical fertilizer might be a short-term, quick way to feed a plant, but the real long term effect is less healthy soil and less healthy plants.
On our farm, we have “learned” by trial and error how to mimic and enhance this process to grow abundant, nutritious noni from extremely healthy trees.
Top Organic Practices You Can Use at Home
If you do nothing but mulch around your plants, they will respond positively and grow much healthier. Mulching creates an environment for lots of good things to happen. You can retain moisture and create a good home for earthworms (your best friends). The earthworms loosen the earth, aerate and fertilize! They are working 24/7 in your garden, improving the quality of your soil.
Mulching material can be shredded newspaper, cardboard without tape on it (tape is plastic), leaves, grass clippings, etc. We love to shred coconut palm fronds for mulch on our farm, but if you want to do it yourself, simply use whatever is available in your area. Getting the local tree trimmer to dump his load of shredded material will go a long way and give you lots of mulching material. We mulch 10-12 inches thick around every tree in the orchard - twice a year. As it decomposes, the material is turning into top soil - similar to what Nature does in the forest but you will be doing it quicker.
Mulched gardens are healthier, have fewer weeds, and are more drought-resistant than unmulched gardens. Done properly, it'll allow you to spend less time watering, weeding, and fighting pest problems.
Many years ago, my son and I went to the 19th Annual Composting Convention in Oakland, CA - 4 days of lectures on composting!! We met an Amish group from Illinois that makes equipment for turning large compost piles and injecting air plus water. The point they made on making compost is:
“Making compost is like baking bread. The ingredients you put in the batter, the amount of water you add along with air, and the temperature you cook the bread at has a lot to do with the quality of your bread. The same principles apply to making compost.
If you just pile a bunch of material together and leave it to sit, you will get very mediocre compost. However, if you add a good wide variety of plant matter and just a little bit of soil, turn the pile every 2 to 3 days (adding air) and water lightly to keep the pile moist, you can make dynamite compost.
Air and water allows good bacteria to grow, turning your plant matter into potent compost to feed your plants. It takes 4-6 weeks to get a finished compost, but it's well worth the effort. Spread the finished compost around your plants and then mulch on top of the compost to retain the good nutrients for the soil and plants. Your plants will respond with new healthy growth.
Our secret ingredient for our compost piles: pigeon pea plant matter. Pigeon pea is a plant with great nitrogen-fixing qualities for the soil and in the plant matter. We trim the plants every 3-4 months, chop up the plant matter, and add to our new compost piles. The plant matter from these plants have a higher N (Nitrogen), P (Phosphorus), and K (Potassium) content than chicken, horse or cow manure.
We purchase our Pigeon Pea seeds from www.peaceseeds.com out of Oregon. The seeds are heirloom (non-hybrid), so you may save your seeds from the bush at the end of the year and use them to replant next year.
We began working with composting worms about 10 years ago and have definitely seen positive results in the Noni trees from spreading the worm castings and making compost tea (no, it’s not to drink) with worm castings.
The worm farm that I purchased our first Indian Blue composting worms from said that research has shown that one 5 gallon bucket of worm castings per acre of depleted land rejuvenates the whole acre. That’s the potency of worm castings!
You may purchase "worm hotels” to manage and grow your worms or simply stack concrete blocks two high in a 4 x 4 foot square and make your own &ldquo worm hotel.” They will turn any garbage into black gold with little bit of attention. Instead of putting your kitchen garbage through the garbage disposal, let your worms turn your garbage into great plant food.
I recommend holding your garbage in a bucket with a lid for several days and then give it to the worms. They seem to like the garbage best after it has decomposed a little. We cover our worms with 3 to 4 inch layer of shredded paper or leaves to retain the moisture and keep it dark for them.
You will be amazed at how quickly they turn your garbage in black gold (the best plant food). A little bit of worm castings goes a very long way. We only use one cup of worm castings per Noni tree when spreading compost, and always mulch heavily on top.
I highly recommend that you check out www.growingsolutions.com for the best compost tea makers on the market. Their 10 gallon unit is perfect for most home gardens. They make a very well-constructed unit that lasts forever and makes compost tea by circulating air.
Air is critical for making good quality compost tea. We have a 25 gallon model that we place 1 gallon of compost & 1 cup of worm castings in a stainless screen in container. In 24-48 hours you have great compost tea.
Very important point: spray compost tea on your plants in late afternoon to early evening, so the tea is not evaporated by the sun. Let the leaves drink in all the good nutrients all night long!! We have seen that banana plants sprayed with compost teas grow 2 feet taller in 4 days as compared to banana plants not sprayed.
Noni trees normally produce noni fruit 10 months out of a year. Once we began using worm castings and spraying compost teas, our Noni trees have produced fruit 12 months out of the year for 8 years now!
Again, we have learned from experience over the years of trial and error what really works on the farm. Mulch, making compost in a very specific way, growing worms from worm castings, and making compost teas are all techniques that are worth the work!