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Letters From Steve Apr 2014

By: Steve Frailey Tuesday April 1, 2014 comments Tags: compost tea, Vermicomposting, organic farming, organic compost

Earth Day Friendly Living


Earth Day is April 22 and everyday of the year.

Since we are celebrating Earth Day this month, I felt it only fitting to share with you some of the organic principles that we use on our organic Noni farm. 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 your organic garden.

Why Organic Principles vs. chemical fertilizers? Besides being more Earth Friendly, 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 also destroy them. A chemical fertilizer might be a short term, quick way of feeding a plant but the real long term effect is less healthy soil. The bottom line: Organic principles nurture the organisms in the soil, build healthy living soil and feed healthy living plants. Using organic principles just keeps making a better and better environment for healthy living soil, just as nature does naturally in the forest.

There are 4 main principles to discuss: Organic Mulching, Organic Composting, Vermiculture (worms) and Compost Tea

Organic Mulching

This is numero uno!!
If you do nothing but organic mulching 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 earth worms (your best friends). Remember the old movie – Field of Dreams? The famous saying in the movie was “Build it and they will come” referring to building a baseball field in his corn field for old famous baseball players to return and play. Well, simply put: mulching and they will come – Worms that is!! The earth worms loosen the earth, aerate and fertilize!! They are working 24/7 in your earth making things better and better.

Organic mulching material may be shredded newspaper, cardboard without tape on it (tape is plastic), leaves, grass clippings, etc. We love to shred coconut palm fronds for organic mulching 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.
The organic mulch also picks up moisture at night through condensation and is keeping the soil moist by adding a little water and preventing evaporation. All these wonderful things mulch does for you. Mulching is: Truly the best thing to do to help your plants and the Earth stay healthy.

Organic Composting

Making the most potent organic compost
Many years ago, my son and I went to the 19th Annual Composting Convention in Oakland, CA - 4 days of lectures on organic composting!! We met an Amish group from Illinois that makes equipment for turning large compost piles and injecting air plus water.

The point they make is:
“The key thing to remember is making organic 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 oragnic compost. “

If you just pile a bunch of material together and leave it sit, you will get very mediocre organic 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 organic compost. Air and water allow good bacterium to grow turning your plant matter intopotent compost to feed your plants. It takes 4-6 weeks to get a finished compost but well worth the effort. Spread the finished compost around your plants and then organic mulch on top of the organic compost to retain the good nutrients for the soil and plants. Your plants will respond with new healthy growth.

Our secret ingredient for our organic 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 month, chip up the plant matter and add to our new organic compost piles. The plant matter from these plants have a higher N(Nitrogen), P(Phorporus), K(Potassium) than Chicken, Horse or Cow manure.


Worms, Worms and more Worms! Nature’s Ambassador for Earth Day
We began working with organic composting worms about 8 years ago and have definitely seen many positive results in the Noni fruit trees from spreading the worm castings and making compost tea (no, it’s not a drink) with worm castings.

The worm farm that I purchased our first Indian Blue composting worms from said that research has shown: one 5 gallon bucket of worm casting will bring back a whole acre of depleted land - that's the potency of worm casting.

You may purchase "worm hotels" to manage you worm in or we simply stack concrete blocks two high in a 4 x 4 foot square and make our own "worm hotel". They will turn any garbage into black gold with a 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 weeks and then add to the worms. They seem to like the garbage after it has decomposed some what. We cover our worms with 6 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 into the best plant food. A little goes a very long way. We only spread one cup of worm castings to a Noni tree when spreading compost and always mulch heavily on top.

Compost Teas

Air is critical for making good quality compost tea.
I highly recommend that you check out 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 for ever 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 casting in a stainless screen in container. In 24-48 hours you have great compost tea. Very important point: spray you 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.

Mahalo from everyone on the farm!

Steve Frailey

About the Author: Steve Frailey

My wife and I (Steve Frailey) moved to Kauai, Hawaii in 1982 from our organic farm in California. There were no roads, electricity, water or buildings but lots of Noni trees (Morinda Citrifolia) in our valley. We also developed a deep relationship with Noni that was growing all through our valley.  Today we run our Hawaiian Organic Noni farm, and share the gift of health with people throughout the world.