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Letters From Steve Apr 2016

By: Steve Frailey Wednesday April 6, 2016 comments Tags: organic farming, organic mulching, Vermicomposting, vermiculture, organic compost, compost tea

Why does Organic Matter

Spring gardening can be murder on the muscles! Especially getting moving after winter’s chill and getting the blood flowing again. IcyHeat Noni Lotion is a great, organic choice for relieving the pain of sore muscles!

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.

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 they will seek out an easier meal from a weaker plan. Supporting plants with chemical fertilizers and pesticides only helps in the 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.

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.

Again, organic principles are really simply mimicking what Nature does naturally 24/7 in the forest. Leaves and branches fall to the forest floor and create mulch on the ground. Worms are in the forest soil to break these down into top soil and feed the plants in the forest. It’s a very simple system that works.

Top Organic Practices You Can Steal at Home
There are 4 main principles to discuss: mulching, composting, vermiculture (composting with worms), and compost tea.

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).

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 cornfield in Iowa for old famous baseball players to return and play. Well, simply put: Mulch and they will come — worms, that is!! The earthworms loosen the earth, aerate and fertilize! They are working 24/7 in your earth, making things better and better.

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 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.

The 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.

In mulching your plants, you are creating a perfect environment for earthworms to come and do their magic. The mulch creates a cool, dark and moist environment for the worms (worm hotel) plus the mulch is food for the worms.

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 allow good bacterium 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 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 many 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.

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 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!

Happy Gardening!

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.