Saturday, February 25, 2006

Sunshine, Water and Compost

These are the three most important factors in growing healthy fruits and vegetables. Sunshine and water are easily determined by your geographical area. Although now-a-days, the changes in weather patterns may adversley affect the farm's produce. But nothing a bit of ingenuity can't solve. More on that later.

In sustainable organic farming, composts take on a whole new meaning. The composition of nutrients placed in the soil can make or break your seedlings. Is there too much nitrogen? Enough potassium? What about phosphates? It's all very scientific. My farmer's were taught a compost mixture that was simply not sustainable, nor purely organic, for my small farm. I want all my resources to come from natural sources, whithout the use of synthetic chemicals in any stage of the process. The problem with the compost my farmers were getting is that one of the ingredients, namely the rice hulls, were not organically grown. I didn't know this until recently. This was acceptable to my ex-consultant because OPTA's (see one of my past entries for more info) rules state that organic fertilizers or compost can use the word organic if 70% of it is organic. This is not acceptable for me.

So, as I was pondering on a new way to feed my plants, something quite unexpected happened. I was sitting in my propagation house when in walks a person I have never seen before. He introduces himself and it turns out he's my neighbor's landlord and he also happens to have a small-scale organic farming operation very close by. I went over and we discussed the finer points of compost and after-harvest production. To my surprise he told me that he came up with his farm as a byproduct of what he really does which is mining clay for a German company. The clay, he explains, contains the nutrients and the absorbing characteristic that is essential in a good compost mix. By absorbing, I mean the mix should be able to absorb and retain nutrients and water for the plant to feed on. But too much moisture is also a problem so other things must be added to make the compost mix have good drainage at the same time. It's a balancing act. Well, he has been doing this and showed me his mix and how his plants grow well with this. He came out of nowhere and now I'm buying my compost mix from him.

Another good organic source for the farm is coco dust. I will be using coco dust as a growing medium for my seeds and as mulch on my beds. Mulching is really important for keeping soil healthy. Nothing worse for the plants than dried out and exposed soil. Not to mention the aesthetic value...

We also found some "black gold" in the garbage heap in one of the empty lots in the compound. Fallen leaves were dumped there and in 3 years it decomposed to make compost. Here are my farmers collecting the valuable stuff.

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