Healing Your Soil
Sometimes soil needs our help. When we over-utilize our lands, kill them with chemicals or deforest them, they are made weak and can die. Soil is living and a lot like us. The top layer of soil is like skin that offers the first layer of defense that can be easily damaged. We have done this damage to our earth, but we can help undo some of that damage by feeding life back into it.
The book Jadam Organic Farming is a great addition to anyone wanting to expand on permaculture. It shows the Jadam philosophy on feeding the soil which involves creating not only aerobic bacteria to feed our soils but also using anaerobic bacteria to feed the deeper soils that don’t have that oxygen. This 2-fold strategy seems to make sense and obviously is working for the farmers of Kauai, Hawaii. The older trends of factory farming are starting to drop because new inspired farmers want to embrace the soil again.
What the bacterial feedings come down to is the realization that not only are fermented foods good for us, but they are also good for the soil. I learned how important bacterial flora was when I was a goat farmer. We had a period of time where almost all our goats were getting sick. Our vet told us they needed antibiotic to heal. Unwillingly I took the vets advice. Our goats healed up but would not eat. That was really unusual and the vet came out to give more medication. Most of my goats died and it ended up being that the antibiotic killed off enough bacteria in the goats that they could not break down the food. If I knew, this I could have probably saved each goat with a few drinks of kombucha. Well, the Jadam Organic strategy is about the same idea. We need to add in a fermented liquid to help break down the soil into smaller organic molecules. Then, our plants can readily absorb the nutrients making for healthier growth.
The more biodiversity our soil has, the better the balance. It really is about balance; nature is only successful if we have enough good to balance the bad. By using this technique we become biologists. Leave your microscopes at home; we won’t need to be that technical. The most important thing is to understand that we will be creating 2 types of bacteria.
• Anaerobic – Bacteria that lives in void of oxygen.
• Aerobic- Bacteria that needs oxygen to survive.
When you make either of these bacteria you do it the same way. They need sugars, starch, and soft water (rain). Anything extra is not necessary. Where they split off is that to make it aerobic bacteria just add oxygen in the form of an air bubbler (like you would use in a fish tank). If you stop adding oxygen, it will change over to become anaerobic.
To make your bacteria, it’s as simple as filling a tub of water (do not use chlorinated water because it will kill your bacteria). Add 1/3 pound of sea salt for minerals. You can use a cloth bag and put rotting sweet fruit in it. Then, in a second bag, contain earthy bacterial soil or compost. Forrest soil from the base of mountains or compost from active composts will work. Put these bags in the water to create your bacteria. You will know when it’s ready for use when the skin forming bubbles pulls away from the sides of your containers (for anaerobic). Follow the same procedure for the aerobic bacteria, but you won’t see a skin form as in the anaerobic because of the bubbles. Either one can be used in about 24 hours, but it may take longer if you are in a colder climate.
Using the bacterial spray is as easy as straining it and putting it on your fields. Both types of bacteria are found in good soils, but we need to create an environment that keeps them there. Over time, adding this to your soil will enrich it, and you will be able to tell by the additional life found in it.
Generally, this can help all soils, but you still need to cover the soil with mulch. The earth will retain moisture to promote bacterial life. If your soil is exposed, it will dry and your bacteria will end up dying. Protect the bacteria by keeping your soil covered.
“Agriculture production formats are shifting from industrial to rural. Decision making is moving from the boardroom to the kitchen table.” — Jeff Melrose in Island Planning for the Statewide Agricultural Land Use Baseline 2015
When spraying or watering your fields with these biodiverse liquids safety precautions should be in place. Use protection like gloves, eye glasses and even a respirator. That bacteria you are growing can grow in you.
Bacteria has been used in the past for repairing soil, but it alone is not able to remediate earth. We need to use bacteria in conjunction with fungi and mulch. Adding biochar is also highly beneficial but entails digging up sections to introduce the biochar.
Looking at your soil using 2 types of bacteria is exciting to me and seems to be an obvious strategy. It’s also exciting to see that so many passionate people are coming together in Kauai to heal the soil and find better ways to grow. It is also a much less expensive way to feed your land and grow healthier crops. This is the way to revitalize the land.
“You might be frustrated by this fact but nothing can be clearer, continuing conventional agriculture and bringing life back to the soil are not compatible.”—Youngsang Cho
There is a change in the atmosphere and the young are catching on. The direction our food suppliers are going is unsustainable and dangerous. Small farms are producing healthier foods easier by looking to nature for answers.
“Agriculture production formats are shifting from industrial to rural. Decision making is moving from the boardroom to the kitchen table.” — Jeff Melrose in Island Planning for the Statewide Agricultural Land Use Baseling 2015