Ways of Making Terra Preta: Biochar Activation

Porosity of a coal ash clearly visible to the naked eye. (Photo: Andreas Thomsen)

A great article with various recipes to activate biochar:

Ways of Making Terra Preta: Biochar Activation
by Hans-Peter Schmidt
Biochar is not a fertilizer, but rather a nutrient carrier and a habitat for microorganisms. First of all, biochar needs to be charged to become biologically active in order to efficiently utilize its soil-enhancing properties. There are numerous methods of activating and producing substrates similar to terra preta aside from mixing biochar with compost. …

Making Lactobacillus Serum – odor killer and organic fertilizer

From The Unconventional Farmer, Gil and Patrick in the Philipines:

Lactobacillus Serum

This is the workhorse of the beneficial bacteria we’ll be discussing here. We use it for everything! Foul odors, clogged drains, cheaper pig/chicken/etc farming, aquaculture, the applications are amazingly diverse. Learn how to make and use this and you will have a powerful tool in your farming arsenal. …

They provide detailed instructions on how to make the serum and here are some pictures recipes:

Lacto Preparation

I hope we get around to trying this soon!

Hugelkultur – utilizing brush debris and kitchen waste in garden beds

We already somewhat tried this when we built our three sisters bed in spring, putting brush we had to clear in the bottom of the bed.  However, we didn't think of adding out kitchen waste and a few other goodies to make it work.

The Art and Science of Making a Hugelkultur Bed – Transforming Woody Debris into a Garden Resource

— by Melissa Miles August 3, 2010

Wooden debris will decompose faster,
(and be transformed into a resource)
when hugelkultur techniques are

Used for centuries in Eastern Europe and Germany, hugelkultur (in German hugelkultur translates roughly as “mound culture”) is a gardening and farming technique whereby woody debris (fallen branches and/or logs) are used as a resource.
Often employed in permaculture systems, hugelkultur allows gardeners and farmers to mimic the nutrient cycling found in a natural woodland to realize several benefits. Woody debris (and other detritus) that falls to the forest floor can readily become sponge like, soaking up rainfall and releasing it slowly into the surrounding soil, thus making this moisture available to nearby plants.
Hugelkultur garden beds (and hugelkultur ditches and swales) using the same principle to:

  • Help retain moisture on site
  • Build soil fertility
  • Improve drainage
  • Use woody debris that is unsuitable for other use

Applicable on a variety of sites, hugelkultur is particularly well suited for areas that present a challenge to gardeners. Urban lots with compacted soils, areas with poor drainage, limited moisture, etc., can be significantly improved using a hugelkultur technique, as hugelkultur beds are, essentially, large, layered compost piles covered with a growing medium into which a garden is planted.
Creating a hugelkultur garden bed is a relatively simple process:

So now we'll try this again and we'll get started for NEXT year's planting.  We still have plenty more brush and kitchen waste.  Have to cover it so the animals won't get to it.

Horse manure with vermicides for organic gardeners?

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The subject came up at a neighborhood bbq today and I decided to do a little research. Everything I found indicated that it’s best to hot compost or expose the manure to sunshine for a couple weeks.
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3>Is Horse Manure Safe For Organic Gardens?

Vermicides kill intestinal worms, but are they also fatal to earthworms? Do vermicide toxins build up in the soil over time? Can vegetables be considered ‘organically grown’ if they were fertilized with vermicide-laced horse manure?
Fortunately for gardeners and animal owners, most research to date indicates that Ivermectin, the vermicide most frequently given to horses, cattle and sheep, breaks down quickly once it is excreted. Several studies have shown that Ivermectin degrades rapidly when manure is hot-composted or exposed to sunlight, and somewhat less rapidly when manure is simply piled up and left to decompose.

We’ll be picking up manure from neighbors with a couple of horses and we’ll expose it to sunshine for a while.