On a holistic farmstead it all starts with one thing: the organism web that is dirt. We are talking living and breathing soil here. Not the lifeless stuff stranded in between urban lots, with nothing but patches of noxious weeds in amongst parched earth. The stuff with the beautiful meadows, giant trees, fruits and vegetables growing out of it. Dirt’s complex network of micro organisms make available nutrients in the ground to plants roots by breaking down decaying organic matter. Our preferred method of promoting micro organisms in the soil is using vermicompost, also known as earth worm castings or agricultural gold which are created by feeding the worms all of the compost created on the farm and collecting the matter the worms leave behind. This black moist grainy substance that worms create is an amazing soil amendment that promotes vigorous growth and beneficial microbes. It also creates a cycle that allows us to have a system that sustains itself.
<cycle graphic pic coming soon>
Animal waste and table scraps get tossed into the worm bins which in turn gets applied to the plants which then feed us and the animals at which point we start the process all over again. We feel this method fits perfectly on small scale farms as it recycles resources in a way that benefits soil fertility continually producing high yielding crops with pest and disease resistance. Unfortunately these days standard commercial practices substitute these holistic methods with synthetic chemicals which sever the natural cycle, promoting noxious weeds and diminishing overall ecosystem vitality. The holistic vermicomposting method on the other hand builds more and more soil over time in tune with nature. Vermicomposting also works great on larger farms as the more available compost can either be used to raise income or raise plants.
Hugel mounds are another method we use here on the mini farm. The idea is that you stack organic matter like dead brush, forest debris and decaying logs in rows, bury them with top soil and either direct sow or transplant plants straight into them. This simple solution helps reduce the fire danger and increases water retention both for the plants growing in it and adjacent to it. The slow release of moisture and nutrients in the decaying mounds cuts down on irrigation and keep the plants growing strong. We also plant in between them creating a nice little niche for catching water and nutrients.