Tag Archives: Natural Farming

Mulching for Max

Gardening in the harsh desert climate of Las Vegas really brings to the forefront the necessity of utilizing every drop of moisture as efficiently as possible. The Fruity Chicken orchard/garden utilizes several techniques to help maximize this utilization. My baseline moisture is supplied by a sub-surface irrigation system over the entire area whose primary source of water is greywater from laundry. This system does have a supplemental input of fresh water of approximately 35 gallons every other day during the height of the summer which I estimate to be about 1/3 of the total input. This freshwater input tapers down to 35 gallons a week in the fall and 35 gallons a month through the winter months. My orchard/garden area is currently 20′ x 40′, due to the 6″ to 12″ layer of mulch over the general area the soil stays reasonably moist year round. On the the other hand my raised beds are above this moisture source necessitating a drip system to keep seedlings and shallow rooted veggies thriving.

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The drip system in my main 4’x12′ beds is 3 laterals running the length of the bed with .9 GPH emitters spaced @ 12″ intervals, this system runs 1 hour a day early in the morning applying roughly 35 gallons a day. Up to this point in the season this system has thoroughly watered those beds and resulted in enough seepage coming out of the downhill end to keep the comfrey planted there to scavenge nutrients flourishing. With the recent increase in heat the moist area has been noticeably receding, rather than increasing the run time on the drip system I have been focusing on mulching to reduce loss through evaporation. In the picture above the green mulch that was planted initially can be seen, this is primarily red wheat which has really exceeded my expectations.

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That green mulch gets cut down about every other week and laid between the crop plantings. Now that the heat is coming on that mulch just isn’t enough so I have started supplementing it with straw.

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My experience with trying to mulch with straw hasn’t been positive but this time appears to be different. In the past I had done things the traditional way, spreading straw over the whole bed then pulling that mulch aside to do my plantings. This method always resulted in straw blown around everywhere except where it was needed, due to already being used to cutting and placing small amounts of green mulch I just kinda kept up the same process. Rather than throwing down a big ole flake off the bale I have been sitting down next to my beds with a pile of straw, picking up a handful, tearing it in half and then sorta weaving in between the established plants. This method has resulted in the mulch being where it is really needed and staying in place, a side benefit is that I am spending quality time up close and personal with my garden. Pests get spotted sooner and so far have been able to be controlled by manual means rather than using chemicals. Additionally it is right in my face when a plant is struggling a bit allowing me to either adjust my spray mixture or do some spot amendments such as a leaf or two of comfrey smushed up and pushed under the mulch for a bit of boost.

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Comfrey Fermentation

My next venture into Korean Natural Farming techniques is FPJ aka Fermented Plant Juice. Comfrey01 Comfrey02 Comfrey03 Comfrey04 Comfrey05 Comfrey06 Comfrey

The Comfrey I got from Coe’s Comfrey last fall are really doing well this year. In fact I should have paid more attention to where I had planted it, apparently I missed some when transplanting them out before tilling the area for the first of my new 4’x12′ beds and now there are little comfrey plants coming up all over. Those little plants are going to be allowed to get a little bigger before they get potted up and either transplanted or given to one of the Master Gardeners at the UNCE orchard. Comfrey Comfrey09

The first harvest of leaves resulted in a 1 gallon bucketful weighing a pound and a half. Four days later you can’t even tell anything was cut from the plants, this stuff grows like mad and thrives on high nitrogen sources like raw chicken manure and straight urine! Comfrey11Comfrey12

After mixing/macerating the comfrey at a rate of 2/1 with brown sugar the volume was greatly reduced. Comfrey14 Comfrey13

Four days later and the mix has started to funk up a bit but hasn’t gotten stinky….yet. Comfrey15

While not strictly according to the procedure laid out by Bryan McGrath in this excellent FPJ outline:  I added 3 cups of  dechlorinated water because it seemed like the right thing to do. At this point my Comfrey concoction smells sorta like canned spinach.

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Then it was back into my newest hidey-hole to ferment until next weekend. If my brew starts developing the dreaded hydrogen-sulfide rotten egg smell it’s going to have to move up to the orchard to escape detection by my sweety Karen.

 

 

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There is Funk in the Orchard

A few weeks ago i made a post, There is Fungus Among Usin which I outlined my entry into the world of Korean Natural Farming. About a week later my post, IMO aka Indigenous Micro Organismsoutlined the second step in creating microbial rich preparations for application. Today’s post is about the final step of stabilizing the two microbial cultures, Lacto-Baccilus & IMO, that I initially collected/captured then refined.

The Milk/Lacto serum mixture after two weeks in the closet

The Milk/Lacto serum mixture after two weeks in the closet

You can clearly see the separation of the curdled milk solids from the refined Lacto-Bacillus serum. This process grows the Lacto in an environment friendly to them and less friendly to the other microbes that were caught in the initial rice-wash water phase.

Separating out the milk solids

Separating out the milk solids

This stuff STINKS!!!! Bryan McGrath in his YouTube video, Korean Natural Farming-Lacto Bacillusmentions that he once tasted this “cheese” and it wasn’t bad. I’m calling Bullshit on that! My chickens gobbled the stuff up but the reek was/is horrid. The serum got mixed 1 to 1 with unsulphured molasses to create a shelf stable liquid that is supposed to be good for a couple of years.

The inoculated rice mixed with brown sugar after fermenting for 2 weeks

The inoculated rice mixed with brown sugar after fermenting for 2 weeks

The IMO stuff was heaven compared to that stinking Lacto concoction. The above mixture was combined with water at a rate of 10 to 1 then the solids strained out.

10 to 1 mixture

10 to 1 mixture

The solids from the IMO fermenting process

The solids from the IMO fermenting process

Again the chickens gobbled the dregs down, all of this funky stuff the girls are gobbling down should be good for them in that it really is just probiotics for the farm.

The ingredients of my pulsing spray

The ingredients of my pulsing spray

I applied my first full-bore pulsing spray to my orchard, garden beds, and coop area today. The ingredients were 5 ounces of my recently stabilized IMO/Lacto concoction, 2 ounces pure cold pressed Neem oil with a dash of organic dish soap to emulsify it, and 4 ounces cold processed liquid fish.

Sprayer

All of this was mixed with enough chlorine free water to fill my 2 gallon sprayer and applied to my fruit trees thoroughly. After the trees were soaked to the point of runoff the garden beds and coop areas were sprayed with what was left of the second sprayer full.IMO10

One of the Comfrey plants I thought I had lost

One of the Comfrey plants I thought I had lost

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Look at the worms in the roots of this Comfrey plant I'm relocating

Look at the worms in the roots of this Comfrey plant I’m relocating

All of the microbes in this mixture are going to fed and energized by the fatty acids in both the Neem oil and Liquid Fish and hit the ground running, breaking down organic material into compounds less smelly and more useful to my plants. Additionally these beneficial microbes should colonize the bark, leaves, and mulch crowding out harmful microbes. I’m looking forward to blogging about the results both positive and negative. Initially I have one negative that I will have corrected before my next application, that little 2 gallon sprayer killed my back bending over to pump it up. There is definitely a 4 gallon back pack sprayer coming to my tool shed soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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IMO aka Indigenous Micro Organisms

Last week I chronicled my first baby steps into “Natural” farming or maybe more properly “Korean Natural Farming“. I actually like the term my new favorite non-fiction book, “The Holistic Orchard” uses right in its title. Holistic . For me that word summarizes the approach I’m going to use in my orchard/garden/chicken ranch, not only looking at the whole system but investigating the whole world of agriculture practices. The goal is to keep an open mind and be inclusive not exclusive, if after thorough research I come to the conclusion that an application of petro-chemical based pesticide, herbicide or fertilizer is the right choice that option, while not being the preferred option, will be included.

Back to my funky stuff! The fungus/bacteria/yeast culturing project went off successfully. Karen did find my fungus bin but didn’t throw it out (Lorri did you snitch me out?) Your going to be spared pictures of furry, fluffy, multi colored spotted rice only because I forgot to take a picture before I processed the goo.

Rice Wash water after a week of culturing.

Rice Wash water after a week of culturing.

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Pulling out 8 ounces of serum with a turkey baster

Pulling out 8 ounces of serum with a turkey baster

The Lacto-Baccillus serum mixed with milk to grow out the preferred Lacto cultures

The Lacto-Baccillus serum mixed with milk to grow out the preferred  Lactobacillus cultures

In 2 weeks time this 80 ounces of milk inoculated with 8 ounces of Lacto-Bacillus serum should curdle and separate leaving me with a crude curd to feed to the chickens and Lacto-Baccilus rich whey to be stabilized and used in the orchard.

The funky rice mixed with brown sugar to make IMO-2

The funky rice mixed with brown sugar to make IMO-2

 

IMO-2 ready to ferment

IMO-2 ready to ferment

The IMO-2 along with the milk concoction will now go in a dark closet to ferment for a couple of weeks in preparation for stabilizing and then use.

 

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There is fungus among us

Organic Gardener, Holistic Orchardist, Sustainable Agriculture, What exactly do these terms mean? Are there rules and regulations that must be adhered to? I don’t really know nor do I really care. The “system” or “method” I practice is the one that my head puts together from resources that make sense to me. My chickens are currently being fed fodder, fermented scratch, weeds, cooked rice gleaned from a local restaurant and leftovers from the weekly cleaning of the fridge. The orchard/garden is watered with grey water from my laundry and mulched with shredded waste from local tree service companies. Why do I employ these “practices”? #1 cause I’m cheap #2 because certain aspects spark interest in my brain and finally #3 because they are effective/efficient. Happy productive chickens, healthy trees, and productive gardens is the goal and at least currently the outcome.

As has been mentioned several times lately on this blog The Holistic Orchard (fruits and berries the biologic way) by Michael Phillips has really captured my attention. Basically Mr. Phillips is advocating and trying to educate about the benefits of treating the whole orchard holistically. Focusing on the overall health of everything from the soil to the foliage in an effort to minimize the susceptibility to both pests and disease. Backyard Orchard Culture as refined and practiced for my area by the UNCE experimental orchard lends itself to embracing these holistic idea(l)s, at least in my little world. One thing that really clicked with me was the idea of “random” mulching, this is using whatever you come up with as you come up with it as mulch. Shredded paper? OK, Shredded/Chipped tree waste? OK, Straw? OK, the idea is to promote a diverse environment for beneficial bacterial and fungal soil cultures to thrive.

That brings the agenda to spring and pulsing sprays. I wish I could do more than regurgitate stuff from The Holistic Orchard but right now that’s where my knowledge is from, maybe this fall I’ll be able to make an informed and insightful blog post about all of this….we’ll see. Pulsing sprays are used to spark a “pulse” of action in the microbial world inhabiting the soil of the orchard and the bark of the trees, encouraging the beneficial ones to thrive and therefore outcompete any bad ones that come along. Ingredients recommended for this witches brew is liquid fish (are you thinking of SNL and the bass-o-matic?), cold pressed Neem oil, and EM-1. Liquid Fish was easily found and reasonably purchased from SF Organics, cold pressed Neem oil is all over E-Bay, but EM-1 proved a little tougher especially for a frugal individual. The stuff is not available locally and both of the proprietary makers apparently think this stuff is very special. I was willing to cough up the $23 SCD Probiotics wanted for a liter of this stuff but when I went to check out at their exclusive online distributor and found that shipping was going to double the price my gag reflex kicked in, likewise at Teraganix.

All of his has been leading up to my initial topic for this post……clandestine culturing of microbes. While I couldn’t find any reliable instructions for knocking off these companies products I did discover that this concept stems from Korean Natural farming techniques in general and specifically to Lacto-Bacillus/IMO culturing. Ironically it was a question asked on one of my favorite blogs, Scratch Cradle, that lead me to the answer I was looking for. Two youtube videos, Korean Natural Farming- Lacto Bacillus, and Korean Natural Farming-IMO part 1 provided me with a wealth of information about creating inoculant cultures for use in the orchard. A less detailed (there actually four parts of the IMO series) but very practical explanation can be found on IMO Farming part 1 . Following the procedures outlined in these highly informative videos has lead me to attempt to start my own cultures.

Rice Wash Water hopefully collecting and culturing Lacto Bacillus

Rice Wash Water hopefully collecting and culturing Lacto Bacillus

 

Funky rice water hopefully stored where Karen won't find it

Funky rice water hopefully stored where Karen won’t find it

1st ingredient of IMO: Forest Litter (actually dirt and mulch from the oldest section of the UNCE orchard)

1st ingredient of IMO: Forest Litter (actually dirt and mulch from the oldest section of the UNCE orchard)

2nd ingredient of IMO: hard cooked rice

2nd ingredient of IMO: hard cooked rice

IMO ingredients together: Top tray has lots of holes drilled in the bottom so that microbes can migrate to rice beneath

IMO ingredients together: Top tray has lots of holes drilled in the bottom so that microbes can migrate to rice beneath

IMO incubator hopefully located where Karen will overlook it

IMO incubator hopefully located where Karen will overlook it

Now all I have to do is let my stuff funk up and culture for a week or so then move onto the second phase of refining and fortifying the captured cultures. That process may take a little more ingenuity to keep beneath my Sweety Karen’s radar but I think I’m up to the challenge.

Oh by the way IMO stands for Indigenous Micro Organisms

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