Chicken Compost

I love my chickens… they have been in our family now for 30 years or at least this line of Brown Leghorns has been. I taught the Chickens for Eggs workshop at Koanga this weekend with Taiamai and I was reminded of all the wonderful breeds we used to have. I felt sad to think that for various reasons we don’t have the Golden Campines or the Golden Wyndottes we used to have for so long, but Taiamai reminded me that to do a good job of keeping a breed going for the long haul, requires a lot of energy and focus, and we can do that far better with fewer breeds of poultry!

Taiamai has Golden Legbars, I have Brown Leghorns and we have Fawn and White Indian Runners, Chinese Weeder Geese and Muscovies. The muscovies sit very early if they are well fed, usually July, then again twice more if they are well looked after it is possible to hatch 3 clutches under 1 muscovy each season. We let them hatch muscovies the first hatch, then use them as our mothers to hatch the chickens and ducks.

My forest garden has been designed to provide our chickens and ducks with high protein seeds and berries and the chicken house is designed to be a container for a large compost heap made by the chickens. We throw around 4-6 full woolsacks (fadges) of leaves in there in the Autumn and the chickens drop their manure onto the leaves all winter. It all stays very dry until it warms in Spring then I water it all and fork over and it will compost very fast into beautiful compost for the perennial beds, the berry beds or whatever you need compost for. I only harvest this compost once a year in Autumn when the leaves are falling ready to fill it up again, otherwise it is hard work finding the carbon.

I make all the compost I need in the vege garden with the carbon crops I grow in the vege garden but extra compost goes down very well on berries and perennials.

There is one key thing that I keep in mind when using chicken made compost.. and that is the Reams Test I had made from our chicken compost a couple of years ago. I’m very aware that to grow nutrient dense food we must apply the right minerals in the right relationships.. and the chicken compost was very very very low in calcium……calcium is key to growing nutrient dense food, and not only is the calcium super low but chicken manure is high on magnesium, so it is critical to add lime, EF:Nano Cal or some form of calcium regularly to the chicken made compost. Options for those not buying commercial fertiliser might be a local lime quarry or simply burnt bones, shells or eggs shells.

With the hot Summer days coming on it is time to give your chickens a little extra love to keep them free of pests and keep them laying.

Free Tomato Seeds This Week If You’d Like to Join Our Tomato Trial: Kay Closes the Loop – Part Twelve

Wow, I’m loving the Spring, I feel as though I’ve been saying “look at everything bursting” for a while now, but it literally is all bursting here. There’s a Maakia amurensis here right outside the house truck window, the buds get huge before they burst and suddenly they have 6 inches of beautiful silvery leaf growth, and the mulberries burst then send out their fruit before you know it. Elanor and I have been walking around checking out all the mulberries, they all have some differences in their crops we can see and we have found one that has very long pendulous fruit so we’re excited to taste that.

There is a green mantle over the grass layer now, somehow the energy that goes down into the earth over winter lifts again slowly but very powerfully in Spring… and the layer including the top soil right up to the tops of the tallest trees holds the layer of life that we live in and do our best to interact with. What a joy that is.

This week it’s tomato growing ideas.

I’ve given you mine in Blog 7 and since I designed that process I have been talking with Grant (my mentor at Environmental Fertilsers) many times, and he has given me a recipe based on his experience and that of the guys at International Ag Labs in the USA who are also doing this kind of stuff!

This recipe looks pretty far out…. Only for the brave and strong! I’m going to plant a few tomatoes like this as well and keep careful results.

Over in the USA they are trying to define a nutrient dense tomato. They say that if they are grown like this they grow much larger plants and crop much more heavily and the fruit tastes unbelievable and has a very high BRIX. If any of you out there are keen to join our trial then please register with us we’ll send you a free packet of Watermouth Tomato seed but you will need your own refractometer. We’ll all use the same seed this year for a start. You could follow any of the three methods we are using to join us on this trial.

That means here at Koanga we will have our tomatoes growing under 3 different recipes, these will be:

  1. At my place using no commercial products
  2. Using Grant’s recipe
  3. Koanga’s version of Grant’s recipe that feels possible for us to do in a garden where the water table is high and we could not go down 1m

All of these methods will be compared along with your results at home and we will publish that next winter. In the mean time we will hold a special Tomato/Potato Guided Tour in February and Grant and Kay will be here to talk about growing nutrient dense tomatoes and potatoes.

Once you have a good look at Grants’ tomato recipe, you’ll see that it requires digging a small hole or trench if you have more than 1 plant like this. Quite a job. There is a lot of evidence to show that trees grown on holes like this grow to the size of a usual 8 year old tree in 2 years and outperform all others in terms of health and crop. For me the main issue about growing tomatoes like this is that they will also grow very very large and we’ll have to plant them much further apart as well as have a strong structure to grow them on . I know for many people that is to hard, so I’m trying to find some ways that could be made easier. The best idea we have come up with so far is top have a tube of netting for them to grow up the middle of and then, let several of the first laterals can be left on and tied vertically up the outside of the cylinder, so you have a lot more vine to hold tomatoes. The cylinder would have to be firmly anchored to the ground as it will act as a sail once covered in tomato leaves.

This recipe brings up as many questions as it does answers but I think we will learn heaps and if we can use these tomato holes and structures year after year it may not be be so much more work after all!

I’m going to have to make sure I collect a lot of leaves next autumn to have enough leaf mould to do this and use for many other things, next season like mulching perennial beds and putting in potato trenches. I decided not to buy in any more fertiliser this year after I’d lost my chance to collect the leaves too late. I think everybody at Kotare Village will be heading for the leaves under the Tilia (Linden tree) as we now know they have ideal leaves for ideal fertiliser, both calcium and phosphate bio accumulator.


Tips for a Resilient Future

  • Plant European veges in summer as a back stop to the classic summer South American cultivars in a cold Summer you won’t starve! Plant carrots, beetrootlettuce. Starvation years in the past were years when the summers were not long or hot enough to grow the storage crops like pumpkins and corn. Four years ago we had a summer like that here in the Hawkes Bay, be prepared!

  • Chose dark green and red-leafed vegetables. Birds don’t touch these as much and they are more nutritious: Borecole, Ruby Chard, Black Navajo Sweet Corn, Blue Hopi and Bloody Butcher Flour corn
  • Build a sparrow trap – Recycle the sparrows to feed your chickens
  • Have bird protection systems in place, our systems include only ever feeding poultry in Grandpa’s Feeders so the birds do not breed up on chicken food then go to the garden, having rebar hoops and knitted bird netting on hand to use and re-use over many many years and also making bird traps to catch the sparows and recycle via the chickens. We’re building a list of tips that have the potential, if lots of people did them, to change our future, check out this interesting link on Earth Temperature Timeline

  • Maximize diversity you are not likely to lose them all. When you plant lettuce plant several cultivars, when you plant tomato always plant more than 1 cultivar, when you plant beans choose several they all have different qualities and succeed or fail based on differing environmental factors.
  • Always use heritage seeds! Climate change is built into them if they are also grown in biologically active soils
  • Plant perennials that produce a lot of food.. e.g Seakale, Globe Artichokes, Jerusalem Artichokes, Potatoes, Kumara, Garlic, rhubarb, asparagus, shallots, tree onions
  • Choose the easiest plants to grow that produce the most food – Leeks, Garlic, Cylindrical Beetroot, Jerusalem Artichokes, Globe artichokes, Bloody Butcher, Blue Hopi, Hokianga Red/Yellow, Pumpkins, Courgettes, Kale, Collards and Turnips
  • Learn to grow healthy soil and nutrient dense food – high brix, heritage seeds respond to climate! Our book, Growing Nutrient Dense Food will help with this journey.


Growing High Quality Seedlings without Commercial inputs – Kay Closes The Loops: Part Eleven – October 7th

It is full on seedling production time now and growing one’s own seedlings is an art if you want a high quality seedling capable of producing high quality food. High BRIX food begins with the seeds……

1. Chose your seeds very carefully.

Choose seeds that do not contain glyphosate i.e they haven’t been grown in soil that has been treated with round up ever, glyphosate is patented and registered as an antibiotic and the gene kills life around it everywhere, including the microbes in the soil and our gut. Glyphosate also chelates many key minerals out of seedlings and plants so can never grow to be nutrient dense or even nourishing. Do not choose hybrid seeds because they contain enzyme blockers which also prevent the plants from picking up key minerals required for them to be nutrient dense and also required for human health e.g manganese, the mineral element at the heart of every seed including human seed! Also many seeds sold as hybrid seed are actually genetically engineered, classified as hybrid by working a loophole in the law in the US. Many, many vegetable seed lines are now being grown by a process called CMS, in reality genetic engineering, and sold as hybrid seed and accepted by organic standards but not Biodynamic standards.

Seeds saved from open pollinated heritage seed, grown in your own highly mineralized and microbially active soil and selected from the top 5% of the biggest and heaviest seed is the ideal option.

2. Make your own seed raising mix.

Living mineralized soil is critical for growing high quality seedlings. I use a mix of my own compost made as described here, or in our Art Of Composting Booklet mixed 50/50 with my own garden soil. Because our garden soil is pumice sand based this works well. If my garden soil was clay based I would add 10-20% sand in there. When I have good vermicast I also add up to 10% of that. If the compost and or vermicast is high quality that is all you will need for the seeds to germinate, and grow to the pricking out stage.

3. Watch to see if they need extra feeding

This is also all you will need to take them through to the transplanting stage, however, you must watch them carefully and if they show signs of slowing growth or not growing continuously and fast then they will need to be fed extra minerals. I used to water my seedlings with a weak solution of liquid fish. That certainly made them grow and look good but I now know that pumping seedlings and plants with nitrate nitrogen pushes growth but not high quality growth and nitrate nitrogen does not catalyse the photosynthesis process as phosphate does, and so, does not drop attatched minerals into the plant sap, to raise the plants nutritional value. I have discovered I get far better results from using CalPhos to feed my seedlings. I’m making CalPhos like this, and the very best seedling growth occurs when I put the seedling trays in a shallow wicking bed, or a tray containing 1cm of water and I add the CalPhos to that water, so that the seedlings themselves can draw up as much water and CalPhos as they chose via their roots. I also alternate the nutrient (CalPhos) in the water with my own Liquid Gold (I call it that because it is a golden colour and smells good) which contains the calcium and phosphate and also all the minor minerals as well as the major minerals required to grow a healthy seedling.

4. Pricking out

OK, so we have germinated our seeds, part of the process to grow a high quality seedling is to know when to prick them out and when to transplant into the garden. If you watch a seed germinating carefully you will see that once the first two leaves are fully open they will pause in their growth. At this point they will have done their initial root growth, a main tap root but with no fine root hairs. This is the critical time to prick out, they have germinated from the energy in the seed and are now in the process of switching to being powered by the sun via photosynthesis. Having super mineralized and microbially active seed raising mix is critical at this point because without that our seedlings will not begin to make high quality sugars in their leaves in the photosynthesis process then send up to 70% of them out through their roots at night to feed the microbes.

These are 4 week old lettuce seedlings with so much root exudates that the soil attached is a large amount


5. Transplanting

If you have great seed raising mix and your seedlings make a lot of sugar which they will feed out through their roots to the microbes then after the next stage of growth which takes usually from 1-3 weeks, you will have a mass of fine root hairs that are covered in sticky sugars that now hold the soil onto them. At this stage your pricked out seedlings (usually 4 weeks after seed planting)… will have leaves touching above ground if pricked out to the correct spacings, and be perfect to transplant…before they begin a huge top growth spurt they will look like this.

Now your job to ensure you go from high quality seedling to high quality food is to ensure they are transplanted into highly mineralised microbially active soil.

Further Seed Planting Instructions

All other seed planting details can be found in the Koanga Garden Guide

Pick Up After Rain

After 2 plus weeks of no sun and rain every day I am going to give my entire garden a soil drench with cow manure and molasses: 2 handfuls of cow manure, ½ cup molasses and fill the 9ltr watering can with water. Nitrogen is the electrolyte in the soil without which nothing else can happen. So much rain will have diluted the nitrogen to the point there needs to be a boost. I’m making my own fish emulsion but it is not ready yet so I’m using cow manure with molasses, a carbon source to hold the nitrogen in the root zone.

Nutrient Dense Food and Carbon Sequestration using Local Sourced Fertiliser. Kay Closes The Loops: Part Ten – September 30th

We’re in the middle of two solid weeks with no sun!! Just when we’re all geared up to get stuck right in we have to stop, at least in the garden beds.

My fish fert is brewing away, my CalPhos is also bubbling away, the dried ground eggshells, cow manure, molasses and seaweed is smelling good.

I’m going to add to my list of possible soil amendments by making a few netting rounds to pile up with leaves, and leaving them to turn to leaf mould .. next season I’ll collect the leaves in Autumn rather than Spring but we still have leaves under our oaks so better late than never. Making leaf mould from the leaves of trees that accumulate the key minerals we are needing to create the balance our soil needs in order to grow nutrient dense food, will be a way that is possible even for those of you in the city. There are so many parks where trees drop leaves and many contractors sucking them up to take away, it might be possible to ask them if they could dump them in your leaf mould factory. Leaf mould is great for mulching berry beds, perennial beds, putting in the bottom of your potato trenches, mulching crops that will soon cover the bed e.g pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Also great for mulching in the forest garden. My goal is to have enough linden leaves (tilia spp also known as Lime trees, and amazing bee forage) to make enough leaf mould each year to use under potatoes, tomatoes and to mulch all berry beds and perennial beds because it accumulates both Calcium and phosphate. That means we end up with humus containing high levels of both calcium and phosphate, just what we are looking for. Linden leaves will also be great in the chicken scratch area to be turned to compost by the chickens along with our oak and maple leaves (refer to chart of mineral accumulators for more details).

We’re setting up our worm farms and soldier fly farm, this week in the new greenhouse, using just the same design and process that we used for the Koanga Urban Garden Project. As in the Urban Garden they will produce vermicast and soldier fly liquid to use in the garden as well as charged bonechar from under the solider fly larvae….

Review of Strategies

So to review our complete list of strategies for maintaining and building soil fertility in local and simple ways.. this is it for this Summer growing season:

  1. Compost, made following instructions in the Koanga Art of Composting Booklet, with key feature being 60:1 carbon :nitrogen ratio which means 1 part immature material, ½ part soil 3 parts mature material, plus the addition of key ingredients designed to raise minerals level sin a balanced way, and encourage the creation of humus e.g seaweed, biochar, clay (we have pumice soils) pottery shards (increase magnetism levels), lots of calcium sources.. oak leaves, burnt shells and bones, lime, lots of phosphate containing ingredients.. eg oats, lupins, linden leaves, cassurina leaves, crushed eggshells and bone char. Our goal here is to produce maximum amounts of humus charged with nutrients. We are achieving 30% in our best heaps and to increase the cation exchange capacity ability of the soil to hold moisture, minerals and microbes. Our goal here is also to recycle our humanure, blocking a major leak out of the system
  1. CalPhos – used to strengthen plant cell structure and to prepare the plants to set and grow fruit
  1. Fish Fertiliser – to feed the microbes and boost with nitrogen
  1. Kay’s Fertiliser – a basic homemade balanced microbe and plant food
  1. Leaf Mould addition of fungi, and humus charged with minerals
  1. Urine charged biochar…. Increasing cation exchange capacity, creating more stable moisture levels and holding minerals
  1. High in humates, great for nutrient boost or making seed raising mix
  1. Occassional uses of cow manure and molasses

My over arching goal is to be able to grow brix 25 veges using compost only…