Koanga Members Sea Kale Sale

Sea kale root cuttings available for $12 each plus freight. Each cutting will come calloused ready to plant in tray or pot and in a small bag with damp soil.

CLICK HERE TO BUY

seakale-232This is Elenor holding bunch of sea kale ready to cook for dinner, the stems are great raw!

Improving the Soil with Clay/BioChar

January 2017 - by Kay Baxter In all my years of gardening I have never had such a satisfying or easy job. This is the first season I have been able to plant seedlings into the garden, or seed in some cases, and just watch them grow.. apart from watering, and weeding occasionally. I have seen no water stress, and it has been quite hot and dry all season, and none of the seedlings or plants have stopped growing at any point which has previously been  normal for me both heavy clay and sandy soils at times.. some kind of stress, and growth stops, often nutrient lack but could be lack of water or air in the soil etc etc I have usually found, over my entire gardening life, that once my plants go in the ground I’m then watching for when I need to feed them again to keep them growing fast… in the past I used things like liquid fish to give them a boost or liquid comfrey.. in more recent times , I’ve used EF:Nature’s Garden, or EF:CalPhos etc and this season I made my own liquid fertiliser I called Kay’s Liquid Gold. It worked, it was good but I don’t need it anymore!!!…. All of my plants are growing from day one and not stopping until they are ready to pick. Everything is growing faster and ready to eat earlier than I have ever had before, and I don’t need to apply any kind of foliar or solid fertiliser to keep them growing… and their brix levels are high. See chart below. It is essentially about getting the basics right  … air.. 50% air in our soil, moisture, always moist… then carbon.. humus and biochar ….then minerals and microbes. In my sandy soil I had the air once I double dug it, I had water to put on, I made a lot of compost….and I put on lots of fertiliser, albeit the really good stuff….. and it continued to be hard work…. We then added clay. Clay has a far higher cation exchange capacity than sand and that helped a lot. The higher the cation exchange capacity of the soil the higher the ability of the soil to hold moisture nutrients and microbes….then we added 5kgs of CHARGED biochar per sq m and that changed everything. Getting the carbon levels high enough to be holding the minerals and water and microbes was the key. We would have saved a lot of time and a lot of money if we had done that on day one!!! If you too have less than ideal soil to be growing the nutrient dense food that is to nourish your family then I know now, how you can vastly improve it, in far less time than it took me. It is all about air, moisture, Cation Exchange Capacity, carbon, minerals and microbes.. in that order!!!!! In my super compacted sandy soil (old sheep paddock where sheep were set stocked for 100 years), if I were beginning a home garden again, and I was buying product to set myself up I would
  1. Cover area to become garden in plastic to kill the grass and their roots
  2. Lay out beds with pegs and string and double dig to incorporate air into the soil (clay soil the same thing)
  3. Buy charged Biochar (charged with balanced minerals and activated with compost tea..not just activated.. that is critical), and apply at 5kgs (ideal amount.. less is still very good) per sq m over the surface of the bed. At 30 cents a kg it is not exorbitantly expensive for a home garden at that rate.
  4. Apply clay …after having tested by Grant at EF to ensure it is the right kind of clay….at a rate of 2-3 cm over the entire garden
  5. Apply biointensive compost made according to my Art of Composting Booklet at an ideal maximum rate of 2-3 cm over entire bed surface… if my mineral levels are still very low because of poor soil to begin with this is the place I would now be adding Nature’s Garden as explained in Booklet
  6. . fork.. the biochar, clay and compost into the top 30cm of garden bed.
  7. Continue to apply highly mineralised compost each time you plant seedlings or Nature’s Garden. Balanced minerals or recycle your own humanure and urine.
The clay and the biochar and compost together will have raised the Cation Exchange Capacity of the sandy soil so much that this soil will now be able to
  1. hold the moisture for far longer periods, hold far more moisture.. far less issues with water stress, less often watering necessary.
  2. This soil will now have the capacity to hold onto the minerals and fertiliser applied so that if they are not all needed at time of application they will be electrically held until they are needed… because of the higher Cation Exchange Capacity created by the clay and the Biochar….. sand has a CEC of around 5, clay around 40, and Biochar of ????. The CEC is a reflection of the ability of something to attract and electrically hold onto either water or minerals
  3. This soil will now have the capacity to maintain the air spaces ( biochar is structural carbon that will not collapse)
  4. This soil now is now a perfect habitat for microbes and fungi with air, moisture and a place to live (cupboards in the biochar)
  5. This Soil will now have a high capacity for building humus and life (regeneration) because of the combination of biochar, clay and compost and the right moisture and air conditions
  Above all else this soil is now able to easily grow high brix plants because the photosynthesis process is not held up by a lack of air, moisture or minerals, or microbes and so as our plants photosynthesis more and more efficiently they are able to sequester minerals and energy from the universe above them and the microbes and fungi in the soil below them and make high levels of sugars which in turn are stored in the soil and used in part to ‘grow soil’.. ie by getting things working to begin with the natural processes of life building itself.. following the laws of nature….are able to continue building soil and ecological health. By following the basic laws of nature in all of this and putting in the energy to get things ‘going’ again, it is possible to create something that has the ability to take on a life of its own and continue to do the work for us, with some far less expensive and more locally, very locally produced nutrient sources to maintain the system. Ie our own recycled humanure and urine, plus compost made from the carbon crops grown in the garden. We are well down the track at this point of having created our very own Terra Preta dark earth.. by far the most valuable thing we could be investing in on this planet today, in my opinion!!!!!!.   PS... IF you don’t like the idea of the double digging, or that is what is holding you up then I suggest you read Shaked’s article following. He is achieving the same result using a different aeration method, which will work for some of us very well.

Brix Update – Kays Garden Blog – 8 Dec

I Did It!!!

I’m feeling a lot better now. For a few weeks I was very nervous that my garden wouldn’t grow or my veges would be super low BRIX. I’m very excited to be able to tell you that my garden not only looks amazing but that things are growing really well and the BRIX levels are pretty good and going up.

My Calphos put the BRIX up 1 point when applied sparingly with a watering can and my Kay’s Liquid Gold has also helped me keep the BRIX up and plants growing well.

I am most impressed with the urine charged biochar however it only works super well from day 1 when it is ground quite fine rather than being in big chunks. All of the plants that I have planted into finely ground charged biochar have not looked back from day 1. They have grown consistently and fast…. Faster than I have seen before in my garden using anything else. My fear was that the growth would be low BRIX growth pushed by the nitrates in the urine… however there is more in urine than nitrates .. and the BRIX of those plants is up so I’m getting more confident that we can do it without the fertiliser, actually I’m very excited. I knew it had to be possible, but I have never done it and i don’t know any body else doing it and most businesses supporting people to grow nutrient dense food tell you not to do it! All the consultants say whatever you do don’t use leaves and compost and manure etc. I know we can now it just takes an understanding of how to use them and organic books do not have it right as far as I can see.

I suggest my Art of Composting Booklet as a first step, or perhaps How to Grow Nutrient Dense Food or if you are super keen to understand the science of it all Nourishment Home Grown is the book for you

  View Kay's BRIX Readings

 

Kumara Planting Time

It's kumara planting time again and it's not too late to order. It does need to be planted soon though so get your order in quickly if you don't want to miss out! We're busy packaging and sending out kumara tupu each week and orders can still be placed via the website

Kumara are sent out as tupu – small rooted plants grown in a tāpapa bed. As they are sent out as live plants we take great care with them - they are bundled and labelled, the ends are wrapped in damp newspaper and then a bio degradable plastic bag and then they are boxed and posted out.

Although we're starting to plant our kumara now the fantastic thing is that we are still eating last year's harvest. When we started growing kumara it felt like a bit of a luxury crop but now its become one of our major staples. It's easy to grow, stores and keeps well, and, as we grow lots of different varieties, we have different colours and textures to enjoy. We end up eating it most days at this time of year but can vary things by roasting it, boiling it, mashing it or even stir frying it.

If you'd like to read more about how the kumara is grown there is an article here to help you out

The Green Mantle – Kay’s Blog November 4th

Whilst we’ve been focused in the vege garden this past month it has been such a joy to have been watching the forest garden unfold. I can’t recommend more highly actually living in one’s forest garden!   They are so so full of life and everybody coming to Kotare feels that now. My little forest garden of 900 sq m is a microcosm of the whole village which is becoming a large forest garden! Check out the green mantle  that will continue to rise higher with each month up off the ground until the great returning next Autumn!    

BRIX readings begin – Kay’s Blog October 18th

I am very aware that going it without my trusty Environmental Fertilisers fertiliser is going to be an enormous challenge for me this season in my garden. I’m never going to be happy with any vegetables with a BRIX under 12, and that is really only the beginning. I’m also aware that things will be slower to react using only my own compost biochar and foliar sprays, however I do trust there has to be a way through this… we simply do not all have access to fertiliser we have to buy, and it is not along term regenerative solution. refractometer3 So… I went into the garden yesterday at 2:30, a good time to establish as the time to regularly do my BRIX Tests. For those of you unfamiliar with what BRIX is here is a definition, and also instructions for how to use a refractometer to do this testing. Here is also a very good explanation of why it is so critical to learn to grow high BRIX food. I tested my oats first.. they are usually the highest in the garden. Their BRIX was 22, and I have to say I was disappointed, they are often 29! It is possible that because they are now going to seed the BRIX is on it’s way down again, with the sugars now going into the seed, however that is my starting point. I then choose a root crop, a legume, a heavy feeder, and a perennial to follow through the season. Broad beans ( legume)   10 Newly emerging potatoes  (root)  7 Garlic (heavy feeder) 10 Sea kale (perennial)10 All of these are BRIX readings are lower than I would have found if I had planted into Nature’s Garden or Soil Force …. I’m depending on the compost and charged biochar. I have a whole series of things away getting Reams tested now so next week I should know what the garden bed analysis is along with the analysis of all my compost and liquid fertilisers so I’ll be able to decide my path forwards. … This is scary!!!!

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.