While I wait for the ground to dry so I can prepare my garden beds, we will do another biochar burn with all our accumulated bones and tree prunings etc, so we have it to soak with urine to put back on the garden beds as we plant, and I’m changing my chicken management system somewhat so that I have more chicken compost for my garden rather than having almost all of it out in the forest garden. I usually leave my chicken house door open all the time, so they can come and go in the forest garden every waking hour. I’m keeping a deep litter in there (mainly oak, maple, poplar and willow leaves) so they can scratch but they tend to just go straight outside. I want their manure for the garden because of its magnesium content now so they are shut in until lunchtime.
I’m also making a big effort to collect willow leaves for the chicken scratch yard and the compost because I am aware that I want the calcium levels up as high as possible which means the magnesium has to go up too.
Our soil is sandy pumice, Taupo ash really, and 1 year ago we decided to add clay to the garden beds.. that was a tremendous success and has helped us a lot to hold the minerals in the top soil. Clay has a far higher ability to hold minerals than sand does (higher cation exchange capacity) C.E.C.. . IF you are on light sandy soils then I would recommend you add clay to your beds and/or your compost heaps.. we add 49 litres to each compost heap as well.
The alfalfa in our forest garden is beginning to show signs of growth again, so I’m getting ready to plant my alfalfa beds that are transferring from vege beds to alfalfa to be used to make compost and mulch crops like tomatoes, perennial beds, pumpkins and peppers that have large spaces between the plants when they are planted, or that stay in the ground for a long time. I’ll use both comfrey and alfalfa to do that, and you can actually see the leaves breaking down on the surface of the bed and the feeder roots of the tomatoes coming up to get the nutrients being released with your naked eye.
Another trick I’m using is to have a patch of Jerusalem artichokes planted near the vege garden, we will eat a few, and feed them to animals but it is the carbon in the stems that is so useful at this time of the year to add to the early compost heaps. It is hard to come up with carbon in Spring, and they last all winter ready to make compost with now. We are adding our humanure buckets to our vege garden compost heaps now as well, because we can see how difficult it is to find local sources of minerals to replace what leaves our bodies in our urine and humanure. A regenerative system has to recycle the nutrients.
We are in the process of getting Regional Council approval for this system which is accepted elsewhere in NZ so have no doubt we will succeed.