Jessica Moody picks beans for the family’s dinner. The produce that the family doesn’t use goes to the buying club. The marigolds help attract pollinators and repel insects.
It may not look pretty but John Moody’s composting method builds soil rapidly. He fences off an area that he wants to kick-start, and uses all the composting tools he has. Chickens, leftover produce in cardboard boxes from his buying club, wood chips and worm castings work together. The color of the soil is markedly better than that of the clay beneath it.
To kill weeds before planting, John put down black plastic and repurposed some metal roofing.
When John Moody and his wife began farming, they faced the problem of trying to improve their land’s soil. The solution to having a more successful growing season was building their own soil. The Moody’s goal was to build soil in an affordable and eco-friendly manner. But, one of the problems beginning and even intermediate growers face is how to take the various parts of soil building and turn them into a system that works over time and seasons to build and maintain good soil. After overcoming the obstacles that soil building threw at them, the Moody’s have come up with 10 ways to build better soil:
1. Use methods to build soil above and below ground at the same time.
2. Compost in place, rather than hauling it to a new area, so you enhance the ground under the compost.
3. Recycle materials like cardboard, coffee grounds, egg shells, greens and animal manure into compost.
4. Look beyond your homestead for mulching and composting materials. For example, tree-trimming companies that have chippers will often deliver wood chips for free to get rid of them.
5. Don’t be afraid to add too much mulch when building soil. It takes 6 to 8 inches of compost material to make 2 inches of good soil.
6. Among its many benefits, mulching encourages the soil-building process beneath it.
7. Plant cover crops, which act like nature’s tiller, breaking up the soil below ground and supplying valuable nutrients.
8. Try to create the right conditions so animals or microbes can build soil for you.
9. Use chickens and hogs to break up the soil.
10. Using compost, cover crops and small livestock together creates a synergistic effect on soil.
This article originally published in THE NEW PIONEER® Winter 2015 issue. Print and Digital Subscriptions to THE NEW PIONEER magazine are available here.
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