There are several ways to build soil that do not involve buying expensive, pre-packaged amendments or nutrients.
Most of what you need in the garden already exists nearby if you know where to look. That pile of old soil sitting in a corner? That pile is useful to me, and it could be to you as well. There are many ways to revitalize that soil, including cover crops.
But a unique way is making a solution than can infuse old soil or nutrient-deficient soil with beneficial indigenous microorganisms for your plants and the environment.
Here are a couple of simple recipes…
Soil-borne bacteria collection
- Make a wooden box and fill with some cooked rice.
- Cover it with a cheesecloth or other similar material.
- Go on your property where there is vegetation in abundance. You are looking for a spot where nature is flourishing. Go into the plants to the base of the big ones. Open a spot in the built up dead plant material down to the underlying soil. There is going to be an abundance there of all the microorganisms that flourish in the soil that you have. You will inevitably find all kinds of bugs and signs of fungal and bacterial activity in the soil.
- Turn the rice box over so the cloth covered rice is exposed to the soil, put a rock or heavy item on top and come back in a week to ten days. When you come back you will likely find all sorts of colors have populated the cloth and the rice.
Use non chlorinated water and rinse the rice, the cloth, and the box into a clean container through a strainer. All the material caught by the strainer goes to your compost pile. Keep the liquid that came through the strainer.
Now you have a wash that needs to be fed. I use up to a quarter by volume of raw sugar or unsulphured molasses. Keep it aerated.
- You have captured a sample of the microorganisms that flourish on your land. Now you can transplant that into your garden and they will colonize your cultivation space. Use it near the base of the plants in the root zone. You can dilute this with untreated water before application but remember the conditions where you got the micros. Use mature mulch on the soil as a way of trying to recreate the environment you got them from.
- Note it is important to use non-chlorinated water and unsulphured molasses. Water is treated with chlorine or chloramine to kill micro-organisms so it would be counter productive to use ‘treated’ water in either of these recipes. Sulphur is added to molasses to prevent the growth of microorganisms.
- Start with a clean bowl and pour raw milk into the bowl and cover with cheesecloth or a clean old t-shirt. You want to be able to allow air in while keeping bugs and macro organisms out.
You let it sit outside in the shade where animals can’t disturb it.
- The milk spoils and separates out. You should have a layer on top and a layer at the bottom, and a bunch of liquor in between.
- From when you fill the bowl let it sit anywhere between 5 to 10 days, depending on temperature. The higher the temperature the quicker it will be ready. Keep it away from the sun. It can even sit on a kitchen shelf.
- Take the cover off and pour everything through a strainer into another clean bowl and the strained material can go into your compost pile. The liquid is fed sugar: a quarter of the volume. Raw sugar or un-sulfured molasses. You are capturing the air-borne micro organisms that are tolerant to the milk (Milk has antibacterial properties, only certain bacteria flourishes in milk). It’s a form of fermentation.
- That liquor that is the liquid you have now fed with sugar, keep it cool and out of the sun. You can also feed it a carbohydrate wash by rinsing uncooked rice with non-chlorinated water. Use around your plants within a few weeks of making it.
Let’s say you have 20 Bubba Kush plants. After feeding them your new lactobacillus libation, some of them will go crazy and be really happy and perhaps others may not go quite so crazy. If you repeat the rice box process right underneath the happy plants, and use that water to inoculate the soil around the plants that are not doing so well, you may find they benefit.
It is the micro life forms in the air and in the soil that help plants to be happy and to flourish. These are creatures essential to the health and vitality of your garden. In learning how to cultivate them for yourself you are promoting environmental diversity. In doing this you are also cultivating the beneficial indigenous micro organisms native to your area as versus paying for organisms from other environments that may not flourish in your situation.
Peace and Happy gardening. ~Wade