AuthorKarl Nguyen

How to Build A Fertile Soil With Free and Local Products to Mulch and Compost Your Garden

During the fall when the summer crops have come and gone and the garden beds are now empty and they’re not growing anything. Just because they’re empty doesn’t mean you can’t build the soil fertility over the winter. I’m going to tell you how to use free and local resources to do just that. Mulching garden beds is a great practice to help build your soil fertility. Probably the best thing to mulch it with is finished compost. The nutrients are immediately available for the nutrient cycle and it usually comes with a high concentration of beneficial bacteria and organisms like earthworms that will help break down other mulch materials.

I simply lay the finished compost on top in a one inch layer. I make sure to pull back any under-composted or mulch materials. I do not mix it in so that I don’t damage any of the beneficial organisms like fungi that are in the soil. Autumn leaves are great resource that quite literally fall from the sky. They have a wide variety of trace elements and carbon. In fact, of the fifteen commonly essential elements, autumn leaves have eleven of the fifteen. When broken down they add these nutrients to the nutrient cycle and the carbon material adds humus that retains water and provide habitat for soil borne bacterial organisms.

I usually add a thick layer to the garden as it will help insulate the soil from the harshest winter temperatures. By spring the volume will have decreased and decomposed. One thing that autumn leaves don’t have a lot of is nitrogen. For this we’re going to turn to a resource you generate in your kitchen. Used coffee grounds and tea leaves are often tossed in the trash, but they’re a valuable resource to add to the garden. They have a lot of the elements that your plants need. Tea leaves also have twelve of the fifteen essential elements that were looking for and are a valuable addition to any mulch layer.

I usually sprinkle them directly on top of the autumn leaves making sure not to apply more than a centimeter or two in any one area. If over applied you can slow the decomposition processes. I commonly add eggshells my mulch layer as well. They’re comprised of over 40% calcium, but it’s immediately available to your plants upon release from the shell. Egg shells also have a wide variety of elements including nitrogen. They have nine of the fifteen essential elements and most importantly they contain significant quantities of selenium, which is often not found in other free and local resources.

Egg shells are easy to add to the mulch layer. I usually let them dry out in my shed for a few months. This will help reduce any potential of bacterial colonization. Once dry and brittle I crush the shells and roughly sprinkle them on top of my mulch layer. Not only can you take materials that would otherwise become trash you could literally grow your own fertilizer at home.

Comfrey is a plant that sends down a deep taproot and is able to collect nutrients from the mineral layer and bring them to the surface as part of their leaves. I use the leaves as part of the mulch layer helping to deposit these nutrients where the garden plants can have access to them. Comfrey contains all fifteen of the essential elements. In order to keep things in place and start the decomposition process I’ll make sure to give the mulch layer a quick water. When you’re applying mulch near live plants, such as a perennial, make sure not to apply an overly thick layer. All these materials when combined in larger quantities can form a hot compost. Hot compost near a root system can cause significant damage.

When combined and used in a mulch layer or in the creation of compost these free and local resources often have more than enough nutrients to allow you to grow healthy organic vegetables year after year. If combined with other free and local methods such as cover crops, wood ash, and human urine. I am confident anyone can go product free in their garden while producing vast amounts of healthy organic crops. If you would like additional information on the free and local resources I mentioned make sure to drop me a line and stay tuned for future articles.

4 Simple Tips to Live More Green Everyday

I don’t think anyone intentionally wants to hurt the environment. It’s assumed that it’s inconvenient and more work to perform activities that have a huge impact on the environment. I’m going to tell you a few ways that you can live more “green” that are simple to implement.

Capture Rain Water

First is rain capture. When you have a small garden you can either turn on the hose or use the water that falls from the sky. Rain capture systems are becoming more and more avoidable and they capture the rain water and store it so you can use it whenever you need it. It’s a great way to lower your utility bills and the water supply is not likely to run out anytime soon!

Scraps in Compost Pile

The next thing is composting biodegradable scraps. When you have that morning banana or fruit salad for dinner, instead of throwing away all the scraps throw them in a bag and take them out back to turn into organic soil. This is great for your garden and can save you lots of money instead of buying organic soil from the home improvement stores.

Recycle, Recycle, Recycle

An obvious method is to recycle. Recycling has been around for years but it’s still one of the best methods to stay green. The best way to incorporate this into your life is to have four trash can type containers.

The first can should be for plastics, the next for glass, the next should be for biodegradable waste, and the last is for non-recyclable trash. The biodegradable container should be able to be dropped directly into your compost pile. Typical plastics that can be recycled are milk containers, soda bottles, and plastic food containers. Typical glass that can be recycled is glass food jars and cosmetic containers. Some items are just not recyclable and those will actually be thrown away. For this I’m talking about certain types of laminated paper, treated or contaminated wood, insulation or light bulbs etc. Being green is trying to reuse and recycle as many products as possible to minimize their impact on the environment.

Keep Your Utility Bills in Check

Lastly, a great way to not only lower your utility bills and have a great impact on the environment is to install solar panels. Solar panels take advantage of the sunlight during the day to offset your power usage during the day and night. Solar panels are getting cheaper by the day and it’s financially feasible to purchase enough panels to completely take yourself off the grid. Also try to open your blinds and use natural light as much as possible. That way you can get the necessary light without actually turning on your lights and adding to your power bill.

These are some simple ways to live more “green” and these will have a direct impact on your life and the environment. If everyone were to incorporate these simple ideas into their life, our planet would be so much better off and everyone would be living healthier as a whole.

If you have other ideas that I didn’t mention above please reach out.

Happy living and continue to live green!