Barrel Composting | Volunteer Gardener


– Gardeners know how little we know. (cicadas chirping) We get the soil in good condition, we sow our seeds, and set out our plants, and then we just stand back and watch in awe as the miracles happen. What in the world is
going on beneath our feet that creates all of this magical growth? Today, were gonna explore
the invisible helpers, the microbes responsible for life. Microbes are the ones that grow our crops, and we can grow them. We are not who we think we are. 90% of the DNA in our bodies does not belong to us, but our separate beings called microbes. (cicadas chirping) They help keep us alive and healthy because we’re their host. All of these microbes inhabit the soil, but they’re invisible! We don’t see ’em, and we
oftentimes don’t think about ’em. Biologists have named over 100,000 different species of bacteria, and 25,000 different species of fungi, and they’re still counting. Each species plays a very
specific role in nature. With this great diversity,
all we can say is, “The more the merrier.” As a gardener, I love compost. Compost is where the microbes multiply, and these microbes are so
helpful for the garden. But sometimes, gardeners don’t have enough compost for what they need, and so we make compost tea. When we stir compost in water, and aerate it, the microbes multiply. So we have to put this
on the ground right away. We have a special recipe for a great compost-for-compost tea
that we call barrel compost. (cicadas chirping) First, we gather five
bucketfuls of fresh cow manure. (cow mooing) Cow manure is very special. Grass has been in the
cow’s digestive system with the four stomachs for 18 days (cow mooing) before it comes out
full of flora and fauna. Lots of different species
of very beneficial soil-building microbes. Because calcium is all important in helping to move other
nutrients around in the soil, we’ll have to add some
calcium to our manure, because manure comes from the cow, but the cow withholds
the calcium and uses it for making bones and milk. So we’ll add about half a pound of ground up egg shells to our manure pile. In old-time biodynamic farming, we generally try to get
all of our materials from off of the farm. But rock dusts are an exception. This basalt comes from Massachusetts, where they have mountains of it. It’s an instant clay that has lots of trace elements in it. And it has minerals that we
don’t have here in Tennessee, so we’ll add about two pounds of basalt. Now, we have to set to work and stir it up real good. So we just go through this whole pile, mixing it up, chopping it up, and sort of moving it from over there to over here. (shovel tapping) Barrel compost stems from research done in the ’50s, when people
were very concerned about radiation. Experiments were done trying to find out what kind of elements helped dissipate the negative effects of
Strontium-90 and Caesium-137. And calcium-rich soils resisted those effects
more than granite soils. So it became apparent that
it would be a good idea to have calcium in a certain live forms in our soils. And egg shells being a live calcium, because they’ve been
through a life process, were chosen and so was the basalt rock. Barrel compost was used
on farms since then, but it wasn’t until the
unfortunate accident at Chernobyl in 1986 that a lot of radiation was released over central Europe. When scientists were flying over, taking pictures of the contaminated land, they noticed a few spots where
there wasn’t any radiation. When they drove up to those places, they found that they
were farms that had been using barrel composts. Barrel compost is called “barrel compost” because originally, it was made in an old whiskey barrel. We would put the barrel
half-buried into the ground, take out the top and the bottom. Well, my whiskey barrel went the way of all wooden products, with
the help of microbes again, and so when I rebuilt it, I used brick. This is nine bricks around, and nine bricks deep. For 30 years, I’ve been making special humus-rich compost preparations, according to the indications
of Rudolf Steiner. This is manure which has been buried in a cow horn over the winter time. This preparation is made
from yarrow flowers. These were sown up into
the bladder of a stag, and this preparation works with potassium and sulfur. After we sow it up into the stag bladder, we hang it in the sun for
six months in the summer, and bury it for six months in the Earth. This really helps the compost to have lots of microbes that help fix potassium, and help the potassium
as well become mobile, so that our plants can
get it when they need it. This preparation is made from chamomile flowers sown up into the intestines of a cow. This works with calcium and sulfur, and helps to enliven and stabilize the nitrogen in our compost. This preparation is
simply a stinging nettle. This is a plant that you don’t
really want to brush against, it will sting you, but
it is very nutrient rich. (birds chirping) You can eat stinging nettle
leaves in the spring, they’re a good tonic for
helping get the blood going after a cold winter. And this one is just
simply buried in the soil, surrounded by peat moss. To help the plants resist diseases, we take white oak bark from the majestic White Oak tree. (birds chirping) And we grind it up, and then we stuff it into the skull cavity of a freshly killed cow. And this one is buried into a very wet, moist spot. All these preparations
stay buried for a year. This preparation is made from the beautiful little
yellow dandelion flowers. You can almost still see
the dandelions in there. And this preparation works with silica and potassium, and helps the plants to become sensitive, and draw into them what they need. And then the last one is the juice of valerian. We simply take the valerian flowers, press out the juice and ferment it. And this works with phosphorous. Here’s what it turns into
after a year in the pit. This is barrel compost. Teeming with invisible life, and visible life, too. In a teaspoon of soil, we can have a million bacterias, but we can also have a billion, and of course
that’s what gardeners want, because the microbes are
so vitally important. So we’ll take a handful of this, that has all those microbes in it, and we’ll put it into a bucket of water. Now, we’ll set about and stir it up, because water and air are what microbes need to propagate,
and we can actually propagate four to five hundred times in number of these bacterias and fungi inside this bucket of water so that there’s way, way more that we can put on our fields. After 20-minutes of stirring, I’m done, and I take a whisk broom, and dip it in. I can sprinkle this
barrel compost mixture up on an acre of garden. I like to do it in the
evening as the dew is falling, and the dew will keep
everything nice and moist, and help distribute it through the plants and through the garden soil. We still have to add
compost, and minerals, grow our cover crops, and
be gentle and thorough with our tillage. Then, with the help of the herbs, and manure and basalt, and egg shells in our barrel compost, we can stand back in awe and wonder and watch as the mysteries
of nature unfold. (energetic guitar music) – [Voiceover] For inspiring garden tours, growing tips, and garden projects, visit our website at volunteergardener.org or on YouTube at the
VolunteerGardener channel. And like us on Facebook.

8 thoughts on “Barrel Composting | Volunteer Gardener

  1. I love your videos first of all I just cannot get any of these ingredients you're referring to. I use Simple urine and also compost these are some of the items I have in the supply of. thank you for sharing

  2. Hi. On one of your videos you are planting microgreens in rockwool. What brand do you recommend and where do you source it?

  3. How do you ensure that the manure/compost doesn't contain e-coli or other harmful bacteria at levels that can xsfr to the growing plants, thus contaminating the food supply & making people sick? This has happened w/manure grown produce in CA several times causing outbreaks of illness. So in CA some "organic" growers have moved away from manure based fertilizers & compost. Are you able to control the levels of or sanitize the manure/compost of such bacteria?

  4. It sounds like maybe you use a lot of lime, moreso than ashes. Well, I quit using lime and started just buying a scoop of limestone gravel (tiny gravel) , which is native to Ky. Univ of Ky has a forage guide that says lime causes forbs to taste bitter to ruminants, so I quit using lime to plant with. I wonder if lime would also make vegetables taste bitter. However, I figure the gravel is like a slow release lime. My mom always threw scoops of gravel into her garden and compost. I put it around my grapes and got grapes for the first time. It really seems to go well with leaves for me: I mulched all my cherry trees with leaves, compost and gravel, and picked plenty cherries.

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