How to Create and Maintain Soil Fertility

– Hi, Geoff Lawton here. Early morning, it’s day
two on the farm again and I’m in the kitchen garden and this is a little video about intense small space gardening. This is not a small kitchen garden, this is a large kitchen garden but it’s got a lot of small space design that I’m going to run you through so you can see how much production you can get out of a small area, how intense it can be, how easy it can be, how diverse it can be and how you can hold
the fertility together so it just gets better all the time. Let’s have a look. It’s easy to put together these really diverse, intense garden beds with masses of variation in there, flowers, vegetables, herbs, it’s ginger here we’re going past, all kind of salad greens, and whole mixtures of stuff and still have perennial over story in this climate like papayas. This little garden is going to be put in with just cardboard paper, really thick, mulch, really thick, say 150 to 200 mill and then little pockets of compost and you can just really mix and match. It doesn’t really matter. So, you just make all the holes and fill in with a diversity
of seedlings or seeds. You have a great bit of mix of vegetables and when you want to plant
something like carrots, you just make a long slot, put in sand and compost together ’cause they like a sandy mix and plant your carrots as a long line but most things can just
go in little pockets of compost and what doesn’t germinate or doesn’t work as a little seedling, you just transplant
something else in there. You’re imitating a forest floor with the way you’re
planting a vegetable garden. Perennial spinach actually
grows continuously, no season, this is Antheria Sissoo, a fantastic addition to a garden, little parsley edges. Always great addition to edge pluck in a garden to a foot path. Spinach, perennial, grows continuously. Great to put on the end of a garden, like Brazil spinach, just grows from cuttings. Papaya and Tamarillo. There’s some climbing now involved. Shading a watermelon, it’s going to be edge
planted into a garden. Tomato and cucumber cages, just round wire cages. Just sheet net, so your tomatoes just come
straight up the inside, the cucumbers go over the top and shade your summer tomatoes which often boil on the
plant in this climate. Around the outside we’ve
got basil, a companion. Tomato cages can turn
into absolute rampancy. So, they’re almost out of control at a certain point when you’re just oversupplied with pick all the way round the cage. This is just to be grown rampantly as a seed crop across the garden and then the ones that don’t get picked, go to seed and seed the garden again. Tomatoes grow with marigolds as a good companion and lettuces grow with tomatoes as well as a good companion along with basil. So much color, so much shape, the occasional flowers, different forms, it’s
so confusing to pests. You really don’t have
many pest problems at all when you cram in so much diversity, so tightly spaced. But we need to look at fertility. How do we hold the fertility up? Because you don’t need to worry about rotational planning too much. All you have to do is
keep fertilizing the soil and that comes down to
a few basic elements but somewhere there has
to be a base fertilizer. And that base fertilizer
we need to make ourselves with the minimum of inputs, so we have all kinds of thing in position,
particularly compost. Now here we have a large number of compost being made ’cause we have a large garden and a lot of people to feed and we’re training people to do this. Right at this end we have finished compost and I’m just going to unwrap
one here underneath me. There we go. That’s pretty much a finished compost. It could go a bit further, it’s got a few chunky bits in it. But it’s starting to look like soil or forest, humus. And we’ve created that like this, just by turning and let me run you through the process at this end. I’ve got to capture this this morning otherwise we’ll be finished. And at this end we have some cages. You only ever need one cage if you have the room and this one demonstrates it quite well. Got a set of layers here, so we’ve got brown material and it’s shredded or broken
down into small sizes and that’s probably what’s growing the mushrooms outside actually, see the mushrooms. We’ve got brown material,
green material and manure, brown material, green material,
manure, brown material, green material, manure
all the way to the top and particularly the brown
material’s slow to break down so you need to increase the service area by chopping it up and this is a really
simple way to make compost if you have the room, only if you have the room. So, you make up a case like this, you clip it together. We’ve actually used dog clips here. Simple sort of way of clipping it together and split rings on the other side so it’s kind of hinged and we leave it in here for just one week. One week later return it, so that’d be a Monday, it’s been a week in a cage, then on a Monday it turns and then again on a Wednesday and then again on a Friday. So, it’s three turns,
Monday, Wednesday, Friday for three weeks and it’s done. That’s what’s happened
all the way down here and at the other end you’ve got the result that I showed you at the start. It’s that simple. One week in a cage, turn
Monday, Wednesday, Friday for three weeks and it’s all over. One month later you’ve
got one cubic meter, almost exactly the same
volume you started off with to fertilize your garden. One of the best fertilizers
you can possibly use and I’m just going to show you what we do with our urban tractor. It’s a very basic deep litter system we’ve got here at the moment. I’m going to show you how we
get at least one cubic meter of compost out every two weeks. So, this is our little
urban chicken tractor. It’s a compost tractor and it’s all made out
of recycled materials. We made it with the farm workshop, all the little doors and things but it’s very basic and covers 16 square meters in total. It’s two meters wide and eight meters long and this is the chicken house. Harriet and Rudy are inside
emptying out the deep litter. We’ve got a little bit of a cucumber vine, kind of gourde, tall cucumber
growing on the outside. We’ve recycled a couple of shed doors here and this is the material coming out and that was just mulch. So, that’s just paddock mulch there and it’s been in the tractor here for about two weeks. I think we’re going to get about what? Six wheelbarrows you’re getting out? – [Harriet] Yeah, at least. – [Geoff] At least six wheelbarrows. And this is pretty high grade material, so if I go in, we’ve filled it up right up to these tin edges. It was that much full. We’ve got this set up so we’ve got a little auto waterer here, so the chickens just peck in here and they get their water and it goes to a little 20-liter jug that’s on the outside. We’ve got it covered with a planter bag and that stops it getting algae. Got a little recycle tin
can here full of grit, so they’ve got their grit and we’ve got a bit of
shade cloth from the outside ’cause we’re in a hot
climate in the summer and right now we’ve locked ’em into the roost and they just have a flat roost here, some recycled 20-liter drums at the back for nest boxes. The door that’s closed
them in there is the door that closes the manure
receptacle mulch under neath. There’s a concrete slab there, there’s a door at the back that opens and this door that also closes
the chickens into the roost comes down and closes
off this lower section. So, the chickens don’t get to this, they just drop all their night manure, goes through onto this mulch, so this is very rich in manure. We lock ’em out while we change the system, so they’re locked into their roost and we’ve got a little dust bath in there with some sulfur in it so that they don’t get chicken mites. I’ve got one rooster in here ’cause we do incubate these eggs and we’ve got a basic wire ramp that we put up so they can get in and out on the ramp. We’re going to fill this back up, we’re going to take out that
bottom material as well. We can take it out on either side. Pretty simple. We’re just about empty now. Really doesn’t take up a large footprint, so I’ll just come through, guys. There we go, simple way you can fertilize your home garden and out the back here, I have a little door. Simple little door, little latch there. That just opens up to our nest boxes which we’re about to refill with straw, so that’s how we get our eggs out. Have another hinge door here. There we go. That opens right up here and I’ll just latch that on, so that’s the door that
goes right into the back of the manure collection from the roost. That goes straight through. I’ve got a door on either side of this roost manure collection and there’s a concrete slab here so we can clean it all off. So, that’s very high
nitrogen material there. That’ll be coming out pretty soon. We can put it directly on plants that love high nitrogen or we can put it through the compost cycle and it will fast track our compost. Now if you don’t want
to keep your chickens in there all the time, you want to given them
a bit of a free run, you can set a little pen up outside, either a temporary net fence or you can have a little area set up so you can just open doors and let them come back out again. So, now our material’s
going up to compost. So, Harriet’s going to take
this up to our composting area and it’ll sit in a cage for a week and then it’ll turn every other day or at least three times a week for a month and come out
as high grade compost. And here we go, Rudy’s
stacking it back up. This has been sitting around getting wet in the rain, so it’s
already getting a bit warm but it’s really just grass clippings off the fields, off the paddocks that we’re throwing back in and by the time we’re finished, it’ll all be full up to
that level of the tin, almost 300 mill, one foot high almost, right the way through and underneath the roost as well. Two weeks’ time, we do it all again. And we’ve got a free
chicken fertilizer factory. Simple worm farms like bars with a bucket under
neath work really here. Here you have a shade cloth over the top of the worms themselves and because we’ve got rainy season, a sheet of iron but often there’s not room
for some systems like this in a very small space. Here’s a bucket, it’s
actually a plastic flower pot sunk into the middle of
a herb spiral growing bed but these are working
vegetable gardens too. And it’s going to be
filled up with compost, food scraps and then
some worm food in the top and then a bird bath put on top of that. So, here we’ve got the sub pod which is a manufactured system and it works perfectly and actually keeps all
flies and maggots out. Just lift the cloth there. We’ve got a little cloth and a geo fabric and underneath we’ve got the food scraps that we add and you can
see the worms there. This is a very tidy
pre-constructed system. There’s no mess, there’s no smell and it interacts with the garden and the garden fertility very well. So, you can see around the outside we’ve planted brahmi which is reasonably hard
to grow in this garden but here it’s grown really easily with the fertility of the
sub pod, a great addition.

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