There’s one fact that all gardeners know to be true: using N-P-K fertilizers will increase your crop yield. But today, the scientific foundation for this supposed fact is eroding faster than dirt in a downpour. And what gardeners are realizing is that the benefits of using fertilizers are starting to be dwarfed by the side effects. For one, fertilizers lead to empty growth. For another, feeding a plant N-P-K fertilizers leads to a decline in the soil microbial population which is ESSENTIAL for protecting the plant from pests and diseases.
Many new gardeners do not fully understand the wide range of pests and diseases that can damage your crops when the plant’s system is out of balance. Fungal diseases like Fusarium and Pythium are ravaging entire crops. Grasshoppers find lettuce leaves especially tasty. Spider mites and aphids love tomatoes. Root aphids have a particular affection for bean plants.. While fertilizers might appear to increase your yield, they will ultimately leave your plants vulnerable to a disease or pests that could decrease your yield dramatically.
The use of chemicals- such as synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides- is a relatively recent agricultural development. For thousands of years, chemicals were not needed or used in farming. Despite what we’ve been told about the necessity of the “green revolution,” countries like China, Japan and Korea managed to sustain very dense populations for hundreds of years using only techniques that feed the soil and promote healthy microbial life. Sensibly, chemical inputs are not required when you are working with, not against, the systems that Mother Nature already has in place.
The Fundamental Principles of Farming Are Changing
The past two decades have seen rapid advances in our understanding of soil science. We now know that a healthy soil microbial ecosystem is the most important factor in getting a high yield, healthy crop. Healthy, regenerative soil should become alive and thriving with an abundant and diverse group of microbial life. Biodiversity is critical, with an average of 90% of soil functions created by different microbes. This is because microbes are what make nutrients bioavailable to plants. Most soils have plenty of nutrients in them, they are just bound to other elements in a form that makes them not available to the plants. Microbes can unlock these compounds and ionize the nutrients, allowing plants to take them up through their roots. Soil microbes also perform two other key functions: preventing runoff and minimizing soil erosion. Bacteria bind the soil together, allowing the land to take in more water and oxygen, and that results in less runoff. With solubilizing minerals in the ground, this will slowly feed the plants, helping them grow the way nature intended.
Bare soil is damaged soil, worthless soil, and should be defined by its proper lifeless name, dirt. Dirt only occurs where farmers’ pesticides or other chemicals have interfered with the natural ecological balance. Once the land has been bare, it becomes susceptible to further damage from harsh elements: sun, wind, and water. Thus, the use of the conventional plow in cultivation not only damages soil life processes which are crucial for plant nutrient uptake, but may ultimately cause more extensive yearly crop loss. The three main approaches to preserving soil life in intensive gardening are as follows:
• Planting divers cover crops and rotate crops
• Reducing tillage and implement alternative weed control strategies
• Add organic matter and microbial supplements to jumpstart soil life
We will discuss these three techniques in detail below. Some of these measures are easier to implement than others. It also may be difficult to implement them all in one season, but by introducing one of these methods in three consecutive seasons, gardeners can move toward producing a healthier crop, healthier soil, and superior food.
We have found that the more attention to detail and diversity in the cover crop seed selection, the easier it is in the summer months for the gardener. Diverse seed selection helps create the level of health the gardener needs to achieve by beginning to build a thriving microbial ecosystem. Here are the twelve best cover crops to use in conjunction with common garden plants:
1. Flax - Carter
2. Clover - Yellow Sweet
3. Clover - White Dutch
4. Clover - Medium Red
5. Clover - Crimson
6. Lentils - Indianhead
7. Millet - White Proso
8. Vetch - Hairy
9. Vetch - Common
10. Cowpeas - Red Ripper
11. Buckwheat - Mancan
12. Pea - Forage
Cultivating a diverse variety of plants to the soil, the microbial population in the ground becomes stronger and better able to fight off invasive diseases and pests. Diversity also gives the plants access to more nutrients that were bound up in the soil and previously not bioavailable.
While tiling is often seen as crucial for controlling weeds, there are many other, less destructive ways to do so. And in fact, tilling only causes weeds to grow back with a vengeance.
Properly timing the planting and harvesting of a cover crop can do a lot to slow down weed growth. If the garden is covered with a dense and diverse cover crop, this crop will typically out-compete common weeds. During the main planting season, companion crops can be planted with hemp, which can also reduce weed pressure and protect the hemp plant from pests. Mulch is also an effective weed control strategy. Woody mulches will also break down during the season and supply extra organic matter and nutrients to the soil. Biodegradable plastic mulches are also an effective way to control weeds. Finally, if you introduce the right kind of grazing animal into your garden during the growing season – one that will eat the weeds instead of your plants – this can not only control weeds, but provide organic fertilizer to your garden in the form of manure. Most animals are too large for a normal garden, but ducks have been known to be great with pest control.
3. ADD ORGANIC MATTER AND MICROBIAL SUPPLEMENTS TO YOUR SOIL
Soil organic matter is the key to fostering healthy and diverse microbial life. There are many amendments that can add organic material and a boost of microbes to your soil. Some will work quickly, while others will build up the soil organic matter over a few seasons.
Aerobic compost is the most common soil amendment used to add organic matter and beneficial microbes. This compost can be made on your farm with your own organic waste materials, but the process can be labor intensive. Purchasing compost from a reliable, tested source can be a good alternative. A lesser-known and less widely available form of compost is Bokashi. This originates from a Japanese technique of essentially fermenting organic waste material, without the labor-intensive process of turning and aerating.
Biochar is an amendment that’s very high in carbon and in surface area, making it super-absorptive. This can be extremely beneficial for holding water, nutrients and microbes for plants. However one must ensure that biochar has been inoculated with microbes before being applied to the soil, otherwise the raw char might temporarily suck up nutrients and microbes, depriving the plant. Balancing the pH of biochar ahead of application is also important, as biochar is naturally very alkaline.
Worm castings are one of the most effective organic soil amendments, because they contain some of the highest density and diversity of microbial life, as well as bioavailable nutrients, since this is essentially worm manure. Producing worm castings at scale is challenging, but they can often be bought and made into tea, which can be applied to crops through the irrigation system.
Actively aerated compost tea (ACCT) is a water-based oxygen-rich tea containing large populations of beneficial aerobic bacteria, nematodes, fungi, and protozoa; these microbes work in a symbiotic relationship with plants. Quality compost tea breeds thousands of beneficial microorganisms as well as a stable balance of bacterial and fungal ratios. Compost tea allows you to breed a small amount of compost into a dispersible liquid form, letting a little fertilizer go a lot farther. All it requires is an inoculant of beneficial bacteria and fungi, some key food sources, chemical-free water, oxygen, and slight agitation.
Finally, fermented plant juice, produced from anaerobically fermenting organic material, produces a liquid microbial similar to compost tea, but with a few additional advantages: 1) it doesn’t have to be aerated, and therefore has a longer shelf-life, 2) it is guaranteed to be pathogen free because the fermentation process kills human pathogens through acidity, and 3) the organic acids produced in the fermentation act as growth hormones for the plant, causing a more rapid response in plants than a compost tea.
A Quick Way to Increase Yields Without Fertilizers
The goal of the modern gardener should be to learn to feed the soil, not the plant and use knowledge and products to improve on Mother Natures' wisdom. That is why Everflux has created a “beyond organic” microbial product that is like a Kombucha for your plants. Our all-in-one formula allows you to boost your soil microbiology immediately, and produce bigger yields without using chemical fertilizers.
Known as Tetranychidae in the scientific world, and simply Spider Mites to farmers, these common crop destroying pests seem to come with the job description. There are many subspecies of spider mites, and our focus today is on the Two-Spotted Spider Mite. Some of the unique species of spider mite are much more easily identified than others; however, it is generally unwise to try, as their control measures, damage and biology are all the same.
Identification & Life Cycle
Spider mite populations WILL proliferate under the right conditions. Unfortunately, these conditions exist in many indoor gardening spaces - basically, warm with very little wind. Infestation damage can be identified by the telltale sign of the webbing they produce on your plant leaves. Inspecting for spider mites and other pests should be done daily. What you need to understand is that by the time you see webbing, it may be too late to control the population.
The four life stages of Spider Mites:
The species females lay between 50-100 eggs throughout their lives with unfertilized eggs hatching as males and fertilized eggs hatching as females. Spider Mites often begin to hatch their eggs within 72 hours.
The length of a spider mite's life cycle depends specifically on their environmental conditions, with the ideal temperature being the major contributing factor. An entire spider mite generation can be completed in under a week if all conditions are favorable for rapid growth.
How Spider Mites Damage Your Plants
Spider Mites damage plant leaf matter by ingesting juices from the leaves. Additional signs of spider mite damage are curled up and "burned" leaf edges, as well as leaves that have taken on a silky leather-ish texture. The silky webbing is predominant when mite populations have boomed within your garden.
through hot spells, which will help control spider mite populations.
The Best Method: Organic Biological Controls
This is ideal for spider mite control during your plants' flowering stage. Learn to introduce beneficial mites as a proactive measure after knocking down larger spider mite populations for continued monitoring and successful eradication.
Predatory Mites are an effective organic biological control for use against the two-spotted spider mite. These natural enemies do not injure plants, feed on other insects, or bite human beings. Once released, these predatory mites will immediately begin searching for water and a food source on the underside of your plants' leaves. Your biological control measures of a small to medium infestation should occur naturally within three to four weeks.
As a farmer dealing with massive outbreaks in a commercial farm, a second release is usually required to stay aggressive with organic eradication methods. On severely infected plants, silk webbing and feeding marks will be visible. You must reduce the pest infestation before releasing your predatory mites. Consider spraying with organic insecticidal soap, BUT ONLY if your plants are still in the vegetative growth stage.
Here’s a rough guide for how many predatory mites you will need to control a given infestation:
• 1-2 per Infected Leaf
• 20-30 per Medium-Sized Plant (like broccoli)
• 2,000 per 700+ Square Feet
Well Known Spider Mite Predators
Well Known Spider Mite Destroyers
When the right proactive steps are taken, controlling and eliminating spider mites using biological methods is not difficult. It just takes some careful observation and attention to your plants, and knowing the right predatory mites to use. In this way, you can avoid using any toxic chemicals and/or ruining the quality of your crops.
Barley grains are a vibrant source of microbes, with a wide range of bacteria, fungi, and yeasts colonizing the area between the husk and the pericarp (fruit outer wall). Malted Barley is simply Barley that has been sprouted at its highest level of enzymatic activity, and then quickly freeze-dried to preserve its freshness and effectiveness. Malted Barley introduces new enzymes that make nutrients more bio-available to plants. The enzymatic recipe found below creates enzymes that break down dead organic matter more efficiently than the vast majority of bottled products from the garden store (with one exception that we’ll talk about later). This style of top feeding or brewing a sprouted seed tea using malted barley will add another differentiating factor to your gardening playbook.
Farmers and gardeners who employ this method have used malted barley as an effective way to make their own enzyme rich sprouted seed tea without all of the hassles of learning to sprout the seeds themselves, as this is a bit of an art form. These high-end seeds (Tibetan Purple Barley being the absolute best) have been scientifically grown to produce the highest and most robust enzymes possible. The organic and scientific methods of seed germination used are far superior to the home sprouting techniques we are used to seeing today.
Advantages of Using Organic Malt Barley
Malt extract is actually a natural by-product of the beer brewing process. This simple material contains vital plant nutrients such as potassium and nitrogen, in addition to the highly coveted enzymes. In addition to adding nutrients, malt extract used as a fertilizer encourages the growth of extremely beneficial soil microorganisms while killing off non-beneficial soil microorganisms, such as the infamous root-feeding nematode. Root feeding Nematodes are non-segmented microscopic worms that consume plant roots and stems. Over time, they will eventually kill all of the plants they come into contact with.
During the malting process, the grains are made to germinate under strict conditions to facilitate the development of internally present enzymes. These enzymes catalyze the degradation of the starchy cell walls of the grain in the presence of water, modifying the structure of the barley endosperm. Once germinated, the grain is dried under conditions designed to prevent the denaturing of those newly created enzymes.
Enzyme counts are noticeably more elevated when you take the time to use this method correctly. Remember that quality organic barley is paramount, as anything non-organic may be compromised with toxins or chemicals that can hinder biological processes. With the right, high quality material, the bacteria and fungi found on Malted Barley Grains can produce biologically significant levels of indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), a vital plant growth hormone that promotes cell division and is involved in the coordination and development of plant organs.
Malted Barley Options
Freshness with malted barley is just as important as the freshness of your coffee beans. When a coffee connoisseur makes a cup for themselves, they always prefer to grind the beans fresh. This is the same for your plants. Simply use an emulsifier like a "Magic Bullet" and grind the seed into a fine powder; otherwise, using milled Malted Barley to save time and effort is the second-best option.
Certified Organic Barley is more expensive than traditional Barley but will be thoroughly cleaned and ready for sprouted teas for your garden. You can even consume this quality of barley for your own specific health benefits.
The Premium Tibetan Purple Barley is the highest quality organic barley product we have ever used. Look for more articles from Everflux Technologies about this amazing seed. Quality input equals quality output!
Super Sprouted Tea Malted Barley Recipe
(Credit: Clackamas Coots)
Alfalfa is an ancient seed that is one of the most beloved plants around the world. The main building blocks of any plant are carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. These are called structural nutrients.
These primary structural nutrients are not provided by a healthy living soil like most macro and micro nutrients but rather, by the water and air. They make up about 91- 92% of the total dry weight of the alfalfa plant. Together, these nutrients form carbohydrate chains that constitute the cell and fiber portions of the alfalfa plant.
Most plants we cultivate today obtain their nitrogen from the living soil, but alfalfa is in a class of plants called legumes. These unique plants get their nitrogen from the air, by harvesting and feeding rhizobia bacteria that form tiny nodules found on the roots.
Even though Alfalfa will take up nitrogen directly from the living soil like other plants, it gets most of its nitrogen from this method, which is called “nitrogen fixing.”
When Alfalfa plants experience dormancy, like in times of severe drought, they will resume growth when conditions improve, making them an ideal plant to "chop and drop" in a living
soil system. The triacontanol present in Alfalfa, when used correctly, will thicken overall root mass, and keep tighter and shorter internodal spacing within your plants!
As a farmer or home gardener, we concentrate on making the plant lengthen/strengthen the branches, which allow it to support more substantial yields. The key is to time the sprouting process so that we can sprout and use as many alfalfa seeds as possible.
Once you see the roots start to show, the seeds will be bursting with energy, all the while stretching out their earliest roots. It is at this moment that alfalfa seeds are packed with growth hormones, especially triacontanol, as they start growing faster.
Now here is the secret you’ve been reading this article for: you can harvest those growth hormones and use them to give your plants a healthy and robust enzyme boost. These newly developed growth hormones will trigger your plants to put more energy into root development and plant growth.
Triacontanol unquestionably increases the amount of chlorophyll in leaves, improving the rate of photosynthesis. In root systems, cell growth is enhanced, creating more robust root networks, allowing for higher nutrient uptake.
Prepare this recipe and then add this mixture to 5 gallons of water, and you have one of the world’s most nutritious plant enzyme teas available for PENNIES on the dollar compared to conventional methods.
Another Option for Increasing Soil Enzyme Activity
Don’t have the time or energy to make your own teas? Or are you overwhelmed by the prospect of making a whole bunch of different teas to provide different growth hormones and enzymes? Everflux makes Bioflux Fermented Plant Boost exactly for people like you. It’s one of the few products you’ll find in a bottle that is truly alive (we’ve tested it and found 11 billion organisms per mL), and it provides plants with a whole array of natural growth hormones and enzymes. You can check it out at the link below.
Sprouted Seed Teas (SSTs) are becoming popular as a home-made biofertilizer, especially among regenerative agriculture and living soil farmers. There is a lot of information and videos now circulating on the internet about how to make these teas, but how is one to know which recipe is best, or even correct? In this guide, our experienced farmers will walk you through the benefits of SSTs and provide a recipe that has worked wonders for them.
The primary benefit of SSTs is that they can produce natural plant growth hormones. This is yet another way to create rapid growth in your plants without using chemical fertilizers. There are five main types of hormones that influence plant growth:
5) Abscisic Acid
Today our focus is on using corn to make the plant growth hormone Cytokinin. Organic blue corn is known to be very high in cytokinins, and so we can use it to make a tea rich in this particular natural growth hormone. In future articles, we will discuss how to create other SSTs that contain high concentrations of the other growth hormones.
The most commonly known form of naturally occurring adenine-type cytokinin is called zeatin, which has been isolated from corn. Valuable enzymes are present in the dormant seed, and they are activated only when the seed comes in contact with water. As the temperature begins to increase, the rate of metabolism and enzyme activity also increases. One way to measure this metabolism is by the amount of carbon dioxide given off and oxygen taken up.
Cytokinins will increase the thickness and overall strength of the side branches, and more substantial branches will produce more significant and more robust flowers. Cytokinins are also known as the "Fountain of Youth Hormone." It can help plants repair themselves after being damaged as well as slow the natural aging process to allow more time for root growth. The benefits of cytokinins can be summed up in the following way:
Organic blue corn seeds produce a wide range of cytokinins on par with coconut water. The growing international market demand for coconut water is pushing the price higher and higher, so this is no longer an affordable source of cytokinins for growing plants. This is why our team at Everflux Technologies continues to research and test newer ways to produce natural plant growth hormones for crops. By using sprouted corn teas, farmers will get the benefits from the Cytokinins without the expense of having to purchase coconut water. You do not even need to order organic corn seeds online, just head over to an organic grocery store and buy organic popcorn.
One thing about using blue corn seeds specifically is that we found it easier to emulsify the seeds once the tap roots grow out to one inch or so, which also allowed time to soften the original blue corn seed. Here is a tried and true SST recipe that the living soil community has embraced as one of the best:
Since blue corn makes a pretty strong tea, we use about half of the amount of seed as compared to other seed teas. Once your seed tea is finished, you can directly apply it to your soil with no further dilution. You should only apply it twice a month, just a few ounces at a time, sprinkled over your soil. A little goes a long way with this stuff.
Next time we will discuss how to make an auxin-rich sprouted seed tea from alfalfa. Used together, these various sprouted seed teas can give the plant all the natural growth hormones and enzymatic activity it will need to produce big, robust plants. Used in conjunction with a good living soil, the results will blow you away.
Like many gardeners these days, you’ve probably heard about the importance of mycorrhizal fungi for growing plants. These fungi are crucial for transporting nutrients from various parts of your soil to the root zone. What you may not have heard is that with the growth of more fungi in a new soil mix, can come a really nasty pest:
The Fungus Gnat.
By itself the fungus gnat is not necessarily the end of your garden, but the destruction these pests cause to your roots can invite much worse problems that can wipe out your entire garden: Fusarium and Pythium. In this article, you’ll learn how the Fungus Gnat gets a foothold in your soil, what the effects are, and how to prevent them from destroying your crops.
Understanding Fungus Gnats
Fungus gnats earned their name because they eat and thrive off of a diet of fungal organic matter. They are typically helped along by very wet conditions in the soil. New living soil cultivators typically over-water when beginning this unfamiliar growing style, thus inadvertently contributing to the fungus gnat’s proliferation. If you are focusing on building a truly living soil where mycorrhizal fungi can thrive, then you really need to build an entire soil ecosystem. This leads to some temporary imbalances that you’ve got to be prepared to correct.
Wet soil is the perfect home for both fungus and decaying organic matter. There, the fungus gnat larvae eat the fungus or decaying matter and rely on the wet conditions to thrive. Often invisible to the naked eye, overwatered organic matter begins to decay within the topsoil. There, the fungus gnat lay their eggs.
Fungus gnat larvae thrive within the top 2 to 3 inches of the organic growing medium. They primarily feed on decaying matter, algae and fungi. However, these larvae will feed on plant roots and leaves found resting on the growing medium surface. And below the surface, the larvae are wreaking havoc on a plant's root structure. Unlike their adult parents, the baby larvae will do damage to a plant's root system, even though fungi are required for normal development. If plant tissue is the only thing available, the Fungus Gnat will go after it. Not only do these larvae cause lots of problems, but they are also fully grown within just two to three weeks.
It Gets Worse: The Snowballing Effects of Fungus Gnats
The worst part about these pests is that both adult and larval are known vectors of fungal pathogens. As a vector, they open up new wounds for these fungal pathogens to take hold. Most commonly, these include Fusarium, Verticillium, and Pythium.
Fusarium is a horrific plant pathogen that causes a serious disease known as crown rot. Crown rot is caused by a soil-borne fungus that can survive in the soil indefinitely. Next is a soil-borne pathogen that causes wilt and decay, known as Verticillium. This pathogen can live within the soil for years before finding water and then germinating. Once alive, it begins to eat at the plant's root structure. As the Verticillium starts to replicate, they infect part of the root world known as the xylem. The xylem system is responsible for transporting water throughout a plant, starting with the roots and transporting water up to the leaves. As Verticillium begins to grow rapidly, it blocks the vessels within the xylem. As reproduction continues, they begin to produce a toxin that travels up the xylem and into other areas of the plant.
How do we combat this problem from the start so that as an educated farmer, we can improve and speed up Mother Nature? The answer is a true living soil ecosystem. By learning to build our thriving ecosystem, inoculating certain soil-dwelling species into the living soil beds is beneficial not only for your plants but for the ecosystem that they thrive in. This method is known as Integrated Pest Management (IPM), and it often starts with beneficial predators.
Adults are brown or black, typically 3-4 millimetres long and are winged. One of the only downfalls of this beneficial predator is that the rove beetle is relatively expensive for larger farms or gardens to invest in. As intelligent farmers & gardeners, how do we deal with this? We learn to farm our own.
Only three ingredients are needed to begin to farm rove beetles. First, create a mixture blend of 60% Canadian sphagnum peat moss and 40% rice hulls. Next, mist the new mixture and place it into 3/4 of the container being used. Then, add 1/2 cup of oatmeal and 1/4 cup of water and place the oatmeal into the remaining 1/4 of the container. Finally, simply add 25-50 rove beetles to the newly mixed substrate. Let this substrate sit for a few weeks and shortly after, the larvae will begin to appear underneath the oatmeal. Within a month, the population will have at least doubled in size, a simple fix for gardeners both large and small. To increase the volume and speed of the rove beetle's population, the farmer needs to simply increase the number of substrates created. Then, the rove beetle works in a symbiotic relationship with the Stratiolaelaps scimitus, widely known as the "H-Miles Predatory Mite."
Both males and females inhabit only the top few centimetres of soil. Under a simple microscope, most stages of this mite appear similar. Eggs hatch in about 2-3 days, and the life cycle is complete in around eleven days. These predatory mites feed upon the young larvae of fungus gnats in the soil and are most effective when applied to the soil before the fungus gnat populations are established. H-Miles consume 1-5 prey per day and can survive as a scavenger by feeding on algae and plant debris.
When using these "living soil defenders," beneficial nematodes are of interest because of their ability to protect against fungus gnats for about 18 months. Once added to the soil the nematodes locate pests and enter through various body openings or the body wall. After they have entered the host pest, they inject bacteria into the pest's blood. This bacteria creates food and builds a friendlier environment for its reproduction needs. As food begins to run out of the host pest, the nematodes will simply move onto a new host. The nematodes will continue to do this until they have exhausted their food source.
The easiest way to ensure success as a new living soil farmer is to learn to be proactive instead of re-active. The more focus on feeding and improving the soil's overall health, the easier growing cannabis will become. Furthermore, by cultivating a truly living ecosystem in your soil, eventually all these elements will come into balance. Once you have ecosystem balance, even the presence of a fungal pathogen like Fusarium will not necessarily attack your garden, because there will be a predator to keep it in check. Focus on the health of your soil, and everything else will come together.
Most gardeners who are familiar with organic farming practices know that worm castings are like black gold. When it comes to beneficial, organic amendments, there may be nothing more beneficial. Composting worms, otherwise known as Earthworms, are the soils "intestinal engine," feeding the entire microbial world in a complete closed-loop nutrient cycling system. They consume organic matter and transform the newly produced carbon into a product sold at high-end garden centers known as worm castings. You will always hear organic gardeners and growers raving about the benefits of worm castings. However, when asked if they are cultivating with composting worms in their soil system, most will reply, "No."
In fact, cultivating worms in your soil has additional benefits over just adding worm castings, and could ultimately save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars on buying new worm castings every year. Furthermore, you can save even more money by encouraging the worms in your soil to reproduce faster. In this article, we will show you how.
The Benefits of Live Worms in Your Soil
Composting worms, like all other organisms in the soil food web, form a symbiotic relationship with their neighbors. One of these groups of creatures that live in symbiosis with worms are mites. In order to become a true organic gardener, one must learn how to control pests without using pesticides, and a very effective way to do so is using predatory insects and predatory mites. So by encouraging composting worms to grow in our soil, we can also encourage these beneficial mites. Adding this skill set to one's IPM playbook allows the organic gardener to learn to trust and believe that mother nature will combat the plant's health issues. This gives freedom and time back to the gardener so they can focus on other things, and become a proactive gardener instead of a reactive one.
Composting worms dig and build dissolved oxygen channels and allow soil mites, especially the white springtail mite, to "hitch a ride" onto the worm's bio-film. Then, they move around the soil system working in harmony with the composting worms to break down organic matter into carbon. The more composting worms living soil gardeners have to work and continue driving the soils engine, the quicker the newly created soil life can keep up with the high nutrient demands of the plants.
Composting worms love the oils and fats that are found within the avocado and seem to prefer to "congregate" around avocados over other food sources. Therefore, we can begin to attract worms from all over the soil medium by using an organic avocado. Organic is important, because we don’t want to potentially introduce any pesticide residue into our soil, even if it’s on the avocado skin.
Here are six easy steps to implementing “Avocado Tech”:
1) Cut the avocado in half exposing the fleshy green side and the pit.
2) Move enough topsoil to allow placement of one half of the avocado in the soil, face down.
3) Do the same for the second half of the avocado.
4) Only bury the avocado halfway, exposing the skin above the soil line.
5) Lightly mist water over the avocado skin and surrounding area every other day.
6) Allow two weeks to pass without disturbing the avocado.
This will jumpstart the breeding not just of composting worms, but of all of the diverse soil microbial life a gardener needs to grow a high-end product using only mother nature to feed our soil and our plants. This will also spur the reproduction of isopods (roly polys), white springtail mites, rove beetles, Hypoaspis miles mites, and predatory mites.
One of the concerns we hear about transitioning to cultivating living soil gardening is, "How are we going to be able to afford the amount of composting worms it takes to fill a commercial market garden, or even a farm?" With these conditions, composting worms will begin to double in population every 90 days. We recommend transitioning one small section of your garden at a time, and using the surplus of worms you will create to populate the next section. Calcium sources such as Gypsum, Oyster shell flour, and eggshells, aid in speeding up this reproduction process as well. Calcium is KING when it comes to next level worm farming and vermicomposting.
There is a disconnect with some gardeners about the real power of having the nutrients they feed their plants come from soil microbes instead of synthetic salts. The living soil system relies in part on the quality of the organic matter that the microbes are breaking down. Quality inputs will always equal quality outputs. So take the plunge by starting to introduce and breed live worms in your soil, and we promise you’ll see a big difference.
If you are just starting out gardening, or if you’ve been doing it a few years but have been tilling your soil every year and using fertilizers, then it will take some time to rebuild the life in your soil. But you can speed this process up and produce giant, dense produce in your first season by breeding your own worms and supplementing with Bioflux fermented plant boost. It contains hundreds of species of bacteria and fungi that will jumpstart your transition to living soil. Or mix some Terraflux activated biochar into your soil (you can also amend it as a top dressing), and instantly increase your organic matter percentage. Just head to the Everflux store by clicking below.
Living soil is the symbiotic relationship between organisms working together to break down organic matter in your soil, which, in turn, provides valuable nutrients to plants and the microbial world. This style of cultivating allows the newly formed soil to function as its own ecological community, feeding the plant roots itself. This is known as growing with mother nature and was first called the "soil foodweb" by Dr. Elaine Ingham. The soil foodweb world consists of composting worms, beneficial nematodes, protozoa, bacteria, and fungi.
Living soil cultivation methods have proven time and time again to produce extremely high-quality produce. They generate these results by breaking down the organic matter that collects on the ground. Then specific decomposers like red wiggler composting worms, roly polys, and white springtail mites break that organic matter down into carbon.
The ground that doesn't contain beneficial organisms is not living and should be considered DIRT. Dirt requires nutritional supplementation via fertilizers and compost teas just to produce mediocre results. Red Wigglers and African Nightcrawlers will work in a symbiotic relationship with the microbial soil foodweb to help build dissolved oxygen channels, which allows newly formed roots to begin to grow a larger circumference. This symbiotic relationship also helps to control dangerous pests and improve water retention, thus reducing the amount of attention needed to produce abundant, high quality yields.
Why Is This Style Called "Beyond Organic"?
USDA Certified Organic has come to mean any farmer that uses organically certified input materials. Many would argue that this is a very watered-down version of the original meaning. Even focusing on “soil health” is not necessarily enough, because some farmers and growers get caught up on the chemistry of their soil, thinking that they need to add various mineral and chemical nutrients in order to balance their soil. However, the focus of a truly organic farmer - or what we are now calling “beyond organic” or “regenerative,” is on biological soil health. When a farmer promotes the right microbes and the accumulation of organic matter in their soil, everything else will follow.
Tilling creates a Catch 22 for the organic farm: tilling speeds the breakdown process of organic matter but also dramatically minimizes the lifespan of the organisms living in the newly tilled soil. Essentially, excessive tilling kills off the microorganisms in the ground rather than nurturing them. As a living soil farmer, learn to trust the process and let Mother Nature work synergistically with the microbial world by pulling down the organic matter. This organic matter becomes the living soil we are after and naturally boosts the amount of active organic matter that is bioavailable. This entire microbial world operates on this life source for creating energy and receiving nutrition, improving its organic content. This is fantastic for achieving the high quality produce we are after. A beyond organic farm will use little or no tilling.
In a Living Soil, a complex and high glomalin soil will begin to form. This kind of soil is drought resistant and has impressive water retention capabilities. Increasing micro-diversity has many beneficial and long-lasting effects that you can see all the way up the food chain. There is a direct correlation between biodiversity in your soil and the complexities of taste and oil production in whatever you are growing.
The Benefits of Growing in Living Soil
When produce is cultivated in a no-till/living soil system, they begin to emulate the more delicate complexities like that of aged fine wine. A healthy microbiological ecosystem MUST be alive and thriving for you to achieve these same results building your living soil system. The full genetic profile of the plant relies directly upon the quality and level of microbiology in your soil system. The higher biodiversity increases over time and creates a healthy closed-loop system where more top quality microbial levels are achieved.
Speeding Up the Process of Regenerating Your Soil
If you are looking to start cultivating your own food, then there is no better cultivation style. And if you’ve been considering making the switch to cultivating with true living soil, there’s no better time to do so. If you are just starting out gardening, or if you’ve been doing it a few years but have been tilling your soil every year and using fertilizers, then it will take some time to rebuild the life in your soil. But you can speed this process up and product giant, dense produce in your first season by supplementing with Bioflux fermented plant boost. It contains hundreds of species of bacteria and fungi that will jumpstart your transition to living soil. Or mix some Terraflux activated biochar into your soil (you can also amend it as a top dressing), and instantly increase your organic matter percentage. Just head to the Everflux store by clicking below.