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Best and Fastest Soil Building?

Posts: 43
Location: Hiroshima-shi, Japan
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I looked down this forum at other related entries and have reviewed a few of them. Since there doesn't seem to be a glut of posts on this I'd like some further ideas on this topic. I'm in Japan on an island and our farming area has poor soil. I am incorporating a composter for food/dung as well as laying grass and straw for mulching. We have EM fungus which I need to brew some more of... I am doing concrete and so I think I can obtain rockpowder from the stone crusher... I built a very low-fi biochar retort and am planning on incorporating some of that with a bit of EM'd soil over the winter. I'm looking for animal poop (horse/cow)... I'll put some winter cover crop in, I'm not sure which to choose. I've also collected some seaweed which I've allowed to ferment and plan on putting on the soil. Basically I'm trying to introduce as much live biomass as possible in the short term to help kickstart the life of this soil. I haven't done any worm farming nor tea. I also have access to natural wood shavings (not dust) but was unsure how to use these outside of my humanore bin.. Should I make mulch with them? What else am I missing? Thanks!
Posts: 57
Location: SC; Zone 7B
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In regards the wood shavings, this video might be interesting.


It is VERY religious, with more bible quotations than gardening tips I think, but I found it fascinating.
Posts: 531
Location: North-Central Idaho, 4100 ft elev., 24 in precip
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If you can incorporate some form of livestock into your system you should be able to generate the most soil in the shortest amount of time. Poultry, rabbits, even some of the smaller breeds of pig would work fine if you don't have a lot of room. If you have a little more acreage look into sheep. Cover cropping and harvesting with a livestock really does wonders!
Posts: 299
Location: Oklahoma
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There is no question that the best and fastest way to build soil is to restore the healthy soil food web. No necessarily a simple thing. It is a complex problem. However this video series should help.

Posts: 10
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Read Compost Everything, the Good Guide to Composting by David the Good. All of your answers are in there. Go to www.thesurvivalgardener.com, you can digital download or get paperback. Definitely read this before getting a composted.

Good luck
Posts: 1536
Location: Fennville MI
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There are a huge number of variables involved in this question. Among them are your climate (tropical, sub-tropical, temperate? wet, arid, moderate? Seasonal rains or balanced precipitation throughout the year?); your topography; your existing biome (wooded, grassland, savannah, swamp, etc.); wind exposure, sun exposure; animal impacts (wildlife in significant numbers on the property? Domesticated livestock? What kinds of animals/livestock, i.e. larger herbivores, primarily birds and small rodents, etc.?)

"Best" is a hugely subjective term. For some people a money intensive approach that requires minimal labor on their part is "better" than a low monetary cost method that involves lots of physical work on their part. For others, that equation is reversed.

One question is whether you can use P.A. Yeoman's keyline plowing techniques on your land. That will depend on your topography being suitable and your being able to get a tractor with a Yeoman's plow type subsoiler to work your land. Keyline plowing improves aeration, greatly improves water infiltration and distribution and generally promotes the health and welfare of the soil biology. Yeomans had tremendous success building soil and I think that the keyline plowing was part of the reason.

How large a piece of land are we talking about? Methods that will work well on one acre and are manageable may be entirely out of the question on 20, and vice versa.

In terms of what to add to the soil, I would get compost started as soon as possible and when it is going well, make compost tea and use that to inoculate your soil. Introducing the microbiology that way has a tremendous impact (see the work of Dr. Elaine Ingham on this subject).

Be a bit careful with seaweed as it can add salt that you do not really want or need in your soil.

Wood chips can be used to grow mushrooms. The mushrooms will both give you an edible yield and prepare the woodchips for introduction into your soil, along with lots of mycorhizal fungi. You could use the wood chips as mulch and inoculate with something like wine cap mushrooms in the place they are being used as mulch. Again, you get mushrooms as a yield and the woodchips get broken down faster to become nutritional soil.

When you compost, remember you need to balance nitrogen rich materials with carbon rich materials, so put some of that straw into your compost

I don't know enough about the indigenous microorganism approach to comment on that part.

I would not worry about adding rock powder. You really don't want to go adding "Everything" on the assumption that all of it is needed. Unless you have some soil testing results, or observations of the currently growing plants, that clearly indicate your soil is short in some mineral you could provide with rock dust from your concrete making, I would not recommend adding it.

One risk with trying to do so many things at once is that you will burn yourself out and not have the energy or focus to get them done.

Something else to consider is the permaculture guideline of "slow, small solutions". Do a thing, do it thoroughly, observe the results and follow up with another thing, step-by-step. It may not make for the fastest best results, but it avoids the fastest worst results
Posts: 289
Location: Whitefish, Montana
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You might check out Samantha Langlois's material on organic soil building. Here's the first video in her 22 video online course:

In this course, Samantha Langlois, conservation biologist, avid organic gardener, and edible landscaper makes soil ecology and soil building available to people of all educational backgrounds. Delivered lecture-style and with supplemental PDF downloads, Samantha clearly breaks down the science behind healthy garden soil!

In this course you will gain the scientific background to understand the science of soil ecology. You will then learn what your soil needs in order to be healthy and fertile. Most importantly, you will learn how to apply this knowledge to your own backyard organic garden. By the end of this course you will know how to build the soil you need to produce abundant, nutrient-rich food in your own organic garden.

Best wishes on your project Brendan!
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