I just dropped the price of
the permaculture playing cards
for a wee bit.

 

 

uses include:
- infecting brains with permaculture
- convincing folks that you are not crazy
- gift giving obligations
- stocking stuffer
- gambling distraction
- an hour or two of reading
- find the needle
- find the 26 hidden names

clickity-click-click

  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Can I make garden soil out of just poultry poop and pine shavings?  RSS feed

 
Nicole Alderman
garden master
Posts: 1832
Location: Pacific Northwest
303
cat duck forest garden hugelkultur cooking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm in the process of finishing a garden bed, and I realized that I need more soil. I'm expanding it both horizontally, as well as hopefully a few inches vertically. I don't really want to pay an arm and a leg for topsoil or potting soil that just isn't that great--or at least the last batch of organic topsoil I got wasn't great.

But, I realized that the pine shavings I use in my duck/chicken house are pretty cheap. If I actually fed my ducks and chicken all their food in their house, I could probably quickly get enough poop to balance the carbon in the pine shavings. As they foul/fowl the bedding, I'd scoop it out and add it to the bed so it can compost there in place over the next 6 months. In some areas, the compost would take up the entire vertical height of the bed (about one foot).

Can I grow in straight duck poop, duck feathers, and pine shavings? Do I need to try to scrounge up some actual soil to mix in? Are their nutrients I'll be missing by doing this? Would adding some wood ash to it help, both in adding nutrients and balancing the likely acidic PH?

Any thoughts? Any experience? Thanks so much!!!
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1677
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
335
bee books chicken forest garden fungi hugelkultur trees
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Nicole;

I think it would work out great! As you may have read in my project thread, I don't have any soil in my beds at all, except what went in with the transplants. It's all organic matter: grass, leaves, weeds, and year-old wood chips. The plants grew great. And I've recently planted seeds straight into this soil/mulch, and they sprouted and are growing fine. If you're not going to be growing in it until spring, I think it will break down beautifully, and you'll have a great new garden bed.

One thing I'm in the process of trying to figure out is: how do we test this 'soil' to see what amendments are needed? I've added some clay, rock dust, and seaweed stuff to mine, but I'd like to know what else I might want to add. Maybe you could move this conversation to the soil forum, and we'll see what folks have to say on the matter.
 
Nicole Alderman
garden master
Posts: 1832
Location: Pacific Northwest
303
cat duck forest garden hugelkultur cooking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'd forgotten that you're garden is growing in all organic material. That's really reassuring! Making soil/compost with the duck bedding should be a lot easier for me, too, as I will only have to feed them once/day (I've been feeding them the majority of their food 1+hour before I put them away to keep the bedding from being too soiled, and just luring them in with a cup of feed at bedtime).

Thank you for your help!

I added the thread to the Soil and Composting forums. Hopefully some more people will chime in!
 
Galadriel Freden
Posts: 367
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
19
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Nicole, if I have a new container to fill, I usually go and scoop out a big pile of chicken bedding and put it in the bottom, cover it with a few inches of soil/potting compost, and plant straight away.  My chicken bedding is straw, and I find it usually sinks quite a bit while decomposing in place, so I have to top it up (usually with more soil).  I've even planted pumpkins into a mound of fresh chicken bedding, no soil on top (just a little in the middle for the roots to grab hold of).  This might not work with other plants, though!

I've also filled the bottom of containers with any other organic matter I have:  branches and logs of course, scrunched up newspaper, grass clippings.  Anything to fill it up, but I do generally add a couple inches of soil on top when planting.

I think six months of decomposition would be just fine for planting, but expect it to shrink a bit
 
Aimee Tidman
Posts: 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Out of interest would I be able to do this with hemp bedding?  It breaks down fast but I also keep Guinea pigs on it too. Thanks
 
Scott Strough
Posts: 299
Location: Oklahoma
21
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sure you can, just be sure to compost it first. It's pretty easy to do, and would take only 30 days using a "hot compost" method. Well worth that extra effort.
 
Parker Free
Posts: 22
Location: Olympia, WA
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If Guinea pig poop is at all like rabbit poop, it's quite gentle right away, as in, you generally don't need to compost it before using it around plants.  Rabbits can be your garden's best friend (if you can keep them out of it!).
 
Bryant RedHawk
garden master
Posts: 3161
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
255
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
hau Tracy, to test for what amendments you might need just take some samples to a testing laboratory, tell them you want a mineral assay. 
That will give you a good idea as to what is most needed and keep you from the expense of a full test battery.

optionally you could go ahead and use something like green sand as a mix in to help the mineral balance.
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1677
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
335
bee books chicken forest garden fungi hugelkultur trees
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Bryant;

Thanks for the reply. My difficulty is that I don't actually have any soil in my buried wood beds to test. It's almost all organic material. The only soil that went in was with the transplants. So, I'm basically growing in about 2-3 feet of mulch - year-old grass/leaves/weeds/woodchips/compost - on top of 4-5 feet of buried wood, grass, chips, sand, and other organic material. We have sand, sand and more sand - no actual top soil. I did use some sand in the beds, to fill between the logs and branches, and some mixed in with the mulchy material on top.

I'm very happy with how the beds have performed their first summer. Things grew beautifully (you can check it out at the link in my signature). I did add some amendments, including greensand, clay, seaweed, rock dust, wormy compost, etc., but not a lot. I have enjoyed growing in this mulchy 'soil' - the veggies stay clean, the mulch absorbs a lot of water, and it's easy to work in.

So, I guess what I need to know is: can I test this mulch mix the same way I would get actual soil tested? Or perhaps just get our sandy 'soil' tested, and then combine that with the other necessary elements that it are missing from the sand, and use that as my amendment in my mulchy beds.

I think I just answered my own question.  Sheesh.

Also, the potting soil mix I make and use has a lot of nutrients in it - compost, soil, rock dust, greensand, and other organic bits and bobs - so, all of that nutrient goes into the beds with the transplants and stays there. So . . . yeah, I think I figured it out!

Now, here's a question - and this goes back to Nicole's question a bit as well: If I build my beds with only organic material such as grass, leaves, weeds, wood chips, and other organic materials from around the farm (adding chicken manure next year), and I keep adding these mulchy things to the beds as they settle, at what point does this stuff go from being mulch, to being 'soil'? I do find earthworms in my mulchy garden beds, as well as rolly-pollies, and other creepy crawlies working on the decaying matter, so there will be earthworm castings, and other bug poops in there. And there is some sand, along with the rock dust and a bit of clay (I'll be adding more in the fall). So, when is it soil? I don't suppose it really matters, but I'm curious. I'm happy growing in my mulchy beds, but I am curious about the 'creation' of soil.

Anybody have any insight into this?

Cheers
Tracy
 
Susan Wakeman
Posts: 40
Location: Lake Geneva, Switzerland, Europe
2
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Why worry about it if your plants are growing fine? Cause if they are, then obviously you're on to a good thing.

I used my quail deep bedding in layers with hedge (mainly cherry laurel) trimmings to make a big pile last autumn. Left it without turning or any other attention in amongst the hedge. It reduced to about half the volume. Just started digging into it, and it's the most amazing compost I have yet produced. Soft. Dark. Full of creepy-crawlies. Whatever sticks are left I just toss aside. My neighbour uses my compost sieve now

My tomato pots are essentially vermicomposts with a layer of soil on top - I fill the bottom with veg scraps, rabbit bedding, whatever and cover with 6 inches of compost with worms in it. As the summer goes on, the soil level sinks, at which point I added another layer of rabbit bedding on top as mulch.My tomatoes grow into a jungle every year. And the following year I use the soil from the pots as potting compost.
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1677
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
335
bee books chicken forest garden fungi hugelkultur trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Susan;

This is a first year garden, and the plants are growing well, but as nutrients become depleted, I want to know how to replace them and what to replace them with. I will of course keep adding organic matter to the beds, but I will also need to add other amendments. I think that I need to have a little more 'soil' type additives in my predominately organic matter garden beds such as rock dust, clay, and sand. The first beds are very deep - much deeper than I wanted them - so I need to make sure that any nutrients that are being washed through are replaced.

Once I have more on-farm resources, such as animals and a diversity of chop-and-drop plants, I think it will make a big difference. But I think that for getting things started, finding out what nutrients I might have in the sandy 'soil', and what I need to add, will go a long way to keeping my garden healthy.

I am in the process of creating my own soil, and I want it to be healthy and balanced. I've been learning a lot about what the weeds add to the soil, and keeping the diversity up in the mulch and compost will go a long way toward creating that healthy, balanced soil I want. But there is always more to learn.
 
Nicole Alderman
garden master
Posts: 1832
Location: Pacific Northwest
303
cat duck forest garden hugelkultur cooking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've yet to read Steve Solomons Growing Vegetable's West of the Cascades, but I remember a lot of people commenting here on permies about how he realized that so much of his vegetables were mineral depleted, even though they were growing well. The plants looked healthy, but lacked the nutrition they were supposed to have.

From what I gather, he talks a lot about adding amendments to our soil to ensure the vegetables are full of nutrients. If our native soil is so devoid of nutrients, how devoid is the "soil" we make from composting? And, if it's depleted, what are permaculture ways of bringing in those nutrients without purchasing amendments?

Here's one thread I found discussing Steve Solomon's work. I'm still reading through it, and I need to put my toddler to bed, but I thought I'd link to it so other's can read it: https://permies.com/t/3884/cascadia/Growing-Vegetables-West-Cascades

 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1677
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
335
bee books chicken forest garden fungi hugelkultur trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yes, Nicole, that is exactly what I am concerned about. Things might be growing well, but what's in them? I want nutrient rich food, so I agree that it's important to make sure the nutrients are there for them. I will add amendments if necessary, but I'm also interested in using plants/weeds to bring up the nutrients if possible. And making sure that my compost/mulch is very diverse and full of 'good stuff'.
 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 746
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
11
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Nicole Alderman wrote:I've yet to read Steve Solomons Growing Vegetable's West of the Cascades, but I remember a lot of people commenting here on permies about how he realized that so much of his vegetables were mineral depleted, even though they were growing well. The plants looked healthy, but lacked the nutrition they were supposed to have.

From what I gather, he talks a lot about adding amendments to our soil to ensure the vegetables are full of nutrients. If our native soil is so devoid of nutrients, how devoid is the "soil" we make from composting? And, if it's depleted, what are permaculture ways of bringing in those nutrients without purchasing amendments?

Here's one thread I found discussing Steve Solomon's work. I'm still reading through it, and I need to put my toddler to bed, but I thought I'd link to it so other's can read it: https://permies.com/t/3884/cascadia/Growing-Vegetables-West-Cascades



Gardening Without Irrigation is a pretty good introduction to Solomon's work. He's not very permie [and I imagine his methods aren't accounting for ours] but he takes his gardening very seriously.
 
Bryant RedHawk
garden master
Posts: 3161
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
255
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
hau Tracy, yes you can have pure organic soils tested in the same manner as you can earth.  (the things that make dirt soil are organic matter and biological matter, particles of earth are the carrier and minerals found in soil).
 
Elijah Kim
Posts: 33
Location: Petawawa, ON, Canada Zone 3A
1
bee chicken dog food preservation fungi solar
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You could try looking at what "weeds" are growing around your garden.  I've never paid for a soil test, but I figure if Nature wants that plant to grow there, and Nature's end goal is soil suitable for a forest, than that "weed" is growing to fix/add something that is missing.  For mineral miners figure out which "weeds" have deep taproots and use those.  We usually chop n drop weeds from the area and use them as a mulch on our beds, Great Mullein, dandelions, yarrow, and plantain are a few "weeds" that we mulch with... I've not yet done a soil test though, lol so my theory could be right out to lunch

 
Nicole Alderman
garden master
Posts: 1832
Location: Pacific Northwest
303
cat duck forest garden hugelkultur cooking
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Well I figured I'd give an update. I ended up making my three year old son's garden bed out of mostly duck bedding. Here's what it looked like before:



It was little hill covered with native blackberries that never produced, salmon berries I was trying to eradicate, a giant bolder I didn't even know existed on the back end, and two tree's stumps and roots. I trimmed and ripped out as much blackberry and salmonberry I could and threw down paper sacks, feed bags and old cotton clothes to smother the blackberry. My father cut up a maple tree into round that we used to make a retaining wall around it. I then filled in bed with poopy duck/chicken bedding with some wood ash sprinkled in. On top of that, we put 1-2 inches of cheap organic topsoil. (I didn't put bedding or top soil around the red huckleberry I found growing there, so that it would stay acidic and happy). I only amended it with coffee grounds and I think some old prenatals and magnesium supplements I found lying around, and some old dried kelp my husband had bought years ago, as well as a sprinkling of compost and forest soil to inoculate soil organisms.

It is by far the most productive garden bed I have. The radishes are amazingly healthy and forming perfect little red radishes that my son loves to eat. The area toward the middle of the hill has a much shallower layer of bedding (like 1-2 inches, verses 1-2 feet by the front) and the plants growing there are a little less healthy. I do have to keep weeding out blackberries that sprout up, but that's understandable. It'll be interesting to see if the peas produce, as I read too much nitrogen can cause them to not fruit.

All in all I am very pleased with this garden bed. My son loves walking around the logs and snacking on radishes and onion greens and planting his seeds. I love that everything is thriving (unlike most of my garden beds, where most everything seems to struggle). I look forward to seeing how this bed does in years to come.
Putting-on-the-top-soil.jpg
[Thumbnail for Putting-on-the-top-soil.jpg]
Sweet boy and his Dada building his garden bed
The-finshiedh-and-thriving-bed.jpg
[Thumbnail for The-finshiedh-and-thriving-bed.jpg]
Picture taken yesterday. Beds doing great, even in the soggy, cool spring we've had
Happy-peas-radishes-huckberry-bush-and-strawberries.jpg
[Thumbnail for Happy-peas-radishes-huckberry-bush-and-strawberries.jpg]
Forgive the glaringly bright red yarn. My boy loves red and wanted red yarn for his peas to grow up :)
 
Gail Gardner
Posts: 128
Location: SE Oklahoma
2
duck forest garden hugelkultur
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Nicole Alderman wrote:And, if it's depleted, what are permaculture ways of bringing in those nutrients without purchasing amendments?


Nutrients get into the soil from rain, flood (like Nile Delta), and the leaves and branches off of trees. The larger the tree, the deeper the roots can go to bring minerals up into the leaves and branches. These then fall on the soil and decompose, returning the missing minerals into the soil.

People used to know this before they started clear-cutting and mono-cropping. They don't like steering tractors around trees and "losing" that area of production, so they got rid of the trees. And that is a primary cause of the soil being deficient. 
 
Gail Gardner
Posts: 128
Location: SE Oklahoma
2
duck forest garden hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Nicole Alderman wrote:I then filled in bed with poopy duck/chicken bedding with some wood ash sprinkled in. 


Thanks for the photos and confirmation that duck poop will make great soil. I am fortunate to have a lot of it on the place I'm living, so it will be a primary component of the compost and beds. I think I'll add chicken, llama, burro and horse manures, too. As long as they are not fresh, they should work well.
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6825
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
273
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I like to include three things in just about every bed that contains mostly organic matter.

I include seaweed, clay from a clean source and fine glacial till. All of these are known to contain nutrients that may be lacking in poor soil.

Vegetable beds will contain worms. They mix all of this stuff up and run it through their gizzards. Nutrients locked up in the glacial till, will be released both through the actions of the worms and by being in a moist soil mix, with associated fungi and bacteria. The clay, eventually becomes indistinguishable from the rest of the soil, as it is thoroughly incorporated.

This eventually produces a sort of loam soil.
 
Gail Gardner
Posts: 128
Location: SE Oklahoma
2
duck forest garden hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Dale Hodgins wrote:I like to include three things in just about every bed that contains mostly organic matter.

I include seaweed, clay from a clean source and fine glacial till. All of these are known to contain nutrients that may be lacking in poor soil.


Where are you sourcing these three ingredients? I'm guessing locally?
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6825
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
273
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Gail Gardner wrote:
Dale Hodgins wrote:I like to include three things in just about every bed that contains mostly organic matter.

I include seaweed, clay from a clean source and fine glacial till. All of these are known to contain nutrients that may be lacking in poor soil.


Where are you sourcing these three ingredients? I'm guessing locally?


Yes, for me these are all local resources. If someone doesn't have the glacial till, they're probably better off buying a suitable rock mix, that is known to contain wanted minerals. The quantity of seaweed needed isn't really that great, so it could be purchased. If clay isn't available locally, I think I would wait until making a road trip to an area that has decent clay. It could get quite expensive, having that brought in.
 
A feeble attempt to tell you about our stuff that makes us money
Complete Wild Edibles Package by Sergei Boutenko (1 HD video + 10 eBooks)
https://permies.com/t/70674/digital-market/digital-market/Complete-Wild-Edibles-Package-Sergei
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!