Susan Wakeman

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since Dec 06, 2013
Lake Geneva, Switzerland, Europe
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Recent posts by Susan Wakeman

I'm invaded by horsetail. I know its useful but I'd like to grow other things too! What to do?
1 week ago
I have no doubt that mulch builds soil life.

However the question is coming from a farmer who is worried that the soil might be "high" in an element such a s Ph, P, Na etc. in the long term as a result of mulching. He has guidelines for his fields where he cannot exceed a certain quantity of compost. What am I to tell him?

My argument has been as that I don't till, the mulching is similar to what happens in the forest in the fall, and forest soil is balanced. And that compost from plant sources does not release its nutrients as quickly as manures do.

I think he is looking for some proof of this.

Dr. Redhawk, I'd love a thread with some coaching in finding relevant scientific information for those of us that don't know how to start...
1 week ago
Is there an upper limit to how much compost or ramial wood chips can be applied? i.e. If I apply say 15cm of wood chips and leaves ,might there be a risk of having too much of, say, potassium or phosphate in the soil in the long run? I am not turning them in but will plant into/through them.

My understanding was that as compost or wood chips don't release their nutrients (NPK etc) as easily as, say, manures as the process is more one of stimulating micro-organisms in the soil which provide the plants with nutrients. Manure' s nutrients being water-soluble can lead to leaching and overfertilisation. Is this correct?

Is there any  research on the topic?
1 week ago
How to get maximum use of 1l of EM1?

Do I make EM-A and spray it onto the field?
Do I make Bokashi with shredded twigs/leaves and use it in mulch?
Do I use it on the compost heap and later make compost tea?

The idea being to jumpstart my soil biology and not buy any EM1 again.
1 month ago
I've been thinking about the logistics of getting compost extract on a large surface.

I've noticed that the farm I'm on uses venturi injectors for mixing fertilizer in with drip irrigation. In summer, they irrigate overhead with lake water and the pipes are still in place.

What do you think about connecting a compost extract barrel to the sprinkler irrigation via  a venturi injector? Does the compost extract barrel have to be immediately beside the water pipe or could I run a hose?

Obvious advantage, if this system works well, it could be utilized on a  large scale.
1 month ago
The method is catching on: a medieval farm renovation project is replacing their septic system with blackwater vermicomposting followed by sand filters. As they are located in a water conservation area, they are not allowed to drain off the (clean) water! They had to build an open concrete tank, roofed by solar panels encased in glass, which pump the water to a misting nozzle 4m up a pole. Misting is not draining it seems
In my opinion every household should have a mandatory worm bin in line on their wastewater, reducing the need for centralized water treatment, and making people directly responsible for what they put down their drains!
1 month ago
Thank you all for the very interesting discussion on preferred composting methods.

Thank you Dr Redhawk for answering my question as concerned the optimal method for maximizing microbial life in my soil.

Do any of you have suggestions as to how to incorporate hot composting into my mobile chicken operation. Maybe I should set up a hot compost whenever there is sufficient greens available (for browns I could just rake out the hen run)?

I have a m3 plastic compost bin available, two wire bins, and pallets. I suppose it will work to use the plastic bin for the first stage, and the wire bins for subsequent stages if necessary?

What effect would it have on the microbiology if I set up the hot compost IN the run, and let the chickens access it (by taking away the sides or lifting up the plastic container) just before it's turning time (i.e. when the heap has cooled down). Re-heaping it in a wire bin after the chickens have scratched through it?
1 month ago
From the perspective of soil microbiology, how would you rank the effectiveness of the following composting methods? I've ranked them in ascending order of work or attention required.

1) Chicken sheet mulch: all waste is chucked in the chicken enclosure. Wood chippings added if necessary to keep soil covered. Periodically, the chickens are moved on and the plot is planted in annual vegetables.

2) Cold compost heap: all waste is chucked on a heap as it becomes available. After about a year (autumn) the non-decomposed material forms the basis of a new heap while the decomposed material is scattered over annual veg beds or used as mulch.

3) Worm bin. Use castings to make potting soil or compost extract. Use tea to water plants (diluted)

4) Hot compost: waste is stored until enough is available to make a hot compost pile. This is turned at least three times or until sufficiently decomposed. Then see 2.

5) Cold or hot compost with herb mix or biodynamic preparations added

6) Bokashi fermented scraps buried or fed to worms, homemade bran.

7) Bokashi compost (all the steps starting with capturing indigenous microorganisms)

I currently practice no. 1 out of laziness but am feeding my chickens fermented feed and home made apple cider vinegar. What effect will this practice have on the microbiology of the chicken run soil? Will I have to compost the droppings I occasionally need to clear out of the mobile henhouse? I currently scatter them in the hen run.

I'm wondering is it worth the trouble making a really awesome heap 1x/year just to use it for compost extract (or I might be lazy and use some homemade compost from our community garden)



1 month ago
The fields above our veg plot are drained underground, the water feeds a fountain in the farm courtyard below. This used to be drinking water but is potentially contaminated by field runoff. I am now planning to divert some of this drain water to irrigate the garden, but am unsure if it is "safe"
- to use for drip irrigation
- to use for overhead sprinkler systems
- to use for underground irrigation (running through weeping pipe)
The catchment area is fields, orchard and vineyard in conventional ag, not all owned by the farm, but there is no sign at the moment of overfertilisation (no copper deposits for ex.) though when the fields are manured the water smells a bit I'm told. Is it necessary to test the water?
1 month ago