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Liquid Gold – Making & Using Organic Fertilizers.

Organic Farming in the Caribbean with Organic Fertilizers

Yesterday I watched a short video about a family in California who have turned their city garden into a modern-day Eden which sustains up to 90% of their food needs on just 1/5 acre! They replaced their lawn with edible flowers and using organic fertilizers the whole garden burst forth with fruits and vegetables to feed the family. It further inspired me to keep planting in my own garden and do my part to combat the constant news of rising food prices and shortages.

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Food growing really is a quiet revolution that I want to be a part of!

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Of course being a person who always aims to be in tune with nature, our garden is 100% organic. Organic farming or gardening is a practice which has numerous benefits for producers, consumers and the Earth. The chemicals in artificial fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides ultimately leach into the soil and our water and whatever we do to the Earth we do to ourselves. I know that I’d rather eat some food that has a few bug bites on it than consume produce that is saturated and laden with toxic formula.

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A key philosophy and practice of the organic approach is to gradually build up the natural fertility of the soil so that it comprises the right nutrients to yield healthy produce and is resistant to disease and pest attacks. One great way to enrich the soil is to create compost and I’m pleased to report that with thanks to the constant weekend work of my partner, our 3 bin system is now up and running! Now I’m being tutored on other ways to achieve the goal of naturally enhancing the plants directly with a number of liquid botanical fertilizing agents.

To start with, our first compost pile has been set up with a pipe at the bottom to collect the liquid that leaches as the material breaks down. The dark coloured liquid that emerges is often referred to as ‘tea manure’ or, to emphasize its incredible value, ‘liquid gold’. This liquid is one of the best things you can apply to your plants for a quick boost as the nutrients are readily available in the water and are quickly taken up by the plants. The tea should be diluted to a 25/75 ratio for use as a foliage spray or 50/50 for directly on the soil. Apparently most root crops will be spoiled by the application of the tea so use it only for your veggies sprouting above ground. To capture the tea from the compost pile it is a good idea to set it above the ground on a structure with a drainage system so that the tea can drip into a storage container. Setting the compost pile directly on the ground will allow the liquid from the pile to seep directly in the soil and if you are able to move the pile after each compost batch is completed, the patch it was once on will be highly fertile.

Other liquid fertilizers can be easily made by soaking and fermenting plants in a large barrel with a lid for about a month and diluting when ready for application. The leaves from Gliricidia sepium, a tree commonly found in the Caribbean, produces a good fertilizer liquid and its major advantage over other tree fertilizers is that it grows back year after year despite severe pruning.

Comfrey is also very popular as the plant has deep roots that can tap into vital nutrients and trace elements that are below the range of plants with shallower roots systems. When planting a patch of comfrey do not that they can be quite invasive so do not put them in your best vegetable patch! Once the leaves have grown they can be cut and fermented in the water with the same process as above.

Seaweed, invasive plant species, leguminous plants and many more can also be used in this way to create liquid fertilizer. Be warned though, these liquids can give off a foul smell so make sure that they are placed far away from the house and are well covered. A good covering also prevents them from becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes. When handling all of the liquids use gloves as many can be harsh on the hands

Another natural liquid fertilizer that I have been told about is fermented urine! Yes that’s right, you have to save your pee in a container, leave it for week and dilute with twenty parts water. (Undiluted urine can be used directly on a compost heap as an accelerator) It is reported to be an amazing source of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium and some trace elements. I am working on producing some so I’ll let you know! Of course it is not advised to spray any of these liquids directly onto edible leaves and best not to give the plants any tea at least 2 weeks before harvesting.

The liquid manures are a great boost to plants at particular points in their growth cycle. We are currently doing research and experimentation on the best times to supplement each plant and it’s important not too go too crazy with tea and let mother nature keep her natural balance.

So as for our garden, the lettuce we planted out at the beginning of the month will be ready in about a week and the new seedlings we planted out last week are already growing strong. It is a real blessing to be eating what we have grown. I invite you to share and circulate your best tips and techniques for Caribbean Organic gardening so both we and the planet can be healthy and happy.

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Creating Soil – Making Organic Compost in the Tropics

Making Organic Compost

I like to be creative in the kitchen and I use what seems like a ton of fruits and vegetables each day. What I love about these fruits and veggies is that as well as being wholesome, tasty and nutritious, they still have a great value after being eaten…in a compost pile.

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The skin and peel of a juicy mango, sweet banana, crispy carrot, succulent pineapple or any other delicious gifts of nature are a storehouse of nutrients. Each of these can be organically broken down to provide rich compost that will positively enhance the next cycle of growing and harvesting. Compost improves soil quality and thus naturally enhances crop yield and quantity.
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To Flush or Not to Flush! – The Benefits of a Compost Toilet

Why a Compost Toilet – Alternative Waste Management

With water shortages and pollution becoming major issues around the world there are many things we need to transform in order to create more harmonious ways of living on the planet. One of the ways we can start is with a compost toilet!

Unfortunately the name and stigma attached makes people think of smelly pit latrines that were a feature of a past they would like to leave behind. But modern composting toilets are clean, efficient and as pleasant smelling as any regular WC.

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Composting toilets effectively recycle human fecal waste into usable material that can eventually be used to enhance the soil. There are many options for composting toilets from simple DIY models to sophisticated commercial products. Some use electricity or solar power to ventilate the air and increase microbial activity, thus hastening the breakdown of waste. Waterless composting toilets ensure that houses can remain occupied even when water is shut off for periods of time – especially useful during dry and hurricane seasons.Compost toilet advocate Joseph Jenkins has made his book ‘Humanure’ available to download for free and in this book you can read how to make your own compost toilet for around $25. The Composting Toilet System book and online tuition from Oikos are also great resources that can make you very enthusiastic about alternative waste management!

 

Given enough time the waste product reduces its volume to just 10-30% of the original mass and therefore you are not left with much to deal with.The Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales uses a system that produces rich, odorless and pathogen free compost over a period of 2 years although it can be produced faster in different systems and with the heat of the tropical environment.

Even if using a no-water compost toilet is a little extreme for your tastes you can still be part of the eco-revolution with low flush toilets or, at the very least, by putting a brick in your regular toilet cistern to use less water.

When a tree dies in the forest it rots naturally with the help of microorganisms and provides fertilizer for new shoots coming through the ground – nature produces no pollution. Compost toilets allow humans to be as smart as the forest and make effective, productive use of what is considered waste.

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