compost (and soil)
Compost holds immense potential for humanity's survival. In fact, as Paul suggests, it is through composting that our species can secure the only (and last) opportunity to thrive on our planet.
Unfortunately, there are numerous misconceptions surrounding compost. In essence, the crux of the matter lies in this: For plants to grow and bear fruit, they require nourishment. While photosynthesis supplies the plant with energy, it relies on the soil, where its roots are embedded, for vital nutrients (minerals). There is no scarcity of minerals in the soil across our planet (excluding polar regions); however, the plant cannot absorb these minerals without the assistance of microorganisms residing in the soil. Effective composting enriches the soil with these crucial microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi. They contribute to the soil's structure, ensuring the presence of water and oxygen, which are indispensable for the root system. Additionally, these microorganisms have the ability to extract essential minerals required by the plant from sand and clay particles. Further contributing to this intricate ecosystem, organisms like nematodes and protozoa consume the bacteria and fungi, ultimately producing plant-absorbable minerals through their waste.
compost can save humanity
Indeed, soil life plays a crucial role in maintaining soil quality. Both the abundance of microorganisms and the biodiversity they represent are vital factors. While assessing these aspects accurately requires microscopic examination, even that has its limitations. For instance, it is believed that a healthy soil hosts approximately a million distinct types of bacteria, and an in-depth analysis necessitates DNA research. The sheer numbers of these organisms are awe-inspiring. Dr. Elaine Ingham, a renowned soil expert and Paul's mentor, estimates that a mere teaspoon of healthy compost contains more living creatures than the total human population on Earth. This illustrates the remarkable richness and diversity of life within the soil ecosystem.
Furthermore, compost should include soil organic material (SOM), which serves as a source of nutrients for soil life. Ideally, around 50 to 60% of your compost should consist of SOM. One of the key functions of organic material is moisture retention, as it has the capacity to hold water up to 10 times its weight. In soils that tend to become excessively wet, such as clay soils, SOM helps facilitate proper drainage.
SOM not only nourishes soil organisms but also provides them with habitats. These organisms contribute to the control of plant pests and diseases, enhancing overall plant health. Rich in carbon, SOM acts as a vital building block for all life on Earth. Think of it as a storage or a bank where you make deposits. You add compost, plant residues, cover crops, and more. And just like any bank account, it's important to ensure that you deposit more than you withdraw. This growing balance ensures the sustained fertility and vitality of the soil.
How composting can reduce our impact on the planet
Managing organic waste: Every year, an astonishing 1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted worldwide, contributing to hunger, food insecurity, and environmental issues. By actively composting organic waste, particularly food waste generated by individuals and households (accounting for nearly 570 million tonnes), we can effectively manage this waste and minimize its negative environmental impact.
Reduced dependence on chemical fertilizers: Proper composting of organic waste provides a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers. By utilizing compost, we can decrease our reliance on synthetic fertilizers, which often have harmful environmental consequences.
Greenhouse gas emissions reduction: Food loss and waste contribute to approximately 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. By reducing food waste and diverting it into composting, we can help mitigate these emissions, thus combating climate change. Composting organic waste prevents it from ending up in landfills, where it would release harmful greenhouse gases like methane.
Biodiversity conservation: The extensive use of land and water resources to produce food puts pressure on biodiversity. By reducing food waste through composting, we can lessen the strain on these resources, promoting sustainable practices that support biodiversity conservation.
Fungi and carbon sequestration
1. Mycorrhizal Symbiosis: Many fungi form mutually beneficial relationships with plant roots, known as mycorrhizal symbiosis. These fungi enhance plant growth and nutrient uptake, which in turn increases the carbon fixation by plants through photosynthesis.
2. Decomposition: Fungi are key decomposers in ecosystems. They break down organic matter, such as dead plants and animals, releasing carbon dioxide in the process. However, some fungi can also convert organic matter into stable carbon compounds, effectively sequestering carbon in the soil.
3. Soil Aggregation: Fungi produce a sticky substance called "glomalin" that helps bind soil particles together, creating stable aggregates. These aggregates enhance soil structure and stability, promoting long-term carbon storage in the soil.
4. Carbon-Rich Fungal Products: Certain fungi produce carbon-rich compounds like chitin, melanin, and fungal biomass, which have the potential to sequester carbon for extended periods, especially in environments like peatlands.
Transforming ordinary earth (dirt) into fertile soil requires the power of compost. High-quality compost, teeming with a diverse array of microorganisms, plays a pivotal role in creating a thriving underground ecosystem. These microscopic organisms coexist in a remarkable equilibrium, working harmoniously beneath our feet.
Through the enriching properties of compost, the soil undergoes a transformative process, becoming a vibrant and nutrient-rich environment. The microorganisms within the compost bring life and vitality to the soil, fostering a delicate balance that supports plant growth, nutrient cycling, moisture regulation, and overall soil health. Compost is truly a catalyst for turning earth into living, productive soil.
It took us almost a year to finish the hill. And actually only the top and south side are finished, the north side still has to wait.
The top layer in particular was a lot of work in the end. When it was ready, we sowed seeds, soil cover (Alfalfa and clover) and various vegetables.
A structure of reeds to stabilize and finally a thin mulch layer. This was february 2020.
the ochre room
the sienna room
Garden and Pond
Garden in Winter
The Sienna Room
The Sienna Room
The garden as seen from the terrace of our house. The arrow shows the location of the Hügel and in front of it the edge of the pond.
There are still many people in the world who cannot believe that we wash away our physical waste with purified drinking water. And you can't blame them. Sewers are reprehensible. In addition, they also drain rainwater, really incredible.
The solution is so simple (and so hygienic), a compost toilet or dry toilet.
The one we have separates urine and faeces. The urine goes directly underneath a layer of mulch into the garden and number 2 falls into a (biodegradable) bag and is covered with sawdust or another carbon additive. As a result, the aerobic decomposition can start immediately and a possible bad odor is avoided.
When the bag is full, it goes on a separate compost heap and stays there for about a year and a half to ensure good composting and to ensure that all pathogenic micro-organisms have disappeared.
And believe me, it is completely odorless.
In this way we save many liters of water and we keep all the nutrients that we would otherwise flush away on our site.
The Chinese economy was based on this cycle for 4,000 years, until about 50 years ago Western civilization had to make its appearance ...
The swimming pond is a project from about 10 years ago.
The pond consists of 3 parts: a deep (3 m.) part for swimming, a part of about 1 meter deep for lilies to cool the water and finally the shallow part where the helophytes are, the plants that purify the water. This is only 30 cm deep.
The plants are on a felt-like cloth and underneath are the tubes that suck the water from the pond to get back into the deep part. The circulation is important, in the summer the entire volume of the pond (approx. 60 m3) must pass through the regenerative zone at least once a day.
The result is a clear pond with living water, all kinds of insects live in and around it. A huge asset to the garden's biodiversity.