IT’S ALIVE! Living No-Turn Compost: BioChar

no turn compost pile biocharMaybe you wanted to start composting this Earth Day, but you’ve heard it’s tricky to get right.

I understand–nobody wants a stinky mess out back that will draw vermin, or worse!

However, nobody wants to shell out for fancy compost drums or “activators” that might give you amazing compost, or might give you nothing but a gross rotting mess.

What if you could just put together a compost pile in an afternoon, walk away–and harvest your own excellent compost later?

Self-described survival gardener David Goodman shows us how to do exactly that in his latest video! He uses no commercial products to build the pile–even the “bin” is harvested from his land!

Check it out, on Marjorie Wildcraft’s fantastic website, The Grow Network, or just watch here:

David shows us that in order for compost to break down property (instead of decay into a rotting mess), we need a balance of carbon and nitrogen, or browns and greens.

Ideally, you need more brown matter than green matter for your pile to compost-in-place properly. Brown matter is simply defined as something that is already dried out and lifeless.

  • Dried leaves, cardboard and paper, and DEAD grass clippings are all brown matter.
  • Food scraps, freshly mowed grass, and still-living brush clippings are all defined as green matter. 

David also adds something he calls bio-char–which is a whole ‘nother topic by itself!

The bottom line is, gardeners don’t grow vegetables or even plants–they grow soil.

Healthy soil is something that’s still underappreciated, but science shows again and again that soil is key to the world’s vitality!

Microbial action is what heats up a good compost pile, making it active, and even producing steam when you stick a shovel into it.

However, microbes are like little wanderers who need a place to stay. Powdered charcoal is very porous and gives the microbes a home base where they can be safe and protected.

Adding charcoal to your compost pile is like offering the microbes in there a fantastic apartment complex to live in! You’re giving them a more permanent home than the soil itself; a place to thrive even in extreme conditions.

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Great compost, like great soil, is ALIVE–and that’s what bio-char is all about.

Raw charcoal is great to add to your compost pile, but it takes a very long time to become activated–around fifty years in many cases. 

Activated charcoal is also called bio-char or terra preta, and I’ll be writing more soon about how to create terra preta (in weeks instead of years)!

If you want to learn more about building healthy soil from the microscopic level, I highly recommend the book Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web.

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Composting doesn’t have to be complicated, labor-intensive, or even smelly–so get out there and make a no-turn compost pile this week. Your garden will thank you!

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