How to grow microherd?

slowjane CA/ Sunset 21June 19, 2014

This caught my eye in another post in CA gardening: "Organic fertilizers work really well in the ground, in native soil. They rely on soil microbes to convert the essentially raw materials, fish & sea weed, or bone and blood meal for other kinds, into NPK. Plants can't eat fish, or seaweed, the soil microbes can and they convert the ingredients into nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, and micro nutrients, that the plants can absorb. "

So....I am using mostly native soil in my 18" raised beds - which is silty loam - amended with organic matter. And I've been using organic Dr. Earth's Tom/Veggie fertilizer and seaweed. How do I evaluate the state of my microherd of microbes? And how would I cultivate this herd? I am making my own compost but it's not ready for primetime yet...

Also, thanks to everyone for educating me to the point where I'm even able to ask this question! ;)

How do I know

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

You'll find lots of discussions about this over on the Organic Gardening forum here as it is basically an organic gardening concept not practiced by non-organic gardeners.

So I'd begin by reading the FAQ all about it from that forum (linked below).

The simple answer to how to evaluate it - (1) have a professional soil test done and it will include the % of organic matter in your soil. Beef it up as needed shooting for a minimum of 40%. (2) accept the fact that it takes an average of 2-4 years for a fully active microherd to develop but you can add products that encourage growth of soil bacteria and avoid using products that kill them to speed that up - worms, soil activators, mycorrhizas supplements. (3) compost, compost, compost to the point where you always have compost ready to add to the soil or can get it.


Here is a link that might be useful: Why is the Aerobic Microherd so important?

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 4:01PM
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slowjane CA/ Sunset 21

Thanks Dave - your link was perfect - sorry I didn't find it on my own but I guess I didn't realize that's the organic/traditional cultural divide. Moseying over to the organic forum....;)

Does organic matter include composted materials as well as humus? Or I guess (basic question) what is organic material? I have been adding a humus product periodically - John and Bob's Soil Optimizer, which I understand takes a while to work but will have long term benefits. I also amended the soil of my two 4x4' beds each with several bags of "soil amendment" i.e. organic material....

I still haven't seen an earthworm so I guess that's one indication that I have a ways to go.... off to read up on the faq...

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 11:33PM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

To me, organic matter can be anything that will compost or has already been composted. Leaves, grass clippings, straw, hay, pine needles, cocoa bean shells, seaweed, manure (composted or not; be aware of the guidelines for using manure), pulled/hoed weeds, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, paper, finished compost, worm castings, and the list goes on.

I usually mix in raw organic matter in the fall when I put my beds to rest that way it will have all winter to compost in place. Raw OM can also be used as a mulch during the growing season. Finished compost is best to add during the growing season and it too can also be used as a mulch.


This post was edited by theforgottenone1013 on Fri, Jun 20, 14 at 15:41

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 12:31AM
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Not all places have native earthworms I was surprised to learn when I was trying to identify my garden worms.

Now that you have the garden started, you can get a compost pile started. By adding your kitchen scraps, slightly buried, and with coffee grounds if your a coffee drinker, if there are worms, they should find you. They love the coffee grounds !

Either way, it makes good sense to compost at home if you have the space, rather than sending it out in the yard debris can and buying the finished compost back. ( not that there's' anything wrong with that ... sometimes that's the best choice for some folks )

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 1:31AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Does organic matter include composted materials as well as humus?

Yes, just as Rodney said, the primary form of "organic matter" is compost. In addition all he mentioned, tilled in cover crops, green manures, leaf mold.

But to develop a herd and keep it going you have to feed it regularly. That means several times a year. So if you can't compost enough to keep up with it then you have to look into other sources.

Check out the Soil & Composting forum FAQs too. The list is practically endless.


    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 11:53AM
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