There are many ways to help Nature come back to her old strength. Besides from the typical composting of food and garden waste, we introduced a permacultural design called ‘Banana Circle’ and started cultivating water hyacinth in our pond – an invasive species from the Amazon rainforest, which grows rapidly and can be used to feed chicken and ducks or to mulch trees (it composts into nice, dark soil and the earthworms love it).
Even though we have our thoughts on animal domestication, we do farm earthworms. They are from Africa (apparently the Thai earthworms are much lazier) and were given to us by a friend who produces worm fertilizer on a commercial basis. The process is simple and the result astonishing.
What you need is dry cow shit which you soak in water for a few days and then fill into a basin (the waste water can be used to soak charcoal in, so that the charcoal absorbs nutrients). You add one handful of worms and wait for some weeks, then you separate the finished fertilizer from the worms (they will reproduce rapidly) by sieving and the fertilizer is ready to use!
Just one handful added to any vegetable that you put into the ground will have the same short-term effect as chemical fertilizer, but without the negative long-term side effects. It will improve the soil in the long term by making it more attractive for insects that help you further improving the soil and softening it.
Biochar is what you call charcoal when you add it to the soil. It can be used for carbon sequestation (the capturing and long-term storage of atmospheric CO2) and therefore produces negative carbon dioxide emissions. Thus it has the potential to mitigate climate change.
Other benefits of biochar are that it increases soil fertility (especially acidic soil) and therefore agricultural productivity, and protects plants against some foliar and soil-borne diseases.
It is rich in carbon and can stay in the soil for thousands of years.
The multitude of benefits of biochar was known to the pre-Columbian Amazonians as well, who produced charcoal and used it to create a very fertile soil known as terra preta (de Indio).
We produce our charcoal mainly from leftover bamboo that we don’t use for construction anymore. Usually we dig a pit to burn the bamboo, so that there is not enough oxygen in it for the bamboo to turn into ashes, and after the bamboo is all black, we simply close it with earth and wait for one day. The result is now crushed to small pieces and mixed with the soil.
PICTURE CHARCOAL PIT