A landscape or farm is only as healthy as its soil. Soil is a main focus and priority to a Permaculture Artisans landscape. We will often start with a set of soil tests to determine mineral content and ion exchange. Tests for soil structure, composition, and biological activities may also be used to understand the best rehabilitation methods for your soil.
Once soil tests have been done and observations have been made, a soil-building plan will be created. Usually this means a re-mineralization of your soil with the appropriate amendments, use of non-till cultivation techniques, and the building up of organic matter.
It is vital to the health of your landscape that there be a thriving biological community in your soil. Biological organisms (bacteria, fungi, worms, etc.) break down organic matter and minerals and make them accessible for plant uptake. The residues of this decomposition leave humic acids that help the soil retain and absorb water and air. This is the optimal condition for your soil. Plants growing in this environment have stronger immune systems, more prolific yields, grow faster, and need less water. Usually they have fewer pest and disease problems as a result.
Building soil also fixes carbon into the ground. It has been proven that carbon sequestration in the soil far exceeds the ability of trees to trap carbon and for much longer periods of time. Sequestering carbon in the ground is called “carbon farming” and is now being used globally to mitigate climate change. Permaculture Artisans uses this premise to develop fertility management plans that increase the sequestering of carbon and yield optimal health for your landscape.
In addition to the methods mentioned above, specific planting techniques using nitrogen-fixing and mineral-accumulating plants will continue to nourish and build the soil for the long term. A well-designed Permaculture garden requires few or no external nutrient inputs after the plantings are complete and have matured, a period of 3 – 7 years.
The application of compost tea is another important technique we use to activate the biological life in soil. The use of compost tea during planting and regular feedings throughout the growing season can dramatically increase crop yields, disease resistance, nutrient uptake, erosion control, and decomposition of organic matter.
Depending on the plant communities, different compost teas may be used (i.e. more fungal, more bacterial). Permaculture Artisans will continually assess your landscape’s needs and advise accordingly on compost tea application rates and varieties. We use recipes from The Compost Tea Manual by Elaine Ingham in our tea-making operations.