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Drylands Management

The term Bokashi comes from Japanese and it means a fermented organic matter. We chose to apply this technique for its several assets (developed later), but with some adjustments according to our resources available around us.

Basically, a Bokashi system need sources of Nitrogen, Carbon and other nutrients which will be fermented by Effective Microorganism (EM) with the help of sugar additions and material with porosity to enhance their growing.This technique provides fertilizers as a basic compost, it is very fast (around two weeks), and the final result is very close to a natural humus. It contains EM and the growth factor hormones added through a Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ) and a higher C/N rates than a compost. What better material can we ask for our work in soil regeneration in the Drylands Department?

So how did we make it? We used:

  • around 400kg of humanure mixed with
  • 100kg of soil
  • some straws chopped
  • ashes for the Carbon content (and also regulate the pH)
  • coffee grounds for the porosity and their nutrient content
  • diluted pee.

This is our appropriation of the Bokashi system; otherwise the best materials are rice bran hull, any manure, compost, garden soil and some molasses.

Peter preparing layers of the bokashi compost pile

Then we raised the humidity rate up to 60% by adding the water and a mix of EM, FPJ and sugar. Our EM had been home made with some soil harvested under canes and put in appropriate conditions to grow. This is called Indigenous MicroOrganism culture (IMO).

Finally we’ll have to follow the temperature of this mud cake during two weeks and turning it when needed (from 1 to 3 times a day) and eventually harvest the final product – the nutrients for the trees used in reforestation, made mainly from human output.

At Sunseed nothing goes to waste, especially our toilet waste. This week I had the opportunity to help build a Bokashi compost from scratch with Dimitri in the Drylands department. It’s quite an inventive process, using all natural material to create rich hummus in just 2 weeks!

It feels like a chemistry project; 3 litres of this, two tablespoons of that and hey presto we have soil. As we were building it Dimitri explained each step and why we do it, which really helped me understand how amazing a process it really is. Permaculture is revolution disguised as gardening!

Peter, short term visitor

For further information we can advise you to get a look at the “NATURE FARMING MANUAL. A handbook of preparations, techniques and organic amendments inspired by Nature Farming and adapted to locally available materials and needs in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines, Helen Jensen, Leopoldo Guilaran, Rene Jaranilla & Gerry Garingalao.” It has been our guideline for the Bokashi principles.

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Organic Gardening, Tutorial
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At Sunseed I realized how many resources are wasted everyday when you just throw your kitchen waste away.

When I came here, I did not know anything about compost or how you can fertilize the soil you want to use for planting.

I was very impressed by the ‘compost lasagne’ system we have in Sunseed. It makes our gardens much more sustainable, because we have everything we need for the process. In addition, we can control what we put in our soil and incidentally it saves us money because we do not have to buy manure.

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The concept we have is very easy:
The lasagne consists of several boxes. In each is compost in different stages.

We take care of our compost every Wednesday. First we turn the old layers around with pitchforks, so that the compost gets enough oxygen. Than we put a thin layer of paper and cardboard above. Afterwards we add our kitchen waste, put a small amount of earth on the top and water it. All these layers are important to get the right balance of nutrition in our compost. To keep the humidity even when it is very hot, we cover everything with dried material which works perfectly.

At Sunseed we need a lot of manure and therefore we need a fast decomposition process. When you want to try to produce your own compost at home, you just need to move your deposited kitchen waste sometimes and after about a year you have perfect compost. You cannot do anything wrong with the process, it might just take more time.

Our Garden Coordinator Josu explained how you can find out if the compost is ready. You can use it when it holds in shape after you have squeezed it but crumbles again when you move it in your hands.

I love to see how the circle closes, while parts of our food which cannot be used in the kitchen turn back into very fertile soil again.

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Learn more

During my research I found an amazing project in Jordan describing their way of composting.

If you want to prepare compost in a small garden, you can have a look at this website.

And if you live in a flat without garden, you don’t have to go without compost. Ways for composting inside are shown here and here.

Happy composting!

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Drylands Management

As an EVS volunteer, I wanted to look back over the last semester I spent in Sunseed as an assistant of Dryland Management Department. Originally coming from a completely different background, I had to learn everything from the very beginning. Before I leave and go back to my daily life in Paris, I wanted to share some parts of this fulfilling experience:

When I first arrived in February, Dryland Department was dedicating part of its time to planting different tree species on Allan’s land, as a part of its reforestation duty. Experimenting with carob trees, we could note after a couple of months that the place where the tree was planted had a crucial impact on its survival. Planting in the shadow and in the terraced part of the land look to have increased the chances of survival of the tree. We also observed that some of the species we planted, such as the Salsola oppositifolia, were more likely to survive in this arid environment.

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Cleaning behind the compostero

In April, Dryland Department initiated a long-term project which was to clean and improve the area of the “compostero” where is kept the hummanure compost next to the vivero. The idea was to provide more shadow to the compost in order to keep it quite moist during the heat of the Almerian summer. We first substituted all the trash stored behind the compostero with soil. We wanted to use this strategic spot to plant trees that will provide natural shade to the compost.

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Extracting Auxina from sprouted lentils

In May, Dryland Management department lead an experiment on the use of Auxina to help stimulate plants’ roots growth. The Auxina is a hormone naturally secreted by the plants and is known to help the stimulation of plant’s roots and speed up its development. We tried to extract some from sprouted lentils, getting a mixture out of the roots and water. The mixture was supposed to be ready to use after being kept 24 hours in the dark. Unfortunately, it turned out that the use of the mixture didn’t show any notable effect.

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Visiting Rodalquilar botanical garden

In June, Dryland Department drove a couple of volunteers to the botanical garden of Rodalquilar while the trees were still blossoming. The end of the spring was the perfect time to identify the different species thanks to their flowers. Rodalquilar’s botanical garden gives interesting details about the properties of the plants that grow all around the semi-desert of Almeria. The carob tree, for example, has been used for a long time, in the region, for its medicinal properties as syrup for coughing.The same month, the Dryland coordinator, Elena, helped with volunteers, ended the construction of a caña roof to the compostero, providing a bit of the indispensable shadow during summertime.

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Before and after with the caña roof

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Drylands Management

Life in the Drylands department has been busy over the last couple of months. In February we gathered a large amount of netting and sewed up the holes with yarn from our sewing box, to use as a cover for the tree nursery. Temperatures soar from May onwards, so we prepared a protective net, which provides shelter and shade for the seedlings as they grow.

Our volunteer Guilia has started to build a herb spiral in the arboretum that will contain cuttings from herbs grown in the gardens. This is positioned in a shady area but will get plenty of sunlight in the middle of the day. We had a communal activity to bring about 15 buckets of soil down from the area behind the main house to help her build the structure. She’s using rocks and old pieces of terracotta to line the growing edge of the spiral. Herb spirals make great use of vertical space by spiralling upwards instead of outwards, and make use of several microclimates around the mound.

The compost piles in the arboretum need frequent watering because the climate is extremely dry. To help keep the humidity in, we add organic matter from weeding in the arboretum and the wastewater systems, then add a protective layer, here out of cane leaves, but plastic as well if we have it.

Next in Drylands we’re going to make maps of the area and redo some of the signs and labels for the trees and nursery areas. They’re highly informative but in need of a revamp!

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