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Growing Plants from Seeds, with the right Soil

Soil types at PermaTree

In the beginning of PermaTree, we just used the soil we found around the plant nursery which has a reddish and claylike soil texture. Not ideal for the seeds to germinate, we found out. It makes them hard to thrive, because of the slow drainage rate and therefore the high water-holding capacity.

The main soil we have at the Finca, is a claylike, reddish soil.

So, we were thinking it might be best to mix this claylike soil with compost to become a smoother structure to thrive the seeds an easier way to spread. But at that time we did not had our proper compost soil, so we had to find a vendor – which was only possible by asking around.

We just bumped in to a new raised project in the city of Yantzata where they produce, from organic waste of the garbage dump, compost soil. We were happy to finally find someone who is producing compost soil in big amounts and we liked the idea of the project because people usually do not reuse organic waste. All goes in to the same trash. So we bought a few bags of this compost and gave it a try.

The result was, the compost contained to much nutrition and for the little plants, there roots, got burned and finally they died. Also the compost had a nasty sticky structure. The surface dried out very fast and it got very hard. Inside it was so wet that the soil got moody and by turning the pot over you could smell the moodiness. Even for bigger Plants this compost soil failed in all cases. Plants firmly died by looking at them!

Soil condition in dry state of the compost, humus, fertilizer from Yantzaza.

So finally we had to drop the idea of using this compost soil, nice project, but something was not acting well.

Then we tried a other mixture with sand, which we bought by the river bank nearby and an almost black soil which we discovered near our workers house. A nice and smooth soil. Who thrived pretty well and now, after several times, throwing pots away and start from scratch, we had our first success! YEY!

So, best mixture is 80% Sand and 20% Compost or black soil.

Humus, soil near the workers house.

Sand texture from the river bank.

But there are different sand textures as well. Sometimes the sand is so fine that it sticks together like clay. Therefore, better sand with tiny, tiny stones in it, to keep a loose soil for good drainage so the water can flow through and does not stay to long in the pot, to avoid putrefaction.

With the time we had been talking to all kinds of people about soil and where to buy best, how to make our own fertilizer and by that, we received many, many answers and various techniques, how to make compost soil. Which was also a bit confusing for us and the question was, where to start best?

Our first idea was just throwing all organic matter from the kitchen into an earth hole. But soon we had company from ugly worms and the compost was very watery. Crops and dry components where definitely missing. And probably the hole thing wasn’t helping. So we actually didn’t know how to make a proper compost in a tropical climate like we are in.

Our first contact was a visit at the Japanese community TAKAKURA nearby. They make a soil with fermented crops, and finally the microorganisms break all the organic matter down to a black compost soil. A tradition Japanese recipe like they use it to make compost soil. There are two fermented solutions needed which can be read in a detailed manual they gave us. But still it is kind a tricky if you never got hands on it. We were just missing the insiders. When do I have to mix it how and how long and how does the soil look like, when do we have to add more from them and that? So we were kind a in the situation of not dared to venture.

There was another community near Yantzaza which also restores compost soil. They call it Bukatchi. Also a fermented process a fantastic soil for seeds! But we found it very complicated to produce. The recipe is long! You need lots of ingredients and fermented elements to produce Bukatchi according to their recipe and their stock is very little. You have to cut organic matter in tiny peace which is a time consuming process by hand.

Time passed and we came across with a completely different project the Guanabanas, Soursop a super food fruit which kills cancer cells hundred times more than chemotherapy. This all organic project made us very confident to produce them over large scale. So they told us, when the plant is placed in to the hole, fertilizer must be added to give them a good growing start. Over a other person we found a seller from Cuenca. A very good soil! Two bags we had to mix, one was a compost from leaves and the other was compost with cow dough. But this soil is really only for plants which are higher than 20 cm. Otherwise again, it’s too much nutrition and therefore not for seedlings!

Compost, humus, fertilizer soil from Cuenca.

For seedlings we used only like 10% of this fertilizer and the rest 60% with sand and 20% rice husks until the soil gets very smooth and light. Instead of compost soil we are using now goat dug which works well too. But as I mentioned, just very little because it is high in nutrition!

Goat dug fertilizer.

Dry rice husks, shells.

Why not chicken dug? Because it is very strong and the chicken dug is most likely coming from chickens which are treated with antibiotics, which is anyway bad for the soil. Better use Guinea pig dug or like mention above.

So this whole process took us one-year experimentation to find out what’s the best soil condition for our seedlings. We also found out that Papaya needs a lot of nutrition and Carrot grow best in sandy soil.

Compost soil is still an open project which we are working on it and hoping that hope one day to keep it up and ideally have a Volunteer on board who can support on showing us exactly how to produce smooth and nice black soil!

Plant Nursery, picture from today, 18. April 2017

Young chilli peper plant.

young Noni plant

Young Tomato plant.

Good fertilizer for Tomato, wooden ash!

Young Rambutan, plant

Young Pitahaya, Dragon Fruit plant.

 

 

New Natural Building Volunteer Structure

After having almost 95% finished the construction of our current PermaTree HQ bamboo house, we started with the next natural building project. Within 3 month we started living in our bamboo house so we improved step by step the construction. The first few month where a bit rough because we had almost no walls within the house and the roof had some issues with the rain 🙂 Now all got fixed.

The new PermaTree volunteer structure

Development Status (9th March 2017) of the base for the new natural structure for our volunteers at PermaTree in Ecuador. Construction material are local wood for the base structure. Top structure / walls and roof structure will be all in bamboo mostly guadua type bamboo which we have been drying here for the last 6 month. Some material need to be organized but most of it is ready and on location.

Also see inspiration for the color of the roof (blue), the roof design (tropical – lots of rain), first sketch of the structure on the white board and last but not least the floating hammock 🙂 Rock n Roll

As you know we have a new volunteer program at PermaTree because we deeply believe in collaboration. We do what we believe. Participation is experiential education; you are learning about permaculture and community by living in it. The most helpful, effective, and happy participants are self-motivated, interested, responsible, and accountable. Here we fully stress collaboration. We are about mutual enrichment and working together. There is no room for people who think they know everything.

Since things like finishing the new volunteer structure take time, ideally you will be able to commit to a 1 month or longer working alongside the PermaTree Volunteer Program. Our goal is to finish this structure before the end of 2017.

Here we see the volunteer structure with the additional parts for earth quake resistance!

Here we see the volunteer structure with the additional parts for earth quake resistance!

Btina standing in front of the bottom structure – better see the size.

Before and after photo of the volunteer structure base

Before and after photo. The main idea was to not change the landscape at all and “just” build on top of it.

Here is part of our inspiration for this project:

Inspiration: First sketch on the white board / idea Inspiration: Blue Roof Inspiration: Tropical Roof Design Inspiration: Floating Hammock with view