If bed building is the stuff you add on top of the dirt, soil building is the stuff you do to the dirt before you add the stuff.Â Perhaps I should have written this one up first, eh?Â Well, never let anyone say I’m organized or efficient *grinning eyeroll*.
There are three types of soil building I’m interested in experimenting with.Â The first step for all of them is checking for what the soil needs through soil tests, and then finding a way to get that into the soil.Â There is:
double digging, which is an enormous amount of effort, done once and never again;
amending, which is testing forÂ and thenÂ strewing about and spading in the stuff the soil needs; and…
and biochar (‘Terra Preta, Dark Earth, Indian Dark Earth), which is an exceptionally cool thing.Â Check this out.Â So Europeans thought that the Amazonians were a primitive culture, until we noticed that they practiced Permaculture in the way of food farming.Â Excellent.Â ButÂ something else was going unnoticed as well — really really dark soil that was quite fertile.Â And deep.Â Never bigger than 2 acres, these occasional pockets of amazing fertility (about 5 – 10% of theÂ Amazon landmass, as big as France)Â were created when indigeneous peoples piled dead plant matter in a hole, started them on fire, and covered it with dirt.Â High temperatures and a lack of oxygen created excellent char.Â Â Â OurÂ process for creating biochar is carbon-negative and, in today’sÂ sophisticatedÂ industrial production plants, powers itself.Â Â The biochar has enormous surface space and many nooks n crannies.Â It seems to trap and hold nutrients; many indigeneous crops grow eight times faster than those in unamended soils, water percolating from the Terra PretaÂ soil is much more clean and clear thanÂ a stream fromÂ from unamended soil; and there have been plots of Biochar under continuous cultivation without additional fertilizers for over forty years.Â Cornell University is conducting trials and we will soon know more.