Soil for healthy food
  Index last changed 21 Dec 2015  

Just published  1 Feb 2016

Living soils, fungal composting and health.pdf



Modern factory food is unhealthy – full of fats, sugars and salt but lacking in fibre and minerals which leads to fat around the vital organs, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes.

Food is dominated by mega- corporations focused on profits above health.

Diet can be balanced by eating fresh fruit and vegetables free of toxic chemicals.
wormbeds.jpgFortunately Wicking Beds make it easy for virtually anyone to grow nutritious green veggies. As the plants grow in a nutrient rich compost tea they require little watering or maintenance.

They can be very simple and cheap – there is no need for complex systems – any waterproof container will do – such as a polystyrene or tote box.
healthy soilBut Wicking Beds need a healthy living soil.

Soil is the key for success in growing nutritious vegetables. Nutrients are essential but not enough.
fungi.jpgPlants have a symbiotic or cooperative relation with soil biology which both releases nutrients and structures the soil which must have a high void space to hold the water, be hydrophilic (water loving) for wicking as well as a high nutrient level.

The WickiMix process enables people to grow their own soil from organic waste such as food scraps and weeds.

It is based on the way that nature has been making soils for billions of years – a living eco-system containing an active and diverse micro and macro soil biology which decomposes and aerates organic material to create healthy soil.

WickiMix-R (R indicating Rhizosphere of Root zone) contains a broad spectrum soil biology extracted from the roots of plants grown as a balanced eco-system. A key feature of the process is the use of a wide range of specific plants which encourage beneficial soil micro-organisms.
wickimixr.jpgIt is placed on top of a layer of organic waste and is then covered with soil or potting mix and finally a layer of WickiMix-M which is fine textured for seed propagation and contains Minerals essential for health.

WickiMix-R and -M are concentrates which are used directly in Wicking beds. It is available from the shop at

People with large gardens and a supply of organic waste (as available from many local Councils) may prefer to grow their own WickiMix by buying a combination of soil biology and seeds.

The WickiMix system is based on intellectual property rights protected by the Creative Commons system for community sharing and can be used for private use.

However we are encouraging experienced growers to set up ethical micro-businesses using the WickiMix process to produce and supply soil to local customers. To ensure quality control this requires a commercial license. is a reference site which contains details of the WickiMix process.

You can contact me by email I am happy to discuss by telephone in Australia -  07 4157 2278 but best to arrange a time by email first.

Colin Austin 20 Dec 2015


The following pages focus on improving soil - to access the full website goto library

Wickimix is a process which converts waste organics into living nutritious soil


The following pages explore this in some detail. Here is the essence

hbfoodwaste.jpeg hbweeds.jpgFood waste and weeds are placed below the surface.  This is the raw material which will be converted to soil.

This is covered with a layer of WickiMix-R which is extracted from the root system of living plants and contains both micro and macro soil biology.

In a Wicking bed a seed tray may be used as described later.



hbWickiMix-r.jpg hbseeding.jpgThis is then covered with WickiMix-M which is fine textured and full of minerals and trace elements for seeding. This form a balanced eco system for the production of nutritious soil.

Soil is the most valuable commodity of the face of the earth

It feeds us, it cleans and stores our water and is key to the air we breath.

I admit it – I am an obsessional soil freak. Did you see the Woolies advert on TV (watch on YouTube) (click back arrow to return)
well I am that soil freak.
woolies.jpgPicture of Michelle Bridges eating soil from Woolies soil freak commercial.

I may be a soil freak but I am not a nostalgia freak.  For most people on earth we have more food, more goods and greater wealth and despite the headlines actually safer than ever before.
megacorporation.jpgBut life is never perfect, the lobbying capacity of the mega corporations has been described as the biggest threat to democracy. As consumers they lobby us with what to buy and they lobby the Governments for regulations which benefit them. They are not above the law - they are the law.
automationManufacturing has become so efficient with the advent of computerization and  automation that the actual cost of manufacture is only a fraction of the final price.

The amount spent on advertising and promotion in its various forms has become the biggest cost.

I don't really care about the latest smart phone or electronic gizmo but I do care about food. Global health is declining we are fatter and less fit than before and that comes from the highly processed food we have been persuaded to eat by clever marketing.

But what can we do about it?

Not much directly but we can at least grow some of our own healthy food and the Wicking Bed technology makes it possible for virtually anyone - even those living in apartments with no growing experience or little time - to grow at least some of their own food.

Healthy bodies from healthy plants from healthy soil

healthy soilThe current focus of this web site is to show people how to grow healthy food.  But healthy food comes from healthy plants grown in healthy soil. 

Healthy soil is not a commodity you can simply go out and buy - it has to be created or grown so here I try and explain how you can grow healthy soil - particularly focused on Wicking Beds but the principles are common to all growing systems.

Getting hooked on soils

sunday soilsMy love - hate relation with soil started early in life as I lived on heavy clay - concrete when dry - sticky glue when wet. What farmers often call Sunday soils, too wet to seed on Saturday - too dry on Monday but just workable on Sunday.

I decided to set up a scientific experiment to evaluate the various clay breakers and soil conditioners which were commercially available.

As a scientific experiment it was a bit of a failure without a clear positive result. Some of the soil conditioners helped but none really solved the problem. I still had Sunday soils.

But I did notice one thing and I admit I did not really see the importance at the time.  In the root zone of some species of plants there was beautiful crumbly soil - just what every grower wants.  At that time I had no idea how these plants were achieving this miracle or really what the significance was.

How is it that you can buy all these - often expensive - soil improvement products which only make a marginal improvement yet some plants can create beautiful soil in their root zone for free?  That was a puzzle which kept me busy for many years.

But that was forty years ago and since then there has been two earth shattering events. (Excuse the pun)

The dust storm

duststormmelbourne.jpgFirst we had the dust storms which hit Melbourne in 1983. That really hit home as I read about the billions of tonnes of lost top soil.

As I studied more about soil loss – and how chemical farming is destroying the soil - I realised this was a major threat to sustainable food supply and hence all of humanity.


We all got fatter

supermarket.jpgThen we started to get fat.  In thirty years people around the world have changed from skinny to fat.  The statistics are horrifying. 

The cause -  factory farmed processed food high in fats, sugars and salts but missing critical micronutrients. This is already the cause of major health problems basically excess fat around the vital organs (metabolic syndrome) which leads to diabetes, heart attacks strokes etc. (See How to grow (or buy) healthy food.pdf).

It all gets back to the soil -
healthy bodies from healthy plants from healthy soil

The processed food industry is so powerful that farmers - even if they want to improve their soil - are under such cost and production pressures they are no longer free agents.

Healthy bodies from healthy food from healthy plants from healthy soil.

light bulb.jpgIt all looked pretty gloomy - no one seemed in a position to challenge the power of the multi nationals that control our food.

But then a shining light appeared.

Wicking beds - everyone can grow own food

I had been asked to go to Ethiopia to see if I could find a way of providing sustenance food during droughts.  My solution was simple and cheap - just dig a hole - line with a plastic sheet - put a layer of weeds (to provide nutrients) - put back the soil and bingo.  An underground water reservoir to feed the plants with a nutrient rich tea.

Wicking Beds was bourn. The idea spread around the world as soon it seemed that everyone was using wicking beds.

See Shanghai Wuhan talk

It did not take me long to realise that this meant that virtually anyone - even if living in an apartment with little time or gardening skills could grow their own healthy food.

Hitting the brick wall

brickwall.jpgBut then I hit a brick wall.  Wicking Beds may be great but they need good soil - if the nutrients are not in the soil they can never be in the plants.

Ok it is easy enough to buy nutrients but these are the same chemicals used in factory farming - with all the problems that causes. No point in repeating failure.

How can people get access to natural healthy soils?
Image result for food waste
The answer was staring right at me.  Some 40% of all food ends up as waste - we are plagued by weeds which may be a pain for us but are actually very good at extracting nutrients from even the poorest soil.

How could I turn all this waste into healthy soil?

My mind went back forty years to those experiments on trying to turn Sunday soils into good soil.  I needed to understand what was actually happening in the root zone of those plants which seemed able to create beautiful soil.

Since that time science has made gigantic leaps forward in understanding soil biology and the synergistic relationship between plants and soil biology - as we see with mycorrhizal fungi - but there is still much to learn.

But we do not need to understand every microscopic creature living in the soil we just need to understand how this works as a system and be able to reproduce the process.

So I thought I would start growing these plants which can turn dirt into soil.  I know how to do this but there is yet one further problem. 
Image result for marketing guruThe product that comes from these plants is black yucky stuff full of creepy crawlies - not very appealing. My interests and skills lie in technology - I am not a marketing person.  So off to the marketing gurus.

Marketing experts

o I thought I would contact  marketing specialists for advice. I admit the brief was pretty rugged - I want to promote black yucky stuff full of creepy crawlies.

There comments were that I needed to sort out the packaging so it looked attractive and there was too much verbiage - I needed to reduce this to one page using infographics.

Has the package become the product

creepycrawly.htmWhat sort of world do we live in when the package and the marketing hype becomes the product?

WickiMix may be black yucky stuff filled with creepy crawlies. Put it in a pretty container with sexy infographics and it is still black yucky stuff filled with creepy crawlies but in a pretty box.

I think people deserve better than this marketing bullshit.

Soil – the biggest threat to humanity

soildegradation.jpg Soil is the biggest environmental threat to humanity. You may or may not get worked up about climate change but let me tell you that the way we are destroying our soil is a far bigger threat.

If we took soils seriously by increasing the soil biology we could feed the anticipated ten billion people on the face of the globe and at the same time go a long way to resolving global warming.

The amount of organic matter needed to restore and improve our soils to feed the next generations is equivalent to some fifty years of our current rate of carbon emissions.
energystorage.jpg There are oodles of energy falling onto the earth’s surface, thousands of times our energy consumption - the immediate problem is we lack a means of storing this energy but it is a reasonable prediction that our brightest and bravest will have solved the storage problem within the next fifty years.

Destroying our soils is a far bigger threat than global warming. If we run out of soil the human race may last six months then we would all be dead from starvation. We could not live off aquaponics, hydroponics or the likes - we are totally dependent on a food chain that goes right back to soil.
Armageddon.jpg That may seem some farfetched Armageddon picture of the future - may be humanity can’t be that stupid - (please say yes to cheer me up) but right now we are suffering from a major health epidemic which goes right back to the damage we are doing to our soils.

We need healthy soils now.


Reading plan

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skippinggrowing WickiMix

following pages
Growing WickiMix
healthy bodies from healthy food from healthy plants from healthy soil
My Creepy Crawlies
real soil



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Copyright Colin Austin Creative Commons