How I grow WickiMix


WickiMix is grown based on the practical observation that good soil is formed in the root zone of specific plants.

My aim is therefore to select plants which will help form soil.  We understand that soil is formed by the synergistic relationship between plants and soils - but it is not a simple question of selecting just one plant.  I have selected a range of plants which form an eco system.

 
Kookaburrapark.jpgI live on an eco-village near Bundaberg in Queensland. The total area is over two hundred hectares about half of which is natural bush which has never been tilled or worked and is pretty close to a pristine environment.

This is a very dry area – too far North for the winter rains and far enough South to dodge most of the normal summer tropical deluges. But we do have an excellent system of lakes which provide water throughout the year.

In the wet season my block becomes a haven for fungi to sprout into mushrooms.
 

fairy ringA fairy ring is formed when a mushroom fires of spawn which lands in a circle.  The grass inside the ring is clearly much more luxuriant than where there is no fungi.  No doubt about it  - fungi really work.  While I am sure there is an abundance of local mycorrhizal  fungi in my block I have inoculated it with commercial fungi to get a broad spectrum.

 
open bedI grow my WickiMix in either an open wicking bed or a sponge bed.  I use an open wicking bed as this allows the natural biology to enter the bed.
 
sponge bed For growing WickiMix I now generally prefer a sponge bed
 which is similar to a wicking bed but the water is held by an organic sponge rather than a waterproof layer.
 
compost ringI have developed a two stage composting process.  I have set aside an area of my block as a dedicated compost ring. All the waste organic material is simply dumped in the centre of the ring - I don't bother to sort - in it goes.

I then grow a ring of broad leaved and deep rooted plants like Senna Alata, Queensland Arrow root etc. around the edge. I can then harvest the leaves to provide me with a source of cleaned compost which is free of pathogens, weed seeds and other nasties.

I do not compost these but use them directly in my beds as food for the biology.  I know most people prefer hot compositing but I am more interested in feeding - and hence growing - the biology than any nutrient value.
 
vermicast.jpgI cover the compostable material with vermicast (worm casting) which are really the basis of WickiMix. Fortunately Kookaburra Park Worm Farms are a close neighbor so I have an abundant supply of vermicast or worm casting and not too far away is an old volcanic rim which can supply volcanic rock dust.

I may add some minerals particularly calcium which is essential for the cell structure of fungi but otherwise I minimize any further nutrients.  I want the plants to be a bit hungry so they exude the chemicals which encourage and feed the soil biology.

WickiMix-M is designed to add the minerals for later food production.

Now comes the tricky bit of selecting the plants to grow the WickiMix.  Some plants seemed to have no interest in creating soil.

For example our native Eucalyptus seems intent on destroying soil - the leaves make the soil hydrophobic and the roots just go straight through any heavy clay with no soil improvement.

At first sight this may seem in defiance of any law of ecology but gum trees have their method - their survival mechanism is based on killing of the competition - which they do by fire and destroying the soil.

So no gum trees in my selection.
 
ecosystem.jpgI want to create a synergistic eco system.  Obviously I want plants that will create soil so I select some plants with deep tap roots and others with fibrous roots.

But I also want plants that will form synergistic relations with the biology - such as legumes and others that encourage mycorrhizal fungi. I do not worry about bacteria - they can look after themselves but fungi are the key to creating soil.

Now I have to protect my system.  The conventional wisdom is to rely on chemicals to fight of attack and I have to admit this is the most economic way. However I just look at the health statistics and say this is clearly not working so I go back to creating a functioning ecosystem.

This means growing some plants which are known defenders.  Some plants will provide protection against nematodes and others provide protection against insects and pests.
 
Image result for pyrethrum daisy We now know that mycorrhizal fungi acts as a sort of underground internet.  Most plants have very little protection against insects but when attacked they send out chemical signals which are picked up by the mycorrhizal internet which 'email' any protective plants - like pyrethrum daisies - which then activate their protective shield for every plants benefit.

All these different species of plants end up with a very dense and self protective environment.

But not totally - there is still the wild life.

Where I live on an eco village has an expanse of natural bush and many lakes which provide a habitat for an extensive range of creatures which are intent on eating my plants and is also a source of many weeds.
 
waterhen.jpgThe creatures - particularly the water birds - are beneficial
 bringing with them biology - such as fungal spores - from the native bush. However they can be totally destructive when planting new seeds.

I never harvest the whole area - i just cut off the plants to to soil level in a small area and harvest the roots system to give me WickiMix-R.  But this leaves me with a small bare patch which is open to predators - particularly the ducks and water hens which abound. So I reseed and cover until the patch has reached some level of maturity.

Warning 

You do need to be aware that WickiMix-R is part of a natural eco system and will inevitably contains some seeds.  It needs to be covered with at least 50mm or better 100mm of soil or WickiMix-M to minimize the seeds germinating.  In any case the seeds I use are safe for wicking beds or gardens and can easily be pulled out.

You also need to plant out you bed as soon as possible.  You grow what plants you want but plants with fine fibrous roots like the herbs such as parsley, sage, basil etc. are both useful and continue the soil improvement.

I use these as part of my seed mix so you may find they appear anyway.

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