Summary - this pages looks at how soil affects health

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Why WickiMix?



Modern humans are the end result of millions of years of evolution. Our food was generally low in energy, high in fibre and rich in minerals and trace elements. Our bodies are adapted to this diet. A wide range of plants grew together in soil developing synergistic relations, for example some plants being good at repelling insects others at extracting minerals from deep in the soil. Soil biology was very active and formed part of this synergistic system.

Modern food is very different - in some ways better in other worse. It is full of energy which is very quickly released into our bodies; it is grown in monocultures without the benefits of these synergistic relations with other plants and made viable by the extensive use of chemicals. Production is very high so soils have become depleted of biology and trace minerals.

Our bodies do not handle these sudden bursts of high energy food - it leads to sugar spikes and getting fat - so we need to balance this by eating food which takes longer to digest - by containing more fibre - and also contains the essential minerals, vitamins and trace elements.

The WickiMix system aims to help people balance their diet by helping people grow their own fruit and vegetables in a way which resembles the way our food was grown naturally.

Healthy bodies from healthy plants from healthy soil

 
healthy soil Sounds great but how to get healthy soil?  There are hundreds of products on the market which you are supposed to sprinkle on the surface and somehow they magically create beautiful soil.

I have tested many of these - many make no apparent difference, others actually make a minor improvement but none really transform the soil

 

root zoneYet I have found that in the root zone of certain plants the soil is actually transformed. The mechanism for this transformation may not be totally clear but it happens.

It is possible to get an understanding of the mechanism by studying how soil is created by natural processes and for those interested I discuss this in later articles in this series. 

For now I will keep it simple and say that you have to follow a process. This may require the use of soil additives like gypsum but these only work if they form part of a process.

 
gypsum.jpg For example simply mixing gypsum with clay has very little effect, gypsum by itself does not readily mix with clay.

However the calcium in gypsum is essential for fungi which needs calcium for its cell structure.

It is the combination of gypsum and soil biology which improves the soil.

But fungi like all living organisms needs food and energy as fungi cannot create their own energy by photosynthesis. So by adding gypsum together with food such as lignum from dead plants and energy from the exudates from the roots of growing plants may dramatically improve soil.

How to create soil


Soil is more than a collection of ingredients - it is a combination of parent material, minerals, water, plants, biology and food for the biology working as a living eco-system.

People cannot manufacture soil - all we can do is to create the right conditions and add some critical components if needed - and soil will form naturally - as it has done for billions of years.

In nature soil creation can be a very slow process and with the wrong conditions soil will not form at all - however if we provide the right conditions soil will form much faster then leaving it to the random process of nature.

It is a process - I often talk about the WickiMix process which I write about free of charge for anyone interested.  I do sell some products which are not otherwise commercially available and other products can be purchased through established channels.

I say again it is a process and here are some of the ingredients.


Parent material

 
soil typesFirst you need the parent material - this could be your natural soil which may be anywhere from clay to sand or if you don't have a garden with suitable soil then you may use potting mix as your parent material. Potting mix may be great for seed and seedling but it is not a living soil which will grow the healthy plants you need for your health.

Minerals

 

soil mineralsIf (as is normal) your parent material is missing certain key minerals you will have to add these - I have already mentioned calcium which is often supplied by gypsum or dolomite but there is a whole range of minerals which plants need and even more that we need - so these must be added to the soil.

 

Biology

 

soil biologyBiology is essential for good soil.  It is not simply a particular species like bacteria or mycorrhizal fungi that is needed but a diverse range which acts as a living eco-system.

WickiMix-R is literally grown in the root zone of selected plants and contains both micro and macro biology. It contains the micro organisms such as fungi and bacteria.  In reality there is rarely any need to add bacteria to soil - they are totally ubiquitous and breed at a rate which makes rabbits look celibate.

Fungi generally need adding as part of a soil improvement program as they break down the harder material which bacteria cannot break down (like lignin or woody stuff).  They are crucial to the formation of humus which is the stable form of carbon which is a critical component of good soil.

However the macro biology (such as worms) play a crucial role by making interconnected channels through the soil.

Water

 

soil waterIt may seem so obvious that a living system needs water but how the water is managed has a major effect on soil quality. The immediate reaction may be to supply water to maintain a constant moisture level however natural soils have evolved with an often erratic rainfall which can be very beneficial to soil formation.

A wet and dry cycle creates a breathing action in the soil sucking in fresh air as the water dries up and expelling stale air and gasses as the water level rises.

It may not be instinctive but there is a major benefit in occasional flooding.  This drives the macro biology to the surface which creates numerous channels to the surface.

It can also kills of much harmful biology.  Good soils are a living ecosystem with a balance between beneficial and harmful organisms.

Food for the biology

The biology needs to be fed.  There are two sources of food - dead organic material and exudates from the plants themselves.

Many people prefer to hot compost any dead organic material - which often looks a tidier process than cold composting.  However simply burying dead organic material so it is digested by the biology is a much more effective as it provides food for the soil biology.

Plant exudates are particularly important as they encourage specific types of organisms.  As fanatical as I am about soil I have to admit it is a competitive place with all sort of organisms which are just waiting to attack and eat the root system of our plants. Nematodes and certain fungi can reek havoc on plant roots.

Plants have developed a system of exudates which will feed beneficial biology which will protect the root system form attack.

Why Wickimix -R and -M

WickiMix-R is extracted from the rhyzosphere or root zone of selected plants which are used to grow the biology.

In practice the beneficial organisms - like mycorrhizal fungi - function best when the nutrient levels are not too high - presumably because the host plant will cut back on its exudates if there is an adequate supply of nutrients.

For this reason no extra nutrients are added to -R apart form calcium which is essential for fungi.

WickiMix-M is a much finer that the fibrous -M and is much more suitable for the propagation of seeds and seedlings.

Basic of how to use

Details of the how to use the system for wicking beds are described in the manual. 

Here are the basic principles which can be in most cases - particularly sponge beds

 

trenchFirst a trench is dug, minimum size 300mm by 300mm.

This is my heavy clay soil which is a challenge so I have gone for the minimum size.  I wish I was younger. 

 

hbfoodwaste.jpegThe trench is then filled with food waste.  This is where I stop being technical and live in the real world.

I wait until the compost bin is just at the point before the bin starts to smell and my wife will get grumpy then take it down to the sponge bed to empty the bin.

I guess the length of the trench so the food layer will be will be about 100mm high.

 

hbweeds.jpgI then cover the food with weeds. I have tonnes of weeds at my place and I used to think of them as a total pain.

I now look upon then as a highly efficient way of mining nutrients. (But weeding is still a pain.)

If you live in an apartment weeds are not essential but it is worth adding some dolomite (calcium) and manure (nitrogen).

 

hbWickiMix-r.jpgI then add WickiMix-R on top of the weeds or waste.

-R is extracted from the root zone of selected plants and is very fibrous so it is impossible to get a nice smooth layer.

You can see one of my friendly worms wondering what I am doing to his house.  Living worms are not that easy to transport but there is plenty of worm eggs in the -R so they will soon reappear.

 

hbparent.jpgIn a large sponge bed I will try and smooth the surface by backfilling with the parent soil.  Unfortunately my soil is a heavy clay so it gives a lumpy surface. But I do as best as I can then add the fine WickiMix-M.

In a small Wicking Bed I would simply use WickiMix-M to create the smooth surface for seeding.

 

hbseeding.jpgI now apply a layer of the fine WickiMix-M to the surface to germinate my seeds.

It is most important to either seed or put in seedlings or a mature plant.

Soil is created by the synergist relation between plant roots and soil biology. 

Essentially waste organic material is placed relatively deep in the soil.  This is covered with a layer of WickiMix-R where the biology will transform the waste organic material.

In a small wicking bed (where cost is not so much of an issue) this will be covered with a layer of WickiMix-M however on a larger area is it more economic to cover with a layer of parent soil or potting mix then cover with a layer of the fine WIckiMix-M for seed propagation.

This laminates structure is only the starting point.  The macro biology will move from layer to layer so you will end up with a beautifully mixed soil.  (particularly if you follow the recommended deep cycle irrigation.   

 

culture WickiMix-R is a natural culture from the rhizosphere or root zone of selected plants known to attract beneficial micro-organism.

 

It will transform organic material such as weeds and food waste into nutrient rich soil.

WickiMix-M contains minerals and trace element essential for health

see manual for details

 

 

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