Building soil fertility

Building Soil Fertility

April 10th: Building soil fertility with local resources: Biochar, Compost, & More with permaculture enthusiast and owner of New Branch Permaculture: Whitney Vanderleest

Whitney is a permaculture enthusiast who has a passion for all things compost.  Her Business New Branch Permaculture focuses on building fertility with local resources through the production of Biochar & Vermi-compost.  Her goal is to help Cortes become a more sustainable community, by reducing waste, and growing food forests.

In this episode she shares her love of all things compost and how to make soil with what you have easily on hand. She covers numerous composting systems: including how to turn even wood into soil and how to make an at-home rat-proof compost bin. She also talks about alternative options for dealing with brush, such as hugelkulture and biochar production.  
Carrie Saxifrage called-in as our gardener of the week to discuss how to approach gardening with many of the same permaculture techniques that Whitney uses: how to turn problems into solutions and make gardening easy and rewarding. 

A few things I learned: Soil, soil, soil…. it’s all about soil. Nobody needs to buy soil or throw out any organics on Cortes (which is quite expensive to haul off island as garbage or to haul on island): you can make your own soil with wood, wood chips, brush, seaweed, straw, food scraps or just about anything you have access toBio-char is nutrient rich and can feed your soil nutrients for a long, long time. You can make your own charcoal by putting bones in a roaster into your own wood stove or doing the same with bits of wood. To make it “bio-char” you need to soak it in nutrients or stick it into your compost or chicken run to absorb odours and nutrients. No need to burn your brush, just bury it with a bit of soil and let it slowly become soil. Alder chips become soil quite fast. Start as many seeds as you can so that the soil in your garden can be chunkier and less fine and you get a head start. You can put wet cardboard over your planted seeds to help keep them moist.You can make an easy rat-proof composter at home…. or, make an easier compost by creating a one or two or three part wooden box (such as from pallets) Traditional compost needs a mix of carbon (browns) and nitrogen (greens)If you don’t want to compost your own food scraps, call a neighbour…. Whitney says she can use a LOT more greens. So can I. This is a great thing to share within a neighbourhood. 

You can learn more about Whitney such as designs for composers at:

This episode included our first Dance Break with Jenn Wilson a massage therapist with many years of working with pain and movement. 

Folk U Friday

Folk University has taken Folk U Friday to Cortes Community Radio, CKTZ, 89.5 FM every Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. with write-ups and podcast available all the time on Cortes and Neighbours continue to share their interests, passions, and skills with each other over the air-waves. YOU are encouraged to call-in every week to contribute, ask questions, or share your program ideas at 250-935-0200. Every week will also include gardening tips and other strategies for personal resilience during this time. 

Top photo credit: Close up of Romanesco Broccoli by Aimee Rivers via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)