My muddy hands smell like the sea. I have been potting native plants all morning at Deep Dirt Farm Institute in Patagonia. The organic potting mix contains compost, forest materials, peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, kelp or seaweed and crab shell. The diversity in this mix creates a tiny ecosystem in the soil that is resilient, not reliant on expensive inputs like synthetic fertilizers, and is healthier to work with for folks like me who like to play in the mud. The soil is dark, musky, and rich.
The compost is created from goat manure, straw, old cotton clothing, vegetable scraps, various plant materials from around the farm, and an inoculant of 52 strands of beneficial organisms. All of these items were layered in a kind of compost lasagna, covered, kept moist, and baked for months. The forest product comes from the Ponderosa forests of Northern Arizona. The kelp and crab provide trace minerals and nutrients. Ingredients like peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite give the soil the desired amount of water retention and drainage.
Mixing soil has the familiarity of an ancient craft, like kneading dough. I delight in the physical exertion as I lift shovels of the soil and work towards a thorough mix. I want to give each plant root an opportunity to touch the vast network of diversity I am creating. I add a little water, a dry mix would shock the plant roots. When I’m satisfied, I carefully remove the native plants from seedling trays or small pots and place them in larger homes, pressing on the soil to rid air pockets, but not too much as to compact the soil. A sort of motherly love emerges during this activity; I am filled with gratitude that this is my job.
These plants will eventually be used in restoration projects, like the site at The Nature Conservancy that was recently planted by Borderlands Restoration and local Patagonia Union High School students. We came together to connect to the landscape by increasing the diversity and thus resiliency of the plant population. Thanks in part to the organic soil mix of goat poop, last year’s jeans, and life from the sea.
If you are interested in learning more about compost, Kate Tirion will be hosting a workshop at Deep Dirt Farm Institute on October 19. Email DDFILLC@gmail.com to find out more.
Also, Borderlands will be selling native plants at the Patagonia Fall Festival on Saturday Oct 12. Please stop by our table for a chat. As always, you can connect with us on facebook, online at www.BorderlandsRestoration.org, and at the Re:SOURCE eastern Santa Cruz county website.