Adding Chicken Compost to the Garden + Vlog Intro!

Introducing the Tierra Permaculture Vlog(video blog)! In today’s vlog, we’ll be adding chicken compost to the garden to inoculate beneficial microorganisms that will support young bell pepper seedlings.

On my homestead, I’m using a chicken compost system inspired by Geoff Lawton and Justin Rhodes. Creating compost piles within the chicken run itself allows the chickens to hunt for food within the pile, adding a “free” feed supply. If properly done, chickens can survive on compost alone!

They also turn the pile for me as they scratch around looking for seeds and bugs, assisting with aeration. This high quality chicken compost was created over 4-6 weeks with multiple turns.

At one point, I even added the remains from one of our roosters after we harvested! No bones or any part of the chicken remains in the pile, and the calcium from the bones will help with the Calcium:Magnesium ratio in my clay soil, adding pore space and structure in what could otherwise be a compacted, poor draining soil.

Adding Chicken Compost to the Garden starts with building compost piles within the chicken run
Before adding chicken compost to the garden, we need to make chicken compost! Here, the chickens are checking out a freshly build compost pile within their run, and a more mature pile can be seen in the background.

A little (high quality) compost goes a long way- I used about a gallon’s worth of compost from the pile for my small planting area. Before placing the compost, I removed the mulch layer. Then, I spread the compost around and transplanted my bell pepper seedlings 🌱 from another garden where they weren’t getting enough sunlight. I didn’t water it (which I would normally recommend) because I knew there was rain coming shortly.

After transplanting, I replaced the mulch layer on my garden. Mulching is very important if you don’t have a perennial ground cover to protect the soil microorganisms from direct sunlight and the heavy pounding of raindrops. Just after this vlog was shot, we got a heavy rain that dumped 1/4- 1/2 inch in 20 minutes, so I’m glad I got things covered.

I use a variety of organic material from the property as mulch, including sugar cane leaves, which grow abundantly here and are high in silica, which causes them to break down slowly.

Adding mulch on the garden promotes a healthy soil food web.
Adding mulch to the garden protects the soil from harsh sunlight and heavy rain

I’m adding chicken compost to the garden to add biology using Dr. Elaine Ingham’s Soil Food Web approach. The soil food web consists of primary feeders- bacteria and fungi- that break down the parent material in the subsoil as well as organic material in the soil itself. These organisms are then consumed by second-level predators: protozoa including flagellates, amoeba, ciliates, and nematodes.

It’s actually the predators consuming the bacteria and fungi that release plant-available nutrients in the soil through their “poop” in what is known as the poop loop. That’s why it’s so important to take care of your soil- the biology in the soil is what feeds your plants.

Mulching protects these microorganisms from extreme weather and also adds organic material for them to feed on. If you nurture your soil and build up your biology, they will do the hard work of feeding your plants and protecting them against disease-causing organisms.

If you’re interested in learning more about the soil food web, check out Elaine Ingham’s work. She’s the world’s leading soil microbiologist and has released a new course on the soil food web. If you use my link to sign up for the course, I’ll actually get a kickback as an affiliate which helps support this website.

The Tierra Permaculture Vlog

In order to better serve this community, I’ve decided to start producing a regular vlog (video blog). Personally, I learn best by watching someone else do something and then trying it myself. That’s what I want to do for you!

My goal is to create high quality content that’s entertaining and educational- edutainment. I’ll be posting videos on a regular basis (trying to do 4-6 videos per week) showing what I’m doing in my backyard as well as the other properties I help manage here in Puerto Rico.

I want to give a shoutout to Justin Rhodes here, as he is one of my main inspirations for this vlog. When I started down my permaculture journey, I found Justin’s YouTube channel to be both educational and inspirational. To this day, I watch his vlog on a regular basis just for fun and learn something every single time.

If you enjoy the vlog, please like and subscribe to my Youtube Channel and share it with your friends! The more subscribers I get, the better reach I’ll have and with each new subscriber, new options are available to me on YouTube.

Thanks for reading- if you have a comment or question, feel free to leave it here or head on over to the contact page.

As a BONUS today, here’s yesterdays vlog (as yet unannounced) for your viewing pleasure. I hope you enjoy!

Tropical Permaculture Backyard Tour | April 2020

Join Nick for a Tropical Permaculture Backyard Tour:

In this video, I’ll take you on a tour of my backyard while discussing the key elements of the permaculture design being implemented on the property. Located in the foothills of El Yunque in Luquillo, Puerto Rico, this site is 400 feet above sea level and the yard is only about 1500 sq. ft. (150 sq m) in size.

Despite the small area, this backyard is home to 3 chickens who are essential to the fertility of the landscape. Their manure is high in phosphorous (usually lacking in the tropics) and nitrogen and makes a great addition to our composting program. The chicken run and coop can comfortably fit up to 8 hens and measures 6′ (2m) x 18′ (6m).

At the base of their run, a gate allows access to a small grassy area that we use as a pasture to supplement the chicken’s diet. They also have access to a large dust bath underneath the house through this pasture, and it is one of their favorite areas to relax in. The chickens are fed rooster feed, but they are more interested in the food scraps, weeds from the garden, and compost piles built within their chicken run.

Tropical Permaculture Backyard Tour: Chicken System
A view from the bottom of the chicken run. They love their compost pile!

The inspiration for this system is a combination of methods used by Geoff Lawton and Justin Rhodes. The location of the chickens next to the garden allows easy disposal of weeds right over the fence. Building compost piles within the chicken run gives the chickens plenty of bugs and organisms to forage for, and they love scratching through the most mature piles.

I’ll also go into some basics of permaculture design, discussing how the water flows on site were taken into account while designing the access and garden bed layout. Also mentioned are the three ethics of permaculture: Earth Care, People Care, and Return of the Surplus.

In the tropics, it’s often a benefit to have high shade over the garden to shield young plants from the intense midday sun. Here, we use papaya as a high shade tree that produces fruit while having no bulky branches to work around.

The design also includes a long clothesline in the middle of the gardens. This is a conscious design choice to reduce our carbon footprint by relying on the sun for drying instead of an electric dryer powered by burning fossil fuels.

Also heavily featured is our cat, Otto, who serves as our mice and rat deterrent/hunter while also being extremely adorable, despite causing a few problems in the garden itself.

Hopefully this tropical permaculture backyard tour gives you some inspiration and ideas for your own backyard, especially in the tropics. If you have any questions about anything within the video or general comments, please feel free to leave them here or on the contact page.

If you like what you saw, please be sure to like and subscribe within Youtube, and turn on notifications if you want to be updated about future videos. Thanks for watching!