Friday, 18 December 2015

SHL Supplements and Complements

Over the years, I have developed my own concoctions for use at the farm and in accordance to the types of plants as well as experimenting products from friends as to what works best.  Most people refer to beneficial microorganism as EM or Effective microorganism.  We use clean, natural water for all our concentrate production.

  1. Beneficial microorganism concentrate with citronella comprises of organic, chemical pesticide.herbicide free organic matter such as calamansi, papaya, banana, ginger torch with our own organically grown citronella and fermented with black sugar cane and molasses for a minimum period of 3 months.  The citronella is mainly used for pest deterrent properties but it also adds a lovely aroma to the concentrate along with citrus elements.
  2. Beneficial microorganism concentrate with citronella and Epsom Salts is mainly targeted for fruiting plants and trees with the added magnesium content.
  3. Green beneficial microorganism with citronella concentrate was developed mainly to have an all-in-one for our leafy vegetables such as kaolin, pal chop, cabbage, spinach, to name a few.
  4. Organic mulch is mulch created from our chemical pesticide and herbicide free vegetation including ginger torch leaves and stems, "tebrau", etc.
  5. Organic fertiliser mulch comprises of our mulch with the addition of fertilisers and nutrients and is mainly used to "top-up" our plants.  The mulch and beneficial microorganisms promotes the breakdown of the fertilisers over a time period, releasing them over a period of time and reducing leakages.
  6. Organic potting soil contains various elements but is targeted as promoting healthy root growth and well as better seed germination success rate with its ability to maintain moist soil conditions with the appropriate watering and not soggy.
  7. Fish Amino Acid concentrate is created from our own fish that is reared under 24-hour flowing water "river-like" pond and feed with quality fish pellets as well as the small river fish and shrimps that comes in with the water from a natural river source.  It is fermented for a period of not less than one month.
All the beneficial microorganism concentrate and fish amino acid concentrate are diluted at the rate of 10-20 ml of concentrate to 1 later of chlorine-free water.  Remember, our household water source is filled with chemical during the water processing to kill of bacteria and germs and this same chemicals will kill the beneficial microorganism thereby reducing or removing  the benefits derived from the beneficial microorganisms.

Monday, 14 December 2015

SHL Tips #2: Increasing the chances of germinating seeds and having healthy seedlings

At the farm, growing seedlings is one of our key activities.  We are continuously sowing seeds in our effort to have a continuous supply of vegetables and fruits.  For the moment, we rely on commercial seeds for all 50% of our vegetables and the rest are farm produced.

What we find at the farm, the two major factors for successfully germinating seeds is the quality of the seeds and composition of the germination medium.  Hence I experimented with various types of germination medium with the aim to have one that is cost-effective and easy for us - both from the preparation as well as the maintenance throughout the germination and production of a healthy seedling.

Our germination medium comprises of the following 4 elements:
  1. organic mulch
  2. soil mix
  3. vermicompost
  4. chicken manure
Each of the element plays an important role in increasing the success rate of seed germination and healthy seedlings.  The organic mulch helps in maintaining the moisture content in the mix and
preventing the mix from drying out and keeping the mix light.  The soil mix contains soil and burnt soil to create the base for the root growth that also contains nutrients.  Vermicompost is a good source of nutrients as well as beneficial organisms for the seedling growth.  Apart from providing nutrients to the seedlings, chicken manure contains the key element for a healthy root growth - phosphorous. 
When placing the seeds, it is important to place them at the right depth.  In general, the larger the seed, the deeper it is.  Whilst placing the seed at a lesser depth can still result in germination, it will cause the root to form too close to the surface resulting in a seedling that is not well-rooted hence it can topple easily.

A layer of mulch mixed with chicken manure and soil (7:1:2) is placed on top to further reduce the water evaporation rate.  This will also help keep a continuous supply of nutrients to the seedling as the mixture breaks down thereby not requiring further fertilisation until transplanting.

With moist - not soggy- germination medium rich in the essential ingredients, a healthy seedling with good root growth can be produced.  It is important to have a healthy root growth in order to produce a healthy plant as the root system is the key mechanism for the plant to "eat and drink".

Friday, 4 December 2015

SHL Tips #1: It starts with the soil

I continually experiment with the purpose of trying to improve the quality and quantity of yield from my plants and trees.  To me, it all starts with the soil.  Based on my limited experience and experiments, there are a few aspects of the soil that I focus on:

  1. Quality of the soil
  2. Composition of soil
  3. Moisture retention within the soil
Quality of the soil encompasses how healthy the soil is.  My farm is totally organic because I am a firm believer that the chemical pesticides and herbicides causes the soil to die as the various natural life forms that promote the health and well-being of the soil are killed off.  This includes the beneficial microorganisms and the various types of worms.  Earthworms are essential for promoting the health of the soil as well as performing the critical function of aerating the soil.  The beneficial microorganisms further enhances the breakdown of nutrient elements in the soil making it easily available to the plants and trees.

Composition of the soil matters when I am determining what I plan to plant.  Different types of plants and trees require different types of soil composition.  For example, plants that produce tubers prefer soil composition that has a higher proportion of sand than fruiting plants.  A simple way of thinking is this:  If the plant produces tubers like sweet potatoes, ginger, turmeric, and if the soil composition is heavy like clay, it would make it more difficult for the plant to produce the tubers as clay is heavy and hard to push through especially when dry.  If it is too wet, then it will make it more likely for the tubers to rot.  Clay soil is rich in minerals and nutrients so it is not necessarily bad, I just have to make some modifications to the composition to "lighten" it depending on the plant or tree that I want to plant.

Moisture within the soil also makes a big difference.  Some plants prefer "wet" soil and some prefer consistent moisture whilst others prefer to have the soil dry out before watering.  Depending on the plant and the capability of the moisture retention within the soil, this will affect how often and how long you water.  The moisture retention capabilities of the soil can be adjusted with the use of mulch and other organic material as well as sand.

At the farm, we only use organic soil improvers and additives and the majority are farm produced with an eye to organic recycling and minimisation of cost as well as cost-benefit.  With the right soil quality, composition and moisture, you have the option of planting in containers like pots or polybags, or in the ground.  To me, this is the foundation for healthy plants and trees.  If they cannot feed and grow roots, one cannot expect them to grow well.

PS>> I am not a trained agriculture expert nor am I a lifetime farmer.  What I am is a 7-years practicing, hands-on farmer :)