Dr Sandra Tuszynska, a Soil Restoration Microbiologist, digs the world of soil restoration. In this video she explains how bacteria and fungi consume nutrients including nitrogen and phosphorus. And then tiny predators digest the bacteria and fungi and release the nutrients in a form that feeds plants. Good soil enriches the world and creates healthier plants that require less fertilizers. This of course, feeds the us all.
Dr Sandra Tuszynska tells us how to build the right conditions for diverse microbiology, create better worm farms and enjoy richer results.
What Dr Sandra Tuszynska Tells Us
“My background is in Agricultural Science and I ended up majoring in microbiology because I knew that microbes can literally clean up the mess we’ve made you know pesticides and all kinds of chemical nasty stuff, oil spills. Once I found that out I was like – well agriculture is really actually riddled with with all kinds of chemical treatments that we apply to our soils and our animals and our plants, so what a wonderful way to get into this idea of using microbes to actually clean up the mess we’ve made (deleted and) and go back to the original way that it was designed to function.”
Bacteria feed, clean and heal the soil. The same family of organisms that can clean polluted soils, also feeds the plants and provides them immunity.
Oxygen-based Microbiology Secret for Good Soil
“We want our plants to have oxygen-based microbiology around them so that they can create more oxygen and space for the roots to grow in. Because our plants are very much loving of oxygen. Even though they produce it in their leaves and we breathe it in. While they love the carbon we breathe out, they also need their roots to be in a very lovely, friendly place for them. And that means oxygen needs to be present as well as moisture. And, as well as all their friends on their roots which are the fungi and the bacteria”. There are many benefits in working with these microbial systems and putting them back into our depleted soils.
Learn With Dr Sandra Tuszynska
Dr Sandra Tuszynska is running a course called soil restoration course. She says “I’m putting all these creatures and their superpowers into each lesson. There are units with several lessons each. They’re quite long and science-y and very meaty in terms of getting people to understand exactly how it all fits together and how it (the soil ecosystem) works. And then I show people how to actually create that for their soils. “
How to Boost Micro-Organism Diversity in Your Worm Farm
- Instead of simply feeding your food scraps to the worm farm, keep the bottom tap open so any leachates do not fester. This also prevents worms from drowning. You can catch the leachate and pour it onto plants nearby.
- Add more carbon. This includes egg shells, torn paper, hair and dog fur and leaf litter. This provides more nutrients and air.
- If you don’t have enough food scraps to feed to the worms, then feed them some weeds. Not too many as long as the pile doesn’t get too hot.
- Keep the farm moist enough to deter ants and other creatures.
- Drill a few tiny air holes into the top
Farm Your Own Microorganisms and Worms
Converting waste into good soil is something everyone of us can do. Create a simple worm farm with a tall, large, bucket with a lid or an old garbage bin. Some council contractors sell old bins. And often you can get large food-safe bins from cafes and restaurants. Recycled bins are much better for the environment and will have less freshly volatile plastics.
Simply drill a few small holes (3mm) in the bottom (for drainage). Add a couple of holes in the lid (for air). Add shredded or torn-up paper and food and enough water to keep it damp. Then, find add native worms.
Support Our Native Worms
The worms usually sold for worm farms are the easiest worms to manage. But those of us who are skilled at raising worms, can have a go at supporting native worms instead.
Most people buy worms, but there are plenty of worms indigenous to your area, even desert areas have some worms. Research native compost worms because you don’t want to use earthworms. Look in the top layer of leaf litter of gardens. If you can’t find some compost worm, you can often buy Anisochaeta dorsalis worms in fish bait shops!
Getting started is easy and maintaining the system is almost as simple as putting the scraps in the landfill bin. Once the bucket is full, start another one. Eventually you can just tip it back into the garden.
Make Your Own Continuous-Flow System
Sandra strongly recommends that we do not disturb the rich mix of bacteria, fungi and worms. The worms don’t just eat the food, they eat the fungi and bacteria on the food. So try not to disturb this invisible microbiology. Simply leave the top 60cm undisturbed and harvest the content from below. This is achieved by either having access at the bottom of the system. In some systems, there is a grid to hold the bulk of the material and you scrape out from underneath this grid. Whereas, other systems, like the hungry bin, are more rate proof. The hungry bin has a funnel shape that compresses the bottom section that you harvest from. But the design needs extra security because the hatch has blown off ours too many times.