Soil Amendment

South Florida Soil Building with Mulch

This is a short overview on how to make new soil in south Florida.

This video illustrates the result of two years of fun work.  Replacing the ugly traditional grass and sugar sand with plants of all kinds and tons of mulch repeatedly.  This was a low cost, highly sustainable approach to creating good soil without buying it.

Additionally, the heat and humidity make it an ideal place to create soil quickly and efficiently with almost no expense (but lots of moving mulch into place, so free is relative).

There are a few pieces of equipment needed:

  1.  A wheelbarrow or something to move the mulch in.
  2. A strong pitchfork.IMG_20160608_151537
  3. Get a dust mask if you are sensitive to mushroom spores (if moving the mulch within the first month it’s on location).
  4. Cardboard (I get mine from behind Pier 1, they have huge boxes and I can usually get what I need in one stop.  I ask the manager once for permission and go whenever I need it.)
The overview on how to create soil for almost free:
1.  IMG_20160504_120250Acquire Mulch.  Tree trimmers are always ready to drop off a batch, so call around, find a local trimmer and give them clear instructions where to drop the mulch.  Always get much more mulch than you think you need.  You don’t need yards of if, you need truckloads of it to grow soil.  (One truck load at a time!)
2.  Put cardboard  over any weedy areas and mulch over the cardboard heavily.
 3. Put mountains of it in the walkways (within reason for safety) and anytime it gets flat, add a bit more.  Add it to plant beds to keep the weeds down, as thick as you can (use cardboard in trouble areas).  Give a little space to plants that may rot if they come into contact with the mulch, but I usually just pile it on and most of the plants seem to work well with it.
4.  Twice a year, you sweep aside the mulch in the walkways and find that dark young mucky soil hiding underneath.  Use a flat shovel and shear off the top soil and put it in the beds (sometimes you may need to break it up).  Don’t go too deep,  just the top dark layer.  Put the half cooked mulch back in the walkway and then what?  Add more fresh mulch.  This is essentially replacing the need for peat, which was something I was unwilling to buy because it is a non-renewable resource.
This is me in my mulching outfit. Glasses were because I was chipping too, but you get the idea. :)

This is me in my mulching outfit. Glasses were because I was chipping too, but you get the idea. 🙂

One of the things I’ve found is that timing is important.  If you can move a freshly chipped tree onto its cooking location (where it will remain for months) it will cook that much faster because it is moist and quickly form the mycelium that creates the heat and soil we are after.

I’m adding 3-6 inches of rich topsoil every year with this process for my whole yard.

One more optional step:

You can take it a step further….  I added a wood deck over my mulch so that it is out of the sun and will cook faster.  (It also makes my wife happy since she doesn’t have to wobble through as much mulch when working in the garden.)

It is a bit more work, but the wood was free and sitting around.  The process is the same, except you build your mulch up and then put a floating deck over the top.  Once a year I lift one set of boards, grab the soil and replace the deck on some heaping fresh mulch, then I repeat for the next set of boards.  I will usually spray the underside of the wood with Neem Oil to help keep it from rotting away with the mulch.

 The REAL magic is sooo tiny!

The rock-star in all this is the bacteria and mushrooms that go to work on the mulch so quickly.  They may be small, but they are mighty and with a little bit of help they can do the work so much faster than you would expect.

IMG_20160529_153115And there is another exciting thing you can do with mulch.  You can create hot water!  Low/no cost options for hot water or priming your hot water heater with warm water to save on the electric bill.  If you want to learn more about this subscribe to my newsletter, it’s free and you can unsubscribe if I irritate you.  Sign up below:


Thanks for reading and I hope this helps you think and be more sustainable everyday!

Ken’s Soil Amendment

Product Purpose:  Soil Amendment

Results:  I gave this product away last year and found that it improved soil, increased plant growth and provided larger harvests on test subject plants.

What am I talking about here? A home-brewed soil amendment that you can grow at home if you have the patience. OR you can buy it from me (Scroll to the bottom of this page) and have it delivered right to your door.

The soil amendment is a dark liquid that is completely safe for use.  It has no added fertilizer or pesticides, but may act as one due to its nature of strengthening the microbiome in the soil thus making the plant stronger as well.

The Process:

1. Collect at least 50lbs of table scraps with some mulch and recycled paper mixed in.
2. Put the mixture in a sealable box or large trash bag where it will see a little sun and is out of the way. This container should be a few feet off the ground so the liquid can be captured.
3. Add any medicinal herbs you have growing in your garden.  Many weeds in Florida are actually medicinals, so weeds without seeds is encouraged.
4. Attract black flies!  That’s right, you want them there, you want their babies to be born there. This is not for the squeamish of heart or stomach.  (I’ve used small pieces of meat, bbq sauce, and other bits to successfully attract them).  Make it a comfortable spot for them to lay eggs and not be bothered.
5.  After a couple of weeks, check and see if the maggots are present, if not repeat #4 above.   Rotate the material with a stick or pitchfork at least monthly or every two weeks.
6.  After three months do your first liquid collection.  This is dependent on the box/bag, how you are setup, if you have buckets, etc.  Play with it, get as much black liquid as possible (filtering out everything else as much as possible).
7.  Keep the concentration high until a few days before usage.  I usually fill up a couple of buckets with water and add an ounce per gallon of water used.  An ounce can go a long way, so use it sparingly to start with.
8.  Once the bugs are gone, add more compost/scraps to the mixture or start over by dumping the compost into your garden beds.

Tips:  Aeration is important, making the bugs comfortable in the area is important, so no pesticides and don’t let the lizards go crazy, but they do help control the population.

Sound fun?  Maybe you would like to just buy some from me…

The product I offer is in a recycled, clean container that will usually be plastic. It will come with an instruction label as well as usage suggestions. The shipping is included with the order and is most often USPS. Processing takes three days (I make it fresh so that the microbiome in the amendment is strong) and shipping depends on your location. If you want to expedite your shipping, let me know and that can be arranged.

Soil Amendment Size: