Gardening Rhythms

Biosphere IV water consumption and soil microbiological development

Pholowko Thursday 11 of February, 2016

Weeks and weeks of data is collected on the biosphere IV.  It will be published once I get it formatted.  The RH remains around 55% to 81%.  The CO2 is around 500 ppm.  Last, the temperate swings between 18 C to 25 C.  The water temperature remains a 10 C.

A lot of the traditional methods for farming in a biosphere are not used.  They are not sustainable in a small area.  The soil has to be cycled like a new fish tank.  It's accelerated by adding kelp, fish and compost. Read below for more details.   

Current Status of System

A number of plants have been planted to start the micro biology in the soil.  It turns out that disturbed soil is more damaged then realized.  The micro biology has to start over in making openings for air to get down into the soil. 
Biosphere 4 Picture 1

Push/Pull Soil Building Method

This method consists of a producer and a consumer plant planted intermingled between each other.  Here is a small list of producer plants:

  • Fava Beans

  • Peas

  • Vetch

  • Clover

  • Grass (added with Azospirillum Brasilense)

  • Any nitrogen fixer


Here is a list of plants that are consumers:

  • Wheat

  • Red Winter Wheat

  • Any brassica or rhizome plant (grasses) - any early succession plant will do.  It needs to be seasonal.

The plan is to grow both together in the same soil and force the plants to grow together.  In the soil the legumes will die off and release NH3 which is turned into NO3 through bacteria in the soil.  The purpose is to grow the number of nitrogen fixing bacterium from NH3.  Do not put any fertilizer of any kind.  It shorts circuits the process and lengths the soil development time.  The grass consumes the fixed nitrogen; hence, building up the predator/prey life cycle.  

Adding compost helps, but not compost grown from your kitchen scraps.  There are too many chemicals in the supermarket food that hinders a wide diversity of animals.  If you are going to use horse or cow poop for your compost, check with the grower for the hay for the animals.  Often they are using herbicides that are not filtered out through the cow or horse.  This gets into your compost and into your plants.  There are times you need to check your compost with bean plants to see if there is RoundUp or something still in the soil.  Sprouting bean seeds in compost will show if there is stunted growth.  below is a picture of a tomato plant stunted by RoundUp compost from a horse farm.

Stunded Growth

Conclusion:  After a few years of using this cover crop, your soil is just beginning to recover.  This method can be used on dead soil (soil excavated from a basement or some underground project).  When the weeds are moving in, that is a good sign your soil is getting life.

Marine Tank

The marine tank is clearing up. The runaway algae has slowed down and seaweed beginning o take over.  There are a number of sand crabs hatching from eggs lain by their previous generation.  The water is clearing up.  The center of the picture below is one of the chimneys where air is pumped directly from the land tanks and is mixed with the salt water.  Again, there are no pumps in this system to blend up the microbiology.  

Biosphere 4 Picture 2

Here is another view of the marine tank.

Biosphere 4 Picture 3

Adding more Starting Organic Material

After taking soil samples of the farming tank, I noticed that my soil microbiology is very slim.  It needs to be built up.  

Soil Analysis

The soil had 300 ugm/gm of bacteria and half of that of fungus.  This is not enough to keep anything alive.  I decided to plant vetch, sorrel  and arrowhead.  These plants are all edible by rodents or anything I want to put into the tanks.

Adding Compost

This is the easiest way to add diversity to soil and build the soil predator/prey cycle is adding compost.  It only needs to be added to the duff layer; nothing deeper.  If there are plant roots and other water movement systems available, the microorganism will follow.  

Adding Kelp

Food for protests.  A completely blended fish is food for fungus.  You can get some at a hydroponic store, or a Vietnamese Supermarket.  It's called fish sauce.  There is another fish sauce that is fermented fish stomachs.  That one is clear yellow.  That is not what I’m talking about. 

Below are some pictures of the current system.

Biosphere 4 Picture 4

Biosphere 4 Picture 5

Biosphere 4 Picture 6


Water (Balance Sheet)
The farming tanks are taking almost 100% by weight of water to soil.  This means the microbiology is building up and storing water in the microorganisms.  Most of the time the soil is dry when upper plant growth occurs.  Some of the added water goes into building plants, leaves and stems.  The rest goes into the soil and builds.  

As times goes on, both tanks are taking less and less added water.  It's almost taking nothing.