Posted on Leave a comment

Nutrient Dense Food and Carbon Sequestration using Local Sourced Fertiliser. Kay Closes The Loops: Part Ten

We’re in the middle of two solid weeks with no sun!! Just when we’re all geared up to get stuck right in we have to stop, at least in the garden beds.

My fish fert is brewing away, my CalPhos is also bubbling away, the dried ground eggshells, cow manure, molasses and seaweed is smelling good.

I’m going to add to my list of possible soil amendments by making a few netting rounds to pile up with leaves, and leaving them to turn to leaf mould .. next season I’ll collect the leaves in Autumn rather than Spring but we still have leaves under our oaks so better late than never. Making leaf mould from the leaves of trees that accumulate the key minerals we are needing to create the balance our soil needs in order to grow nutrient dense food, will be a way that is possible even for those of you in the city. There are so many parks where trees drop leaves and many contractors sucking them up to take away, it might be possible to ask them if they could dump them in your leaf mould factory. Leaf mould is great for mulching berry beds, perennial beds, putting in the bottom of your potato trenches, mulching crops that will soon cover the bed e.g pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Also great for mulching in the forest garden. My goal is to have enough linden leaves (tilia spp also known as Lime trees, and amazing bee forage) to make enough leaf mould each year to use under potatoes, tomatoes and to mulch all berry beds and perennial beds because it accumulates both Calcium and phosphate. That means we end up with humus containing high levels of both calcium and phosphate, just what we are looking for. Linden leaves will also be great in the chicken scratch area to be turned to compost by the chickens along with our oak and maple leaves (refer to chart of mineral accumulators for more details).  

We’re setting up our worm farms and soldier fly farm, this week in the new greenhouse, using just the same design and process that we used for the Koanga Urban Garden Project. As in the Urban Garden they will produce vermicast and soldier fly liquid to use in the garden as well as charged bonechar from under the solider fly larvae….

Review of Strategies

So to review our complete list of strategies for maintaining and building soil fertility in local and simple ways.. this is it for this Summer growing season:

  1. Compost, made following instructions in the Koanga Art of Composting Booklet, with key feature being 60:1 carbon :nitrogen ratio which means 1 part immature material, ½ part soil 3 parts mature material, plus the addition of key ingredients designed to raise minerals level sin a balanced way, and encourage the creation of humus e.g seaweed, biochar, clay (we have pumice soils) pottery shards (increase magnetism levels), lots of calcium sources.. oak leaves, burnt shells and bones, lime, lots of phosphate containing ingredients.. eg oats, lupins, linden leaves, cassurina leaves, crushed eggshells and bone char. Our goal here is to produce maximum amounts of humus charged with nutrients. We are achieving 30% in our best heaps and to increase the cation exchange capacity ability of the soil to hold moisture, minerals and microbes. Our goal here is also to recycle our humanure, blocking a major leak out of the system
  1. CalPhos – used to strengthen plant cell structure and to prepare the plants to set and grow fruit
  1. Fish Fertiliser – to feed the microbes and boost with nitrogen
  1. Kay’s Fertiliser – a basic homemade balanced microbe and plant food
  1. Leaf Mould addition of fungi, and humus charged with minerals
  1. Urine charged biochar…. Increasing cation exchange capacity, creating more stable moisture levels and holding minerals
  1. High in humates, great for nutrient boost or making seed raising mix
  1. Occassional uses of cow manure and molasses

My over arching goal is to be able to grow brix 25 veges using compost only…

Posted on Leave a comment

Koanga Institute Visitor Information

Getting Here

Driving Directions:

Coming into Wairoa from Napier (on State Highway 2), follow the road straight ahead, through town and over the bridge, following the signs to Frasertown and Lake Waikaremoana.

At approximately 7kms from Wairoa you will come to Scamperdown bridge. Take the first right after the bridge onto Tiniroto Road.

Follow this road for approximately 14km. Kotare Road is on the right hand side, after the second one-way bridge.

About 1km up Kotare Road, you will see the Koanga homestead on the right hand side, that’s us! Number 96, there is a Koanga sign at the gate. Drive in and park just outside the homestead with the other cars.

If you are driving down from Gisborne there are two options to get to Koanga, depending on your driving preference.

To take the direct route, come down Tiniroto Road. When you get to the roundabout at Makaraka go straight ahead and follow this road for approximately 60kms, you will come to the Opoiti bridge. Kotare Road is the first road on the left immediately after the bridge.

If you would prefer to take a scenic route from Gisborne, turn left at the Makaraka roundabout and follow the road to Wairoa.

Once you get into Wairoa refer to the directions above to get to Koanga.

Arriving by Plane or Bus:

Our nearest airports are Napier and Gisborne.

Intercity provides a connecting bus service that departs Napier to Wairoa daily at 1:15pm.

There is also an Intercity bus service from Gisborne to Wairoa, however, the bus leaves at 9am so it is more than likely you would need to stay in Gisborne overnight to meet that bus, unless of course you fly into Gisborne early that morning.

If required, we can organize for someone to collect you from the Wairoa bus terminal.

Arriving Here

Our aim is to be supportive of you on your journey to discovering your place within regenerative living.

All meals are provided during the course. We also provide access to campsites for your tent, caravan, or campervan.

We encourage all students to stay at the Koanga Institute as there are often evening teaching sessions and other activities that are important to your overall experience and in general you will get the full Koanga experience by staying onsite with everyone. That said, there are also other options for accommodation in Wairoa that you could arrange for yourself i.e. a motel or the campground:

Things to bring:

✓ Appropriate clothing for out in the garden (gumboots/raincoat/gardening gloves) for wet days.

✓ Insect repellent and torch

✓ Any medications that you require

✓ Your laptop, we have a space with cables to connect to the internet (there is no WIFI)

✓ A pre-paid calling card if you need to use the landline for phone calls. (Cellphone coverage is only for Vodafone and 2degrees networks)

✓ Accommodation: Tent/Caravan/Campervan. Your tent will need to be able to withstand any weather. We advise that the tent must have a fly, otherwise it will not be waterproof and you will not appreciate wet bedding. We often have strong winds too.

✓ Your own bedding – please ensure you have enough to be very warm and comfortable.

✓ We request that you use our laundry liquid and shampoo, as the greywater waters our food supply. We use Dr Bronners castile soap.

✓ A note book and pens, maybe some colour pencils or felts if you have them, we also provide these for the Workshops.

You will be met upon arrival and shown all of the facilities and systems. We wish you an inspiring learning journey.

Whether you are here for a day, a week or a few months, we ask that you take the time to read our House Rules and Health & Safety Information below.

House Rules

We ask that you commit to the following while here:

  • Smoking only in designated area – under the old oak tree.
  • Keep our facility entirely free of recreational drugs, including marijuana
  • Keep your earphones/iPod/mp3 for after hours please
  • Alcohol. We do not have alcohol on Institute property. Exceptions can be made for special occasions. We reserve the right to ask you to leave if we feel your drinking is having a negative effect upon others.
  • Please do not pick the fruit! All fruit (apart from old citrus trees), every single piece, is part of Institute research and propagation trials and must NOT be picked. Citrus will be picked by a rostered person and shared out. Staff will pick fruit for photographing keeping stones etc. If you notice fruit that is ripe please let us know, we may not have seen it.
  • Ask before you pick any flowers, fruit, berries or vegetables (often we are saving these for seeds and they should not be picked)


We go to great lengths to prepare meals following the principles of the Weston Price Foundation, upon which all indigenous peoples visited by Weston Price based their diets. We also go to great lengths to eat what we have available from our own farm and gardens rather than running off to the shop. This is all part of learning to live simply and lightly.

The kaupapa of this place is about finding our way to health and supporting each other in that process.

We regard our kitchen and dining areas as the heart of that process and a safe place for those in the process of giving up destructive eating habits and learning to eat nutrient dense food. If you are joining the Koanga house team you will be expected to support this kaupapa, which may be very different from how you are used to eating. If you want to find out more about it have a look at or read Sally Fallon’s book ‘Wise Traditions’.
Please discuss any concerns you may have about this before coming so that we can keep things clear.

Kitchen Kaupapa:

Our kitchen and dining area is specifically set aside as a safe place for people to learn to eat in a way that heals and nourishes.

We ask that you do not bring any of the following foods into the kitchen:

  • Processed Foods
  • Trans-Fats and Sugars
  • Refined/Industrial Grains
  • Coffee and Black Tea

If you choose to have a private stash then please keep these in your personal space.

If in doubt please ask.

If you are bringing guests it is your responsibility to let them know and ensure that they adhere to our kaupapa.


Our toilets are composting toilets which require more work than a flush toilet (in the short term!) We have three composting toilets.

Toilet no. 3 is specifically there for those of you who are taking medication or drugs that are not naturally found in our environment. Please use it or ask Tes or Shaked if you’d like advice or more info. We deal with this humanure and urine in a different way to the rest.


Our showers are run by a ‘rocket stove’ and require firewood to heat the hot water.


We are all part of the cleaning team and ask that everyone take their chores seriously.

Please follow the assigned chores list. Chores are best done before breakfast, where possible and immediately after meals.

We ask that you tidy up after yourself and keep the house free of your own personal clutter at all times.


Please leave your cellphone switched off while in the teaching room – special circumstances can be negotiated


  • All books are for reference only and must not be removed from the house. Please do not take books into the eating or concrete areas at the front please, we have lost many books this way.
  • We provide a communication room with internet ready computers and also connections to plug-in your own device/s. Please do not download any files during work hours. We also ask that you do not download any movies or large files during your time here at Koanga.
  • Please be respectful of the fact that we must all share this space and have a chance to get access to computers and the internet


  • It is your responsibility to remove your personal rubbish. Please do not place rubbish in our recycling cupboard.


There is a handwashing machine available to wash your clothes

  • Please only use our laundry liquid to avoid soil contamination
  • Use only cold water so that we have hot water for the kitchen and dishes.

Swing Bridge:

  • The swing bridge down the road is private property and quite dangerous, please stay off it.


You are welcome to swim in the river. We will show you the swimming holes.

  • Please always wear togs or clothes in the Mangapoike
  • If you wish to swim without gear please always do that in the Mangaone stream only


  • Firewood is a super precious commodity and we ask that you do not remove wood from the wood shed for personal use
  • Never light an outside fire without permission from Tes or Shaked

Shutting Gates:

  • Within Koanga, always shut gates properly by their latches every time you go through them, they are to keep children, gardens and animals safe.
  • Please leave gates how you find them on the rest of the farm.

 Kotare Village:

  • Kotare village is a working farm as well as a place of private residence
  • Always talk to Bob before taking a walk in the hill block or paddocks on the farm
  • Respect the privacy of Kotare villagers residing within the camp and house sites, unless invited
  • Check the map on the library noticeboard to see where you are, which areas you are welcome to explore and where our boundaries and ‘no go’ areas are

Health & Safety

  • Footwear must be worn at all times around the farm and in the garden, especially when using tools. You will need a hat, personal water bottle and have light, full-length clothing to protect you from the sun
  • No person shall use any tools or machinery from the garden shed or workshop unless they have been deemed competent and have been over the safety procedures, equipment maintenance and proper technique for using the tool
  • No person shall enter the Kotare Village workshop without prior permission from Bob Corker.
  • Always ask for help if you are unsure of how to use a tool or perform a certain task
  • Do not use excessive force while working – this protects yourself and our tools
  • Always set down your tools in a safe place

First Aid:

  • There is a first aid kit located in the bathroom. The First Aid Officer is Shaked From, Please notify him if any first aid supplies are low.
  • Emergency Assembly Point: In the event of an emergency everyone is to evacuate to the front gate of the Koanga Institute. There is a clearly marked sign there. When you hear a continuous loud and frantic bell ringing please go to the assemble point.
Posted on Leave a comment

2016 Koanga Seed Internship – Building Food Security Through Seed Saving and Nutritional Resilience

This past Summer saw the first Koanga Seed Internship in New Zealand.. and that felt like a turning point for me.

I’ve taught the two week Seed Internships in both Australia and Jordon, but this year it felt like time to teach it here.

We had 6 women with us, who came from very varied backgrounds, but all on a mission. One woman, Merili, was from Estonia…. and she had been looking for such a workshop all around the world. She came to learn and experience as much as she could about seed saving so she could go home and begin a serious seed bank in Estonia! She enjoyed it so much she stayed on an extra 3 weeks afterwards to continue helping in the seed processing room which in late March is still very very busy (beans, peppers, watermelon, pumpkin and much more still coming in… all the corn to go yet) It was great for me to see that the systems we have set up for planning were able to be effectively used for the Northern hemisphere.

Processing seeds from all of our seed gardens is a super wonderful and addictive job to have and the experience of actually ‘doing it’ for real is hard to pass up… everybody loves working in the seed processing shed, and we will offer the possibility each year to those who do the Seed Internship to stay on as apprentices to help finish processing the new seasons seed, a great opportunity for serious hands on experience!

Cushla and Moana were on the Seed Internship as paid training by their employer, The Tuaropaki Trust, as part of their training in the process of Tuaropaki setting up a sister seed bank at Mokai. Cushla had been here for over a year I think, she has done the Urban Garden apprenticeship, the Growing Soil Food and Health Internship our PDC and lastly the Seed Internship. She is well equipped to go out and earn a good living doing this stuff as is Moana who was also here over a long period soaking it all up. We’ll miss them both and wish them well…. And we’ll be keeping in touch.

More and more we are seeing employers coming and asking us for people who have done previous training with us that they could employ. The work we are doing is seriously becoming recognized as a way to future employment… meaningful, satisfying, healthy, regenerative employment!

It’s not just the learning in the classroom but also the inspiration of seeing it really happening and also the experience of working in these designed systems and getting the confidence to go out and actually do it, from designing food gardens that could make a good living for you, whilst saving your own seed, or really and truly feeding your family by saving the seed then growing it, and not only that but fully nourish your family, or designing a seed garden capable of maintaining food security for your bioregion or an entire country, or learning the gift of preparing food that comes entirely from the garden, tastes incredible and is super healthy, or the art of growing soil….all of which are becoming valued skills once again.

We had another woman on the Seed Internship, Suzanne, who came to find the space to immerse herself in seeds and garden planning so she could come up with a detailed plan for how to feed and manage and nourish (based on being able to provide Weston Price levels of minerals vitamins and traditional fats) her extended family … which included saving seeds for all of the food crops. It is no mean feat to be able to realistically design a garden to feed an extended family, knowing it is done super efficiently so it can work in the time available, and so that there will be enough nutrition to maintain family health for the long run, which means also having the knowledge to build soil over time, and also in a way that saves the seed for all of the crops grown for food. That takes some skill and some careful thought and planning and Suzanne did just that and went home with spreadsheets and data bases and all the information she needed, as well as the confidence and the experience to make it real and possible. I see her seed growing becoming the core of a bioregional seed bank in her Bioregion and we will be watching her learning. For Suzanne the Seed Internship was a very important part of her learning here, she had previously done our PDC and several other workshops, and is coming back next Spring with her children to do the Bio Intensive workshop to ensure she is building skills and inspiration within her family to increase the chances of building family strength, health and happiness through food security.

Apart from the buzz of seeing serious students gaining serious skills to take back out into their lives I got a real buzz from two of our sessions in particular … they were were the conversations about hybrid seeds, the difference between F1 hybrids and open pollinates and coming to fully understand the profound differences between the two options and the session where we began to draw a series of pictures describing the life of a seed… to a seed … and learning more about what actually happens and how… and why … so we can support that process, to grow higher quality seeds… and food!

This is an Internship for people wanting to design serious gardens, food gardens, or self- reliance and resilience in an uncertain future, which must include seed saving… it could be a family garden, a bioregional seed bank or a national seed bank, a business or anything in between or a combination of all. It is an internship for those seriously wishing to take the plunge to reconnect with the age old circle/cycle of co-evolution… re-joining ourselves and our families to the earth and the sky of our place, via our food!

Half of the time on this Internship is in the garden and the seed processing room and we offer the possibility for 2 Interns to stay on after the Internship and work with the seeds in the garden and seed room to follow the processes until mid-April and gain more and more confidence to take back out there .

If you any questions about this Seed Internship do not hesitate to contact us, Kay will talk with you.

 Click Here to book your spot on the 2017 Bio-Regional Seed Bank Internship

Posted on Leave a comment

Nutrient Dense Food and Carbon Sequestration using Local Sourced Fertiliser. Kay Closes The Loops: Part Nine

Wow.. the peach and plum blossom is full on right now, the bees are super active and it’s time to plant. I’ve planted my pumpkin seed (did you see our great pumpkin chart?) and my second lot of lettuces and mustard greens, turnips, daikon and rocket. I’ve also planted my peppers, eggplants and my early tomatoes. The full moon has passed and now I’m getting my roots in the ground. Today we planted our early potatoes, yellow fir and carrots. To plant the potatoes we forked the edge of the bed, put 10 litres of urine charged biochar, and 10 litres of compost per sqm then U barred them in. Next we made two trenches 20 cm deep and then placed urine charged biochar along the bottom of the trench… using 40 litres in the 20m long row (2 x 10 m rows). I then dipped my potato chits into liquid fresh dairy cow manure (organic and on holistically managed pasture!).

I did this because I usually roll them in Koanga Seedling Innoculant, and I was looking for an alternative seeing as I’m not buying fertiliser this year. Fresh organic cow manure is full of healthy microbes and also a balanced form of ammonium and nitrate nitrogen, as well as great microbe food and humus building qualities…. Hard to beat cow manure.

I then planted the chits at 30cm spacings in the two 10m rows, and poured a mixture of ½ water, ½ cow manure, along the rows on top of the chits (10 litres per row). I then covered the potatoes over to make the beds level again. I then did a soil drench with my special Kay’s Liquid Fertiliser When the tops come up I’ll hill them up regularly so the frost doesn’t get them, and will hill them for the last time as they begin to flower. Once they are well up I will use a refractometer to decide whether to do a weekly Kay’s Special Fertiliser foliar and soil drench or a Foliar and Soil drench of Cal Phos, or occasionally a fish soil drench.

I made my fish fertilizer today as well, and decided there was no way I was putting my fish frames in a bowl and mixing with the stick blender, so we put them in a flat bottomed steel container and bashed them with a fencing pounder (you could use a bit of ti tree etc) until they were liquid. I then measured the volume of the mashed fish frames (1 part), added that volume x 3 of water (3 parts) (1 part), that volume x 1/3 of molasses and a cup of whey , made from hanging our kefir up and collecting the whey as it dripped down.

We also mulched the freshly weeded perennial bed with oak leaves for the Summer.

The forest garden is abuzz with blossom and bees, we have muscovies on nests, Indian Runner Ducks and geese all pumping out eggs along with the chickens. It is definitely the time to ensure your poultry are getting high quality food so they do not become exhausted and stop laying again as fast as they began. Poultry Minerals make a huge difference if your current poultry food is not high quality (high brix).

The alfalfa in the comfrey patch, and forest garden is well up now and being greedily devoured by the poultry…. I’m sure it is the combination of comfrey and alfalfa as poultry feed from September to May that grows such beautiful chickens here.

I harvested all of my evergreen comfrey this week to ensure the flowering stems did not lie down and root, and to wilt and use as mulch on the berry beds. Evergreen comfrey is an outstanding option as a mulch and edge crop for perennial berries like currants gooseberries and non suckering raspberries, blackberries logan berries and boysenberries etc

Arohanui Kay


Posted on Leave a comment

Kay’s Homemade Tomato Fertiliser Recipe

Based on my understanding that my soil is low in magnesium compared to calcium and they both need to be raised, and that tomatoes need a lot of both but balanced, as well as a lot of phosphate. We have high levels of potash and need more phosphate. The more microbes the better and we need nitrate nitrogen to get growth and ammonium nitrogen to encourage fruit set and filling.

  1. Apply 1 x 20lt bucket of compost per sqm of garden bed, along with 10 litres of urine (nitrate and ammonium nitrogen) charged biochar. U-bar all of this into the soil down to full depth of U Bar.
  2. Dig a large hole for each tomato plant 30cm diameter and 20cm deep. (4 plants per sqm) In the bottom of each hole place 1 cup of dried toasted crushed egg shells some brown and rest the white for a calcium phosphate boost with our Homemade CalPhos and 1 cup of urine soaked biochar .. mix these into soil around bottom of hole.
  3. Plant tomato plant, so that 2/3’s of its 30cm stem is in the hole covered with soil.
  4. Drench soil with 1 cup Kay’s Liquid Fertiliser (micronutrient boost with calcium and balanced major minerals, microbe food) mixed with 1 cup of Homemade Fish Fertiliser Recipe, and 1 Tbspn molasses, added to 9 litres of water (no chlorine)
  5. Install a dripper irrigation system
  6. Mulch heavily with a thick layer of fresh alfalfa and comfrey leaves (calcium magnesium potash and phosphate) on half the bed and organic high brix cow manure (humus building complexes and nitrate and ammonium nitrogen, plus balanced calcium magnesium and phosphate) on the other half.
  7. From then on I’m going to use my refractometer to test foliar applications and will apply weekly foliar feeds according to what my refractometer says. I’m going to try raw milk, sea salt, Epsom salts (in case I need more magnesium to balance with the calcium), CalPhos, my own liquid foliar, as well as foliar fish. I’ll test the brix of each end of the bed each week, then test various foliar possibilities, and decide what to use and keep in touch. I’m in the process of making all of these liquid fertilisers and will show you these processes and the results of the tests I have made on them by Bioservices as they come to hand.



Posted on Leave a comment

Nutrient Dense Food and Carbon Sequestration using Local Sourced Fertiliser. Kay Closes The Loops: Part Eight

Posted on Leave a comment

CalPhos Recipe

Let me first outline the steps to make CalPhos, below, using chicken eggshells. You can also use other calcium sources like seashells or bones.

  1. Pan fry eggshells (or seashells, or bones) until they are 50% brown/black.
  2. Grind or crush the eggshells, to achieve maximum surface contact.
  3. Put the eggshells into a jar or large bottle and pour in vinegar. The ratio of eggshells to vinegar is 1:5, volume wise. You will see a lot of bubbles appearing – that is an exothermic reaction in progress.
  4. Wait for the bubbles to subside, then seal up the jar or bottle.
  5. Ferment for 20 days.
  6. Filter out the eggshells.

The steps above are just a rough guideline. For more details of making CalPhos and how to use it, do refer to this excellent article from The Unconventional Farmer.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let us step back for a moment and consider why we do the above. Some of us might be thinking, having to “ferment” the eggshells CalPhos for a few weeks is too cumbersome. Why not just dump crushed eggshells straight into the soil?

For sure, dumping crushed eggshells into the soil could work, by relying on the soil microbes to break down the parts, but this takes a long time. If we want a faster process, then we will have to accelerate it ourselves to make the calcium and phosphor immediately accessible to the plants.

Next, let us look into the chemistry of the process of making CalPhos.

The Chemistry Behind The Process

Our goal is to make calcium and phosphate compounds that are soluble in water so that plants can happily absorb them through their roots.

The chicken eggshell is made up of 95-97% calcium carbonate (CaCO3). The remainder being calcium phosphate, magnesium carbonate and proteins.

Calcium carbonate is insoluble in water and cannot be absorbed by plants. It can however, be broken down into soluble compounds such as calcium oxide (CaO), either by heating up calcium carbonate, or by dunking calcium carbonate into acid.

Let us explore these two methods of obtaining soluble calcium compound that is accessible to plants.

Method 1: Extraction by heat

The process of applying heat to calcium carbonate will release carbon dioxide (CO2), to form calcium oxide. Calcium oxide is soluble in water, but it is also unstable if left alone and will revert back to calcium carbonate when it fuses with carbon dioxide in the air. To keep the soluble compound stable, one can add water or vinegar (acetic acid). In fact, I would recommend that the eggshells are grinded first before applying heat; this way, we can maximize the preservation of calcium oxide.

Calcium oxide mixes with water to form calcium hydroxide (CaOH). All hydroxides are soluble in water. And like all hydroxides, its pH level is alkaline.

Mixing calcium oxide with acetic acid (CH3CO2H), on the other hand, will yield calcium acetate. It, too, is water soluble. Generally speaking, calcium acetate is acidic, and is known for its use as a neutralizer of fluoride in water.

Method 2: Extraction by reaction with acid

If eggshells were to be combined with vinegar sans heating, calcium acetate would be formed, just as it is formed when vinegar is combined with calcium hydroxide or calcium oxide. The minor difference being that the former reaction will produce carbon dioxide.

So, what about the Phosphate?

What about it? If you have that question in mind, you are on the right track! The eggshell also consists of calcium phosphate – a mostly-insoluble compound. That’s right! Most phosphates are insoluble in water, but they are soluble in acids, including vinegar. More importantly, heating phosphates will yield pyrophosphates. Pyrophosphates exhibit the highest solubilities among the phosphate compounds.

What this suggests, is that dunking eggshells into vinegar without prior heating will yield a pretty decent calcium acetate solution but the availability of phosphor to plants will be lower. This is in comparison to an acetate solution whose eggshells were heated prior to adding vinegar.

Bottom line

Heating up the eggshells is necessary unless your plants do not require immediate access to phosphor.

Here are the key points to take home from this article:

  1. Do you need to reduce soil acidity?
  2. Do your plants need immediate access to phosphor?

If you answered “yes” to 1, and “no” to 2, then heat up the eggshells and mix with water to get an alkaline solution. Your plants will obtain immediate access to calcium, but not phosphor.

If you answered “no” to 1, and “yes” to 2, then heat up the eggshells, mix with vinegar and let them “ferment” for a few weeks before use. Your plants will obtain immediate access to both calcium and phosphor. Don’t forget — the acetate solution is acidic and should be diluted appropriately before applying to plants.

So, figure out what you want to achieve. Your plants’ needs will decide which method to choose from.

Posted on Leave a comment

Kay’s Homemade Liquid Fertiliser

For a 20litre bucket you will need:

  • ½ kg of seaweed/kelp  meal or 2 kgs fresh chopped up seaweed (good levels of bioavailable calcium, and magnesium)
  • 1 large fresh cow pat
  • 2 dozen egg shells liquid , dried and crushed and  soaked in ½ litre apple cider vinegar (or even better home made vinegar)  until they dissolve or;
  • 6 kina shells or paua shells dried crushed and soaked in vinegar until they dissolve
  • ½ cup molassus


Place in bucket, top up with non chlorinated water and put in a sunny place with a lid on it. Stir daily for two weeks then take off enough top liquid to use in your back pack sprayer or watering can at a rate of 1:10. The liquid will need to be put through a filter so it doesn’t block up your watering can rose or sprayer.

 A 10 litre watering can or back pack sprayer will need 1 litre of liquid fertiliser, so you will have enough for  10 foliar feeds of a garden of 100 sq m  approx… it goes further with a back pack sprayer than it does in a watering can, but I prefer top use a watering can

For a 200 litre barrel you will need:

(If using this barrel then get a large 50mm tap installed 3-cm up from the bottom of the barrel to easily extract the clear liquid)

  • 5kgs of seaweed or kelp powder or fresh chopped seaweed ( chop with a lawn mower)
  • 10 fresh cow pats
  • 20 dozen egg shells or paua and kina shells dried and soaked as above in  5 litres of cider vinegar
  • 5 cups molasses

Follow instructions as above.

 The resulting sludge in the bottom of the container at the end of the season will be an excellent addition to your autumn compost heaps

Posted on Leave a comment

Nutrient Dense Food and Carbon Sequestration using Local Sourced Fertiliser. Kay Closes The Loops: Part Seven

The bees in our garden went crazy this week! The garden is alive with sound and the tagasate right at our door is literally alive with the sound and movement of bumble bees, honey bees, bell birds and tui. The life is returning to this land which was a sheep farm paddock, where the grass had a brix of 2 …5 years ago!

I’ve had a few questions about using urine… firstly I recommend going back and checking out the research paper, we have found it very useful here

My only hesitation is that if we apply more urine (containing nitrogen) than the carbon/humus in the soil can absorb, it could become a highly water soluble pollutant in the water ways etc. That is why I always add a carbon source which holds the nitrogen and other minerals in the root zone until the plant roots or microbes ask for it!

A lot of research has been done using humates as the carbon source and it seems clear that humates are able to grab and hold minerals pretty much instantly, where as using biochar is more of an unknown (because it has come on to the scene far more recently) unless it is urine that is being used. Biochar is known to absorb the minerals in urine far more easily and faster than any other nutrient source I know of at this point. Biochar can easily be made at home, and I’m not buying fertiliser, so biochar it is and I’m charging it with urine as the base of my fertiliser program, which critically also includes compost containing all our humanure as well as all of the carbon from the Biointensive vege garden.

I understand that recycling the deficiencies will not build soil or grow nutrient dense food so I am adding comfrey and alfalfa (dynamic accumulators of many minerals) to the compost as well as biochar, bone char, clay, pottery shards, seaweed, leaves from trees known to accumulate calcium (dogwoods, and oaks) and phosphate (Tilia spp and cassurina), as well as limited cow manure and compost from the chicken house. Key crops we grow for carbon are also calcium and phosphate accumulators .. lupins and oats…

I found this chart recently and I love it because it shows clearly what the carbon nitrogen ratios are for various ingredients, when choosing compost materials.

We aim for making compost with a 60:1 carbon nitrogen ratio, which means 6 parts mature material (gone to seed then dried, high carbon) to 1 part immature material (lower carbon higher nitrogen)

For more details on compost making see The Art of Compost making Booklet

cabon chart