The following is a write up from Valente Farms, a multi-generation organic farm in Fort Bragg:
If you’re planning on adding additional amendments into your garden this season or building a raised-bed garden, then you can find bulk or pre-packaged amendments available locally at garden supply stores. Inquire about — coconut fiber, rice hulls, cocoa bean hulls, straw, alfalfa meal, kelp meal, wood chips, grape pomace, mushroom compost, composted leafy debris and mulch.
Larger gardens should have a substantial quantity of their own composted mulch, and wood chips available for amending, as required. You can use almost any type of natural wood chips. A mixture of different wood chips is suitable, but willow chips are the most sustainable; as you can regularly harvest long poles for seasonal chipping.
Cover crops are amazing! One acre of cover crops planted for one year — is equal to the nitrogen content of twelve tons of poultry manure. Cover crops are typically grown over the winter months. The best cover crops will help reduce weed growth, but almost any type of ground cover can serve the purpose of providing nutrients for the summer garden — when they’re allowed to break down and turned into the soil before spring planting.
Green manure or plant-based compost releases slowly into the soil. Research shows, animal waste will flush out more rapidly than vegetative waste, sometimes too rapidly for plants to utilize the full benefits of the nutrients. During rain or heavy watering, animal waste can more easily wash away into the groundwater and waterways, and before the roots have a chance to absorb the available nutrients.
Less direct exposure to animal waste is better for your health. Animal-based amendments like manure, blood meal, bone meal, fish emulsion, and feather meal contain harmful toxins (cryptosporidium and E. coli), and concentrated use over time can even contaminate groundwater sources. If you do choose animal-based amendments, beware of factory farm byproducts which are known to contain traces of pesticides, antibiotics, and heavy metals.
See these helpful resources below, as you’re planning this season’s crops:
[John Jeavons and Ecology Action: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biointensive_agriculture]
[Tolhurst Organic Partnership CIC: https://www.agricology.co.uk/…/farm…/iain-tolhurst-tolly]
[Nicholas Carter, Farming for the Planet: https://sentientmedia.org/farming-for-the-planet/]
[The regenerative approach requires 2.5 times more land, by Civil Eats: https://civileats.com/…/a-new-study-on…/amp/]