Common Mistakes When Setting Up a Composting System (& what to do instead)

livingearthsystems blog, Uncategorized 0 Comments

Don’t start off on the wrong foot

There may be a whole slew of questions swirling around your head concerning composting.

“How much time will it take me to build living soil?”

“How much living soil can I make in my backyard?”

“But what if I have hard dirt that’s been abused?”

(We know you’ve been thinking about this! The emails are pouring in!)

When we tell people how quickly we can build living soil, and how we’ve bio-remediated ACRES of land, they seem skeptical.

Who are these people from Hawaii? These techniques can’t possibly work outside of an island paradise! (hint: they do.)

So let’s look at some of our projects.

No bullshit. We think they speak for themselves.

Today we’re going to break down for you how we built 4 inches of living soil in 6 months – utilizing what we grew on site, and what would’ve otherwise been WASTE. That’s right – it was all strategic composting and planting.

Pin away!


Some people start their garden without knowing Nature’s very efficient strategy.

They spend hundreds of dollars on soil amendments and pesticides.

They then till their soil. Whoops! The earthworms (our favorite earth-builders) are now dead. And they’ve exposed the little moisture in their soil (not to mention the mycorrhizal and fungal colonies and myriad of other creatures that support a living system) to the air. Not good.

Then they plant their seeds (only planting seeds of food they want to eat), add their additives, cross their fingers, and walk away.

A big investment. Hours of time, money, energy.

Their fruits and veggies grow.

They harvest, and leave the ground even more bare and depleted than before.

Let’s look at the alternative:

This is exactly what we did – because it works!

• Create a compost bin (or larger system) full of worms, other insects, fungi, and bacteria. We do this AS SOON AS POSSIBLE when starting on a new plot of land. We usually bring buckets of worms and culture from the last place we were working on.

• Cover the entire plot of land with mulch – wood chips, leaves, straw… Protecting the soil from evaporation, holding in water if it’s dry season (or a dry climate), and erosion during heavy rains.

• While the compost bins work as fertility hubs to boost worm and microbial populations, we simultaneously add significant numbers of these little helpers under the mulch to inoculate the land. The populations will continue to proliferate and add more and more life to the soil.

• We plant into the mulch – leguminous plants help fix nitrogen in the soil, plants with deep taproots pull nutrients from deep below up to the surface, some plants we love to eat, plants with specific nutrient ratios that will later be used as nutrient-rich mulch…

• We set up drip irrigation systems (that are water efficient) to maintain moisture for the creatures to survive below the surface. While not necessary in smaller setups, it does make it so you can walk away for a week and things will continue growing and thriving.

• Populations of earthworms, mycelia, beneficial microbes… multiply, and plants grow. When the strategically-planted-for-composting plants grow up to size, it’s time to chop-and-drop. Chop the leaves, blades, or full plant and add it into the compost pile or directly on the ground as mulch. Our little critter helpers will consume the nutrient-rich plant matter and break it down into fully-usable nutrients for the plants.

• Not only are you building soil (pretty passively, at that), you’re growing food that, if handled the right way, is also building up the nutrient content of the soil because you are composting all the excess plant material back into the system.

Think about this: you’re trying to grow your own food, but you’re completely reliant on the farm and garden store (and maybe even fossil fuels, if you’re using non-organic fertilizers and pesticides). You’re spending just as much money (or maybe more) than it costs to purchase organic produce from the grocery store! Having a strategic composting and planting system allows you to be completely self-sufficient.

More examples, please!

So what about soil that’s been deeply abused? How about bio-remediating 27 acres of pineapple fields?

Lou was told by the University and local farm consultants that the soil on the land they purchased was un-fixable. The land used to be pineapple fields (like that massive company that sells all the pineapples at the grocery store).

In case you didn’t know, conventional pineapple growing uses some of the most destructive growing techniques: heptachlor as a pesticide, plastic remnant leftover in the fields, not to mention really deep tilling (up to 8 feet) that’s destroyed all of the earthworm tunnels that allow land to percolate with life.

In the span of a year, we were able to transform Lou’s land into a closed-loop, regenerative agriculture oasis – using strategic composting and planting, and nutrient-rich fish water from nature-based aquaponics.

Here’s the catch: composting and building soil DOES have a lot of moving parts. If you don’t have a solid system to follow, it can get messy.

You might miss a few critical things.

You will definitely feel overwhelmed and confused about what to do when, and how to do it.

That’s why we created Supercharged Soil Through Strategic Composting. So you don’t have to spend years testing, experimenting, trial and error, and you don’t have to have as many “oh crapppp!!!!” moments as we’ve over the years.

Enrollment will be open for just a short time this year. If you want to be ready for composting in the spring, it’s time to start planning NOW.

We can’t wait to show you everything we have been working on. This course is the culmination of…

  • Decades of living off-grid
  • Building multiple closed-loop regenerative farms
  • Teaching people how to become better earth stewards and care for this planets
  • Building tons of soil that grow nutrient-dense food

It really has been years in the making. And we can barely contain our excitement!

Whether you are just starting to think of “going green” and composting, have already set up your first worm bin, or just want to up your game…


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