The Gbiota Biobox system is about breeding beneficial microbes in organic waste to grow plants as pre and pro biotics.
People will have different organic wastes streams and also different food needs. This means I cannot write this post as a hard and fast instructional manual so I am going to describe what I do – which I know works.
You may have to modify to take into account your supply of organic waste and how many mouths you have to feed.
My basic system is centered around baby greens and tipping, basically I am eating adolescent plants between the classic micro greens and mature plants.
I do this because I live in Bundaberg Queensland where insects are a major problem and I can beat the insects to the leaves. If I let them mature to full grown plants the insects will win without toxic chemicals – which I just don’t use as the aim is to bread beneficial microbes.
I may use soapy water from the washing machine which de-waxes the caterpillars so they dehydrate and die.
Queensland is pretty extreme with its insects and this may not be such an issue for you.
I grow a broad spectrum of plants in each box. Some, like rocket, can be harvested shortly after seeding while others, like broccoli, take a lot longer.
I just cut the tips off the leaves of and use these to make green smoothies, salads or just regular vegetables for cooking.
I am harvesting the first plant leaves within four weeks and if I keep on ‘tipping’ I will still be getting food and the plants will simply regrow.
If I stop tipping (if I am away on a trip) the plants will just go to the mature stage.
I do have some boxes, outside the rotation I use for plants with a longer life like berries and tomatoes.
We start with the boxes, basically any box will do but a typical storage container readily available from the shops. We will need to lift the box so it is a good idea to use a box which will not be too heavy, about 20 litre size is good.
To get a continuous supply of gut brain food we will need several boxes, at least four but six of more is better.
These will be rotated and as we collect kitchen waste to make our soil we will actually be making soil but we will need some soil to get started.
We drill a hole near the base and using a rubber grommet and fittings from most hardware stores or irrigation suppliers fit a swivel tube which enables the box to be drained.
Now we start collecting kitchen waste, which we will probably do on a daily basis so it is good to have a box with a tight fitting lid so we don’t get flies or smells.
Using tipping, the life of a box is about twelve weeks so I will use six boxes and start a new box every couple of weeks. This is more than enough for my wife and I but a large family may need more boxes.
The major input is kitchen waste which is produced daily so I have a box with a fitting lid to collect the waste. This does not have to be a growing box, it could simply be a plastic bag which is emptied into a growing box but it saves work to use a growing box to collect the waste and go straight to a growing box but it is not a big deal either way.
One reason why I start a new box every two weeks is that this is about as long as kitchen scraps can be stored before they get smelly and attract those cussed vinegar flies which are a real pain where I live but may not be an issue for you. Please note I am continuously improving the Gbiota system which makes documentation a bit of a challenge, therer is an updated version in the more recent version at Gbiota soil
I usually put a layer of grass clippings on the base of the empty box as this helps water flow across the base but it works fine without. Vermiculite is even better than grass clipping but grass clipping work fine and are free for me and I have to pay for Vermiculite.
As this food waste decomposes it will act as act as a growth inhibitor (labile or young compost is not good for growing) so I don’t want this affecting the growth of my seeds and plants in the top of the box.
So I cover the food waste with a layer of grass clippings and then a nitrogen rich fertiliser, I use a mix of chicken manure, bauxite rock dust (which is full of magnesium – one of the critical minerals we are short of), some dolomite (to balance the pH but also contains minerals), some blood and bone (which contains zinc – one of the other minerals we a re short of) and the inoculant which contains the microbes as a starter, worm eggs and in my case other creatures particularly soldier flies larvae (which just come) and a collection of other soil creatures.
People will tell you that you should not put things like citrus skins and onions etc into compost. That may be true for high temperature composting and dedicated worm farms.
But we are earth composting (in the soil) so have a broad spectrum of soil creatures and fungi that consumes pretty much anything.
I get this mix straight from the Gbiota beds in my garden but if you live in a flat you will need a storage box to hold this mix.
I usually get a truck load of chicken manure and rock dust from my local garden supplier but if you live in a flat you wont be to popular having a ton of chicken manure delivered but you can buy all the necessary ingredients in nice clean packages from your local hardware store and Gbiota grower (currently me) can supply the inoculant in small packaged (4Kg).
This contains worms and more important their eggs plus a broad spectrum of microbes. These have a short life so need to be put into the storage box with the nutrients and organic waste so they keep alive and keep on breeding.
Normally the packages for commercial fertilisers (and our) inoculant is far more that needed for one box so you can have one (or several boxes) to store these and organic waste until you are ready to start your next growing box.
This has a big advantage that the organic waste is decomposing while in storage mode.
If you like you can accelerate this early decomposition by growing tough crops. Alfalfa is good as it is also adding extra nitrogen which helps decomposition and is a good food.
One box works for storing for the typical twelve weeks cycle but this will still contain young compost so if you have the room it is really better to have two boxes, one to store the day to day collection of waste then secong box can stand allowing the waste to decompose and also time for a quick crop. Plants eude sugars which feed the microbes and help soil formation
Breeding the microbes
You don’t have to worry about the microbes, they are a randy lot and will breed without problems but worms are actually quite delicate creatures which need the right conditions.
The box with the growing media in my case soil from my Gbiota beds but you can use potting mix if starting from scratch.
Later we will use soil from a box that has just finished being harvest.
We are making soil.
Every couple of weeks a new box is started and on old box emptied.
About organic waste
Before I started I though I would have a plentiful supply of kitchen waste but it turned out that when I started reusing it that it suddenly became a valuable property which got to the point where I was fighting with my wife over banana skins.
But I did have a good supply of grass clippings – which are a grossly underestimated asset. My neighbours now dump their grass clippings onto the nature strip and I go and pick this up and one neighbour uses a grass cutting service which he now brings to my house for the odd six pack.
If you live in a house with a garden you could probably do the same thing but if you live in a flat you may not be so lucky – but you can probably chat up a few of your neighbours to give you their kitchen waste.
Also you can do what we do – collect coffee ground from your local coffee shop and maybe food waste from your local restaurant but that did not work for me as they just dumped it into a bin with all their other rubbish and I got fed up with sorting it out.
Also local council vary a lot, ours is not so progressive but many councils have green waste services and there are companies who supply compost in bulk.
Not too strong
Kitchen waste is very concentrated so we will need to dilute this with something like grass clippings if they are available (grass clipping are really great and even if you don’t’ have a lawn are readily available from a gardening service). There are plenty of alternatives readily available as potting mixes, bagged compost, blood and bone, rock dust etc.
You will also need to add some inoculant, this is soil full of trace minerals and living creatures particularly worms. You are essential setting up a temporary worm farm.
Inoculant is available on line from Gbiota email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for current status or soon from a designated local grower.
After a couple of weeks or so (it all depends on the amount of food scraps and the number of people) your box will be about half full.
This is what we would call labile compost and is not suitable for growing plants in directly.
So we now move into stage two and take that box out of the kitchen and put in the garden, on a balcony or at least on a windowsill with some sunlight, or at least artificial growing lights, but sunlight is free and we want to keep costs low.
If we are just starting with no filled boxes we will need to fill the box with some growing medium, garden soil if you have a garden or potting mix if you don’t.
This is also a good time to add some additional nutrients such as rock dust or blood and bone fertiliser which contains a spectrum of minerals.
Now is the time to get the soil really wet ready for seeding. Everyone has their one pet version of seeding. I simply sprinkle the seeds on the wet surface and press the seeds into the wet soil then cover with grass clippings.
Vermiculite is really good for this top layer but cost money. I often use grass clippings or simply soil.
Good and bad bugs
Breeding microbes is easy – they are a randy lot and will start breeding within twenty minutes of being created so it is very easy to get dramatic exponential growth.
There are good bugs, which will keep us healthy and bad bugs which will make us sick and even kill us.
The only real way to solve this is by the conditions. If you get the right conditions, which is essential a combination of food, air and water the good bugs will not only out breed the bad bugs but will simply dominate the food supply so the bad bugs just don’t stand a chance of getting established.
We all have bad bugs, like E-coli in our gut but they do us no harm as there are so few of them because they have been out competed by the bad bugs.
Flood and drain
Water does not readily moves through the soil as it attached to the soil particles and does not move until the soil approaches saturation point which is really too high for optimum growth.
The solution is to flood the soil so the water moves through the soil until it is totally saturated and which will expel any stale air in the soil. Then allow the water to drain away which will suck fresh air back into the soil.
Now starts the critical process of flood and draining.
I will make the swivel pipe vertical (or at least at an angle) so the box does not drain.
I like to connect my swivel tube to an internal Ag pipe to the end of the box and use a simple Ag pipe as a filler pipe but if I have young seedlings and it is very hot (I live in Bundaberg Queensland which is hot and dry) I will simply poor fluid directly onto the surface.
I will partially flood the box, I can either use a short swivel tube of just adjust the angle with a longer swivel tube).
The box must not be left in this flooded start for days on end. My preference is to partially flood all my boxes then go back to the first bed and let each bed drain. If I am home for a bit I will just drain the box into an old 3 litre milk container just after I have filled, this is real quick and easy.
I use a down pipe to view the water level which tell me if I need to water. That is typically two or three times a week.
If I am busy I may not be able to cycle (fill and drain) every day but I will make sure I cycle at least once a week but then I will allow an hour or so after filling so the fluid has time to wick into the soil.
The rule is that the fluid must be regularly cycled so it never becomes stagnant and pongy but sometimes rules can be broken and the plants sill survive.
This partial flood and drain is a key part of the Gbiota system.
Another integral part is the circulation of what we call soil blood.
Think about our bodies. We have specialist organs like our lungs and digestive and immune systems which are distributed about the body by our circulating blood.
It is similar with soil, the bottom of the boxes are full of decomposing organic waste with trillions of microbes and other soil creatures busily converting this organic waste into soluble nutrients, we call bio-available as the body can use them.
When we flood the base of the bed these soluble nutrients and a broad spectrum of microbes will mix with the water to become the equivalent of our human blood.
When we drain the bed we capture this nutrient and biologically active soil blood which we then use to flood the root system of the plants.
This works incredibly well but we must regularly cycle this soil blood so it does not become stagnant.
Again this cycling is a key feature of the Gbiota system.