Dog Food and Cardboard?

It’s no secret that Florida has pretty sandy soil in many locations.  There is also a lot of earth scraping and fill dirt brought in for home construction, that has a high sand content and not much nutritional value for plants.  If you have an area you’d really like to be more fertile and rich for both landscape and veggie plants, here is a great old Florida trick that really works to build and enrich your soil.  This is not an “instant fix” like going out and buying lots of compost and digging it into the ground, but rather a more natural way to attract healthy microbes and earthworms to take up residence in your designated space.

The Recipe

For each 100 sf

  • 1 30-50 lb bag of cheap dog food
  • 1 50 lb bag of alfalfa pellets
  • 2 -4  5kg blocks of coco coir expanded and spread
  • A one pound container LIVE native red wriggler earthworms.
  • Enough cardboard to cover the entire area
  • Pine straw or regular straw from the feed store
  • Beneficial microbes like Mycorrhizae


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Start out by placing your two coir blocks  away from the edges and water with the hose until they  expand.  Rake the awesome coir fiber out over the ground. Spread the dog food and alfalfa throughout the area.   Add the earthworms.. Sprinkle all with the mycorrhizae. Water the whole area well. Other potential additives include.. shredded paper, leaves, etc.  You can add to this bottom layer just about anything that

Next cover the area with the cardboard,, making sure the edges overlap.  Water it until saturated.  Finally cover the entire area with the straw. You can use pine straw, available in bales, or get straw from your feed store ( don’t use hay. it may have seeds in it) or, you can use a mulch product like melaleuca, (sold under the brand name of “Florida Mulch” ) or pine “fines”.  Cover all thickly with whatever you choose for your top dressing.

Water once again.  You’ll want to keep this area on the moist side for awhile as it starts its magic, and believe me, the results are magic!

This is what happens:

The earthworms you added will think they’ve died and gone to heaven.. they will start eating the dog food, and the alfalfa, and creating casings and breeding with frenzy.  Other earthworms in the area, will smell this delicious feast and work their way over too.  The microbes and beneficial fungi will start to colonize the area getting it set for your eventual planting.  The coco coir will absorb water and release it as needed. The earthworm activity will give it plenty of aeration which is what you want for your soil.

Typically you’ll want to wait as long as possible before you start planting this area, a minimum of 2 months, but 6 months is even better.  Ideally, when you go to plant, the cardboard will be mostly gone and what is left will be easy to penetrate.  You can plant right through the mulch/straw and start growing!

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