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Building soil faster than nature

Emil Spoerri
pollinator

Joined: Oct 19, 2009
Posts: 415
    
    8
Ludi wrote:
Maybe ask them?

http://growbiointensive.org/contact.html

Personally I think it would be fairly easy to grow some sunflowers to eat and some for seed to plant for compost ingredients.




..if they don't get eaten by the birds!

Other than that, they are by far some of the easiest, but how about clovers alfalfa and hairy vetch? much bigger pain in the ass!

When we don't have cars anymore and nutrients are being cycled around like crazy with horses and oxen, won't crop rotations and fallow beds be much less of a big deal?
Paul Cereghino
volunteer

Joined: Jan 11, 2010
Posts: 847
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
    
  15
I suspect that cover crop seed production should be coop to gain some efficiency of scale.


Paul Cereghino- Stewardship Institute
Maritime Temperate Coniferous Rainforest - Mild Wet Winter, Dry Summer
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Emile Spore wrote:
.

When we don't have cars anymore and nutrients are being cycled around like crazy with horses and oxen, won't crop rotations and fallow beds be much less of a big deal?


Yes but they take more space than growing a patch of sunflowers. 


Idle dreamer

rose macaskie


Joined: May 09, 2009
Posts: 2134
Collecting seed  is no more time consuming than dead heading roses, you put on a pretty hat and wander out in ht ecool of the evening to dead head the roses, that was the elegant passtime of gardeners who had a gardener to do the heavy work. Does time consuming depend on your power to work and that is something that grows with age  so dont despair you will find you are willing to kill yourself with work later on in your life. There are moments of your life, like when you have small children when it is next to impossible to do anything but in other moments is is easy. Its fiddle collecting pansy seeds and easy collecting clover ones. rose macaskie madrid.
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
barefooter wrote:
From http://www.growbiointensive.org/grow_main.html

Is it really possible to build soil faster than nature without bringing in outside inputs?


Jeff Lawton talks about this in a forest gardening video. He says that it is possible, and that the way to do it is to have the majority of your plants grown for the main purpose of accumulating nutrients in their leaves and/or roots, to be cut back and used as mulch on the food crops. Plants with deep tap roots such as comfrey, dock's, parsnip, alfalfa, and certain nitrogen fixing bushes/trees are good nutrient accumulators.

Ideally your nutrient accumulator plants can be cut back and regrow several times per year, and in this way build soil quicker than the natural processes which tend to perform this action only once per year (in temperate climates)

Once your soil fertility is where you want it, you can replace a certain percentage of the nutrient accumulators with other, more desired plants.


http://www.greenshireecofarms.com
Zone 5a in Central Ontario, Canada
rose macaskie


Joined: May 09, 2009
Posts: 2134
almanzo wilder the husband of laura ingals wilder grew a corp of seed wheat he was willing to die for and certainly to starve the village for. so once producing your seed was complicated this was special seed and important.
  it was poor english people who pracctised hybridising flowers to produce ones with bigger flowers and such a villagers art.
it is one modern problem that instead of having gtthe seed developed by lots of farmers in texas were it is dry and that of the farmers of newyourlk etc so lots of different types of seed and a big variety of genes we have the products of one or two companies and a small genes bank in india they are collecting seed of different types o frice to have a big gene banki of rice seeds.
                        


Joined: Jul 07, 2010
Posts: 508
Emile Spore wrote:


When we don't have cars anymore and nutrients are being cycled around like crazy with horses and oxen, won't crop rotations and fallow beds be much less of a big deal?


Crop rotations for some heavy feeding crops such as corn are essential as they will quickly deplete the soil of some nutrients and then the soil is unbalanced just as if a person's body becomes unbalanced  without access to various nutrients.  This is the basis for chemical fertilizers...Unfortunately they have side effects..and they feed the plant, not the soil.

There is some controversy over fallow beds; it certainly isn't any design of nature to have bare soil for a year except in a desert perhaps; and people around here who fallow have to spend a good deal of tractor time and/or chemicals to keep it that way. There is also a certain amount of soil lost to wind from a fallow field. It is difficult for me to understand how  rest is going to increase the richness of the soil any more than sleep will provide nourishment to a starving body. If, however, the soil is planted with a mix of grasses and legumes which is then tilled into the ground, it WILL enrich the soil.

A lot of people around here, when asked why they summer fallow, have never really considered the question; it was the way granddaddy did it. The most common reply is "to kill the weeds"

Two things  to remember about domesticated beasts such as horses or cattle; They tend to have been bred to be MUCH larger than they ever would be in the wild; which requires a much higher input of calories, and there tends to be many more of them per acre than ever would be found in the wild, often so much so that the land cannot support them. This is a major reason the deserts are growing quickly and steadilly every year throughout the world.

It used to be a commonplace to say that buying hay was buying fertility for your fields. If you have a field that you are haying and/or  grazing, you may need to give it  some help from time to time or you may wear it out. The amount of nutrient coming OUT of a field in the form of milk and meat may be more than the nutrients returned by the animal's waste. Even horses can reduce a field to sand if overstocked..sometimes even not because they are hungry but bored, and what horses do best is eat 
                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
This discussion brings into focus some different ideas about what nature is.

I submit that erosion is sometimes an entirely natural process, that it can destroy fertility, and a bit of strategic action on the part of humans can prevent nature from robbing the soil in such situations. Is it not sometimes good to work against those aspects of nature?

If a particular field is abandoned, it may undergo relatively rapid soil development if it happens to have lots of legumes present, or much slower development if the soil happens to be rich in some other type of seed. It seems to be an arbitrary distinction as to whether seeding clover is natural or not. Of course, clover is a natural species of plant, but is the fact that an acreage has or does not have lots of clover a fundamental expression of nature, or merely a product of random action?? Or something of both?

The competitive exclusion principle of ecology states that within a given niche, two or more species cannot stably co-exist; one species is better adapted and will out compete the others and entirely fill the niche.  Is it not 'un-natural' to add species to a particular landscape, or to create more niches than those that naturally exist in a particular plot? Is it not 'un-natural' to try to create an efficient multi-story ecosystem where there is a simple (natural) ecosystem in place that is not very efficient at capturing solar energy or absorbing nutrients?




                        


Joined: Jul 07, 2010
Posts: 508
can you give an example of monoculture in nature? I think of plants such as kudzu which is perfectly fine in Japan but a noxious weed in the southeastern US..it has been moved by man to a totally different environment. We can mess up anything, often with the best of intentions, if we put our minds to it. Given enough time it would come into balance as it has in Japan, but such time spans might be a millennia.

I dont understand this "competitive exclusion" principle; it seems to simply be saying that nothing is static; everything is subject to change and flux. We co-exist with bacteria and viruses; in the end they will get each of us. But we have still managed to flourish as a species, if you consider sheer numbers and population growth. If nobody died, and we produced offspring at the rate we do now; the world would have become uninhabitable for humans a long time ago, and something else would have taken over. What man is doing now as a species is trying to make everything bend to our will and to prevent that change and flux..if everyone eats only whole grains and wears their bicycle helmets etc. we could live forever, which is definitely trying to break the way ALL things work in this world; even mountains and rock change over time. However, lichen is an example of interdependence; neither part can exist without the other. Doesn't this challenge  your competitive exclusion? Although lichen too is subject to change and flux, in the meantime it does indeed co-exist within the same niche. Lichen is not the only example of symbiosis.

Many of us believe that there is a sort of web of life, and all of us are in some  not easilly observable way, symbiotically connected to the earth and its myriad life forms; and we mess with that at our peril (which we are of course doing constantly) Some things such as eliminating smallpox, is hard to argue with from a species point of view, it's more difficult and scarier to contemplate the rate of extinction of other species when we have no  concept of the niche they fill in that web.

If you look at the old growth forest or the jungle or the savannah or the sea or lake or river;all have a richly diverse abundance of life forms which coexist within it (unless we mess with it). So where is your monoculture in nature? There are examples of some species such as poplars dominating an area for a while; but they are a nurse species; in time they will give way to other trees as the soils change and become able to support other trees.

You can see what happens after a forest fire; the fireweed  apparently springs from nowhere and will carpet the blackened landscape; but over time the forest will return. The thing is TIME..because things naturally work on a different time scale than we do, we tend to think they dont happen.

It may take millennia for an ecosystem to develop; we can sometimes mimic the process but in an intensely sped up way, like showing a film in fast forward. We are a relatively short lived species and dont have millennia to wait for soils to develop from rock. But if we are sensible we try to understand the process and mimic it as best we can; it's a proven process;the world developed quite nicely without our input.

Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Jonathan_Byron wrote:
Is it not 'un-natural' to try to create an efficient multi-story ecosystem where there is a simple (natural) ecosystem in place that is not very efficient at capturing solar energy or absorbing nutrients?


Only if one considers humans and their activities "un-natural" in which case I guess one would consider humans "supernatural" in other words not part of the physical world, which is absurd.  Personally I don't think the concepts "natural" or "un-natural" are particularly useful (even though I sometimes use the word "natural" when I should use the word "native" or maybe "endemic".  We can look at humans and their activities as natural and still be able to reflect  if the activities are helpful or harmful.  Erosion is certainly natural (the Grand Canyon!) but in many cases it may not be helpful to let it continue. 
Brice Moss


Joined: Jul 28, 2010
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
    
    2
Ludi wrote:
We can look at humans and their activities as natural and still be able to reflect  if the activities are helpful or harmful.  Erosion is certainly natural (the Grand Canyon!) but in many cases it may not be helpful to let it continue.   


exactly we are part of the system in fact we are a keystone species in every environment we inhabit that is to say that we cannot live here and not make changes so it would be wise of us to start making sure we make the changes that will leave the planet inhabitable for our species.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
brice Moss wrote:
it would be wise of us to start making sure we make the changes that will leave the planet inhabitable for our species.


And others! 
Brice Moss


Joined: Jul 28, 2010
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
    
    2
a lot of people may not have figured this out yet, but the planet cannot stay inhabitable for humans without a good variety of other species surviving as well
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Pam wrote:can you give an example of monoculture in nature?


Sure, a few. Some hydrothermal vents end up maintaining a near-monoculture. Some odd, isolated, and ephemeral niches have very few species adapted to them. Sunken whale bones are one example: the worms that live in them had pre-adapted to sunken dinosaur bones, oddly enough.

In "devil's gardens", certain species of ants maintain a monoculture or biculture of plants. Ants also cultivate genetically-identical herds of aphids, and nearly-pure cultures of fungus. I'd entertain arguments that these examples are not entirely natural, though, since they are the result of social organization and constant maintenance.


"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Brice Moss


Joined: Jul 28, 2010
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
    
    2
a mature forest in large parts of the northwest tends towards very low diversity of trees with a few evergreen species dominating
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
I'd entertain arguments that these examples are not entirely natural, though, since they are the result of social organization and constant maintenance.


And social organization is not natural?  Ants aren't natural? 
                        


Joined: Jul 07, 2010
Posts: 508
brice Moss wrote:
a mature forest in large parts of the northwest tends towards very low diversity of trees with a few evergreen species dominating

For sure, but there is a wide biodiversity  within that forest. Diodiversity involves more than trees, the prairies had few trees but a wide variety of other plants. There is also the wildlife from fungi to bears (we wont include the sasquatch in this discussion :lolwhich has evolved to live within that ecosystem. Or are you saying that because a species tends to dominate that means it is a monoculture?
Joel Hollingsworth wrote:

In "devil's gardens", certain species of ants maintain a monoculture or biculture of plants. Ants also cultivate genetically-identical herds of aphids, and nearly-pure cultures of fungus. I'd entertain arguments that these examples are not entirely natural, though, since they are the result of social organization and constant maintenance.

So the ants beat us to it. If it requires constant maintenance, doesn't that prove it isn't what the 'natural order of things "would be?
Emil Spoerri
pollinator

Joined: Oct 19, 2009
Posts: 415
    
    8
When I said fallow, I meant uncultivated and that is the second definition of fallow in the dictionary. Also meant not grazed that year as well. Timed cuts could prove useful, we want seed heads to form to help plant a thick pasture however.
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Ludi wrote:And social organization is not natural?  Ants aren't natural?   


People have all sorts of definitions of "natural".

I see ants as being about as natural as humans. I see no particular reason, in principle, to see the results of their collective work, and its impact on the diversity of an ecosystem, as being radically less-distinct from the natural order of things, than a practice like slash-and-burn agriculture.

I see a very dim and smudged boundary line between "natural" and "unnatural." Many people see a bright, sharp line, but the various lines that people might draw sometimes disagree, and I wanted to respect that diversity of opinion.

Pam wrote:It is difficult for me to understand how  rest is going to increase the richness of the soil any more than sleep will provide nourishment to a starving body.


Sleep provides nourishment to bedbugs, though!

That is to say, a big part of the fertility boost from a summer fallow period is due to the decomposition of humus. Nutrients that had been locked away in soil organic matter become available to the next year's crop, once that organic matter has been oxidized.
                        


Joined: Jul 07, 2010
Posts: 508
Joel Hollingsworth wrote:

Sleep provides nourishment to bedbugs, though!

That is to say, a big part of the fertility boost from a summer fallow period is due to the decomposition of humus. Nutrients that had been locked away in soil organic matter become available to the next year's crop, once that organic matter has been oxidized.


Not sure that's exactly so; I doubt the  bedbugs are asleep when they bite in search of nutrition.

As far as production of humus is concerned, that happens anyway, whether or not there is a crop on the land, as long as there is something to decompose. The only benefit would be that something isn't actually drawing on it at the same time. Of course if you are talking about some sort of fallow which includes plants (not the way they do it around here at least; it isn't considered fallowing a field if it has anything growing on it) then it's difficult to see how that is doing anything more than would happen anyway, and it supposedly takes how many years to make an inch of soil?

It makes no sense to me, unless the stuff growing on it is to be tilled in, at which point it makes a great deal of sense, as that is a very effective way of increasing humus content quickly, especially if the stuff tilled in includes legumes and finerooted grasses which will break down quickly. All you are doing by tilling it in is making the material to be broken down more accessible to the microbes and bacteria and worms etc in the soil, you are taking it to them in effect. Sorta the difference between someone serving you dinner and you having to go out and get the fixings and then make it yourself I suppose.
                        


Joined: Jul 07, 2010
Posts: 508
Jonathan_Byron wrote:
This discussion brings into focus some different ideas about what nature is.


I am always a bit bemused by how many people emotionally connect  "natural" and "organic" with "good".  I doubt they have really considered the matter in any depth..I think it really depends on what aspect of "nature" you are considering. If it's efficiency then perhaps so, by and large this extremely complicated world seems to function very well until we mess it up.

However, if you consider natural = good I think that's somewhat simplistic..it may be natural to get eaten by an anaconda or burned/ buried in ash by a volcano but I personally wouldn't consider it good.  Someone a few years ago knew that foxglove yielded digitalis, and what could be more organic AND natural than a plant in the garden known to be medically helpful for certain types of  heart conditions? So she chowed down on some foxglove and promptly died. This isn't a failure of nature, it's a failure to understand  that nature really doesn't much care who comes out on top.
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Pam wrote:As far as production of humus is concerned, that happens anyway, whether or not there is a crop on the land, as long as there is something to decompose.


Uh, I was saying that traditional, bare-soil fallow works by destroying humus.

As soil's capacity to hold nutrients is gradually destroyed, those nutrients become highly available to that year's plants.

It isn't a matter of nurturing soil health, but of strip-mining soil nutrients. Hence the bedbug analogy: the soil is "rested" so that parasites might feed on it.

Similarly, an international development worker might work to diminish a society's home economy. As each household's ability to store and maintain wealth diminishes, more resources become available on the open market, and a larger proportion of that wealth can be exported.
Emil Spoerri
pollinator

Joined: Oct 19, 2009
Posts: 415
    
    8
HEY HEY, I brought up fallow (I think) and I certainly wasn't talking about bare plowed fields, or plows even or even cultivators, cause all that stuff stinks to me!

Fallow also means leaving a field to sit unattended for farm purposes. Just because the grass and weeds are growing up doesn't mean it can't be called fallow!

Nature is usually good, I think that when nature is "bad" it is because mankind has interfered with it somehow. Bad for us is likely good for someone else. I don't think we need to redefine nature in the context of good, I think we need to realize that things we do are bad and that nature by and large is good haha!
Paul Cereghino
volunteer

Joined: Jan 11, 2010
Posts: 847
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
    
  15
I just realized that I don't know what the heck anyone is talking about when they say "nature"!  (Note, this is not an invitation to fill the thread with varied and sundry definitions...) 
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Paul Cereghino wrote:I just realized that I don't know what the heck anyone is talking about when they say "nature"!


Welcome aboard my lifeboat. I was getting lonely. I think we're better off without the good ship Romantic Positivism, though...she was taking on water pretty bad, and her captain had an unsettling look in his eye.

Emile Spore wrote:HEY HEY, I brought up fallow (I think)


Didn't mean to trespass, there. I was only trying to answer Pam's question about how traditional fallow practices function. She came back to the question about something with a similar name to what you were discussing, so I just wanted to clarify.
paul wheaton
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Posts: 15426
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
(off topic stuff deleted)


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Joined: Jul 07, 2010
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Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
Uh, I was saying that traditional, bare-soil fallow works by destroying humus.

As soil's capacity to hold nutrients is gradually destroyed, those nutrients become highly available to that year's plants.

It isn't a matter of nurturing soil health, but of strip-mining soil nutrients. Hence the bedbug analogy: the soil is "rested" so that parasites might feed on it.

Similarly, an international development worker might work to diminish a society's home economy. As each household's ability to store and maintain wealth diminishes, more resources become available on the open market, and a larger proportion of that wealth can be exported.
  Ah   this is interesting and the first time anyone has explained it to me in terms which make any sense at all. So it is along the same lines as burning; the building of humus is considered immaterial (actually that capacity is destroyed and usually the top layer of soil as well)  to get a fast result from the minerals left in the ash.

I will have to consider your analogy. I suppose you are thinking about small farms being bought up and deforested and/or made into oil patch areas or plantations of bananas and so forth for export for the benefit of first world countries like us? Is this sort of thing being done by development workers or simply by big corporations? I think of development workers as being  people like geoff lawton working  in Jordan and Willie Smits (from another forum but pertinent)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vfuCPFb8wk ; Hopefully this is a more typical attitude or am I just being optimistic?
Joel Hollingsworth
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Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Pam wrote:I think of development workers as being  people like Geoff Lawton working  in Jordan and Willie Smits (from another forum but pertinent)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vfuCPFb8wk ; Hopefully this is a more typical attitude or am I just being optimistic?


I was being pessimistic.

Green Revolutionaries have tended to promote systems that shift production into the market sector, both by favoring store-bought crop inputs and by producing cash crops in concentrations too large for local use, but less of agricultural products that the local market demands. Their methods also tend to reduce soil organic matter content, which also makes the economy less resilient and more likely to need strong ties to the global market.

Food aid is a very complicated topic, but in many ways it can replace traditional systems of self-sufficiency.

I think what you describe is a typical attitude of a typical person who supports international development. On the other hand, I think a typical dollar spent on international development is disbursed with a very different sort of attitude. Traditionally, it has been a matter of developing markets for foreign products, which products displace local, traditional ones that had been part of the home economy.
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Pam wrote:I think of development workers as being  people like Geoff Lawton working  in Jordan and Willie Smits (from another forum but pertinent)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vfuCPFb8wk  Hopefully this is a more typical attitude or am I just being optimistic?


I was being pessimistic.

I think what you describe is a typical attitude of a typical person who supports international development. On the other hand, I think a typical dollar spent on international development is disbursed with a very different sort of attitude. Traditionally, the intent was to develop markets for foreign products, displacing ones that had traditionally been produced locally within the home economy, while taking resources (often including ones that had fed the home economy) and exporting them for foreign use.

Green Revolutionaries have tended to promote systems that tie production more tightly to the market, both by favoring store-bought crop inputs and by producing cash crops in concentrations too large for local use instead of agricultural products that the local market (or the grower's family) demands. Terminator seeds are maybe the ultimate example. And of course, methods that decrease soil organic matter are a microcosm of this, making local reserves of wealth smaller, so that more can be extracted.

Food aid is a very complicated topic, but in many ways it can replace traditional systems of self-sufficiency.

There's a lot of work to replace homespun/hand-built items with factory products.

I think development of the sort E. F. Schumacher advocated is intrinsically more powerful than less-local ones, but I think there is still a lot invested in more-exploitative patterns of development.
                        


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Posts: 508
Terminator seeds are a problem  everywhere and a huge threat to the future food supply in any number of ways.  We are struggling with them in Canada and I believe you also in the States. That was something which was mentioned in the email I got about BillS.510 but I couldn't find anything that seemed to deal directly with that question.

As far as direct aid, unfortunately I think you are likely right. Governmental monetary aid to struggling countries almost always comes with strings attached, though those strings are seldom obvious at first glance. Sometimes it's only later that country's leaders realize they have committed themselves to things perhaps antagonistic to their country's best long term interests. Or perhaps they feel they have no option, they have to take whatever they can get to get through whatever crisis it is. Countries and the politicians that run them are rarely altruistic.  Depressing, isn't it?

I dont think "Small if Beautiful" is going to hit the mainstream western populations any time soon, the trend is just the opposite seems to me. I dont know a lot about how Schumacher's model works..I remember reading an interview with him years ago in Mother Earth News.

People scream about Walmart but head there to shop in droves, passing by the local stores. The Hundred Mile rule may help a little but few people here are going to avoid their mandarin oranges and bananas. Anyway that's another thread .

Just... thank goodness for people of vision such as Mollinson and Smits and others of their conviction and dedication.
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

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Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Pam wrote:Governmental monetary aid to struggling countries almost always comes with strings attached


That can be something of a problem. I was talking more about direct food aid, though: huge sacks of grain, grown in the US and given out for free.

There's a great Frontline documentary about food aid in Haiti, which makes a case that monetary aid is better at maintaining distribution channels and local modes of production. Local farmers still have an incentive to grow food, and local wholesalers and shops can stay in business.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I believe a lot of the seed sent to Haiti was burned by the Haitians who did not want to become enslaved by Monstanto.  If anyone likes, I will find a link to a news story about this, so it's not just "I think I heard a guy say" 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Location: Oakland, CA
Emile Spore wrote:I have witnessed the horror personally of "soil indigestion" and the rampant and hostile weeds it produces.


Is this just anaerobic decomposition in the soil? Can you tell me more about it, if it's more involved than that?
Emil Spoerri
pollinator

Joined: Oct 19, 2009
Posts: 415
    
    8
Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
Is this just anaerobic decomposition in the soil? Can you tell me more about it, if it's more involved than that?


Yes, correct. Pro to composting for eliminating this risk. Con to composting for wasting a great deal of the materials that were gathered to produce it. This is why I favor mulching or sheet composting over composting or surface incorporation. Also from what I understand, putting the surface soil underground kills a lot of organisms. Digging no matter what can harm mycelium, I think that it is unwise to interfere in the inner workings of the soils to such great extents.
Paula Edwards


Joined: Oct 06, 2010
Posts: 411
There are roughly two schools of thought:
One is that you dig like mad, best two spades deep and that every year, and work your organic matter into the soil.
The other extreme is represented by ruth stout, they are laying cardboard or newspaper to block weeds (and maybe much more) and then they are throwing everything on the top. The latter is much practiced in Australia. It is lazy gardening and I criticize this method very much, because you will never use the soil underneath very much. They tell you that earthworms are doing the digging for you but I want to see an earthworm digging through a big stone. That means that the mulch layer must always kept to a depth where you can garden with (at least the depth of a carrot). this method relies very much on mostly bought materials, especially if you live in one of the big cities.

Reasonable gardeners mostly find their own method, something in between the two extremes. I personally am very attracted by the hugelbeet culture, but I have no results yet with this method. What I like there is that you are really using the soil which is already there plus prunings you can get trailer loads for free.

In the end of the day, all gardening and farming to a lesser extend rely on stuff you bring in. The maraichais of Paris where only possible because of the horse manure. We replaced the horses by burning fossil fuels and freed up and enormous amount of farmland (I think a horse needs a hectare or so). Stupid mankind what did we do? We procreated like rabbits (the Catholic church told us so).
And now we have much less farmland per head than ever before. Farming now relies on fossil fuels and unfortunately most of the free sources of mulch and compost are gone, and the end of the story you name it.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
ediblecities wrote:

In the end of the day, all gardening and farming to a lesser extend rely on stuff you bring in.


Except in permaculture and biointensive the materials are grown in the garden...
Paula Edwards


Joined: Oct 06, 2010
Posts: 411
...Ludi, if you have a bit more than a suburban plot, 400 m2 at most surrounded by other plots 400 m2 at most.
Permaculture as I know this here is that those who have permaculture gardens buy bales and bales of whatever is available, mostly expensive lucerne hay.
                        


Joined: Jul 07, 2010
Posts: 508
"It is lazy gardening and I criticize this method very much, because you will never use the soil underneath very much. They tell you that earthworms are doing the digging for you but I want to see an earthworm digging through a big stone. That means that the mulch layer must always kept to a depth where you can garden with (at least the depth of a carrot). this method relies very much on mostly bought materials, especially if you live in one of the big cities." end quote    (I wish I knew how to put quotes in boxes like normal people do )

I think you could be somewhat less judgemental. Have you ever tried to grow a garden in an area covered with couch or quackgrass? It's highly unlikely to be at all successful. Many people are not able to dig out couchgrass etc. and so could not have a garden at all unless they went with such things as raised boxes and/or "lasagna" gardening, but would be stuck with either lawns or some sort of covering for their yards that they could deal with. I cannot even dig a hole for a raspberry bush, but must needs hire someone to do it, and I cannot get down to ground  level to deal with a garden at that level.  It is all very well and good to use hugelculture..I think it looks a fabulous technique; but would have to import the soil to do so..is that any better than importing mulch material?

Also there is a WORLD of difference between a stone and cardboard, and if you have READ the book, she doesn't advocate cardboard but rather  recommends layers of newspaper because cardboard takes so much longer to break down and is so much harder for earthworms to deal with. Earthworms can and do deal with both. OTOH  a stone mulch can be very useful in conserving moisture in the soil because it won't evaporate as easilly from under a rock as it will from bare ground and sometimes people simply needs must use what they have handy until they can do better.

There are still masses of options for free mulch and compost material..from the tree trimming  services, sawdust  and grass clippings to spent coffee grounds from the local coffee shop..none of which likely were available in the times you  were are talking about, to spoiled hay and raked up leaves in the fall and used straw/bedding, which is still available.  Just because someone doesn't do things the way you feel is optimum (and which may BE optimum) doesn't meant they're lazy.   

You sound as though you are young and healthy and have no concept of anyone who might be dealing with issues which may well be waiting for you later in your life. If you are one of those who thinks that anyone with disabilities ought simply to get out of the way of the young and  healthy, as has been said to me, then there is of course nothing to say except I wish you the very best of health throughout your life, void of accident or illness which might leave your body  less than perfectly fit. For the vast majority of people who end up dealing with issues of one sort or another,and are dismayed and astonished at how their bodies have turned on them, options are a wonderful thing.      

Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I'm very much in favor of lazy gardening if one can do it.  Many people seem to be successful with lazy techniques.  Digging is hard work - I've been working for months to remove rocks from my new kitchen garden and install hugel beds.  At first I tried just putting material on top, but did not make the layer thick enough and it turned out there were rocks close under the surface, so the plants died.  Once I remove the rocks I will probably never dig the soil again.  It is absolutely FULL of big earthworms who have enjoyed all the organic material I put on the soil.  They didn't mind the rocks, but I think the plants will do better with more room for roots.  This past summer I already noticed the difference in the few areas I had put hugel beds, they stayed green when the rocky areas died.  But I will be very happy to get back to lazy gardening! 

Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1782
    
  11
I highly disagree - it is not lazy, it is natural!  And it is permaculture, as you cannot continuing digging forever - either your back will give out, or your soil or your machinery (not necessarily in this order).

Just got back from mushrooming in the forest where the ground was so soft and spongy with lots of decaying material and new plantings growing in it - natural not lazy, criticize it all you like, it works!

And I do not buy or use hay, with a little planning you can grow and use what your own land produces, or collect materials others consider waste for free.



Pam - There is a button, directly above this  smiley that looks like a yellow comment bubble for quotes.  Also  there is a quote feature over each post on the right hand side - if you click that it will quote the entire post in a new post window.  You can then delete out the parts of the post you don't want.  Let me know if you still have any trouble.



 
 
subject: Building soil faster than nature
 
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