I don't think the NativesOnly issue is a "best" issue so much as it is a control issue.
We have so many people who think their way is the only way. And add to that a bunch of hypocrites who plant only natives on their property, and yet buy 98% of their food from other sources.
It would be nice to draw the line at massive damage, but even that isn't going to happen anytime soon (never, if Monsanto has it's way).
Just like with some Permies, the way some people follow a doctrine or method of growing becomes a religion. Like religion, it becomes an all-or-nothing issue. If you don't do it my way, you're doing it wrong. If you're doing it wrong, you should be killed.
You see it in a lot of beliefs. Just nod your head and go your own way. You don't need to beat other people over the head with the PDM, and they don't need to insist that everything you grow has white flowers and starts with E.
Wild animals passing through don't usually do an incredible amount of damage. Penned animals do.
As far as I'm concerned, Sepp Holzer is not God.
Also, the attitude that if you own land alongside a river you should be able to use it for your special purposes is simply rationalizing your particular form of destruction.
Riparian areas are intensely fragile ecosystems. If you could find any that aren't damaged (HA!), you would probably find that they have been left alone (probably totally inaccessible, about the only way to avoid Man's rampant destruction). No camping, no boat ramps, no reconstruction, no renovating an area to encourage sport fish, no tilling, no plant harvesting, no logging, no livestock.
Chickens on a small lot, and thus confined to a small area, really require a mulch of straw or similar. I've seen sawdust used, and I've shoveled wet sawdust, and I was not thrilled. All it does is pack down and stink.
I use straw in the bottom of the coop (4x4'), at least 4" or 5" deep, and every late afternoon I scatter a good handful of scratch over the straw. Looking for the tasty little nuggets, they kick and fluff the straw, helping to keep it dry. Much of the manure sticks to the straw.
If you just throw down some kind of mulch and don't give the chickens a reason to work it over, they won't. It just mats down and stinks. And you can't leave it there forever, either.
Chickens are relatively low-care, but they're not no-care.
I will be building a chicken tractor soon, I hope, but it is mainly to confine them in the areas out side their pen to prevent crop damage (esp young plants). I intend to move it two or three times a day, depending on the site vegetation.
Most chicken tractors are deliberately left in one spot long enough to kill everything -- that's the reason they're using chicken tractors in many cases. And they usually use a higher density of chickens than I do.
But I had to learn the hard way that chicken tractors and coops are two entirely different things -- a coop can be fairly predator-proof, and chicken tractors aren't, unless you make them so heavy that you can't move them easily. My armored chicken tractor must have weighed over 200 lbs -- big mistake.
My new tractor will be 1x2s or 2x2s with chicken wire and a small hatch on the top with some shade provided.
"...why not just plant through the buckwheat straw and use it as your mulch? Raking up mulch and laying mulch back in its place seems like too much work to me."
Jeremiah, I was not very clear on that. I didn't mean to rake up the whole area, I meant to just pull aside (with a rake) the mulch to expose the soil to planting, then it could be replaced after sprouting. I am unsure of how much mulch will be left at that time, as buckwheat is said to be very dense. I have never seen buckwheat growing. This is all theory on my part.
Was your buckwheat literally dense enough to shade the clover and grass enough to kill it?
Yes, they are monoecious, with both male and female on each tree. I have two large plants in my backyard.
I do have nuts every year, but the birds usually get them before I do. A local nurseryman said to harvest in August. Birds can apparently tell if a nut is full or empty, and they leave the empty ones for me. Then they bury the good ones.
Young nuts are hard to find. Even large nuts seem hard to find until they turn brown.
When I first moved here about 10 yrs ago, it seemed there were more filled shells than there have been the last few years. I don't know if the birds are getting them, or if there is a pollination problem. But I seem to have good pollination in my cherry tree 200' away the same years that I have poor nut harvest, so maybe that isn't it.
By the way, to sort between the full and empty nutshells, just dump them into a bucket of water. The full ones sink to the bottom, the hollow ones float.
I've read that they have them in Texas, and Charles Walters wrote a book (Dung Beetles & A Cowman's Profits - 2007) about them but I haven't read it yet (probably won't until winter).
Did you run across any info on how cold-hardy they are? Does the PNW have any? Would they live if they were imported? Would my chickens eat all of them? Do they handle chicken poop or just herbivore poop?
Environmentally friendly, not animal tested, safe for the chemically sensitive.
"Our Oasis line of products is fully biocompatible. This means you can use the resulting greywater to water your plants. The product actually breaks down into valuable plant nutrients. Oasis cleaners are suitable for both greywater, septic and municipal sewerage systems. "
Yes, the legality thing kind of falls into a gray area.
For instance, California LAWS say you can't do it. But there are classes in how to do it.
The basic idea is like the law that says you can only have three dogs on your property. If you have five dogs, they're all well-mannered, you keep them home, they don't bark excessively and you clean up after them regularly so there's no smell, neither the neighbors nor the law really care if you have five dogs.
Greywater seems to be the same. Do it right, don't trash the existing plumbing so you're producing a problem for the owner (if you're renting) or a future buyer. Don't cause a health problem by creating a mosquito breeding area. Don't create something that is smelly and obnoxious. Don't let any of the water drain onto any neighbor's property. Be discreet. Be smart.
And don't blab to everyone you meet (like that anal-retentive city councilman) about what you're doing. You can talk about it, but be selective -- don't try to change the minds of everyone you meet.
The secret seems to be VALVES. You place a diverter valve so you have the choice of directing the greywater to a fruit tree basin or to the septic. You get 45" of rain in winter? Then you would probably want to send the shower water to the sewer, depending on what type of soil you have. "Overload" is not a word you want associated with what you're doing.
Agronomist Neal Kinsey says that nitrogen in soil is often washed away, esp in heavy-rainfall areas. And then when the land is plowed, even more is lost as gas.
Way back when this thread began, Pilarski mentioned planting white clover as a cover crop, then plowing it under in its second year.
I would like to try an alternative to this, if I could work it out financially:
Sow white clover and let it grow for two years. Then mow it short and immediately sow buckwheat (possibly more heavily than usual) and cover it with a thin layer of composted cow manure. Let it grow, and when it begins to flower, break the stalks by rolling over it and knock it flat. Then... just let it sit the until spring.
Theoretically, allowing the clover to grow for two years should produce a massive root system with nitrogen. NOT plowing will not release nitrogen, will not expose the soil flora and fauna to sunlight and drying air.
Cutting the clover short will give the buckwheat a head start and the manure should provide some instant nutrition and cover the seeds.
The buckwheat is 'top-heavy' -- most of it's mass is produced aboveground (most of clover's is underground). As the buckwheat grows, it should weaken the clover by shading it out. Any clover roots that die will provide more nitrogen to the soil, without losing it due to plowing.
When the buckwheat has produced the majority of it's growth, it starts to flower and that when you knock it down to kill it (it's supposed to be quite brittle). Once it hits the ground, it is now mulch, evenly applied, and I'm thinking that it will now finish killing off the previously weakened clover.
In the following spring, you would just rake what is left of the dead buckwheat (the soil will have been working on it all winter), and plant your new crop and then mulch it as usual.
I have mail ordered plants in the past, and just the difference in climate seemed to be too much for them. North Carolina to Washington State.
But some places just send crappy plants or plants in poor condition. One big offender was Mellinger's. Most of their plants arrived in soil that was absolutely BONE DRY dust. Some of their plants came as dead, dry sticks. Even a tree came "pre-killed". I complained about that, and they did replace it... with the ugliest, most distorted, twisted thing I've ever seen, again in dry soil, but it did survive. Ugly, but alive... such an improvement.
Yours is a great idea, but for most communities, it is an uphill battle. People have tried it in some areas, and their neighbors have gone as far as having the city/county go after them for not maintaining a "proper" lawn.
What could be a good compromise is a SHORT wildflower meadow, if it could be done. It would be different (difficult for many people), but the Lawn Nazis couldn't use their #1 argument: fire hazard.
The main trouble with wildflower (or similar) meadow lawns is the need to let them go to seed so they could come back the next year. I have two patches of blue camas in my field that I'm letting go to seed. Some of the grasses are over five feet tall now, and they're still green. They will be dry before the camas pods are dry.
IIRC, Clyde Robin Seeds had a mix that would do this, but I don't have time to check it out. And maybe it didn't work, as I saw it some years ago, maybe in the catalog.
But if someone could develop a short-growth seed mix, it would be fantastic!
Some people say lavender and rosemary are easy, and to start them in sand, which helps to prevent overwatering, and sage is probably the same, not sure of marjoram. But you still have to keep them somewhat moist in the sand, so they don't dry out, so you can't just ignore them.
I have some forgotten, neglected lavender that is doing quite well. I hardly ever remember to water it, never feed it, and it looks okay. It isn't great, but it's alive, which is more than I can say for the others.
You could take more cuttings than you need and try several ways and treatments, and see what works best in your local environment. Let us know!
"If you are a perfect person that times everything you do perfectly..."
Oh, sorry, let me get back into my chair.
Here's my opinion, similar in some respects to Paul's:
Plant your seeds and cover with a very light mulch (dry straw run through a shredder is perfect, or crumbled dry leaves -- between your hands is fine) just to help keep the soil surface damp so your seeds don't have to deal with that wet/dry/wet/dry stress. Once a sprouting seed dries out, it's dead.
As the seedling grows, surround it with more mulch gradually, keeping the leaves clear of the mulch, and leaving a ring of relatively clear soil right around the stem(s) if you can. Some plants are very sensitive to too much moisture right against their stems, so try to leave a little space there for ventilation. The airier your mulch (straw) the less this is necessary as the stems get older and stronger.
A carrot bed of scattered seeds is an exception here. I simply refuse to leave a little ring of space (using tweezers) around each plant. Live or Die, is my motto.
Now here is where I'm going to depart from Paul's info of warm soil.
I always read of warm soil. "Do not mulch around your tomatoes or it will shade the soil too much"... "Keep the soil clear around your heat-loving plants, esp in cooler climates"...
I did that and still my tomatoes didn't do well here in WA.
So I tossed that theory into the compost pile, planted my tomatoes, and mulched them gradually to about 6" deep with straw.
TOMATOES! BIG, RIPE, JUICY, SWEET/ACID TOMATOES! I was eating tomatoes off the vine, giving tomatoes to neighbors, relatives, delivering to friends, donating to the local food bank.
So, I said to myself: "SC%$W THAT WARM SOIL THEORY!"
Now I mulch. And now I have a theory of my own.
As long as the plant gets enough heat on it's leaves, I think that's enough. And I think what was stressing my unmulched tomatoes was the feast/famine problem of too much water, and then not enough water, back and forth, all summer.
With mulch from birth (well, transplanting), I didn't have to water so much, so many of the soluble nutrients that were washing away with all the excessive watering were still available to the plants. (I was wasting water)
With mulch, the soil was protected from the sun, the wind, and competition from weeds. And the plants loved it.
Now, how do you think the tomatoes would feel about being mulched, say, in Texas summers?
I bought three chicks at the local feed store that are supposed to be Marans. So I was looking around to see what these guys are supposed to look like. I bought them because they're suppose to lay dark brown eggs ("chocolate"), but I wasn't sure what they're supposed to look like. I'm still not sure. Actually, I'm not sure they're really Marans, or completely.
They have the Chicken Laws of various U.S. cities (and they want more, if you know yours), the Henhouse of the Month, and a collection of 140 photographs of chicken tractors! And they've got some interesting articles, too.
What, you've never heard of guerrilla gardening???
So, what do you do if you don't have much land, there's no community garden within 87 miles, and you want to grow your own food? Why, you use someone else's land! Simple.
Guerrilla gardening is growing food (and other stuff) on other people's land, without permission. Sometimes it's government land. Sometimes it's Department of Transportation land. Forest Service land. MAFIA training ground.
You know what the original crop of guerrilla gardening was, right? Yep! California's Number One cash crop.
But our kind of GG is a kinder, gentler, less-illegal kind of growing.
If you want to start in a small way so you don't have to lay awake at night waiting for the SWAT Team, you could start with that strip in front of your house, between the sidewalk and the street. That doesn't really belong to you, but the city/county doesn't care. Then notice that there are other strips all down your street, maybe even both sides. Unplanted. Unwanted. Bare and ugly.
Once you've got that planted, you will start casting your eye further afield. That weedy patch that your neighbor never mows. The vacant lot down the street that has had a 'for sale' sign on it for fifteen years. The neglected little 'park' where all the grass is dead and it has thistles all around it.
Once you start looking, you will see all kinds of prospective planting sites.
You will need weapons: trowels, loose seeds, seedballs, a gallon jug of water...
Let's face it, we all don't live in the country. There must be thousands of permies and prospective permies who want to grow food and don't have the place to do it.
If you don't have patio or balcony, all your windows face a wall or someone else's apartment, etc, here's a site that can help to direct you to a local community garden, in both urban and rural communities. It seems a good way to find nice people... they can't all be loonies.
Your town doesn't have a community garden? SO, START ONE!
The American Community Garden Association (ACGA) can help you to find a garden or even to start one in your town.
"ACGA and its member organizations work to promote and support all aspects of community food and ornamental gardening, urban forestry, preservation and management of open space, and integrated planning and management of developing urban and rural lands."
That's a big deal and you can help.
One of their books that looks extremely useful for such an endeavor is Growing Communities: How to Build Community Through Community Gardening by Jeanette Abi-Nader, David Buckley, Kendall Dunnigan and Kristen Markley.
This a free 300-page download of The New Seed Starters Handbook by Nancy Bubel. (It's also available in paper book form from the usual sources.)
It's simplified enough for the beginning grower, but also has a lot of useful information for the experienced gardener.
Nancy Bubel is well-known for her books on various gardening subjects, especially Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables, although she has written other books on gardening and several gardening bulletins.
Most permies lament watching the greywater from their bathtubs and showers, sinks and washing machines drain uselessly down the drain. That's a LOT of wasted water that could be reused.
I was recently reading Art Ludwig's book Branched Drain Greywater Systems, which gives detailed information on do-it-yourself changes to your plumbing so you can run your greywater to your garden or landscaping.
Art Ludwig is the King of Greywater, just in case you're not familiar with his name.
, I see that the info in that book has been included in his The NEW Create an Oasis with Greywater book.
Then I saw an article on his site titled "Laundry to Landscape Grey Water System" http://oasisdesign.net/greywater/laundry/index.php which shows and tells you how to create a diversion from your washer drain hose to the outdoors. The article has descriptive text and some good drawings. It looks quite simple and cheap, and is suitable for existing homes and even rented properties. It tells what you should do and not do to get the best use out of the system and not cause problems.
Ludwig's site also offers books and downloads on ecological design, rainwater harvesting and water storage, edible landscaping and bicycles.
If you don't have too much money to invest in books, some of these should be on that short list.
I just learned late last year that there are several varieties of wild blackberries, just around here (PNW). There is the earlier-producer with larger fruits that is the Evergreen Blackberry, and there's the late one with smaller berries (Himalayan Blackberry), and trailing raspberries, and the blackcap raspberries...
But also, many blackberry plants are produced from seed, and the plants are going to be a bit different from each other. This is where plant breeders improve plants just by crossing (not GMO). In your case, the birds and animals are doing it.
I would do your tip propagation and see what you get. Nature may have done some good breeding, and you reap the results.
Two things that can be useful for dry areas are light, dry, rotted wood, in the form of log chunks or dead root chunks, and waste paper (junk mail, old newspapers, etc). These materials are like sponges that hold a lot of water and release it slowly.
For a bed, lay these materials on the bottom (or deepen the bed below soil level and put them in the hole) and cover with plain soil to the level of the ground. Then add your planting soil with nutrients mixed in on top. DO NOT MIX THE TWO! Plant the bed. Mulch the surface as the plants grow. The mulch will help slow surface evaporation and will break down to feed the plants. The stuff in the bottom of the hole or depression will act as a moisture reserve, which the plants will find.
For trees, dig a hole as wide as recommended, and twice as long. Fill one half of the long hole with junk paper or rotted wood. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Plant your tree in the other end. Mulch on top over both.
One thing you might want to do is just watch the land for a year. See what you've already got growing.
Know Your Enemy. If you've got noxious weeds, one of your first priorities is not to let them reseed. Find out what they are, and what you need to do. Your local Cooperative Extension Service can help you to identify them (although they tend to be kind of heavy on poisons as solutions). Find yours at http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/
Make your plans on paper. Maybe make a mockup on your land: take a posthole digger and stick some sturdy sticks or limbs in the ground (or just pound in some rebar), then run some surveyor's tape or colored baling twine between them to mark off your orchard area. Or outline your garden area with the same things, or rocks that are large enough to stumble over. As you move around your land and do things, are any of your marked areas getting in the way?
I put some of my garden beds in the stupidest arrangement possible for using a garden hose on, and the hose kept climbing the raised beds and mashing down the plants. Dumb!
If you have dogs, find out where their 'runways' are. Don't plant there.
Design for hardscape first. Mark it out right on the land and see if you've miscalculated. Removing sticks and rocks is far easier than moving trees and boulders and concrete.
I went to the GardenWeb forum and asked what I was doing wrong. The answer was "practically everything".
The #1 Rule for Lavender: The More Neglect, the Better.
Overwatering is the big no-no. Next is too much nitrogen, as it's almost like a poison to them.
They need sandy, well-drained soil (rocky is good, too), maybe a little well-composed cow manure and a bit of bone meal in the fall, and that's it. Prune off the top 1/3 or so after flowering to keep them bushy.
Not all deserts were created by the same forces. Some were created by nature, others were created by Man.
"Ignotas nulla curatio morbid - do not attempt to cure what you do not understand"... In my opinion, that is a philosopher's statement. How much of our world does Man really understand? A lot less than we think we do. The problem is that we are learning at a much slower rate than we are destroying.
Deforestation, plowing, overfarming with chemicals all contribute to deserts.
Jordan is a country with people in it. It doesn't have oil as a source of income, it doesn't have much water, and it's landlocked. Kind of a triple whammy, wouldn't you say?
On one hand, we have people in desert places that are squandering their water supply at an incredible rate -- look at Arizona. It has half an inch of topsoil and 1,280,000 acres of irrigated crops, fertilized with chemicals. They aren't building any new soil, they're just destroying what they've got. They aren't planting many (if any) trees. What they are doing is absolutely not sustainable.
Down in Gaviotas, Columbia, they have been planting thousands of trees for the past 25 years or so. The variety of natural/native plants in the forested areas have jumped from about six to over 250, without any other human intervention. The soil has improved just from the trees.
Who created the dustbowl of the Great Depression? People did. Have they fixed it? Not really.
Now we have a term called 'permaculture'. Many people seem to be of the opinion it is to provide forests, crops and livelihoods without any input or money. How do they think this is possible?
Like Gaviotas did, people need to find plants that can survive existing conditions with some outside input, like water and mulch. Then they plant plants that have a good chance of renewing themselves with the sparse inputs available. As the soil improves, it can support more. As long as the nutrients of the plant production are returned to the soil, it should improve.
But to think that permaculture is like magic is silly.
Do you not want to invest the time and water at all, or just this year?
What you're looking for is an annual weed that tolerates poor soil and drought conditions. Domesticated plants just won't take that kind of abuse.
Let the weed grow, then mow it when it flowers and let the mulch lay in place on the ground. If you let it go to seed, it will spread. If that's what you want, fine. If you have plans for the spot next year, you won't want to let it go to seed.
The intrepid adventurer, Merriwether (Houston, Texas) is teaching wild edible plant classes at the Houston Arboretum and other parks and nature preserves in the area. (The Arboretum people know him as Dr. Mark Vorderbruggen, but that means nothing...)
He also holds classes at the very primitive Old Riley Fuzzel/Peckinpaugh Nature Preserve on Saturdays or Sundays whenever three or more interested people schedule it.
(For more info on his classes, see the "On-site edible plant classes in Houston" thread in the Regional Events/Southern USA section here on the permie site.)
His Edible Wild Plants site has a list of edible plants in the right column, listed by the common name. When you click on a plant, it will show a photograph, the scientific name, what parts are edible, how to prepare them, where and when to find them, and if they have any other uses (or dangers). Very handy.
Please be sure to check out his common-sense list of Foraging Ethics on the home page of his blog. If you want to wipe out stands of plants by eating them, you’ll have to come to my place and work on the dandelions, bittercress, cleavers, sour cherry sprouts, wild mustard, some kind of garlic thing, wild blackberry sprouts and various grasses.
There is a fellow in the Houston area of Texas who is teaching on-site wild plant classes at the Houston Arboretum and other parks and nature preserves in the area. Most people know him as the intrepid adventurer, Merriwether, although at the Arboretum some people know him as Dr. Mark Vorderbruggen.
He has a class coming up on August 23, 2009 at the Houston Arboretum. You can call 713-366-0421, or register online at his site: Edible Wild Plants of Houston, Texas, and the Southwest – Merriwether’s Guide to Wild Edibles http://houstonwildedibles.blogspot.com/
He also holds classes at the very primitive Old Riley Fuzzel/Peckinpaugh Nature Preserve (located at 1209 Old Riley Fuzzel Road, Spring, Texas 77386) on Saturdays or Sundays whenever three or more people schedule it. Email him at email@example.com to set up a session. Maximum group size is 16 people, classes last a bit over two hours. These classes are free of charge but donations are gratefully accepted.
He also seems to have a pretty good class survival rate.
Now that the weather has warmed up (FINALLY!), I've been working outdoors more. I am finally taking Bill Mollison's advice and moving my garden closer to the house so it will get more attention. Had I done it right the first time, I wouldn't be having to do it now. As in AGAIN.
I recently made a visit to a little place in west Olympia called Black Lake Organics, owned by Gary Kline. It would never be mistaken for a BigBox store -- it's mainly two small rooms.
But are they PACKED!
He has packages of all kinds of organic soil amendments of the mineral type, and they have their own line of organic fertilizers. AND they come in all sizes, from 1 lb to 5 lb to 10 lb to bulk amounts. I usually operate in small mode, so that is great for me. And they do mail order, too, with size/weight limitations, although he can ship multiples of the maximum size.
His prices are really good! If you click on Products, you can check out the list of what he carries (MS Word or .pdf), with the size/price and info. You can buy a mix or the individual components.
They also carry seeds, worm tea, seed starting supplies, worm bins, and a lot of other stuff.
Gary has a friend who raises about 200 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and some are available at the store in varying numbers.
They also have newsletter that you can sign up for. (Archives on the site.)
If you live in the south sound and haven't been there, it's on Black Lake Blvd, a little over 2.5 miles south of I-101 on the right, across the street from Black Lake itself.
If you're visiting Olympia (except on Sun. or Mon.), you would probably find it worth yoru time to stop in and look around.