Hit a major turning point last night when hundreds of thousands of gallons of water and many tons of silt and debris washed across our agriculture land where the food forest was going. Half of my baby trees were washed up. I've found all but two. My Swale is gone, filled in with stones. My banana garden form (no bananas yet) is still in tact and full of water.
The garden got a lot of water and silt in it as well, even with the pallets blocking much. I've found most everything, and it's salvageable. All seedlings are gone of course. Moringa is all gone except for the cuttings. But those are easy enough.
So new plan: no swales, just enormous amounts of vetiver in an alternating dash pattern to hold water back. But we're going to have to start further up hill, or it will just overflow.
I was woke up this morning by the sound of a hummingbird droning outside my window. They seem to be increasing their population here (as well as other birds). I'd like to encounter more of them, cause they're so pretty! But we have tons of ants here, and so sugar water isn't a great option. What can I planted that's suitable for tropical, dry, windy, hot climate? Preferably perennial. Even better if people (or at least bunnies and chickens) can eat it too!
I am very interested in pursuing the benefits of fungi in the garden, but where I live, it's very dry, hot, and windy for much of the year, with some flooding during the relatively short rainy seasons. We also don't have a lot of shade since the oldest trees are about 6 years old. There's also very little access to fallen trees or logs to start the fungi spores.
I'm curious hearing how others in similar environments have countered these challenges. It seems that once the fungi gets established, it will help to resolve some of these very issues, but in the meantime, what would you suggest?
Looks great! I never quite understood why it was important to dig down. I know that provides access to more moisture, but if the idea is to mimic nature, seems that your process is more than sufficient!
I planted veggie seeds in cardboard egg cartons last week. Most are peeking up now, but not all. I keep them on a tray which I push under a patio chair at night to protect them (until I have my grow space). That means they don't get direct sunlight now, and I'm concerned about that.
The sun here is very strong, and I'm worried that putting them in the sun will result in them drying out completely or burning up. But I also don't want them to get too leggy before I plant them in the beds.
Would it work to put them inside my garden fence where they would be shaded in the afternoon but get direct sun through the morning? Is there something I can do to help keep them from drying out in this windy and hot location? The egg cartons are on a plastic tray which I could flood with water once or twice a day (whenever it looks like it needs it). I can also use plastic shopping bags as a sort of greenhouse, which I've done before. But I don't want to smother them or baby them so they don't harden.
It's a big difference growing veggies here and back in Wisconsin where seedlings we're EAGER to soak up all the sun they could!
I made some (mostly) wood ash yesterday. Went around and picked up twigs from our thorny hardwood trees, broke them up and shoved them in a tomato paste can from the cafeteria. Poked vent holes in the bottom, put a couple pieces of cardboard and dried sugar-cane scraps in the middle and lit them on fire. It burned and then smoldered for several hours and left me this morning with a nice little bit of ash.
I wanted to use ash as an additive to my gardens, but I'm curious how others use it. I've read studies where urine (my primary fertilizer) mixed with ash has better results. But I didn't see how the combination was made.
I plan to sprinkle a bit around some of my flowering trees and plants, and put some in my "super-sawdust" (https://permies.com/t/121746/charging-sawdust). But past that, I'm curious how else I can use this source of fertility.
I hear a variety of ideas on watering trees, particularly fruit trees. Some say fruit trees should be watered consisted and deeply, and others encourage using a bit of stress to develop stronger trees with better root systems.
What's your method? We've been dry here for a week or so, and I'm debating about how much I want to water. I'm generally a low-attention sort of gardener. But I'll put some extra effort in at the beginning to make sure a tree or plant has a good chance to thrive.
Of course I know different trees take different care, I'm just looking for a general rule if thumb for your average fruit tree with average water needs.
The Jathropa seems to have worked to keep the goats away from the baby moringa. But they're relatively tiny still. We'll see how it goes once they're larger. Hopefully the toxins in the Jathropa don't negativity affect the morning babies. If this works, I might just put moringa seeds directly into the soil and cover with Jathropa to let them take hold.
Now I need to find Lycenna seeds or take some cuttings. I'll try cutting neem on the road.
Planted a handful of seeds from a very sweet papaya between a couple of young pineapple plants. Hopefully the ants don't eat them all. I hear ash helps with ants, so I might try that next time.
Speaking of ash, crammed a larger tin can full of dry twigs and a few pieces of dried sugarcane scraps. Poked holes in the bottom and stuck it on a smaller can. Lit a rolled up stick of cardboard and got it burning well. I want the potassium for my carrots which I planted in sawdust mixed with local soil (prior to my coming up with my super-sawdust method). But I hope I don't burn the carrots. Advice? It's all an experiment at this point.
The can was still smouldering hours later, so it should have some nice ash in it tomorrow. How do you all use ash on your plants? Maybe I'll start a thread on that. I'm definitely going to be putting a generous amount into my super-sawdust.
Speaking of which, I layered the super-sawdust at the top of both worm buckets, and the wormies have happily moved up and are munching away and procreating nicely. My theory is that at almost any point I could sift it and whatever comes out will be excellent. I'm thinking it doesn't need to be fully processed by the worms.
I'm also thinking of making a top-load/bottom-harvest bin to age the super-sawdust in. Basically something a couple of feet square with an open top or a cover. Open to the ground would probably be some advantage . . . Dump in each bucket after the first week of mixing and ageing. Then take shovel fulls out of the bottom . . . Assuming I get enough for that. It will be sorta like a compost pile, but not quite. . .
Anyhow, a bit of a lazy day. Weekends tend to be that way.
Our "deer" here are goats. My solutions are multi-faceted.
I have the veggie garden in a pallet fence. Each fruit tree is surrounded by a cage of hardware cloth. And now I'm trying a couple of moringa trees surrounded by cut Jathropa shrubs (toxic, so the goats stay away). So far, not one goat has bothered them all day. We'll see if it let's them get established enough to outrun some nibbling.
I also plan to outrun the goats with sheer numbers. My goal is to plant 1,000 moringa or so with the hope 10% of them make it into healthy trees. Any extras can be chopped and dropped. I'll do the same with Lycenna, Neem, and vetiver, along with other goat treats.
My dogs are doing pretty well understanding the phrase "get the goat!" They just chase them in circles, but it terrorizes them enough that they seem to be avoiding our yard a bit more. And once I get my slingshot, that will help to terrorize them some more.
I'm also investigating ways of making a living fence. We'll see how that works.
It's the norm for people in Haiti to talk about reforesting with productive trees. Food, timber, and medicine, pretty much in that order (though they can clearly overlap). It's well understood that this is the only real way to make reforestation happen.
Su Ba wrote:Just thought of another one as I picked some for dinner tonight--- Mexican oregano. I grow mine in the shade, where it tolerates drought quite nicely. When grown in full sun, it needs more water.
I had an oregano plant given to me. Big fuzzy leaves. Propagates fairly easily, it seems. Strong beautiful scent and flavor. Not sure the variety. Haven't seen any flowers yet.
I have yet to receive my Amaranth seed, but once I do, my harvesting plan goes something like this:
1. Eat tender leaves in salads and such.
2. Feed leaves to chickens, rabbits, and goats.
3. Wait for seeds to ripen and let birds eat them in exchange for their bug-patrol services and fertilizer.
4. Cut off the seed heads and re-sow a few and throw the rest to the chickens.
5. Eat the rabbits, chickens, eggs, goats, and milk.
Tried an experiment today. We'll see how it goes. Planted two of the several moringa babies on the finished part of my swale, just over a foot apart. Covered them with 10 Jathropa bushes. Hoping the toxic Jathropa will discourage the goats. The question is, am I smarter than the goats? Highly unlikely. Haha
I can't help it. I like pretty stuff. Not only that, but the idea of planting stuff that looks like "just a flower" but which can be eaten, is appealing.
So I'm looking for suggestions. I have one lone little Canna lily seedling that I didn't manage to kill yet. I want to get a couple of sago palms. I have Roselle, pineapples, and these pretty woody, shrubby basil that hedge really nicely.
What are your favorite pretty edibles or medicinals?
I'm on my third batch of my "super-sawdust," and beginning to understand how it's working. It seems to be more-or-less useable in a week. Longer time is of course better, but I'm having success with it quite quickly . . . For now.
So here's the process . . .
Using an old cracked 5-gallon bucket to allow some air circulation and access for the critters, I put 2 measures (size isn't all that important) of sawdust, then one of goat manure. Then 2 of sawdust, then 1 of charcoal powder, then 2 of sawdust, then 1 of compost, then 2 of sawdust, then 1 of local soil, then 2 of sawdust then 1 of aged and weathered wood ash . . . Continue until the bucket is full, and make sure the last layer is one of the non-sawdust components. I like to leave the local soil as the last to help lock in moisture (it's clay) and to make sure the existing soil life works it's way through.
You can mix as you go or not. I've done it both ways, and it doesn't seem to make a huge difference since you'll mix it well in a few days. But it might help. Who knows.
Now, I start adding more nutrition. I'm playing with different things. The idea is to get as much life into the mix as possible, which means creating a favorable environment and providing the food they need to thrive. It's also where I think about the nutrition the plants will use.
If you have stuff in powder form, this is the time to add it. I've used ground eggshells for a slow-release of calcium and other goodness for the plants. I've added flour that had gone bad (make sure to mix that in well so it doesn't clump and make it harder to break down). I've also sprinkled some sugar in there, though I hear that might not be beneficial . . . I suppose powdered mil would be good . . . Dried coffee grounds . . . Whatever.
Over that, I add liquids. These include some of the fermented rice water I make for my hair, the water I strain off of my macaroni, veggies, or whatever I boil. The water from rinsing out my coffee pot (along with the grounds), a teaspoon or so of sea salt diluted in water, some milk. Urine (I just dump it in straight). Blood drained off the chicken. When I get my compost tea setup, I'll throw some of that in there too. Beer would work (not much beer gets wasted around here), and probably a ton of other stuff.
Once all the liquids are in there, no need to add water. I leave the bucket uncovered to get good air circulation, which leaves it open to rain too. No problem. I just set the bucket at the base of one of my papaya trees so any drainage benefits it. To be honest though, this mix holds an enormous amount of liquid. I've poured up to three gallons of liquid into a bucket of the stuff in a single day, and never noticed more than a two or three-inch diameter wet spot under the bucket where it drained.
Every day I'll throw more nutrient-rich liquid in such as coffee grounds and rinse water, water drained from whatever I boiled that day (today it's plantains), or urine. I don't really think you can add too much. Remember, the problem with using sawdust direct is that it steals nitrogen and other nutrients. So dump a ton of nutrients in there (that's my theory anyhow).
After 2 or 3 days, I dump the bucket out on a tarp, mix it up well, and put it back in the bucket. Then dump more liquids in, but I'm not as concerned about it at this point. Just coffee rinse, some urine, or pasta water . . . Whatever. The point here is to keep it moist. At this point the sawdust will still be noticeably lighter than the rest.
At the end of the week, I'm dumping it into a grain sack with what I had from before. Add a bit more moisture and shake it up and close it. Every few days I can agitate the sack again to mix it and force oxygen into it. But at this time, it is all dark even though the sawdust is distinguishable. That tells me that it's well homogenized and the nutrients are soaked into the sawdust. The mixture is fantastically light and fluffy and evenly holds moisture like no one's business.
I've used it to start tree seeds and to transplant. Everything I give it to seems to jump for joy! Half dead potted plants put out new leaves two days after adding some of this mix to their pots.
My newest experiment is feeding it to my worms. Once I started adding sawdust to my work bins, they lost all interest in any food scraps and just wanted to hang out in the sawdust. That's great for discouraging black soldier flies that get lost and think they should set up in the worm bins, though they still show up and I pick them out (a screen on the top of the buckets is on the agenda).
I recently split my one worm bucket into two. I haven't done an actual harvest of castings yet. I usually just take a handful, sift out any worms or cocoons and throw it where I need it. But now, I'm trying a new thing. I'm thinking if I dump this goodness at the top of the existing bin contents (probably 90% finished castings), the worms will work their way into it and move up the bin (5 gallon bucket) to eat through the fresh stuff. This should add a whole other layer of nutrients and fertility to the super-sawdust. Haven't quite worked out how I'll separate the finished stuff out, but it's a process.
Another experiment I'm interested in trying is to put the super-sawdust in a bin or box and put a fungi slurry in it to see if I can propagate mushrooms.
Once I get more of this stuff, I'll be able to experiment more with how to use it. I started some veggie seeds this week in egg cartons, and am thinking I'll open up a hole in the bed with a knife or machete, drop in some of this goodness and plant the veggies on top. Or perhaps plant the veggies and top dress it with this stuff and then mulch so the roots don't get lazy.
I'll try it both working it into the soil and using it as a mulch or a sub-mulch (meaning a thin layer under a thicker mulch layer.
Please share any suggestions and thoughts. I know this is a very long post, but I wanted to give all the pertinent details.
Progress has been slow. Dogs dug up the trench compost site to get the macaroni that was in there. I need pallets, but that's not easy. Hubs works long hours and if he IS able to find pallets, he can only bring 5 or so at a time, and prices vary widely depending on how much people think he can pay. We're waiting for a source nearby, but we've been waiting literally months for that source. Impossible to get ahold of them.
I'm debating the potential of making a fence out of rebar and wire.
The gas crisis is ongoing, so staff haven't been in the office, which means I haven't had a chance to speak with our director. I need to find out from him the plan for fencing of the campus. That will help me plan.
I'm seriously debating hiring someone to sit on my porch and throw rocks at the goats while I'm teaching. If we can have patrol here most of the time, the goats should soon learn to stay away . . . theoretically. All I need is to get some of my trees up a reasonable amount so that they can handle some grazing. And if we get a lot of stuff growing, nibbles won't add up so quickly on any one.
Moringa seeds are shooting up happily. I planted them a week ago . . . Or less, and some are 4 inches high already. I only have a dozen it so right now. If I had 50 or 100 or more, I'd maybe risk planting then out on the more-or-less finished part of the Swale and around. But I don't know if I can keep constant watch. At one point yesterday, I think there were 50 goats in my yard. Our tree cover is the only shade around where the weeds and grass grow happily, so it's like Old Country Buffet for them!
Machete is broken so I need someone to help cut stakes for planting trees. I have a little hand saw that's ok, but it takes a bit more work. Might be able to convince hubs to bring home another machete but I don't know. The students who are helping to make the rabbit house used it to split bamboo, and busted the handle clean off.
Yesterday I mixed up a 3-day-old bucket of my super-sawdust mix. Meaning I dumped it out on a tarp and mixed if up and tossed it back into the cracked bucket where I let it homogenize for the first week or so. I added some crushed eggshells. I get a lot of eggshells because been eat eggs every day. And the worms can only handle so many. So I figure it will be slow release calcium goodness for whatever gets the super-sawdust. The remainder of the first and second batches of super-sawdust are marinating in the grain sack I keep them in. It's woven plastic (you know what a grain sack is . . .) So it keeps a lot of moisture in while letting things breathe. This is good for the whole process. Those first batches are a nice dark color, though the sawdust pieces and some of the goat droppings are still recognizable. The third batch will join batches 1 and 2 at the end of a week or so.
I'll add details on how I'm doing this in the thread specifically dealing with this project (in the soil section, I believe).
Yesterday I got about a meter dug in the swale, and this morning I dug another meter. My little buddy came in nice and early with another sack of goat manure on his head. After feeding him some breakfast, he took over some of the swale digging and then asked to watch a movie. So it's break time for everyone!
I'm feeling like I'm stuck now. Waiting on everyone in the world before I can move forward. Need hubs to bring stuff from the city. Need the people to get back to me about the pallets. Need the director to come so I can plan on fencing and talk about buying more trees and vetiver. Need someone to come cut down some posts so I can plant trees. Need a paycheck so I can buy some of the things I need. Need my slingshot and seeds to arrive so I can plant and keep goats away . . . And now waiting for it to cool off this evening so I can do more work.
Having a month of vacation can be highly annoying!
Very interesting article, Bryant. At the university where I work, we're interested in doing some in-depth research on plant and naturally derived medicinals. There is an enormous amount of such plants growing here in Haiti. We've looked a bit at the seed oil for fuel, but our variety we have here might need some breeding to produce maximum results in that area.
I'm very curious about how it will react as a green fertilizer for vegetables as opposed to as a dry mulch. That sounds like a project for our agronomy students!
Bryant RedHawk wrote:Another good method is to use Lye, you still drill the holes but then fill them with a strong lye solution, this will soak into the wood and it will dissolve from the inside out.
This method takes about one year to complete decay if you use the same number of holes you would for mushroom logs.
Lye is not dependent upon moisture to work so it would work well for you.
I'm experimenting with this. I have a bougainvillea going up one of our prolific, thorny shade trees. That is an experiment. Seems to be working out so far.
Now I've got peas planted around my papaya, and everyone seems happy.
I have black oil sunflower seeds coming so I can grow more bunny food, and I plan to try beans and peas on those too, kinda a 3 sisters thing. I'm curious about planting yam at the bottom of a papaya. Not sure how the roots would compete if at all?
Bryant RedHawk wrote:Turkey tail, oyster, lion's mane and other mushrooms (most) are great at decaying stumps with no issues of contamination.
I use a 1" drill bit to make the holes then I fill them with either broken up mushroom caps or I make a slurry and simply fill the cavities I made.
Usually the stumps I need gone are in the 8 to 14 inch range and I try to leave 1" of space between my holes.
If I am drilling from the top of the stump, I go as deep as my drill bit will allow, If I am coming at the sides I again try to go as deep as the bit will allow, the side holes I try to angle so I can pour in slurry without worry that it will all just leak out.
We have 4 stumps that I treated just last year and they are looking like they will be digested by the end of next year.
There is a side benefit to this method, you will end up with the mycelium in your soil, and mycelium in your soil is only a good thing.
Thinking it's far too dry and windy in the spot I need the stump removed . . .
Love these answers. I think I'm doing something that's sort of a combination of them all. I didn't start on my initial garden until my second year after watching and learning, specifically the weather patterns. I started with the garden at the front of the house (garden 1, or zone 1) which was determined in size, shape, and placing by the number of pallets I was able to find, and the whim of the university groundskeeper who assembled it for me. That has brought other challenges and opportunities.
I'm planting quite a few fruit trees now for two primarily reasons: 1. I want to get something growing and want to see results before I move away from here in who knows how many years. 2. They we're donated, so I have to get them in the ground.
My next focus is a swale which will serve as a major contour for the overall project, leading to a banana garden where it will drain any overflow. I'll then make another similar swale on the other side of the banana garden, and another similar one above the banana garden at which point I'll reevaluate.
Secondly, I desperately need to get organic material and support planted. I'm getting a bunch of vetiver and am praying that sheer numbers and the investment of a good slingshot will help deter the goats. I'm considering hiring one of the neighborhood boys to sit on my porch while I'm teaching and shoot any goats that come by. I'm starting quite a few moringa seeds which germinated and sprung up two inches in about 4 days from planting. Same thing there. Trying to use sheer numbers to outrun the goats. The fruit trees all get fenced in with hardware cloth, but I don't have enough to fence in all the support plantings. Talk is that the engineering students will begin working on a goat-proof fence next month when classes resume. Here's hoping!
Priscilla Stilwell wrote:Thanks Mike. Why did you start with nuts, out of curiosity?
I started with them because I can grow a decent number of fruits and tons of berries in my climate. Nuts and fat/oil sources are a bit harder so I started with them. Plus they take longer to bear so I figured I should get them going sooner. The only truly hardy nuts here are hazelnuts and butternuts. My hickory are very borderline and I also have Carpathian walnuts that I believe are also borderline.
Ah. Makes sense. I have to investigate nuts here. I know there are more, I'm just not sure where to get them. I'd love to grow cashews! They grow in the north, but not sure if they'll do well here. I can always try! :)
It does really bother me because I just use the seedlings as more mulch. But I would think fermenting them would do the trick. Also, I've heard of boiling them, but for some reason large amount, that might not be feasible.
Right over the top of everything, or under the last layer of mulch. If you get rain, it will all end up throughout the layers anyhow. If you don't want the top layer of mulch to break down so much, put it under that.