• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • r ranson
  • Nicole Alderman
stewards:
  • Joseph Lofthouse
  • paul wheaton
  • Mike Haasl
master gardeners:
  • jordan barton
  • John F Dean
  • Carla Burke
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Jay Angler
  • Leigh Tate
  • thomas rubino

Is "juicing" the system really necessary?

 
pollinator
Posts: 212
Location: Appalachian Foothills-Zone 7
34
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I spend a ton of time and energy manufacturing, collecting, and spreading soil improving amendments: wood chips, manure, biochar, waste hay, etc.  Then I look at the woods, where I have done nothing, and the trees are nearly 90ft tall, 40ft of which they have put on in the past 12 years since I bought the property.  Makes me wonder if I really need to be doing all the work.  After all, isn't that the idea of permaculture, to replicate a natural system and let natural processes do the work?  Anyone establish a perennial food system without any soil amendments?
 
pollinator
Posts: 464
Location: Utah
127
cat forest garden fungi foraging food preservation bee medical herbs writing greening the desert
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
To a certain extent, yes. However, nature has had hundreds, if not thousands, of years to do the work of building up the soil in that forest. I don't have that kind of time, personally, so I have to take shortcuts.
 
gardener
Posts: 3223
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
370
forest garden trees urban
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If we are  growing domesticated  varieties of fruit and veg,  we will have to make a cultivated space for them. Obviously humans have exploited existing fertile soils by cutting down forests, plowing up grasslands and burning jungles to feed our fields.
Even the best practices mean diverting some of the nutrients for our own use, just at a sustainable rate, by
raising animals  on acorns and other mast ,  collecting mushrooms,  berries etc.

I'm guessing you already gather wood from your forest , and maybe leaf litte, humus etc.
Maybe add some appropriate edibles to the existing woodland?

 
pollinator
Posts: 139
Location: Idaho
68
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Gray,

We bought our wooded property two years ago and built a hugel-type garden bed last year. We used no fertilizer except some pee from two humans and a small amount of granular kelp. I don't trust straw or hay anymore, and neighbors that have horses aren't sure if the fodder is from unsprayed fields, so we don't use that.

Part of this experiment was to see if we could get some kind of yield with minimal fertilizer input, although building a hugel garden bed by hand was a ton of work.

Fast forward one year and here is what we've noticed:
1. Greens do very well. Kale, mustards, arugula, lettuce, radicchio, radishes all did well and I have a freezer with many quarts of greens for the winter soups.
2. Tomatoes produced but not as many fruits. No disease issues or insect damage. Flavor was really good.
3. Peppers/chilis didn't grow well or fast but we got some of the early variety that matured on the plant. We have a short growing season so that's the main factor here.
4. Cucumbers did really well. Lots of cukes even though they started producing late. Not too much vegetative growth but a lot of flowers. Overall a win in my opinion.
5. Fruit trees and shrubs planted the previous year put out healthy leaves but nothing in the way of new growth and no flowers.
6. Green beans struggled with this although we got a small harvest. I thought they would produce enough of their own nitrogen but that didn't seem to happen.
7. Herbs were very happy. Thyme, sage, parsley, savory, etc. really like low nitrogen soils so they went crazy. The bugs loved to pollinate them so we had a variety of pollinators visit us that we didn't see the previous year.
8. Wheat, rye and barley produced very well. I was surprised.
9. Potatoes produced well.

To answer your main question, you can produce some food with minimal outside input. From what I've seen, the growth is a lot slower and the production is reduced. But, I've been wondering if the quality of what you get is better because there is less lush growth. I do know that the greens are stronger flavored yet still good. I don't know if heavy feeders will do well with this scenario. We've given in and fed the fruit trees and bushes this fall with organic food because we want something from them relatively soon.

 
gardener
Posts: 1757
Location: Los Angeles, CA
485
hugelkultur forest garden books urban chicken food preservation
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
One of the principles of permaculture is accelerating succession.  By bringing in wood chips and other natural amendments, you are speeding up the timeline.  You don't have 1000 years to do what nature does over that time frame, so you've accelerated it using reasonable means.  Good for you.

A couple of other principles that come to mind are "obtain a yield" and "use and value renewables".  Manure, wood chips, pee . . . these fall into the realm of renewables, and they certainly help you boost your yield.  The last principle that comes to mind is "creatively use and value change".  The degree to which your involvement is active or passive is up to you, but I see nothing but positive in the "juicing" you describe.
 
master steward
Posts: 4095
Location: USDA Zone 8a
1239
dog hunting food preservation cooking bee greening the desert
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My dirt is caliche. Yes, I have planted without any amendments.

The first year, it was Firewheel, a native plant and four o'clocks. The native plant did great and cutworms got all my four o'clock.

In the second year, we used amendments, mostly bagged garden soil, bagged manure, and natures' leaf mold.

Most of the native plants did well as those were the only seeds that came up which was only half of what I planted.

This year was the first year I tried a vegetable and like the other posters, most don't plant perennials.

Since you are asking about perennials, I added this to that forum.
 
William Bronson
gardener
Posts: 3223
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
370
forest garden trees urban
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Something else occurs to me.
I do a lot of my growing on an urban plot filled with rubble.
I plant what I want, but I also take what I can get.

Mulberry trees, box elders and grape vines self seed profusely.
Because of that, I start with a volunteer tree, move a grape vine to it's base, add blackberry and comfrey and move on.
I hope for grapes and mulberries, and I know I'll get edible leaves, seedpods, blackberries, and perhaps most importantly, biomass.
After letting one mulberry go for years, I just harvested it for starts and woody biomass.

Next year I am hoping each of my raised beds will have a honey locust growing in it, from the tree that volunteered in my front yard.
It's not welcome at the house, but I think I could get years and years of starts from it.

Right now I'm looking forward to the yearly leaf harvest festival, which last for months , and consists of people region wide bagging up leaves for me to come pick up.
The chickens are excited too, having reduced last hears haul to ultra fine fluffy soil.
Come to think of it, I think the best "juice" come from our fellow humans.
We are like a huge herd of elephants, digging holes, pooping everywhere, tearing up trees  and otherwise reshaping the biosphere for good or for ill.
Tapping into that resource seems key to being "self sufficient".
One day, maybe we can live once again live  in/off curated forests, jungles and savannahs, but right now we are mostly building/rebuilding it.

 
pollinator
Posts: 759
Location: Ashhurst New Zealand
202
duck trees chicken cooking wood heat woodworking homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
That's pure inspiration, William. Equal parts patience and persistence.
 
Gray Henon
pollinator
Posts: 212
Location: Appalachian Foothills-Zone 7
34
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm probably just spoiled by rich bottomland soil!  Obviously, amendments make plenty of sense if you are starting out with poor soil.
 
William Bronson
gardener
Posts: 3223
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
370
forest garden trees urban
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Phil Stevens wrote:That's pure inspiration, William. Equal parts patience and persistence.


Awe shucks!

Funny thing is, if I could just wand and have someone else do the work overnight, I wouldn't.
Well, I might, but then I would buy another lot to rehab...
Its like baking good bread vs. buying good bread.
 
Phil Stevens
pollinator
Posts: 759
Location: Ashhurst New Zealand
202
duck trees chicken cooking wood heat woodworking homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yep, same story here. I keep doing the same sort of stuff even though it's more "work" in a lot of cases. There is nothing that compares to the satisfaction of seeing a bit of neglected land come into abundance just because someone was willing to get some diversity happening.

You're totally in my head with this stuff. (he wrote as he got up to grind some wheat to feed the sourdough starter)
 
gardener
Posts: 2732
Location: Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
450
hugelkultur forest garden fungi trees books food preservation bike solar woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
unless you are clearing the forest, you probably aren't building in the same biomass (biological and life rich accumulation), that the forest has as it's nutrient base.  That said, you are more likely to be building your garden in more of a meadow type setting.

I'm probably just spoiled by rich bottomland soil!  Obviously, amendments make plenty of sense if you are starting out with poor soil.

 Rich bottomland soil is enviable and you are luckier than many.  The reason that we ammend soil is that with most agricultural and gardening processes we tend to destroy it's natural fertility which is based in the living matrix contained in the soil systems. Most things that we do, like tillage, compaction... take away from the ability of the living soil to thrive.

If, as in your case you have rich soil, and you have not tilled the soil (the soil life is the thing that is primarily responsible for your the nutrient availability for your plants), then the plants and microbes that have adapted to the location are doing their best to utilize the soil microbiology to it's fullest.  They are a complete ecosystem, and it should be observed and considered when you begin.

If you take the local area that you want to garden, cover it with cardboard, and plant something like potatoes or squash, or whatever, in holes you make in the cardboard (and be meticulous about weeding those small areas around the given plant holes in the cardboard), most of the soil nutrients and the above ground nutrients are turned to compost by worms, slugs, bugs and whatnot.  

From there, by planting the greatest variety of plants, the continuous cover of the ground between plants with plant detritus, and the absence of or minimizing of living soil nutrient disturbance, while leaving the roots of harvest plants when possible (lettuce and chard, you don't need to harvest roots, like beets or carrots), then you keep your nutrient cycles at their maximum, and minimize the need for soil inputs.

If you provide compost, or chop and drop your excess back into your garden, and particularly if you completely close the loop with urine and humanure capture, you will provide much more fully for the soil community.  Any degree less than fully closing the loop, and you potentially run into troublel, particularly if you are skipping steps that might help the soil community.

But, even if you do not close all the loops, but follow the minimal disturbance, plant diverse varieties, leaving as much plant matter as possible in or on the ground, and ensuring that the soil is primarily covered with plant debris, then, according to soil scientists, the accumulation of below ground plant matter (fine feeder roots) and the resulting microbiology which has grown in symbiosis with it, greatly outweigh the quantity that was lost due to harvest, even with root crops.

I hope that is helpful.  
 
I am displeased. You are no longer allowed to read this tiny ad:
Permaculture Community Garden fundraising effort - You can Win Stuff!!!
https://permies.com/t/152211/Permaculture-Community-Garden-fundraising-effort
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic