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9601Re: [fukuoka_farming] Re: no animal manure?

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  • Dieter Brand
    May 7, 2009

      In German we say Schattengare (literally “shade tilth”). I don’t know
      if Anglo-Saxon soil scientists have come up with a similar concept
      (and wonder how Celtic people view soil, do old people in Ireland
      speak about the “force of soil” when they mean soil fertility?).
      Anyway, Schattengare indicates the fact that very often soil tilth is
      better in the shade of plants or other things such as twigs laying on
      the ground. Compare a bare soil to a soil with a dense cover of
      clover for example. Well, when the soil gets dry clover can make the
      soil hard as stone because it sucks out all humidity from the soil,
      but as long as there is sufficient humidity, the soil under the clover
      will be soft and crumbly with earthworms crawling on top of it even at
      daytime, while the bare soil will be hard.

      There is also something called “gas exchange”. Dead or alive organic
      matter (trees, fallen twigs, grass, etc.) and soil exchange gas with
      the atmosphere near the ground. Biodynamics people talk about the
      soil breathing. Thus, gas emanating from the twigs may benefit the
      grass growing between them.

      Lastly, there is the point that twigs will slowly disintegrate and
      crumble onto the ground which provides soil organic matter that makes
      plants grow better.

      I doubt very much that the above has been researched and it may not be
      possible to know exactly which factor makes grass greener under which
      conditions, but then the grass always is green in Ireland, is it not?


      Shading cloth can reduce evaporation somewhat but it also reduces
      photosynthesis and therefore growth and yield. Whether the gains are
      greater than the losses or vice versa will depend on circumstances.

      I have most of my “summer gardens” in the half or full shade of large
      trees. I can also use all but one garden in the winter because the
      trees loose there leafs in the cool season. Anyway, evaporation is
      not an issue during the winter since temps mostly stay below 24 C.
      Unfortunately, most of our summer veggies are rather sun-loving.
      About the only vegetable that doesn’t mind shade are tomatoes. I
      think paprika, pumpkins and eggplants have a somewhat reduced yield in
      the shade. Melons and okra do very poorly in the shade.

      Traditional farming here uses the hoed soil like a shade cloth
      attached directly to the ground. This reduces evaporation to near
      zero and doesn’t impact photosynthesis at all because the plants grow
      above the soil. Many of the old farmers around here who still
      practice traditional farming have their garden in full sunlight. The
      yields they get are impressive. Of course they also use fertilizers
      now in addition to manure (I use neither), so direct comparison is not
      possible. But it does show that traditional farmers do have a lot of
      accumulated experience and skill and that it is never good to think in
      little boxes.

      Dieter Brand
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