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Greetings from Mississippi, USA

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  • Benjamin Koltai
    Greetings, My name is Benjamin Koltai. I have loosely followed the group for over a year. I live in Mississippi, USA in the hills east of the Mississippi
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 17, 2010
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      Greetings,

      My name is Benjamin Koltai. I have loosely followed the group for
      over a year.

      I live in Mississippi, USA in the hills east of the Mississippi Delta
      (floodplain). My latitude is 33.5°N and my elevation is about 500 ft
      (150 m). The land is 115 acres (45 hectares) and I am initially
      considering cultivation of an acre or two near the house to begin with.

      Much of the land was logged and clearcut over a year ago before I
      moved here. The remaining forest is primarily southern white pine and
      sweet gum with scattered hardwoods and cedars over a sometimes very
      thick bramble understory.

      The ground is full of water. There is a spring we sometimes drink
      from and possibly one or more other springs nearby. The land is
      basically two ridges surrounded and separated by 3 small creeks which
      meet by the border between me and my neighbor. The house is on one
      ridge with the main garden facing southwest dropping down to the
      middle creek.

      We have an annual average of 60 inches (150 cm) rain with no
      particularly rainy or dry seasons. We have some freezing nights in
      the winter and a hot humid summer. USDA climate classification is
      zone 7b.

      There is some variation in the soil with generally the same patterns.
      There is a deep grey clay that is exposed by the creeks, which seems
      fairly heavy. Above that is a soft red (maybe loamy?) light clay soil
      that seems to hold water pretty well. On the top is generally a loose
      silt and sand that tends to move with the water, and appears to be
      fairly rich in humus in the forest areas.

      I have used the following strategy to design my garden, with the
      intention of completing my earthworks in the first year and then no
      longer tilling the soil.

      I used an A-frame and orange flags to set level contours across the
      hillside and I spaced the contours a minimum of 16 ft (5 m) apart from
      one another. I used these contours as guides to design a variety of
      types of beds.

      There is a great swale dug in 3 ft (1 m) with the soil mounded in a
      berm about 6 ft (2m) wide. I have some beds cut back to a wide
      terrace with a small berm made from the cut away sod and reinforced
      with branches and forest debris. Another bed where the contour is
      fairly straight has wide raised rows.

      Alongside and between all the beds, I have left wide access pathways
      and at the intersections I plan to place fruit trees, edible/medicinal
      shrubs, or other elements of interest (like a bird bath).

      As I continue to work my way down the hill from the house toward the
      stream, I will continue to experiment with different shapes of contour
      earthworks to create a diverse layout for the garden.

      I have been completing my earthworks with hand tools and covering them
      with corrugated cardboard to protect them from the elements until the
      time for seeding. The earthworks left mostly subsoil exposed and I
      have been concerned that it would be difficult to grow anything in it.

      I cleaned up an old barn here that once had a large chicken operation
      and I harvested into a piles a fair amount of ground scrap. There is
      not much visible sign of manure anymore and the manure/sawdust mixture
      has mostly turned to dust. It seems like a better texture for garden
      soil than clay subsoil so I started bringing it up to the beds closest
      to my house. Much of the planting in these beds has been potato,
      garlic, and onion starts, and a few early cool season roots and greens
      from seed.

      It took quite a bit of amendment to prepare these first beds and I'm
      sure I will run out as I dig a few more bigger beds further downhill.
      I suspect there will be beds that I cannot really fill with amendment
      and at some point I will have to plant areas where I have not even had
      a chance to do any earthworks at all. As I move further from my house
      down the hill toward less intensively managed gardens, I want to
      experiment with natural farming techniques that might enable me to
      cultivate a crop relative ease. I would love to learn effective
      seedball propagation of high value vegetable crops.

      I designed this main garden to provide vegetables for my family and
      hopefully generate a surplus that we can sell at the farmer's market.
      Some key summer market crops I'm planning for are tomato, peppers,
      watermelon and honeydew melon, okra, and eggplant.

      In addition to the main garden, I plan to sow at least an acre of
      mixed corn (maize), beans, and pumpkin or winter squash. I may also
      include red clover and sunflower. This will likely be in an area that
      was clearcut recently and had been forest for a long time prior to
      that. This crop is meant to provide staples for my family and
      possibly animals as well.

      My intention is to develop this field with natural techniques. I am
      considering doing simple broadscale contour earthworks with a tractor
      with a middlebuster. I would follow the contour curve across the
      field just a few times, each at a different elevation. Once I have
      contour trenches to retain hillside rainwater runoff, I would not use
      any further mechanical methods. I want to sow this field with
      seedballs and I do not intend to irrigate the field. I am also
      considering seeding a fall/winter crop (maybe winter wheat) in the
      late spring, and I intend to mulch the field with the corn and bean
      stalks after fall harvest. I also want to find the appropriate way to
      work a green mulch into the field rotation.

      I have only made seedballs once, and just with a small packet of
      zinnia seeds. I have never made any real volume of seedballs like I
      will need for my corn and beans. I don't know how much or how many
      types of seed go into a ball. I don't know how large seed balls
      should be or how densely the balls should be scattered. I don't know
      what is the appropriate composition of a seedball that will produce
      the healthiest seedlings.

      The other element of natural farming which really excites me is tree
      cultivation. I hope to propagate trees from seed and grow them
      without pruning. I would like to learn what trees can grow from seed
      in my area and produce a flavorful fruit.

      I would be very grateful if the community could share their experience
      with me and help me develop a clear vision and a way to move forward
      with confidence. I would especially appreciate any help from an
      individual with specific knowledge of cultivation in the American South.

      I will upload some photographs soon so I can share with the community
      my little slice of the world.

      Blessings to you all.

      -Benjamin
    • Benjamin Koltai
      My name is Benjamin Koltai. I have loosely followed the group for over a year. I live in Mississippi, USA in the hills east of the Mississippi Delta
      Message 2 of 2 , Mar 18, 2010
      • 0 Attachment
        My name is Benjamin Koltai. I have loosely followed the group for over a
        year.

        I live in Mississippi, USA in the hills east of the Mississippi Delta
        (floodplain). My latitude is 33.5 degrees N and my elevation is about 500
        ft (150 m). The land is 115 acres (45 hectares) and I am initially
        considering cultivation of an acre or two near the house to begin with.

        Much of the land was logged and clearcut over a year ago before I moved
        here. The remaining forest is primarily southern white pine and sweet gum
        with scattered hardwoods and cedars over a sometimes very thick bramble
        understory.

        The ground is full of water. There is a spring we sometimes drink from and
        possibly one or more other springs nearby. The land is basically two ridges
        surrounded and separated by 3 small creeks which meet by the border between
        me and my neighbor. The house is on one ridge with the main garden facing
        southwest dropping down to the middle creek.

        We have an annual average of 60 inches (150 cm) rain with no particularly
        rainy or dry seasons. We have some freezing nights in the winter and a hot
        humid summer. USDA climate classification is zone 7b.

        There is some variation in the soil with generally the same patterns. There
        is a deep grey clay that is exposed by the creeks, which seems fairly
        heavy. Above that is a soft red (maybe loamy?) light clay soil that seems
        to hold water pretty well. On the top is generally a loose silt and sand
        that tends to move with the water, and appears to be fairly rich in humus in
        the forest areas.

        I have used the following strategy to design my garden, with the intention
        of completing my earthworks in the first year and then no longer tilling the
        soil.

        I used an A-frame and orange flags to set level contours across the hillside
        and I spaced the contours a minimum of 16 ft (5 m) apart from one another.
        I used these contours as guides to design a variety of types of beds.

        There is a great swale dug in 3 ft (1 m) with the soil mounded in a berm
        about 6 ft (2m) wide. I have some beds cut back to a wide terrace with a
        small berm made from the cut away sod and reinforced with branches and
        forest debris. Another bed where the contour is fairly straight has wide
        raised rows.

        Alongside and between all the beds, I have left wide access pathways and at
        the intersections I plan to place fruit trees, edible/medicinal shrubs, or
        other elements of interest (like a bird bath).

        As I continue to work my way down the hill from the house toward the stream,
        I will continue to experiment with different shapes of contour earthworks to
        create a diverse layout for the garden.

        I have been completing my earthworks with hand tools and covering them with
        corrugated cardboard to protect them from the elements until the time for
        seeding. The earthworks left mostly subsoil exposed and I have been
        concerned that it would be difficult to grow anything in it.

        I cleaned up an old barn here that once had a large chicken operation and I
        harvested into a piles a fair amount of ground scrap. There is not much
        visible sign of manure anymore and the manure/sawdust mixture has mostly
        turned to dust. It seems like a better texture for garden soil than clay
        subsoil so I started bringing it up to the beds closest to my house. Much
        of the planting in these beds has been potato, garlic, and onion starts, and
        a few early cool season roots and greens from seed.

        It took quite a bit of amendment to prepare these first beds and I'm sure I
        will run out as I dig a few more bigger beds further downhill. I suspect
        there will be beds that I cannot really fill with amendment and at some
        point I will have to plant areas where I have not even had a chance to do
        any earthworks at all. As I move further from my house down the hill toward
        less intensively managed gardens, I want to experiment with natural farming
        techniques that might enable me to cultivate a crop relative ease. I would
        love to learn effective seedball propagation of high value vegetable crops.

        I designed this main garden to provide vegetables for my family and
        hopefully generate a surplus that we can sell at the farmer's market. Some
        key summer market crops I'm planning for are tomato, peppers, watermelon and
        honeydew melon, okra, and eggplant.

        In addition to the main garden, I plan to sow at least an acre of mixed corn
        (maize), beans, and pumpkin or winter squash. I may also include red clover
        and sunflower. This will likely be in an area that was clearcut recently
        and had been forest for a long time prior to that. This crop is meant to
        provide staples for my family and possibly animals as well.

        My intention is to develop this field with natural techniques. I am
        considering doing simple broadscale contour earthworks with a tractor with a
        middlebuster. I would follow the contour curve across the field just a few
        times, each at a different elevation. Once I have contour trenches to
        retain hillside rainwater runoff, I would not use any further mechanical
        methods. I want to sow this field with seedballs and I do not intend to
        irrigate the field. I am also considering seeding a fall/winter crop (maybe
        winter wheat) in the late spring, and I intend to mulch the field with the
        corn and bean stalks after fall harvest. I also want to find the
        appropriate way to work a green mulch into the field rotation.

        I have only made seedballs once, and just with a small packet of zinnia
        seeds. I have never made any real volume of seedballs like I will need for
        my corn and beans. I don't know how much or how many types of seed go into
        a ball. I don't know how large seed balls should be or how densely the
        balls should be scattered. I don't know what is the appropriate composition
        of a seedball that will produce the healthiest seedlings.

        The other element of natural farming which really excites me is tree
        cultivation. I hope to propagate trees from seed and grow them without
        pruning. I would like to learn what trees can grow from seed in my area and
        produce a flavorful fruit.

        I would be very grateful if the community could share their experience with
        me and help me develop a clear vision and a way to move forward with
        confidence. I would especially appreciate any help from an individual with
        specific knowledge of cultivation in the American South.

        I will upload some photographs soon so I can share with the community my
        little slice of the world.

        Blessings to you all.

        -Benjamin


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