Right on Mike!
- I couldn't agree with you more, Mike! Agriculture is a relationship between a person and plants and animals, getting to know what every(body) likes is essential. On my farm, this is exactly what I do.
I am very interested, also, in your coffee and chocolate cultivation. Are you a commercial grower? Where do you grow them? Where did you obtain the seed/cutting/whatever (you can tell that I am completely ignorant of coffee and chocolate production) to start up? What size container do you grow in? Very interesting!
- Well, I'm at the very beginning of trying to turn a life hobby of
growing odd plants (and garden plants) into a little nursery now that I
have a couple acres to play with. Coffee plants make excellent
house-plants. Chocolate trees are better suited to a humid and warm
sunroom. Both have zero tolerance to freezing. I also cultivate a
boswellia cartarii specimen that I hope to propagate and several other
bizaare plants. I use seeds for the coffee and chocolate, though one of
my chocolate trees is a product of cutting propogation.
The coffee and chocolate trees started me down the road to actively
learning about sustainability as well as organic techniques that until
then I had done primarily out of being too poor to afford the commercial
products. Now I'm happy not to spend the money and more conscious as to
why. The cacao theobroma has an affinity to organic techniques as well
as a heavy dependance on mycorrhizal fungus and other symbionts. I
learned that the hard way. Seeds are only viable for a *very* short time
after harvesting - they germinate inside the ripe fruit then go into a
suspended state until a critter cracks open the pod to eat the fruit and
the seeds hit the ground. Once out, they produce roots immediately. In
the five days it took me to get seed from a friend in Hawaii - freshly
removed from the pod, they had already produced rootlets. They grew well
at first, in containers, until the seed's nutrients were used up, then
suddenly they just stopped growing. Rich potting soil notwithstanding.
It took the loss of all but two of them to find out why - I inoculated
with mycorrhizal fungus and within 2 weeds, the remaining two exploded
with new growth and have been growing crazy since. They're still
containered - now they're outgrowing 5 gallon buckets. I've a cutting
that's growing pretty rapidly too - fixing to outgrow it's 1 gallon
nursery pot. Since I've been rearing silkworms this past month, the
chocolate and coffee trees have been getting a steady diet of fras. Sure
to make them smile. One of the chocolate trees started flowering this
year. Maybe I'll be surprised with a pod or two. :)
The coffee trees are from Kona parchment I get from one of my green
coffee suppliers. Any green (unroasted) coffee that hasn't sat for weeks
in a hot container or warehouse can potentially germinate. The best, if
you're buying from a reseller, is lots from this continent or S. America
(if you're in the US - local or as close to local continent is the
idea). Stuff from Uganda - like what I'm drinking now - sits in
warehouses and takes a while to make it to a port before shipping and
that significantly reduces or destroys completely it's viability as a
seed. Coffee from, say, Brazil tends to have a much shorter storage
interval and quicker shipping. Great patience is required as well to
wait for the seed to germinate. It can take over two months - staring at
an empty pot that long and continuing to water it can get to the best of
us. :) I presoak mine for 24 hours, then pregerminate them in wet paper
towels - when I seen little rootlets forming I promptly put them in
their pots and inoculate them with mycorrhizae.
All are very happy. I use humus tea, fras when I'm doing the silkworm
thing, redworm castings, blenderized leaves when they fall (I prefer to
chop up the huge cacao leaves so they decompose faster), dutch white
clover and a few redworms to keep the soil ecosystem in my containered
coffee and chocolate trees happy. Whenever there's a gentle rainstorm,
I'll set them outside to catch some of the good stuff as well. All my
other container plants get the same treatment too and my container
veggies outside are happy in their weedy, clovery pots.
Between coffee and chocolate trees, I've learned more about the
ecosystem than anything else, or rather been set on the path. You can't
pull up information about coffee and cacao nowadays without seeing the
revolution of cultivation taking place. All the coffee I roast comes
from small plantations that are rather sustainable either by choice or
for lack of funds to afford the expensive chemicals.
Later on I plan to build a tropical conservatory to grow them and other
tropicals right in the ground. Excepting a way too hot summer and a
short freezing winter, Texas is perfect. All I need to do is accomodate
for natural earth-based convective cooling in the summer via buried
earth tubes and heat chimneys for the summer and make sure the
conservatory has enough earth-mass on it's northern side to protect it
from winter cold-fronts and I should be home free.
My weed garden is another story altogether. There I'm growing primarily
grapes - cabernet sauvignon and blanc du bois for now. As well as nearly
every weed that grows in Texas. :) However, contrary to popular
viniculture, the grapes love the interaction with the native flora and
are florishing. They have a healthy colonization of mycorrhizae and for
good measure I planted a few sprigs of red clover around each one,
though that wasn't really necessary. By not mowing and letting each
generation of weeds seed out and lay over, a rich layer of humus is now
forming. The land has been distressed for decades. It was mowed often,
exposing the ground to the super-hot Texas sun as well as losing the
carbon to the wind blown clippings - so the soil was of very poor
quality with zero topsoil until I got here and dedicated that as a
no-mow yes-weed zone. I expect to be able to cease drip irrigation in
the next year or two altogether when the soil and it's life regain their
balance. Into this weed garden/vineyard I'll be planting clusters of
veggies and letting their carbon join that of the weeds at season's end
each year to add to the whole. I can't imagine what all the fuss is over
competition - what, are the weeds going to spirit the nutrients away to
China? Their tissue forms next years nutrient cycle and they pull stuffs
from the soil our crops otherwise wouldn't have access to, and with
healthy mycorrhizal networks, our crops lack for nothing anyway. I
expect to get some fall veggies out there soon and look foward to a full
year in the weeds next year. :)
I'm not sure how this can be adapted to commercial farms tho. It's all
very much low labor - I just let the plants grow. The ecosystem is
diverse enough to keep pests to a minimum - except the occasional
nibbling of local rabbits and deer. But harvesting via machine on a
larger farm could be problematic when you've got corn, squash, beans all
clustered together and melons and pumpkins growing in the weeds and
whatnot. That will certainly take some creative experimentation. Perhaps
permanant rails with harvesting platforms and machines/laborers can roll
over the crops? I hate the idea of machinery crunching through and
compressing the soil.
And I'm still doing research into just what the plants themselves like.
It's a never ending journey. I imagine melons love growing in sunny
grassy weedy plots - if observing the wild reseeding melons are any
indicator. They've nary a pest or disease and are the picture of health
- even tho a few get mowed by the wife. Those and the chocolate and
coffee trees has inspired me to dig into the history of these veggies to
find out just where they came from originally and how they grew in the
wild. I may just toss some rotten tomatoes out into a corner where
there's a variety of microclimates to see which ones do best - the ones
in tall grass/weeds, or by the trees or by the fence. And see how they
do at reseeding.
Well, enough blabbering...
> I couldn't agree with you more, Mike! Agriculture is a relationship between a person and plants and animals, getting to know what every(body) likes is essential. On my farm, this is exactly what I do.
> I am very interested, also, in your coffee and chocolate cultivation. Are you a commercial grower? Where do you grow them? Where did you obtain the seed/cutting/whatever (you can tell that I am completely ignorant of coffee and chocolate production) to start up? What size container do you grow in? Very interesting!
> --Aaron Brachfeld
- Letting my strawberries stay almost buried in the weeds that came up
around them was the best thing I have ever done for them. Mike and I
have talked about this before......that weeds seem to help things
like fruits....and probably veggies, too. I don't know about my
blackberries, though. They don't seem particularly happy with the
weeds. Not sure why. My two remaining grapes are barely visible in
the weeds. My worst enemy is well-meaning friends and family who
come over and decide they will weed for me. It is difficult to get
people to understand neat and tidy is not always the best way.
I have been experimenting both with leaving the weeds, and with
pulling weeds in successive time periods to build a thatch in areas
already in a bed situation. I suspect that leaving the weeds is the
best way. It looks rough, but then I tell everyone it looks like no
gardener lives here anyway.
Robert, I have been growing tomatoes on the edge of shade for years
now with great success. Also peppers seem to not mind the shade.
The trick is to have some sun hit them during the day by choosing
where at the edge of the tree (still in mostly shade). I do this by
watching the path of the sun. If you can hit the right spot on the
edge of the shade they will do fine. I don't know if that will work
in a cooler climate than we live (Texas and Louisiana). Of course I
am using single trees in this endeavor. There were no trees here
when we moved in seven years ago. With the drought years I have had
to limit the number of trees I plant in a year. The shade helps to
prevent cracking that occurs in tomatoes in the heat of our climate,
as well as continues pollination and flowering necessary for
continued production which ordinarily stops here when the nights are
over 85 degrees F.
- . I don't know about my
> blackberries, though. They don't seem particularly happy with theIn an established blacberry patch in nature ,there is not one weed among
> weeds. >
them ,they makes sure to shade the aera fully . and they know how to take
over grassy aeras.
somebody wanted a solution for couch grass here we have one and very
productive by the way .
a black berry patch is a wonderfull start for a vegetable garden ,
beautifull earth free of weeds , you still have to work on cutting them back
as they resprout.
Tell me more about the strawberries in the weeds. I just pulled some
weeds from around my strawberries today. I noticed the stems were
getting taller and the plants seem sturdier than the ones I have
growing in the non-weedy place. I wasn't sure if it was the
difference in the varieties. I have Sequoia growing by themselves,
Quintana in the new bed amongst the weeds, and a native growing in
the dark under the redbud.
Glad to hear about the peppers, too. I was just about to try
planting some bell peppers in the shade of the hackberries. The
pomegranate seems to like it there.
--- In email@example.com, "Gloria C. Baikauskas"
> Letting my strawberries stay almost buried in the weeds that cameup
> around them was the best thing I have ever done for them. Mike andI
> have talked about this before......that weeds seem to help thingsin
> like fruits....and probably veggies, too. I don't know about my
> blackberries, though. They don't seem particularly happy with the
> weeds. Not sure why. My two remaining grapes are barely visible
> the weeds. My worst enemy is well-meaning friends and family whothe
> come over and decide they will weed for me. It is difficult to get
> people to understand neat and tidy is not always the best way.
> I have been experimenting both with leaving the weeds, and with
> pulling weeds in successive time periods to build a thatch in areas
> already in a bed situation. I suspect that leaving the weeds is
> best way. It looks rough, but then I tell everyone it looks likeno
> gardener lives here anyway.by
> Robert, I have been growing tomatoes on the edge of shade for years
> now with great success. Also peppers seem to not mind the shade.
> The trick is to have some sun hit them during the day by choosing
> where at the edge of the tree (still in mostly shade). I do this
> watching the path of the sun. If you can hit the right spot on thework
> edge of the shade they will do fine. I don't know if that will
> in a cooler climate than we live (Texas and Louisiana). Of courseI
> am using single trees in this endeavor. There were no trees herehad
> when we moved in seven years ago. With the drought years I have
> to limit the number of trees I plant in a year. The shade helps toclimate,
> prevent cracking that occurs in tomatoes in the heat of our
> as well as continues pollination and flowering necessary forare
> continued production which ordinarily stops here when the nights
> over 85 degrees F.
- --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "EponaLady" <eponalady@y...>
> Gloria,growing by themselves,
> Tell me more about the strawberries in the weeds. I have Sequoia
> Quintana in the new bed amongst the weeds, and a native growing inHeather, I am growing the very same varieties of strawberries as you
> the dark under the redbud.
are. The strawberries before I let them grow in the weeds were small
and didn't ever seem to grow.......They certainly never put out any
baby plants. These with the weeds are as you said....the stems are
strong with much larger leaves. The fruits are larger, too, and
probably sweeter. Can't say in comparison now because I let them all
go to the weeds this year. This bed is what I set up to be my puzzle
garden in which I used stepping stones to act as the lines in a
jigsaw puzzle planting on both sides of the broken lines (stepping
stones) the same plants so that it would truly look like jigsaw
puzzle pieces. I like to use strawberries as edge plants in my beds
for a few reasons, not the least of which is that it provides a
healthy snack for my grandson now, and my son when he was growing
up. The leaves of the strawberries add iron to the soil, too.
These strawberries have been in this set of beds for two complete
years, this season being their third there.
I am glad to see someone else sharing this grand experience. It
makes me feel so much better to know I am not chasing rainbows with
this effort. I still have not purchased the book....and I am
forgetting the name here right now......that tells you what the soil
is lacking.....or getting...from the weeds growing in it. It is next
on my list at Amazon.com, though.....on my wish list.