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Right on Mike!

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  • AaronBrachfeld@aol.com
    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
    Message 1 of 6 , Jun 3, 2003
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      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
    • Michael Vanecek
      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
      Message 2 of 6 , Jun 4, 2003
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        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...

        Be well,
        Mike

        AaronBrachfeld@... wrote:
        > 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
      • Gloria C. Baikauskas
        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
        Message 3 of 6 , Jun 4, 2003
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          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.

          Gloria
        • Ingrid Bauer/Jean-Claude Catry
          . I don t know about my ... In an established blacberry patch in nature ,there is not one weed among them ,they makes sure to shade the aera fully . and they
          Message 4 of 6 , Jun 5, 2003
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            . I don't know about my
            > blackberries, though. They don't seem particularly happy with the
            > weeds. >

            In an established blacberry patch in nature ,there is not one weed among
            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.
            jean-claude
          • EponaLady
            Gloria, 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
            Message 5 of 6 , Jun 5, 2003
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              Gloria,

              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.

              Heather

              --- In fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com, "Gloria C. Baikauskas"
              <gcb49@f...> wrote:
              > 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.
              >
              > Gloria
            • Gloria C. Baikauskas
              ... growing by themselves, ... Heather, I am growing the very same varieties of strawberries as you are. The strawberries before I let them grow in the weeds
              Message 6 of 6 , Jun 6, 2003
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                --- In fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com, "EponaLady" <eponalady@y...>
                wrote:
                > Gloria,
                >
                > Tell me more about the strawberries in the weeds. I have Sequoia
                growing by themselves,
                > Quintana in the new bed amongst the weeds, and a native growing in
                > the dark under the redbud.
                > Heather
                >
                Heather, I am growing the very same varieties of strawberries as you
                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.
                Gloria
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