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Raised beds and compaction

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  • John Warner
    Hello Farmers! I ll start this with a story. In the 70s, I was teaching an adult school class on vegetable and fruit production for home gardeners. Since
    Message 1 of 16 , Jun 10 11:40 PM
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      Hello Farmers!

      I'll start this with a story. In the 70s, I was teaching an adult school class on vegetable and fruit production for home gardeners. Since most of my experience has been with ornamentals, I was glad to have in class a retired fire fighter and organic gardener, Roland, who had grown vegetables for many years and had lots of comparative experience with the various varieties of them. At the time, the latest rage was French intenisve. The class divided itself up, 3 or 4 students to a group, and we set about constructing raised beds. Not having much of an opinion on whether the beds should be compacted or not, when I demonstrated leveling and shaping, I stood and stepped right on the 5' beds as, I presume, most of the people in the groups did. I recall that that the group Roland was in had by far the most perfectly shaped and leveled bed and they were very careful to do all their work from the pathways, including the seeding. The problem was, though, that none of their stuff came up while seeds in the other beds germinated quite nicely. [Watering was done overhead with impact sprinklers.] On investigation we concluded that the bed was just too fluffy to hold enough water. So we all got a good lesson on seedbed construction and since then I have never hesitated to walk and step on beds. In fact when I construct them now, I'll often roll them down with the tires of a lawn tractor. I think Aaron may really be on to something by compacting clay in his beds.

      One of the more serious problems I have found in my 7 years or so experience with permanent mulch is that soil structure becomes so open under the mulch that there is little lateral spreading of water. With overhead watering this may not be much of a problem but cut flowers can't be grown with much success under overhead water. As soon as snapdragons and godetia, for example, come in flower they'll lodge right down under the weight of the water. Stems bend upward and the crop is essentially a loss. So we use drip tape.

      In the early years the garden was laid out in rows with single lines of trip tape 3' apart. For a while this worked well but, under permanent mulch, quality actually began to fall off--not at all what I was expecting. There was tip burn on the zinnia petals and the plants were actually showing some signs of water stress. Investigation indicated that the water from the drip lines was essentially going straight down to the hardpan before spreading out. I think that under permanent mulch the main idea on watering should be to minimize drying in the upper inches. This is where all the action is biologically and where nutrients get released from the organic matter and the action of that organic matter on the mineral component of the soil. Deep irrigation draws roots down to the subsoil which, in my case, is loaded with salts.

      I think that the biggest waste of time in all the world of farming and gardening is double-digging. This just burries the better soil and pulls the poorer up. Additionally, like all tillage, it destrioys soil structure [favorable aggregation of soil particles]. I can recall someone writing on a website somewhere something to the effect that "A year after double-digging my beds I could stick my arm in the soil up to my elbow." What a bunch of hooey! Felt like I'd stepped in something stinky. The second biggest waste of time is making compost which is a lot like making water run downhill. A huge amount of energy is spent on doing what happens of itself anyway.

      My beds are 150' long and 4 or 5' wide not including the shoulders. Typically, six lines of drip tape are run over the bed 9 inches apart covering 45 inches. Emitters are 8 inches apart along the tape, closer than the 12 inch spacing I was using at the start. I try to get the water on as fast as possible for maximum lateral spreading.. With no compunctions about stepping on the beds, my beds are longer and wider than they might otherwise be. We step into the beds to plant, weed, harvest and cut through them in the course of putting together our bouquets in the field. If anything, I consider the compaction is beneficial. These beds, of course, are never tilled. Once built up with soil, they are mulched before each planting with leaves, grassclippings, prunings brought free by maintenance gardeners.

      Gloria was talking about planting on slopes and there is lots of merit to the idea. Our slopes are the bed-shoulders which make a great enviornment for plants that prefer being on the dry side. All statice fall in this category and they stay low and are easy to step through when harvesting the main crop planted along the driplines. Yarrows are also great on shoulders. We also plant broom corn [a sorghum] on shoulders and sweetcorn as well with plants spaced far enough apart to easily step between. These tall plantings ameliorate wind and sun.

      To paraphrase Ruth Stout, mulch may not do a hundred-one things, but it will surely do a hundred. I think that there is no cause whatsoever to worry about compaction of permanently mulched beds by anything less than heavy machinery. As a fix for compacted soil the only thing better might be a deep-rooted cover crop such as alfalfa or sweetclover.

      Good growing for all. . .

      John
      Near Fresno, California




      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Sunil Babu Shrestha
      Dear all, I would like to know the production capacity (in average by one tree) of Natural farming in producing the fruits like orange, peach, apple, persimmon
      Message 2 of 16 , Jun 11 2:51 AM
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        Dear all,
        I would like to know the production capacity (in average by one tree) of
        Natural farming in producing the fruits like orange, peach, apple,
        persimmon etc in different countries. It will be appreciable if someone
        could help in comparing the production capacity (in average by one tree
        like in kg/tree) between Natural farming and convention farming method.
        As a member of this group, I have been learning much from all of you. I
        expect that many of you share your knowledge in the above mentioned
        issue, so that I could know the comparative productive capacity.
        Thanking you all in advance.
        Sunil /Japan
      • John Frederick
        Hi John and Jamie, I m in touch with a no-till organic farmer (German speaking - can t join the group) who has shown pictures of the effect of compaction vs
        Message 3 of 16 , Jun 11 4:56 AM
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          Hi John and Jamie,

          I'm in touch with a no-till organic farmer (German speaking - can't join the group) who has shown pictures of the effect of compaction vs ploughing on earthworms. Where the field had been ploughed the previous season, in spring there were almost no earthworm castings. Next to the field, in the compacted tracks worn in the grass by the tractor wheels, the castings were wall-to-wall, full.
          This very observant farmer of 30yrs experience explains it as follows: The earthworms are killed (20% mortality with 1 pass of the plough according to a Swiss study) or move away from ploughed areas because when surface feeding on the loose earth they can't hold onto their burrows enough to withdraw quickly in case of danger. But obviously a bit of compaction - even from heavy machinery - is no problem. Maybe it helps that water collects in the depressions of the wheel tracks.

          This resonates with your experience that compaction is not a problem. There's a fine little book called Gardening without Digging by A. Guest, a Yorkshire miner, who spontaneously developed the idea of no-dig after finding that the best potatoes grew under the path he had hardened to reach his beds. Admittedly he was growing in a wet area. Nonetheless, compaction is slipping lower down the list of concerns.

          Question:
          Is it correct that the continuous mulching of fresh layers upon older layers does not cause the drop in nitrogen that fresh mulching causes?
          And is this because the soil bacteria population is stable in the lower, older layers, so the amount of nitrogen from dying bacteria remains more constant?

          Thanks and best wishes,

          John



          John Warner <daddyoat@...> wrote:
          Hello Farmers!

          I'll start this with a story. In the 70s, I was teaching an adult school class on vegetable and fruit production for home gardeners. Since most of my experience has been with ornamentals, I was glad to have in class a retired fire fighter and organic gardener, Roland, who had grown vegetables for many years and had lots of comparative experience with the various varieties of them. At the time, the latest rage was French intenisve. The class divided itself up, 3 or 4 students to a group, and we set about constructing raised beds. Not having much of an opinion on whether the beds should be compacted or not, when I demonstrated leveling and shaping, I stood and stepped right on the 5' beds as, I presume, most of the people in the groups did. I recall that that the group Roland was in had by far the most perfectly shaped and leveled bed and they were very careful to do all their work from the pathways, including the seeding. The problem was, though, that none of their stuff came
          up while seeds in the other beds germinated quite nicely. [Watering was done overhead with impact sprinklers.] On investigation we concluded that the bed was just too fluffy to hold enough water. So we all got a good lesson on seedbed construction and since then I have never hesitated to walk and step on beds. In fact when I construct them now, I'll often roll them down with the tires of a lawn tractor. I think Aaron may really be on to something by compacting clay in his beds.

          One of the more serious problems I have found in my 7 years or so experience with permanent mulch is that soil structure becomes so open under the mulch that there is little lateral spreading of water. With overhead watering this may not be much of a problem but cut flowers can't be grown with much success under overhead water. As soon as snapdragons and godetia, for example, come in flower they'll lodge right down under the weight of the water. Stems bend upward and the crop is essentially a loss. So we use drip tape.

          In the early years the garden was laid out in rows with single lines of trip tape 3' apart. For a while this worked well but, under permanent mulch, quality actually began to fall off--not at all what I was expecting. There was tip burn on the zinnia petals and the plants were actually showing some signs of water stress. Investigation indicated that the water from the drip lines was essentially going straight down to the hardpan before spreading out. I think that under permanent mulch the main idea on watering should be to minimize drying in the upper inches. This is where all the action is biologically and where nutrients get released from the organic matter and the action of that organic matter on the mineral component of the soil. Deep irrigation draws roots down to the subsoil which, in my case, is loaded with salts.

          I think that the biggest waste of time in all the world of farming and gardening is double-digging. This just burries the better soil and pulls the poorer up. Additionally, like all tillage, it destrioys soil structure [favorable aggregation of soil particles]. I can recall someone writing on a website somewhere something to the effect that "A year after double-digging my beds I could stick my arm in the soil up to my elbow." What a bunch of hooey! Felt like I'd stepped in something stinky. The second biggest waste of time is making compost which is a lot like making water run downhill. A huge amount of energy is spent on doing what happens of itself anyway.

          My beds are 150' long and 4 or 5' wide not including the shoulders. Typically, six lines of drip tape are run over the bed 9 inches apart covering 45 inches. Emitters are 8 inches apart along the tape, closer than the 12 inch spacing I was using at the start. I try to get the water on as fast as possible for maximum lateral spreading.. With no compunctions about stepping on the beds, my beds are longer and wider than they might otherwise be. We step into the beds to plant, weed, harvest and cut through them in the course of putting together our bouquets in the field. If anything, I consider the compaction is beneficial. These beds, of course, are never tilled. Once built up with soil, they are mulched before each planting with leaves, grassclippings, prunings brought free by maintenance gardeners.

          Gloria was talking about planting on slopes and there is lots of merit to the idea. Our slopes are the bed-shoulders which make a great enviornment for plants that prefer being on the dry side. All statice fall in this category and they stay low and are easy to step through when harvesting the main crop planted along the driplines. Yarrows are also great on shoulders. We also plant broom corn [a sorghum] on shoulders and sweetcorn as well with plants spaced far enough apart to easily step between. These tall plantings ameliorate wind and sun.

          To paraphrase Ruth Stout, mulch may not do a hundred-one things, but it will surely do a hundred. I think that there is no cause whatsoever to worry about compaction of permanently mulched beds by anything less than heavy machinery. As a fix for compacted soil the only thing better might be a deep-rooted cover crop such as alfalfa or sweetclover.

          Good growing for all. . .

          John
          Near Fresno, California




          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


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        • jamie
          Hello John, thanks for taking the time to share your experiences - from my own limited experience and that of other NF/SynAg farmers/gardeners I know, your
          Message 4 of 16 , Jun 11 5:06 AM
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            Hello John, thanks for taking the time to share your experiences - from my
            own limited experience and that of other NF/SynAg farmers/gardeners I know,
            your particular points are revealing.

            To make a leap from the recent discussion on raised beds and your comments
            on mulch, might it not be worthwhile to not create raised beds in the first
            place but seed those beds with daikon and deep rooted plants as preparation
            for bringing them into agricultural use if they are too compacted and
            planting/seeding into surface hoed/weeded soil if the soil is not too
            compacted?

            To my mind such a technique would end deleterious effect of the (necessary)
            mulch of opening up the surface of raised beds with the consequent loss of
            irrigation into the main body of the soil and maximise the use of irrigation
            water for the crops.

            Jamie
            Souscayrous

            -----Original Message-----
            From: John Warner [mailto:daddyoat@...]
            Sent: Wednesday, June 11, 2003 6:40 AM
            To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: [fukuoka_farming] Raised beds and compaction

            Hello Farmers!

            I'll start this with a story. In the 70s, I was teaching an adult school
            class on vegetable and fruit production for home gardeners. Since most of
            my experience has been with ornamentals, I was glad to have in class a
            retired fire fighter and organic gardener, Roland, who had grown vegetables
            for many years and had lots of comparative experience with the various
            varieties of them. At the time, the latest rage was French intenisve. The
            class divided itself up, 3 or 4 students to a group, and we set about
            constructing raised beds. Not having much of an opinion on whether the beds
            should be compacted or not, when I demonstrated leveling and shaping, I
            stood and stepped right on the 5' beds as, I presume, most of the people in
            the groups did. I recall that that the group Roland was in had by far the
            most perfectly shaped and leveled bed and they were very careful to do all
            their work from the pathways, including the seeding. The problem was,
            though, that none of their stuff came up while seeds in the ot
            her beds germinated quite nicely. [Watering was done overhead with impact
            sprinklers.] On investigation we concluded that the bed was just too fluffy
            to hold enough water. So we all got a good lesson on seedbed construction
            and since then I have never hesitated to walk and step on beds. In fact
            when I construct them now, I'll often roll them down with the tires of a
            lawn tractor. I think Aaron may really be on to something by compacting
            clay in his beds.

            One of the more serious problems I have found in my 7 years or so experience
            with permanent mulch is that soil structure becomes so open under the mulch
            that there is little lateral spreading of water. With overhead watering
            this may not be much of a problem but cut flowers can't be grown with much
            success under overhead water. As soon as snapdragons and godetia, for
            example, come in flower they'll lodge right down under the weight of the
            water. Stems bend upward and the crop is essentially a loss. So we use
            drip tape.

            In the early years the garden was laid out in rows with single lines of trip
            tape 3' apart. For a while this worked well but, under permanent mulch,
            quality actually began to fall off--not at all what I was expecting. There
            was tip burn on the zinnia petals and the plants were actually showing some
            signs of water stress. Investigation indicated that the water from the drip
            lines was essentially going straight down to the hardpan before spreading
            out. I think that under permanent mulch the main idea on watering should be
            to minimize drying in the upper inches. This is where all the action is
            biologically and where nutrients get released from the organic matter and
            the action of that organic matter on the mineral component of the soil.
            Deep irrigation draws roots down to the subsoil which, in my case, is loaded
            with salts.

            I think that the biggest waste of time in all the world of farming and
            gardening is double-digging. This just burries the better soil and pulls
            the poorer up. Additionally, like all tillage, it destrioys soil structure
            [favorable aggregation of soil particles]. I can recall someone writing on
            a website somewhere something to the effect that "A year after
            double-digging my beds I could stick my arm in the soil up to my elbow."
            What a bunch of hooey! Felt like I'd stepped in something stinky. The
            second biggest waste of time is making compost which is a lot like making
            water run downhill. A huge amount of energy is spent on doing what happens
            of itself anyway.

            My beds are 150' long and 4 or 5' wide not including the shoulders.
            Typically, six lines of drip tape are run over the bed 9 inches apart
            covering 45 inches. Emitters are 8 inches apart along the tape, closer than
            the 12 inch spacing I was using at the start. I try to get the water on as
            fast as possible for maximum lateral spreading.. With no compunctions about
            stepping on the beds, my beds are longer and wider than they might otherwise
            be. We step into the beds to plant, weed, harvest and cut through them in
            the course of putting together our bouquets in the field. If anything, I
            consider the compaction is beneficial. These beds, of course, are never
            tilled. Once built up with soil, they are mulched before each planting with
            leaves, grassclippings, prunings brought free by maintenance gardeners.

            Gloria was talking about planting on slopes and there is lots of merit to
            the idea. Our slopes are the bed-shoulders which make a great enviornment
            for plants that prefer being on the dry side. All statice fall in this
            category and they stay low and are easy to step through when harvesting the
            main crop planted along the driplines. Yarrows are also great on shoulders.
            We also plant broom corn [a sorghum] on shoulders and sweetcorn as well with
            plants spaced far enough apart to easily step between. These tall plantings
            ameliorate wind and sun.

            To paraphrase Ruth Stout, mulch may not do a hundred-one things, but it will
            surely do a hundred. I think that there is no cause whatsoever to worry
            about compaction of permanently mulched beds by anything less than heavy
            machinery. As a fix for compacted soil the only thing better might be a
            deep-rooted cover crop such as alfalfa or sweetclover.

            Good growing for all. . .

            John
            Near Fresno, California




            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]



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          • Gloria C. Baikauskas
            Emilia told me I would gain much from constantly rereading Faulkner s Plowman s Folly. I suspect you all might, too. Read this.....cuz it is gonna explain
            Message 5 of 16 , Jun 11 7:19 AM
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              Emilia told me I would gain much from constantly rereading
              Faulkner's "Plowman's Folly." I suspect you all might, too. Read
              this.....cuz it is gonna explain a lot to you all on this subject.

              "At the outset, the soil was disked thoroughly in order to destroy
              whatever vegetation was at that time growing on it. In the spring of
              1939, there was little but a scattering stand of weeds. In 1940, rye
              fully three feet tall--a fair stand all over the surface had to be
              disposed of. The disk harrow so completely mixed in even the rye crop
              that little sign was left of any vegetation cover. Following the
              mixing in of this decayable material, the land was marked off in
              rows. To do this marking, a specially designed implement was used
              which simply "tramped" over the field--behind the tractor, of course
              firming the soil together again at points where plants were to be
              located. By exerting considerable pressure at each such point, this
              implement reconnected the capillary contacts which the disking had
              broken up. (To visualize the effect of pressing the soil together
              again, just recall what would be the effect of snipping the lamp wick
              above the oil level; then later sewing the pieces together again.)
              The natural wicking action of the soil--destroyed temporarily by the
              disking--was restored in the vertical column of soil just under the
              point where a plant was to be set. That this actually was the effect
              of this pressure we have plenty of evidence. Even though the soil
              surface was dry and the weather hot in 1939, the bottom of a great
              many of these "tracks" showed moist even in the middle of the day.
              Unless the capillary connection had been restored, this could not
              possibly have been true."

              Gloria
            • jamie
              Hello John (Frederick), you ask an interesting question: Is it correct that the continuous mulching of fresh layers upon older layers does not cause the drop
              Message 6 of 16 , Jun 11 10:22 AM
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                Hello John (Frederick), you ask an interesting question: "Is it correct that
                the continuous mulching of fresh layers upon older layers does not cause the
                drop in nitrogen that fresh mulching causes? And is this because the soil
                bacteria population is stable in the lower, older layers, so the amount of
                nitrogen from dying bacteria remains more constant?"

                I've also been wondering about the nitrogen hogging effect of mulch, though
                in my case it has been the application of hardwood chips as advocated by
                Gilles Lemieux that I'm interested in. My understanding would be that as a
                surface application the chips (and therefore fresh mulch) would not tie up
                the nitrogen. Is this wishful thinking or have others experience of this? I
                know Lemieux began by incorporating the chipped wood into the soil and
                adding manure as a counter to the high carbon ratio, but believe he changed
                to a surface, mulch application without the manure.

                Jamie
                Souscayrous
              • jamie
                Hello Gloria, thanks for the reminder of Faulkner s great good sense - good writing always offers more on subsequent readings. John s remarks on his German
                Message 7 of 16 , Jun 11 10:41 AM
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                  Hello Gloria, thanks for the reminder of Faulkner's great good sense - good
                  writing always offers more on subsequent readings. John's remarks on his
                  German friend's observation of worm casts also reminds me of the density of
                  worm casts on the soil that had been compacted by the digger that had dug
                  the cistern at Souscayrous. The information we need is all about us, it's
                  just we have to learn how to observe.

                  However, a word of caution: while I accept the need for capillarity if our
                  soils are to take advantage of below ground moisture (and Steve Solomon's
                  'Waterwise Gardening' expresses the same concept except in reverse - ie
                  trying to break capillarity to the surface in order to reduce evaporation)
                  too great a compaction is also a disaster for plants (if not for
                  earthworms) - water and oxygen are essential constituents of a healthy soil.
                  If the soil had been wet when the digger was over, I doubt the worms would
                  have made it to the surface!

                  Tamping down with the boot, occasional foraging on the bed, but I'd still
                  not wish to walk on my raised beds when wet.

                  Jamie
                  Souscayrous

                  -----Original Message-----
                  From: Gloria C. Baikauskas [mailto:gcb49@...]
                  Sent: Wednesday, June 11, 2003 2:19 PM
                  To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
                  Subject: [fukuoka_farming] Re: Raised beds and compaction

                  Emilia told me I would gain much from constantly rereading
                  Faulkner's "Plowman's Folly." I suspect you all might, too. Read
                  this.....cuz it is gonna explain a lot to you all on this subject.

                  "At the outset, the soil was disked thoroughly in order to destroy
                  whatever vegetation was at that time growing on it. In the spring of
                  1939, there was little but a scattering stand of weeds. In 1940, rye
                  fully three feet tall--a fair stand all over the surface had to be
                  disposed of. The disk harrow so completely mixed in even the rye crop
                  that little sign was left of any vegetation cover. Following the
                  mixing in of this decayable material, the land was marked off in
                  rows. To do this marking, a specially designed implement was used
                  which simply "tramped" over the field--behind the tractor, of course
                  firming the soil together again at points where plants were to be
                  located. By exerting considerable pressure at each such point, this
                  implement reconnected the capillary contacts which the disking had
                  broken up. (To visualize the effect of pressing the soil together
                  again, just recall what would be the effect of snipping the lamp wick
                  above the oil level; then later sewing the pieces together again.)
                  The natural wicking action of the soil--destroyed temporarily by the
                  disking--was restored in the vertical column of soil just under the
                  point where a plant was to be set. That this actually was the effect
                  of this pressure we have plenty of evidence. Even though the soil
                  surface was dry and the weather hot in 1939, the bottom of a great
                  many of these "tracks" showed moist even in the middle of the day.
                  Unless the capillary connection had been restored, this could not
                  possibly have been true."

                  Gloria



                  To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
                  fukuoka_farming-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com



                  Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
                • francisco
                  mulching with nitrogen poor matter such as wood savings has never causen any signs of lack of nitrogen in my beds. I have been seen casting coffe grounds on a
                  Message 8 of 16 , Jun 11 3:30 PM
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                    mulching with nitrogen poor matter such as wood savings has never causen any
                    signs of lack of nitrogen in my beds.
                    I have been seen casting coffe grounds on a thick mulch of pine shavings. it
                    all decomposes slowly and i am sure, the roots get a wondeffull tea during
                    every watering or rain
                    francisco
                    ----- Mensaje original -----
                    De: "John Frederick" <oldyellowhide@...>
                    Para: <fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com>
                    Enviado: miƩrcoles, 11 de junio de 2003 12:56
                    Asunto: Re: [fukuoka_farming] Raised beds and compaction


                    > Hi John and Jamie,
                    >
                    > I'm in touch with a no-till organic farmer (German speaking - can't join
                    the group) who has shown pictures of the effect of compaction vs ploughing
                    on earthworms. Where the field had been ploughed the previous season, in
                    spring there were almost no earthworm castings. Next to the field, in the
                    compacted tracks worn in the grass by the tractor wheels, the castings were
                    wall-to-wall, full.
                    > This very observant farmer of 30yrs experience explains it as follows: The
                    earthworms are killed (20% mortality with 1 pass of the plough according to
                    a Swiss study) or move away from ploughed areas because when surface feeding
                    on the loose earth they can't hold onto their burrows enough to withdraw
                    quickly in case of danger. But obviously a bit of compaction - even from
                    heavy machinery - is no problem. Maybe it helps that water collects in the
                    depressions of the wheel tracks.
                    >
                    > This resonates with your experience that compaction is not a problem.
                    There's a fine little book called Gardening without Digging by A. Guest, a
                    Yorkshire miner, who spontaneously developed the idea of no-dig after
                    finding that the best potatoes grew under the path he had hardened to reach
                    his beds. Admittedly he was growing in a wet area. Nonetheless, compaction
                    is slipping lower down the list of concerns.
                    >
                    > Question:
                    > Is it correct that the continuous mulching of fresh layers upon older
                    layers does not cause the drop in nitrogen that fresh mulching causes?
                    > And is this because the soil bacteria population is stable in the lower,
                    older layers, so the amount of nitrogen from dying bacteria remains more
                    constant?
                    >
                    > Thanks and best wishes,
                    >
                    > John
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > John Warner <daddyoat@...> wrote:
                    > Hello Farmers!
                    >
                    > I'll start this with a story. In the 70s, I was teaching an adult school
                    class on vegetable and fruit production for home gardeners. Since most of
                    my experience has been with ornamentals, I was glad to have in class a
                    retired fire fighter and organic gardener, Roland, who had grown vegetables
                    for many years and had lots of comparative experience with the various
                    varieties of them. At the time, the latest rage was French intenisve. The
                    class divided itself up, 3 or 4 students to a group, and we set about
                    constructing raised beds. Not having much of an opinion on whether the beds
                    should be compacted or not, when I demonstrated leveling and shaping, I
                    stood and stepped right on the 5' beds as, I presume, most of the people in
                    the groups did. I recall that that the group Roland was in had by far the
                    most perfectly shaped and leveled bed and they were very careful to do all
                    their work from the pathways, including the seeding. The problem was,
                    though, that none of their stuff came
                    > up while seeds in the other beds germinated quite nicely. [Watering was
                    done overhead with impact sprinklers.] On investigation we concluded that
                    the bed was just too fluffy to hold enough water. So we all got a good
                    lesson on seedbed construction and since then I have never hesitated to walk
                    and step on beds. In fact when I construct them now, I'll often roll them
                    down with the tires of a lawn tractor. I think Aaron may really be on to
                    something by compacting clay in his beds.
                    >
                    > One of the more serious problems I have found in my 7 years or so
                    experience with permanent mulch is that soil structure becomes so open under
                    the mulch that there is little lateral spreading of water. With overhead
                    watering this may not be much of a problem but cut flowers can't be grown
                    with much success under overhead water. As soon as snapdragons and godetia,
                    for example, come in flower they'll lodge right down under the weight of
                    the water. Stems bend upward and the crop is essentially a loss. So we use
                    drip tape.
                    >
                    > In the early years the garden was laid out in rows with single lines of
                    trip tape 3' apart. For a while this worked well but, under permanent
                    mulch, quality actually began to fall off--not at all what I was expecting.
                    There was tip burn on the zinnia petals and the plants were actually showing
                    some signs of water stress. Investigation indicated that the water from the
                    drip lines was essentially going straight down to the hardpan before
                    spreading out. I think that under permanent mulch the main idea on watering
                    should be to minimize drying in the upper inches. This is where all the
                    action is biologically and where nutrients get released from the organic
                    matter and the action of that organic matter on the mineral component of the
                    soil. Deep irrigation draws roots down to the subsoil which, in my case,
                    is loaded with salts.
                    >
                    > I think that the biggest waste of time in all the world of farming and
                    gardening is double-digging. This just burries the better soil and pulls
                    the poorer up. Additionally, like all tillage, it destrioys soil structure
                    [favorable aggregation of soil particles]. I can recall someone writing on
                    a website somewhere something to the effect that "A year after
                    double-digging my beds I could stick my arm in the soil up to my elbow."
                    What a bunch of hooey! Felt like I'd stepped in something stinky. The
                    second biggest waste of time is making compost which is a lot like making
                    water run downhill. A huge amount of energy is spent on doing what happens
                    of itself anyway.
                    >
                    > My beds are 150' long and 4 or 5' wide not including the shoulders.
                    Typically, six lines of drip tape are run over the bed 9 inches apart
                    covering 45 inches. Emitters are 8 inches apart along the tape, closer than
                    the 12 inch spacing I was using at the start. I try to get the water on as
                    fast as possible for maximum lateral spreading.. With no compunctions about
                    stepping on the beds, my beds are longer and wider than they might otherwise
                    be. We step into the beds to plant, weed, harvest and cut through them in
                    the course of putting together our bouquets in the field. If anything, I
                    consider the compaction is beneficial. These beds, of course, are never
                    tilled. Once built up with soil, they are mulched before each planting with
                    leaves, grassclippings, prunings brought free by maintenance gardeners.
                    >
                    > Gloria was talking about planting on slopes and there is lots of merit to
                    the idea. Our slopes are the bed-shoulders which make a great enviornment
                    for plants that prefer being on the dry side. All statice fall in this
                    category and they stay low and are easy to step through when harvesting the
                    main crop planted along the driplines. Yarrows are also great on shoulders.
                    We also plant broom corn [a sorghum] on shoulders and sweetcorn as well with
                    plants spaced far enough apart to easily step between. These tall plantings
                    ameliorate wind and sun.
                    >
                    > To paraphrase Ruth Stout, mulch may not do a hundred-one things, but it
                    will surely do a hundred. I think that there is no cause whatsoever to
                    worry about compaction of permanently mulched beds by anything less than
                    heavy machinery. As a fix for compacted soil the only thing better might be
                    a deep-rooted cover crop such as alfalfa or sweetclover.
                    >
                    > Good growing for all. . .
                    >
                    > John
                    > Near Fresno, California
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    >
                    >
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                    >
                  • John Frederick
                    Hello Jamie, Thanks for appreciating what I feel is a key link in our understanding of nutrient cycles, something that I m not quite clear on and which I feel
                    Message 9 of 16 , Jun 13 5:54 AM
                    • 0 Attachment
                      Hello Jamie,
                      Thanks for appreciating what I feel is a key link in our understanding of nutrient cycles, something that I'm not quite clear on and which I feel will be of great practical benefit when we include this understanding in our work.
                      It's commonly accepted among experienced farmers and gardeners I know that applying undecayed mulch to the soil causes a temporay drop in nitrogen - for a few weeks, they say. My understanding is that this is because the soil bacteria live off the mulch. But when the mulch is all gone, composted, decayed, more bacteria perish for lack of victuals. This makes their nitrogen-rich remains available for the plants to gain nourishment from, so there is an increase in nitrogen, as if fully ripe compost were applied.
                      The nitrogen in the soil is stored mainly in the animal bodies, carbon in the plants. When the animals (bacteria mainly, in this case) have enough to eat, not so many die. When the food supply drops, more die - nitrogen increase. When there is a sudden increase in food supply, the bacteria multiply, using up all available nitrogen - nitrogen shortage.

                      Any comments?
                      John Frederick


                      jamie <jamie@...> wrote:
                      Hello John (Frederick), you ask an interesting question: "Is it correct that
                      the continuous mulching of fresh layers upon older layers does not cause the
                      drop in nitrogen that fresh mulching causes? And is this because the soil
                      bacteria population is stable in the lower, older layers, so the amount of
                      nitrogen from dying bacteria remains more constant?"

                      I've also been wondering about the nitrogen hogging effect of mulch, though
                      in my case it has been the application of hardwood chips as advocated by
                      Gilles Lemieux that I'm interested in. My understanding would be that as a
                      surface application the chips (and therefore fresh mulch) would not tie up
                      the nitrogen. Is this wishful thinking or have others experience of this? I
                      know Lemieux began by incorporating the chipped wood into the soil and
                      adding manure as a counter to the high carbon ratio, but believe he changed
                      to a surface, mulch application without the manure.

                      Jamie
                      Souscayrous


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                    • EponaLady
                      John and Jamie, I had to look up Lemieux to see what he was doing. It turns out I have been using ramial chipped wood as mulch in my yard for a while now. I
                      Message 10 of 16 , Jun 13 2:42 PM
                      • 0 Attachment
                        John and Jamie,

                        I had to look up Lemieux to see what he was doing. It turns out I
                        have been using ramial chipped wood as mulch in my yard for a while
                        now. I have never noticed nitrogen deficiency, even for a short
                        time, as a result of putting the fresh mulch on. The chips break
                        down very fast, too.

                        I hadn't thought of mixing it undecayed directly into the soil.
                        "Everybody" says not to mix unfinished compost into soil where plants
                        are growing. I would have guessed mixing wood would have been
                        worse. I planted a blueberry bush yesterday and mixed in some ramial
                        wood. One of the writings I found on it said to use one inch of
                        ramial wood, so that is what I did. No problems in the last twenty-
                        four hours. :)

                        I will be planting fall veggies soon and I am going to try this
                        method. Especially appealing is that Lemieux says the improvement in
                        the soil lasts for five years, with a peak in the third year. One
                        less thing to think about.

                        Heather

                        --- In fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com, "jamie" <jamie@t...> wrote:
                        > Hello John (Frederick), you ask an interesting question: "Is it
                        correct that
                        > the continuous mulching of fresh layers upon older layers does not
                        cause the
                        > drop in nitrogen that fresh mulching causes? And is this because
                        the soil
                        > bacteria population is stable in the lower, older layers, so the
                        amount of
                        > nitrogen from dying bacteria remains more constant?"
                        >
                        > I've also been wondering about the nitrogen hogging effect of
                        mulch, though
                        > in my case it has been the application of hardwood chips as
                        advocated by
                        > Gilles Lemieux that I'm interested in. My understanding would be
                        that as a
                        > surface application the chips (and therefore fresh mulch) would not
                        tie up
                        > the nitrogen. Is this wishful thinking or have others experience of
                        this? I
                        > know Lemieux began by incorporating the chipped wood into the soil
                        and
                        > adding manure as a counter to the high carbon ratio, but believe he
                        changed
                        > to a surface, mulch application without the manure.
                        >
                        > Jamie
                        > Souscayrous
                      • jamie
                        Hello John, I m going to check into Lemieux, Fukuoka and Emilia (Hazelip s) work and get back to you with some actual details of the effect of wood chips
                        Message 11 of 16 , Jun 14 7:48 AM
                        • 0 Attachment
                          Hello John, I'm going to check into Lemieux, Fukuoka and Emilia (Hazelip's)
                          work and get back to you with some actual details of the effect of wood
                          chips surface applied. Considering that healthy soil is as stratified as its
                          aboveground counterpart (canopy, subcanopy, bush, ground cover, vine etc) I
                          suspect surface application wont be entirely disruptive and if enough white
                          rot (basidiomycetes) is present at the surface due to leaf mold/earlier
                          chipped wood applications, I would imagine the C/N ratio not to be a problem
                          (ie nitrogen will remain available to plants) and innocculation of the
                          chipped wood with a layer of mulch (duff) from beneath local trees might be
                          enough to get the decaying cycle going. But actual detail is needed and, as
                          I say, I'll check around and see if I can come up with anything concrete.

                          Perhaps Don (Graves) has something to add...?

                          Jamie
                          Souscayrous


                          -----Original Message-----
                          From: John Frederick [mailto:oldyellowhide@...]
                          Sent: Friday, June 13, 2003 12:54 PM
                          To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
                          Subject: RE: [fukuoka_farming] Raised beds and compaction

                          Hello Jamie,
                          Thanks for appreciating what I feel is a key link in our understanding of
                          nutrient cycles, something that I'm not quite clear on and which I feel will
                          be of great practical benefit when we include this understanding in our
                          work.
                          It's commonly accepted among experienced farmers and gardeners I know that
                          applying undecayed mulch to the soil causes a temporay drop in nitrogen -
                          for a few weeks, they say. My understanding is that this is because the soil
                          bacteria live off the mulch. But when the mulch is all gone, composted,
                          decayed, more bacteria perish for lack of victuals. This makes their
                          nitrogen-rich remains available for the plants to gain nourishment from, so
                          there is an increase in nitrogen, as if fully ripe compost were applied.
                          The nitrogen in the soil is stored mainly in the animal bodies, carbon in
                          the plants. When the animals (bacteria mainly, in this case) have enough to
                          eat, not so many die. When the food supply drops, more die - nitrogen
                          increase. When there is a sudden increase in food supply, the bacteria
                          multiply, using up all available nitrogen - nitrogen shortage.

                          Any comments?
                          John Frederick


                          jamie <jamie@...> wrote:
                          Hello John (Frederick), you ask an interesting question: "Is it correct that
                          the continuous mulching of fresh layers upon older layers does not cause the
                          drop in nitrogen that fresh mulching causes? And is this because the soil
                          bacteria population is stable in the lower, older layers, so the amount of
                          nitrogen from dying bacteria remains more constant?"

                          I've also been wondering about the nitrogen hogging effect of mulch, though
                          in my case it has been the application of hardwood chips as advocated by
                          Gilles Lemieux that I'm interested in. My understanding would be that as a
                          surface application the chips (and therefore fresh mulch) would not tie up
                          the nitrogen. Is this wishful thinking or have others experience of this? I
                          know Lemieux began by incorporating the chipped wood into the soil and
                          adding manure as a counter to the high carbon ratio, but believe he changed
                          to a surface, mulch application without the manure.

                          Jamie
                          Souscayrous


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                        • Don Graves
                          Hi Jamie, John & others Thanks Jamie for an invitation to comment on surface mulching, C/N ratios & plant nutrient uptake... & thanks also to some brilliant
                          Message 12 of 16 , Jun 14 5:42 PM
                          • 0 Attachment
                            Hi Jamie, John & others
                            Thanks Jamie for an invitation to comment on surface mulching, C/N ratios &
                            plant nutrient uptake...
                            & thanks also to some brilliant comments & poetry on Fuluoka, raised & flat
                            beds,
                            awesome communications happening here.

                            Firstly, I agree with the recent comments about using FLAT beds. What we
                            need to provide for healthy plant growth is dedicated pathways to avoid soil
                            compaction around plant roots. Plant roots need to breath air, not
                            suffocate in compacted soils, or else be drowned in saturated or poorly
                            drained soils.
                            In dry seasons or climates, raised beds can & do result in plant & soil
                            drought, ie. too much drainage resulting from too much human work /
                            interference

                            Secondly, & at risk of sounding like I think I know it all, & I know too
                            well that no-one can be that presumptive,
                            however, .... here are a few soil ecological comments regarding the use of
                            mulches of soil fungi, including mycorrhizas

                            The use of introduced 'duff' or leaf litter from under trees & bushes is
                            likely to contain species of decomposing fungi of the 'Basidiomycete' &
                            'Ascomycete' fungal groups. These 2 large groups of decomposing fungi also
                            form fungal partnerships or mycorrhizal symbioses (called ECTOMYCORRHIZAS)
                            with other 'woody' plants, & are therefore most suited for use with similar
                            crop / garden plants. This is a rather big ecological generalisation, &
                            there are some plants like the heathers & blueberries that have very
                            specific needs for fungal partners.

                            On the other hand, topsoil obtained from under pasture, weeds & crops is
                            most likely to contain a different group of fungi called 'Zygomycetes'.
                            These Zygomycete fungi form (ENDOMYCORRHIZAS) & most importantly need to
                            have living plant roots in which to live, they cannot live live by
                            decomposition alone as may ectomycorrhizas. This latter group of fungi are
                            also called ARBUSCULAR MYCORRHIZAS, or ARBUSCULAR MYCORRHIZAL FUNGI.

                            Until very recently it was well known (by mycorrhiza scientists) that
                            ectomycorrhizal symbiotic plants can access soil organic matter nutrients
                            including P (phosphorous) & N (nitrogen). However, most conventional plant
                            growers have falsely understood that plants can only uptake or require
                            'inorganic' or water-soluble nutrients, ... & thus many growers have often
                            relied on 'chemical' fertiliser inputs.

                            Recently, it has been 'discovered' that plants forming symbioses
                            (partnerships) with endomycorrhizas / arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, can not
                            only access soil P (phosphates) not otherwise available, but may also gain
                            access soil organic matter N (nitrogen).

                            Scientific knowledge is always growing, never static or unchallenged
                            MOST scientists & other so-called "experts" are humble enough to realise
                            that
                            "THE MORE WE KNOW ... THE MORE WE KNOW THAT THERE IS MUCH MORE TO KNOW",
                            & additionally WE HUMANS CAN NEVER KNOW IT ALL

                            That said, there is also a common maxim with 'organic' production methods
                            PLANTS NEED NUTRIENTS "LITTLE & OFTEN"
                            The above maxim is also known to those people who still rely on using
                            "slow-release" chemical fertilisers
                            ie. fertilisers that are too concetrated will 'burn' plant roots,
                            MORE IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER

                            Finally, at risk of making too many generalisations:
                            mixing mulch with soil helps the effective use soil micro-organisms.
                            .... think of the surface area of mulch exposed to soil & decomposition
                            As has previously been discussed in this group,
                            ... soil (N) Nitrogen 'robbing' can be a big problem to plants if too much
                            (C) carbon mulch is introduced at one time.

                            yours ... (humbly)

                            Don Graves
                            MSc (Plant Biology)

                            ----- Original Message -----
                            From: "jamie" <jamie@...>
                            To: <fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com>
                            Sent: Sunday, June 15, 2003 2:48 AM
                            Subject: RE: [fukuoka_farming] Raised beds and compaction


                            > Hello John, I'm going to check into Lemieux, Fukuoka and Emilia
                            (Hazelip's)
                            > work and get back to you with some actual details of the effect of wood
                            > chips surface applied. Considering that healthy soil is as stratified as
                            its
                            > aboveground counterpart (canopy, subcanopy, bush, ground cover, vine etc)
                            I
                            > suspect surface application wont be entirely disruptive and if enough
                            white
                            > rot (basidiomycetes) is present at the surface due to leaf mold/earlier
                            > chipped wood applications, I would imagine the C/N ratio not to be a
                            problem
                            > (ie nitrogen will remain available to plants) and innocculation of the
                            > chipped wood with a layer of mulch (duff) from beneath local trees might
                            be
                            > enough to get the decaying cycle going. But actual detail is needed and,
                            as
                            > I say, I'll check around and see if I can come up with anything concrete.
                            >
                            > Perhaps Don (Graves) has something to add...?
                            >
                            > Jamie
                            > Souscayrous
                            >
                            >
                            > -----Original Message-----
                            > From: John Frederick [mailto:oldyellowhide@...]
                            > Sent: Friday, June 13, 2003 12:54 PM
                            > To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
                            > Subject: RE: [fukuoka_farming] Raised beds and compaction
                            >
                            > Hello Jamie,
                            > Thanks for appreciating what I feel is a key link in our understanding of
                            > nutrient cycles, something that I'm not quite clear on and which I feel
                            will
                            > be of great practical benefit when we include this understanding in our
                            > work.
                            > It's commonly accepted among experienced farmers and gardeners I know that
                            > applying undecayed mulch to the soil causes a temporay drop in nitrogen -
                            > for a few weeks, they say. My understanding is that this is because the
                            soil
                            > bacteria live off the mulch. But when the mulch is all gone, composted,
                            > decayed, more bacteria perish for lack of victuals. This makes their
                            > nitrogen-rich remains available for the plants to gain nourishment from,
                            so
                            > there is an increase in nitrogen, as if fully ripe compost were applied.
                            > The nitrogen in the soil is stored mainly in the animal bodies, carbon in
                            > the plants. When the animals (bacteria mainly, in this case) have enough
                            to
                            > eat, not so many die. When the food supply drops, more die - nitrogen
                            > increase. When there is a sudden increase in food supply, the bacteria
                            > multiply, using up all available nitrogen - nitrogen shortage.
                            >
                            > Any comments?
                            > John Frederick
                            >
                            >
                            > jamie <jamie@...> wrote:
                            > Hello John (Frederick), you ask an interesting question: "Is it correct
                            that
                            > the continuous mulching of fresh layers upon older layers does not cause
                            the
                            > drop in nitrogen that fresh mulching causes? And is this because the soil
                            > bacteria population is stable in the lower, older layers, so the amount of
                            > nitrogen from dying bacteria remains more constant?"
                            >
                            > I've also been wondering about the nitrogen hogging effect of mulch,
                            though
                            > in my case it has been the application of hardwood chips as advocated by
                            > Gilles Lemieux that I'm interested in. My understanding would be that as a
                            > surface application the chips (and therefore fresh mulch) would not tie up
                            > the nitrogen. Is this wishful thinking or have others experience of this?
                            I
                            > know Lemieux began by incorporating the chipped wood into the soil and
                            > adding manure as a counter to the high carbon ratio, but believe he
                            changed
                            > to a surface, mulch application without the manure.
                            >
                            > Jamie
                            > Souscayrous
                            >
                            >
                            > Yahoo! Groups SponsorADVERTISEMENT
                            >
                            > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
                            > fukuoka_farming-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
                            >
                            >
                            >
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                            >
                            >
                            > ---------------------------------
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                            > Free online calendar with sync to Outlook(TM).
                            >
                            > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                            >
                            >
                            >
                            > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
                            > fukuoka_farming-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
                            >
                            >
                            >
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                            >
                            >
                            >
                            > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
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                            >
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                            >
                            >
                            >
                            >
                          • jamie
                            Hello Don, reading between the lines of your post (and thank you for the detail) would it be right to conclude that different mulches should be used for
                            Message 13 of 16 , Jun 15 4:10 PM
                            • 0 Attachment
                              Hello Don, reading between the lines of your post (and thank you for the
                              detail) would it be right to conclude that different mulches should be used
                              for different crops?

                              I understand the reticence of an expert for sweeping generalisations but
                              would you think wood chips are better for growing vines and fruit trees,
                              cereal straw for most vegetables and pine needle duff for blueberries,
                              strawberries etc.

                              I guess what I'm asking is whether a table could be constructed offering
                              rules of thumb of the type of mulch that suits different crops?

                              Jamie
                              Souscayrous

                              -----Original Message-----
                              From: Don Graves [mailto:dgraves@...]
                              Sent: Sunday, June 15, 2003 12:42 AM
                              To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
                              Subject: Re: [fukuoka_farming] Raised beds and compaction

                              Hi Jamie, John & others
                              Thanks Jamie for an invitation to comment on surface mulching, C/N ratios &
                              plant nutrient uptake...
                              & thanks also to some brilliant comments & poetry on Fuluoka, raised & flat
                              beds,
                              awesome communications happening here.

                              Firstly, I agree with the recent comments about using FLAT beds. What we
                              need to provide for healthy plant growth is dedicated pathways to avoid soil
                              compaction around plant roots. Plant roots need to breath air, not
                              suffocate in compacted soils, or else be drowned in saturated or poorly
                              drained soils.
                              In dry seasons or climates, raised beds can & do result in plant & soil
                              drought, ie. too much drainage resulting from too much human work /
                              interference

                              Secondly, & at risk of sounding like I think I know it all, & I know too
                              well that no-one can be that presumptive,
                              however, .... here are a few soil ecological comments regarding the use of
                              mulches of soil fungi, including mycorrhizas

                              The use of introduced 'duff' or leaf litter from under trees & bushes is
                              likely to contain species of decomposing fungi of the 'Basidiomycete' &
                              'Ascomycete' fungal groups. These 2 large groups of decomposing fungi also
                              form fungal partnerships or mycorrhizal symbioses (called ECTOMYCORRHIZAS)
                              with other 'woody' plants, & are therefore most suited for use with similar
                              crop / garden plants. This is a rather big ecological generalisation, &
                              there are some plants like the heathers & blueberries that have very
                              specific needs for fungal partners.

                              On the other hand, topsoil obtained from under pasture, weeds & crops is
                              most likely to contain a different group of fungi called 'Zygomycetes'.
                              These Zygomycete fungi form (ENDOMYCORRHIZAS) & most importantly need to
                              have living plant roots in which to live, they cannot live live by
                              decomposition alone as may ectomycorrhizas. This latter group of fungi are
                              also called ARBUSCULAR MYCORRHIZAS, or ARBUSCULAR MYCORRHIZAL FUNGI.

                              Until very recently it was well known (by mycorrhiza scientists) that
                              ectomycorrhizal symbiotic plants can access soil organic matter nutrients
                              including P (phosphorous) & N (nitrogen). However, most conventional plant
                              growers have falsely understood that plants can only uptake or require
                              'inorganic' or water-soluble nutrients, ... & thus many growers have often
                              relied on 'chemical' fertiliser inputs.

                              Recently, it has been 'discovered' that plants forming symbioses
                              (partnerships) with endomycorrhizas / arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, can not
                              only access soil P (phosphates) not otherwise available, but may also gain
                              access soil organic matter N (nitrogen).

                              Scientific knowledge is always growing, never static or unchallenged
                              MOST scientists & other so-called "experts" are humble enough to realise
                              that
                              "THE MORE WE KNOW ... THE MORE WE KNOW THAT THERE IS MUCH MORE TO KNOW",
                              & additionally WE HUMANS CAN NEVER KNOW IT ALL

                              That said, there is also a common maxim with 'organic' production methods
                              PLANTS NEED NUTRIENTS "LITTLE & OFTEN"
                              The above maxim is also known to those people who still rely on using
                              "slow-release" chemical fertilisers
                              ie. fertilisers that are too concetrated will 'burn' plant roots,
                              MORE IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER

                              Finally, at risk of making too many generalisations:
                              mixing mulch with soil helps the effective use soil micro-organisms.
                              .... think of the surface area of mulch exposed to soil & decomposition
                              As has previously been discussed in this group,
                              ... soil (N) Nitrogen 'robbing' can be a big problem to plants if too much
                              (C) carbon mulch is introduced at one time.

                              yours ... (humbly)

                              Don Graves
                              MSc (Plant Biology)

                              ----- Original Message -----
                              From: "jamie" <jamie@...>
                              To: <fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com>
                              Sent: Sunday, June 15, 2003 2:48 AM
                              Subject: RE: [fukuoka_farming] Raised beds and compaction


                              > Hello John, I'm going to check into Lemieux, Fukuoka and Emilia
                              (Hazelip's)
                              > work and get back to you with some actual details of the effect of wood
                              > chips surface applied. Considering that healthy soil is as stratified as
                              its
                              > aboveground counterpart (canopy, subcanopy, bush, ground cover, vine etc)
                              I
                              > suspect surface application wont be entirely disruptive and if enough
                              white
                              > rot (basidiomycetes) is present at the surface due to leaf mold/earlier
                              > chipped wood applications, I would imagine the C/N ratio not to be a
                              problem
                              > (ie nitrogen will remain available to plants) and innocculation of the
                              > chipped wood with a layer of mulch (duff) from beneath local trees might
                              be
                              > enough to get the decaying cycle going. But actual detail is needed and,
                              as
                              > I say, I'll check around and see if I can come up with anything concrete.
                              >
                              > Perhaps Don (Graves) has something to add...?
                              >
                              > Jamie
                              > Souscayrous
                              >
                              >
                              > -----Original Message-----
                              > From: John Frederick [mailto:oldyellowhide@...]
                              > Sent: Friday, June 13, 2003 12:54 PM
                              > To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
                              > Subject: RE: [fukuoka_farming] Raised beds and compaction
                              >
                              > Hello Jamie,
                              > Thanks for appreciating what I feel is a key link in our understanding of
                              > nutrient cycles, something that I'm not quite clear on and which I feel
                              will
                              > be of great practical benefit when we include this understanding in our
                              > work.
                              > It's commonly accepted among experienced farmers and gardeners I know that
                              > applying undecayed mulch to the soil causes a temporay drop in nitrogen -
                              > for a few weeks, they say. My understanding is that this is because the
                              soil
                              > bacteria live off the mulch. But when the mulch is all gone, composted,
                              > decayed, more bacteria perish for lack of victuals. This makes their
                              > nitrogen-rich remains available for the plants to gain nourishment from,
                              so
                              > there is an increase in nitrogen, as if fully ripe compost were applied.
                              > The nitrogen in the soil is stored mainly in the animal bodies, carbon in
                              > the plants. When the animals (bacteria mainly, in this case) have enough
                              to
                              > eat, not so many die. When the food supply drops, more die - nitrogen
                              > increase. When there is a sudden increase in food supply, the bacteria
                              > multiply, using up all available nitrogen - nitrogen shortage.
                              >
                              > Any comments?
                              > John Frederick
                              >
                              >
                              > jamie <jamie@...> wrote:
                              > Hello John (Frederick), you ask an interesting question: "Is it correct
                              that
                              > the continuous mulching of fresh layers upon older layers does not cause
                              the
                              > drop in nitrogen that fresh mulching causes? And is this because the soil
                              > bacteria population is stable in the lower, older layers, so the amount of
                              > nitrogen from dying bacteria remains more constant?"
                              >
                              > I've also been wondering about the nitrogen hogging effect of mulch,
                              though
                              > in my case it has been the application of hardwood chips as advocated by
                              > Gilles Lemieux that I'm interested in. My understanding would be that as a
                              > surface application the chips (and therefore fresh mulch) would not tie up
                              > the nitrogen. Is this wishful thinking or have others experience of this?
                              I
                              > know Lemieux began by incorporating the chipped wood into the soil and
                              > adding manure as a counter to the high carbon ratio, but believe he
                              changed
                              > to a surface, mulch application without the manure.
                              >
                              > Jamie
                              > Souscayrous
                              >
                              >
                              > Yahoo! Groups SponsorADVERTISEMENT
                              >
                              > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
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                              >
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                              >
                              >
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                              > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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                              >
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                            • Don Graves
                              Hi Jamie Yes, in general I would reccomend different mulches for different crops. As I have previously discussed, many green manures can provide a good in-situ
                              Message 14 of 16 , Jun 15 6:06 PM
                              • 0 Attachment
                                Hi Jamie
                                Yes, in general I would reccomend different mulches for different crops.

                                As I have previously discussed, many green manures can provide a good
                                in-situ mulch as a rotation prior to direct drilling (or seedballs). I
                                personally advise against relying on green manure monocultures of brassicas
                                (eg. mustard), lupins & buckwheat, as these plants are non-hosts of
                                mycorrhizas. I therefore reccomend green manure mixtures, not necessarily
                                exluding the previously mentioned plants, but also including wheat, barley,
                                clover, peas, rye corn & rye grass, (& weeds) that may act as hosts of
                                mycorrhizal fungi.
                                The use of imported & or loose cut & low weight mulches like straw can also
                                be somewhat problematic if there is inadequate shelter, ie. wind & or
                                rainwater runoff can denude & expose bare soils to possible problems of
                                accelerated soil erosion or drought. The use of so-called 'anchored'
                                mulches is a common practice in commercial broad-acre crops that are
                                herbicide-reliant 'conservation-tillage' practices. The term 'anchored'
                                merely refers to plant mulches that still have their roots in the soil.

                                In New Zealand we now have a number of commercially available organically
                                certified herbicides that are similar in their actions to conventional
                                'dessicant' herbicides. These new organic certified herbicides are not
                                'systemic' herbicides that are translocated throughout whole plants, &
                                therefore some plants (especially grasses) are not completely killed & may
                                thus regrow & cause nutrient & resource competition with establishing crop
                                rotations. Steam weeders also have limited herbicide action, but can be
                                very useful at times, flame weeding is OK for younger green manures, but is
                                obviously not suitable for drier plant mulches like straw etc.

                                Returning to the subject of use of woody mulches,
                                In temperate climate New Zealand gardens, some materials like pine bark
                                chips make excelent mulches for flower or vegetable beds, & under shrubs or
                                around trees. The use of woodchips or sawdust is still OK, but obvioulsy
                                for most such wood by-products they are almost entirely Carbon, & thus soil
                                bacteria involved in breaking these down have a strong demand for Nitrogen.
                                One way of alleviating this problem is to pre-compost or partially compost
                                such mulches prior to layering them on soil surfaces around crop plants.
                                Obviously urine & or bird manures are good sources of nitrogen in such
                                composts, but if these are not available or unacceptable to nearby
                                neighbours, I can reccomend mixing of sawdust or woodchips with biologically
                                active topsoils & or 'duff' ( as previously discussed).
                                In New Zealand we can also source wood mulches such as gorse, broom, accacia
                                & tree-lucerne (tagasate), all of which are woody legumes & thus contain
                                plenty of nitrogen as wells as carbon. The ratio of carbon to nitrogen
                                (C:N) is all too critical, but seasonal effects of temperature &
                                availability of water are also critical. Mulches prevent evaporation &
                                conserve soil-water, but it is a mistake to think that we humans invented
                                compost, it has always occurred where climate allows. This generalistion
                                said, peat soils & 'fire-ecosystems' like under pine or eucalypt forests are
                                testament to soils where composting is often environmentally limited by lack
                                of water, or else excess of soil water (ie. lack of air)

                                regards

                                ----- Original Message -----
                                From: "jamie" <jamie@...>
                                To: <fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com>
                                Sent: Monday, June 16, 2003 11:10 AM
                                Subject: RE: [fukuoka_farming] Raised beds and compaction


                                > Hello Don, reading between the lines of your post (and thank you for the
                                > detail) would it be right to conclude that different mulches should be
                                used
                                > for different crops?
                                >
                                > I understand the reticence of an expert for sweeping generalisations but
                                > would you think wood chips are better for growing vines and fruit trees,
                                > cereal straw for most vegetables and pine needle duff for blueberries,
                                > strawberries etc.
                                >
                                > I guess what I'm asking is whether a table could be constructed offering
                                > rules of thumb of the type of mulch that suits different crops?
                                >
                                > Jamie
                                > Souscayrous
                                >
                                > -----Original Message-----
                                > From: Don Graves [mailto:dgraves@...]
                                > Sent: Sunday, June 15, 2003 12:42 AM
                                > To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
                                > Subject: Re: [fukuoka_farming] Raised beds and compaction
                                >
                                > Hi Jamie, John & others
                                > Thanks Jamie for an invitation to comment on surface mulching, C/N ratios
                                &
                                > plant nutrient uptake...
                                > & thanks also to some brilliant comments & poetry on Fuluoka, raised &
                                flat
                                > beds,
                                > awesome communications happening here.
                                >
                                > Firstly, I agree with the recent comments about using FLAT beds. What we
                                > need to provide for healthy plant growth is dedicated pathways to avoid
                                soil
                                > compaction around plant roots. Plant roots need to breath air, not
                                > suffocate in compacted soils, or else be drowned in saturated or poorly
                                > drained soils.
                                > In dry seasons or climates, raised beds can & do result in plant & soil
                                > drought, ie. too much drainage resulting from too much human work /
                                > interference
                                >
                                > Secondly, & at risk of sounding like I think I know it all, & I know too
                                > well that no-one can be that presumptive,
                                > however, .... here are a few soil ecological comments regarding the use of
                                > mulches of soil fungi, including mycorrhizas
                                >
                                > The use of introduced 'duff' or leaf litter from under trees & bushes is
                                > likely to contain species of decomposing fungi of the 'Basidiomycete' &
                                > 'Ascomycete' fungal groups. These 2 large groups of decomposing fungi
                                also
                                > form fungal partnerships or mycorrhizal symbioses (called ECTOMYCORRHIZAS)
                                > with other 'woody' plants, & are therefore most suited for use with
                                similar
                                > crop / garden plants. This is a rather big ecological generalisation, &
                                > there are some plants like the heathers & blueberries that have very
                                > specific needs for fungal partners.
                                >
                                > On the other hand, topsoil obtained from under pasture, weeds & crops is
                                > most likely to contain a different group of fungi called 'Zygomycetes'.
                                > These Zygomycete fungi form (ENDOMYCORRHIZAS) & most importantly need to
                                > have living plant roots in which to live, they cannot live live by
                                > decomposition alone as may ectomycorrhizas. This latter group of fungi
                                are
                                > also called ARBUSCULAR MYCORRHIZAS, or ARBUSCULAR MYCORRHIZAL FUNGI.
                                >
                                > Until very recently it was well known (by mycorrhiza scientists) that
                                > ectomycorrhizal symbiotic plants can access soil organic matter nutrients
                                > including P (phosphorous) & N (nitrogen). However, most conventional
                                plant
                                > growers have falsely understood that plants can only uptake or require
                                > 'inorganic' or water-soluble nutrients, ... & thus many growers have often
                                > relied on 'chemical' fertiliser inputs.
                                >
                                > Recently, it has been 'discovered' that plants forming symbioses
                                > (partnerships) with endomycorrhizas / arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, can
                                not
                                > only access soil P (phosphates) not otherwise available, but may also gain
                                > access soil organic matter N (nitrogen).
                                >
                                > Scientific knowledge is always growing, never static or unchallenged
                                > MOST scientists & other so-called "experts" are humble enough to realise
                                > that
                                > "THE MORE WE KNOW ... THE MORE WE KNOW THAT THERE IS MUCH MORE TO KNOW",
                                > & additionally WE HUMANS CAN NEVER KNOW IT ALL
                                >
                                > That said, there is also a common maxim with 'organic' production methods
                                > PLANTS NEED NUTRIENTS "LITTLE & OFTEN"
                                > The above maxim is also known to those people who still rely on using
                                > "slow-release" chemical fertilisers
                                > ie. fertilisers that are too concetrated will 'burn' plant roots,
                                > MORE IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER
                                >
                                > Finally, at risk of making too many generalisations:
                                > mixing mulch with soil helps the effective use soil micro-organisms.
                                > .... think of the surface area of mulch exposed to soil & decomposition
                                > As has previously been discussed in this group,
                                > ... soil (N) Nitrogen 'robbing' can be a big problem to plants if too much
                                > (C) carbon mulch is introduced at one time.
                                >
                                > yours ... (humbly)
                                >
                                > Don Graves
                                > MSc (Plant Biology)
                                >
                                > ----- Original Message -----
                                > From: "jamie" <jamie@...>
                                > To: <fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com>
                                > Sent: Sunday, June 15, 2003 2:48 AM
                                > Subject: RE: [fukuoka_farming] Raised beds and compaction
                                >
                                >
                                > > Hello John, I'm going to check into Lemieux, Fukuoka and Emilia
                                > (Hazelip's)
                                > > work and get back to you with some actual details of the effect of wood
                                > > chips surface applied. Considering that healthy soil is as stratified as
                                > its
                                > > aboveground counterpart (canopy, subcanopy, bush, ground cover, vine
                                etc)
                                > I
                                > > suspect surface application wont be entirely disruptive and if enough
                                > white
                                > > rot (basidiomycetes) is present at the surface due to leaf mold/earlier
                                > > chipped wood applications, I would imagine the C/N ratio not to be a
                                > problem
                                > > (ie nitrogen will remain available to plants) and innocculation of the
                                > > chipped wood with a layer of mulch (duff) from beneath local trees might
                                > be
                                > > enough to get the decaying cycle going. But actual detail is needed and,
                                > as
                                > > I say, I'll check around and see if I can come up with anything
                                concrete.
                                > >
                                > > Perhaps Don (Graves) has something to add...?
                                > >
                                > > Jamie
                                > > Souscayrous
                                > >
                                > >
                                > > -----Original Message-----
                                > > From: John Frederick [mailto:oldyellowhide@...]
                                > > Sent: Friday, June 13, 2003 12:54 PM
                                > > To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
                                > > Subject: RE: [fukuoka_farming] Raised beds and compaction
                                > >
                                > > Hello Jamie,
                                > > Thanks for appreciating what I feel is a key link in our understanding
                                of
                                > > nutrient cycles, something that I'm not quite clear on and which I feel
                                > will
                                > > be of great practical benefit when we include this understanding in our
                                > > work.
                                > > It's commonly accepted among experienced farmers and gardeners I know
                                that
                                > > applying undecayed mulch to the soil causes a temporay drop in
                                nitrogen -
                                > > for a few weeks, they say. My understanding is that this is because the
                                > soil
                                > > bacteria live off the mulch. But when the mulch is all gone, composted,
                                > > decayed, more bacteria perish for lack of victuals. This makes their
                                > > nitrogen-rich remains available for the plants to gain nourishment from,
                                > so
                                > > there is an increase in nitrogen, as if fully ripe compost were applied.
                                > > The nitrogen in the soil is stored mainly in the animal bodies, carbon
                                in
                                > > the plants. When the animals (bacteria mainly, in this case) have enough
                                > to
                                > > eat, not so many die. When the food supply drops, more die - nitrogen
                                > > increase. When there is a sudden increase in food supply, the bacteria
                                > > multiply, using up all available nitrogen - nitrogen shortage.
                                > >
                                > > Any comments?
                                > > John Frederick
                                > >
                                > >
                                > > jamie <jamie@...> wrote:
                                > > Hello John (Frederick), you ask an interesting question: "Is it correct
                                > that
                                > > the continuous mulching of fresh layers upon older layers does not cause
                                > the
                                > > drop in nitrogen that fresh mulching causes? And is this because the
                                soil
                                > > bacteria population is stable in the lower, older layers, so the amount
                                of
                                > > nitrogen from dying bacteria remains more constant?"
                                > >
                                > > I've also been wondering about the nitrogen hogging effect of mulch,
                                > though
                                > > in my case it has been the application of hardwood chips as advocated by
                                > > Gilles Lemieux that I'm interested in. My understanding would be that as
                                a
                                > > surface application the chips (and therefore fresh mulch) would not tie
                                up
                                > > the nitrogen. Is this wishful thinking or have others experience of
                                this?
                                > I
                                > > know Lemieux began by incorporating the chipped wood into the soil and
                                > > adding manure as a counter to the high carbon ratio, but believe he
                                > changed
                                > > to a surface, mulch application without the manure.
                                > >
                                > > Jamie
                                > > Souscayrous
                                > >
                                > >
                                > > Yahoo! Groups SponsorADVERTISEMENT
                                > >
                                > > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
                                > > fukuoka_farming-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
                                > >
                                > >
                                > >
                                > > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.
                                > >
                                > >
                                > > ---------------------------------
                                > > Do you Yahoo!?
                                > > Free online calendar with sync to Outlook(TM).
                                > >
                                > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                > >
                                > >
                                > >
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                                > > fukuoka_farming-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
                                > >
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                                http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
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                              • jamie
                                Thanks Don, plenty to mull over in your post below: especially brassica s lack of mycorrhizal symbionts (which I recall you ve mentioned before). To establish
                                Message 15 of 16 , Jun 16 5:13 AM
                                • 0 Attachment
                                  Thanks Don, plenty to mull over in your post below: especially brassica's
                                  lack of mycorrhizal symbionts (which I recall you've mentioned before). To
                                  establish the auto-fertile soil advocated by Emilia I'd agree that a diverse
                                  green manure seeding is essential - and I didn't know that lupins (my green
                                  manure choice for the coming autumn following the principles of Roman
                                  farmers) and buckwheat (wont do well in my basic (alkaline) soil) shared the
                                  same lack of mycorrhiza symbiosis.

                                  Having had no success with clover (the grass prospered in the dry conditions
                                  of a dry spring in raised beds) I've hopes for a volunteer (small yellow
                                  pea-like flowers that form thin pods of 4-6 seeds, the mature plant with
                                  rounded grey/green leaves with semi-recumbent stems with many nodules on the
                                  roots - identification anyone?) that has moved in to many of the raised
                                  beds. For use as a perennial cover crop not short-season green manure.

                                  Any recommendations (or cautions) on using wild oats as a green manure?

                                  Jamie
                                  Souscayrous



                                  -----Original Message-----
                                  From: Don Graves [mailto:dgraves@...]
                                  Sent: Monday, June 16, 2003 1:06 AM
                                  To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
                                  Subject: Re: [fukuoka_farming] Raised beds and compaction

                                  Hi Jamie
                                  Yes, in general I would reccomend different mulches for different crops.

                                  As I have previously discussed, many green manures can provide a good
                                  in-situ mulch as a rotation prior to direct drilling (or seedballs). I
                                  personally advise against relying on green manure monocultures of brassicas
                                  (eg. mustard), lupins & buckwheat, as these plants are non-hosts of
                                  mycorrhizas. I therefore reccomend green manure mixtures, not necessarily
                                  exluding the previously mentioned plants, but also including wheat, barley,
                                  clover, peas, rye corn & rye grass, (& weeds) that may act as hosts of
                                  mycorrhizal fungi.
                                  The use of imported & or loose cut & low weight mulches like straw can also
                                  be somewhat problematic if there is inadequate shelter, ie. wind & or
                                  rainwater runoff can denude & expose bare soils to possible problems of
                                  accelerated soil erosion or drought. The use of so-called 'anchored'
                                  mulches is a common practice in commercial broad-acre crops that are
                                  herbicide-reliant 'conservation-tillage' practices. The term 'anchored'
                                  merely refers to plant mulches that still have their roots in the soil.

                                  In New Zealand we now have a number of commercially available organically
                                  certified herbicides that are similar in their actions to conventional
                                  'dessicant' herbicides. These new organic certified herbicides are not
                                  'systemic' herbicides that are translocated throughout whole plants, &
                                  therefore some plants (especially grasses) are not completely killed & may
                                  thus regrow & cause nutrient & resource competition with establishing crop
                                  rotations. Steam weeders also have limited herbicide action, but can be
                                  very useful at times, flame weeding is OK for younger green manures, but is
                                  obviously not suitable for drier plant mulches like straw etc.

                                  Returning to the subject of use of woody mulches,
                                  In temperate climate New Zealand gardens, some materials like pine bark
                                  chips make excelent mulches for flower or vegetable beds, & under shrubs or
                                  around trees. The use of woodchips or sawdust is still OK, but obvioulsy
                                  for most such wood by-products they are almost entirely Carbon, & thus soil
                                  bacteria involved in breaking these down have a strong demand for Nitrogen.
                                  One way of alleviating this problem is to pre-compost or partially compost
                                  such mulches prior to layering them on soil surfaces around crop plants.
                                  Obviously urine & or bird manures are good sources of nitrogen in such
                                  composts, but if these are not available or unacceptable to nearby
                                  neighbours, I can reccomend mixing of sawdust or woodchips with biologically
                                  active topsoils & or 'duff' ( as previously discussed).
                                  In New Zealand we can also source wood mulches such as gorse, broom, accacia
                                  & tree-lucerne (tagasate), all of which are woody legumes & thus contain
                                  plenty of nitrogen as wells as carbon. The ratio of carbon to nitrogen
                                  (C:N) is all too critical, but seasonal effects of temperature &
                                  availability of water are also critical. Mulches prevent evaporation &
                                  conserve soil-water, but it is a mistake to think that we humans invented
                                  compost, it has always occurred where climate allows. This generalistion
                                  said, peat soils & 'fire-ecosystems' like under pine or eucalypt forests are
                                  testament to soils where composting is often environmentally limited by lack
                                  of water, or else excess of soil water (ie. lack of air)

                                  regards

                                  ...snip
                                • offeringsoftheland
                                  --hi John, while you are gone thought i might take a look at what you were up to before i droped in. do you recall in natural way of farming that Fukouka
                                  Message 16 of 16 , Nov 18, 2003
                                  • 0 Attachment
                                    --hi John,

                                    while you are gone thought i might take a look at what you were up
                                    to before i droped in.
                                    do you recall in "natural way of farming" that Fukouka sold some of
                                    rice and manderians at some local markets?


                                    Les



                                    - In fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com, "John Warner" <daddyoat@n...>
                                    wrote:
                                    > Hello Farmers!
                                    >
                                    > I'll start this with a story. In the 70s, I was teaching an adult
                                    school class on vegetable and fruit production for home gardeners.
                                    Since most of my experience has been with ornamentals, I was glad to
                                    have in class a retired fire fighter and organic gardener, Roland,
                                    who had grown vegetables for many years and had lots of comparative
                                    experience with the various varieties of them. At the time, the
                                    latest rage was French intenisve. The class divided itself up, 3 or
                                    4 students to a group, and we set about constructing raised beds.
                                    Not having much of an opinion on whether the beds should be
                                    compacted or not, when I demonstrated leveling and shaping, I stood
                                    and stepped right on the 5' beds as, I presume, most of the people
                                    in the groups did. I recall that that the group Roland was in had
                                    by far the most perfectly shaped and leveled bed and they were very
                                    careful to do all their work from the pathways, including the
                                    seeding. The problem was, though, that none of their stuff came up
                                    while seeds in the other beds germinated quite nicely. [Watering
                                    was done overhead with impact sprinklers.] On investigation we
                                    concluded that the bed was just too fluffy to hold enough water. So
                                    we all got a good lesson on seedbed construction and since then I
                                    have never hesitated to walk and step on beds. In fact when I
                                    construct them now, I'll often roll them down with the tires of a
                                    lawn tractor. I think Aaron may really be on to something by
                                    compacting clay in his beds.
                                    >
                                    > One of the more serious problems I have found in my 7 years or so
                                    experience with permanent mulch is that soil structure becomes so
                                    open under the mulch that there is little lateral spreading of
                                    water. With overhead watering this may not be much of a problem but
                                    cut flowers can't be grown with much success under overhead water.
                                    As soon as snapdragons and godetia, for example, come in flower
                                    they'll lodge right down under the weight of the water. Stems bend
                                    upward and the crop is essentially a loss. So we use drip tape.
                                    >
                                    > In the early years the garden was laid out in rows with single
                                    lines of trip tape 3' apart. For a while this worked well but,
                                    under permanent mulch, quality actually began to fall off--not at
                                    all what I was expecting. There was tip burn on the zinnia petals
                                    and the plants were actually showing some signs of water stress.
                                    Investigation indicated that the water from the drip lines was
                                    essentially going straight down to the hardpan before spreading
                                    out. I think that under permanent mulch the main idea on watering
                                    should be to minimize drying in the upper inches. This is where all
                                    the action is biologically and where nutrients get released from the
                                    organic matter and the action of that organic matter on the mineral
                                    component of the soil. Deep irrigation draws roots down to the
                                    subsoil which, in my case, is loaded with salts.
                                    >
                                    > I think that the biggest waste of time in all the world of farming
                                    and gardening is double-digging. This just burries the better soil
                                    and pulls the poorer up. Additionally, like all tillage, it
                                    destrioys soil structure [favorable aggregation of soil
                                    particles]. I can recall someone writing on a website somewhere
                                    something to the effect that "A year after double-digging my beds I
                                    could stick my arm in the soil up to my elbow." What a bunch of
                                    hooey! Felt like I'd stepped in something stinky. The second
                                    biggest waste of time is making compost which is a lot like making
                                    water run downhill. A huge amount of energy is spent on doing what
                                    happens of itself anyway.
                                    >
                                    > My beds are 150' long and 4 or 5' wide not including the
                                    shoulders. Typically, six lines of drip tape are run over the bed 9
                                    inches apart covering 45 inches. Emitters are 8 inches apart along
                                    the tape, closer than the 12 inch spacing I was using at the start.
                                    I try to get the water on as fast as possible for maximum lateral
                                    spreading.. With no compunctions about stepping on the beds, my
                                    beds are longer and wider than they might otherwise be. We step
                                    into the beds to plant, weed, harvest and cut through them in the
                                    course of putting together our bouquets in the field. If anything,
                                    I consider the compaction is beneficial. These beds, of course, are
                                    never tilled. Once built up with soil, they are mulched before each
                                    planting with leaves, grassclippings, prunings brought free by
                                    maintenance gardeners.
                                    >
                                    > Gloria was talking about planting on slopes and there is lots of
                                    merit to the idea. Our slopes are the bed-shoulders which make a
                                    great enviornment for plants that prefer being on the dry side. All
                                    statice fall in this category and they stay low and are easy to step
                                    through when harvesting the main crop planted along the driplines.
                                    Yarrows are also great on shoulders. We also plant broom corn [a
                                    sorghum] on shoulders and sweetcorn as well with plants spaced far
                                    enough apart to easily step between. These tall plantings
                                    ameliorate wind and sun.
                                    >
                                    > To paraphrase Ruth Stout, mulch may not do a hundred-one things,
                                    but it will surely do a hundred. I think that there is no cause
                                    whatsoever to worry about compaction of permanently mulched beds by
                                    anything less than heavy machinery. As a fix for compacted soil the
                                    only thing better might be a deep-rooted cover crop such as alfalfa
                                    or sweetclover.
                                    >
                                    > Good growing for all. . .
                                    >
                                    > John
                                    > Near Fresno, California
                                    >
                                    >
                                    >
                                    >
                                    > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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