One of the things I did today is plant wheat and I want to share a bit with you on how I plant. Usually I plant flowers, less frequently vegetables, but today it was wheat. This was a wheat variety called hard white pacific bluestone [or something to that effect] I got from Bountiful Gardens in Willits, California. These are the biointensive people that use beds quite similar to the ones I use but our methodologies are a bit different.
Biointensive people double-dig their beds but I would never think of doing that. Too much work and, I believe, it's counterproductive in that this deep tillage destroys soil structure. This is what my old soil science professor, Dr Carter, told me back in the 1050s and I think it's just about the truest statement about soil that I have ever heard. Another difference is that while they plant tightly, I plant at the greatest distance that will allow the plants to full the bed and let them branch and fill the bed in accordance with the agricultural law of compensation which says tells us that even a sparse plant covering at the beginning will fill all the available space. There is a limit to this, of course. But to put some numbers on it it works like this: Many plants can be set out at 9 by 9 inch spacing or at 18 by 18 inch spacing and, in the end, the plants would fill their beds. You see, I hate work and try to incorporate minimum work practices and this is one of the best ones because doubling the spacing cuts the work of planting to only 25% of the closer spacing. I like that. That's real economy. See Masanobu Fukuoka's book, "The Natural Way of Farming" for more on the law of compensation, page 60.
But back to wheat. I planted it 23 days ago in 200 cell plug trays, one grain to a cell. Each cell is about 1 inch square at the top and tapers down to a blunt point. They could have grown for a few more days so the roots would better hold the soil together, but it is hard to kill wheat. I filled in the spaces in a bed of stocks that has not been doing very well. This bed is a relatively new one with less developed soil so I think this was the problem. Stocks planted out from the same flat in a mature bed are doing very well. So I was sticking them in here and there throughout the 50 foot bed of stocks and planted about half the flat.
Since I couldn't find my regular planting tool, a 3/8 inch cordless drill with, in this case, a 7/8 inch auger [it's just a regular wood auger, a long one, modified with a grinder on the tip to better cut the soil], I used a l used a 3 foot long dibble, made from a broom handle.
I just walked along poking holes here and there with the dibble with the tray of wheat cradled on my left arm. After every several holes, I'd leave the dibble in the last hole and drop plugs of wheat near each hole. Then I crawled along on my knees planting the plugs and weeding the bed at the same time. There were few weeds due to the mulch and previous weedings. The soil gets a good pinch around the plug and the planting was followed by a hand watering with fan spray on a hose.
Just about everything gets started in plug trays. We spend hundreds every year for seeds and there is too much loss from direct seeding. Unlike other agricultural operations, we plant every month of the year. We are always starting babies and if they are scattered all over the garden, it's a nightmare trying to keep them watered. Starting plants from plugs gets the jump on weeds too, so in the end, it's less work. A major focus of my work is to reduce labor inputs. This is the only way a market gardener in a global economy can stay in afloat. My interest in natural farming centers around getting the garden system to do the work, as in an ecosystem, rather than me.
I enjoy sharing my experience and I particularly enjoy reading about the experiences of others and what they are thinking. But I have decided that I am not engaging in any dialog on the forums. I'm speaking of answering questions and carrying out public conversations with individual members. My observation is that the postings become trivialized when this happens and sometimes people get worked up emotionally, make accusations and the tone of things deteriorates. In 12-Step meetings these public conversations are called "cross talk" and are avoided because eventually groups that allow it flounder and I think the forums are at risk here too. In public conversations, egos move to the front burner. So I will set the example of what I would like to see. If you would like to contact me personally, please use regular email.
Thanks and best wishes to all . . .
Whole Systems Agriculture
No-tractor market growers since 1995 near Fresno, California
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