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Natural Gardening in An Arid Climate

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  • benonthenet
    After a hiatus from gardening for going on a year, I need some advice. In my natural (fukuokan) gardening as I practiced it in the past, I did things as Mr. F
    Message 1 of 10 , Aug 23, 2005
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      After a hiatus from gardening for going on a year, I need some advice. In my natural
      (fukuokan) gardening as I practiced it in the past, I did things as Mr. F did on his farm. Over
      time I modified things so that I'd plant in blocks instead of simply casting out seed at
      random. I also came up with a planting calendar that works in my Southern California climate
      allowing me to rely only on rainfall for irrigation.

      However, I maintained the practiced of leaving plant matter from the garden and
      compostables from the kitchen on the ground to compost in place. This only seemed to work
      during the few weeks to months when we get rain. Otherwise, the organic matter just sits
      there on the ground without decomposing for a long time (a year or more). There just isn't
      enough water to break down organic matter quickly. And in a small garden there isn't enough
      space to put so much matter on the ground and have the space usable and not unsightly.

      So how do I modify this practice to make it practical? Should I go back to composting? What
      are others in a similar climate doing.

      Please help! :-)

      Benjamin
      Long Beach, CA
    • Ingrid Bauer/Jean-Claude Catry
      ... hello benjamin i don t have that much experience except that in the summer , here also , the decomposition slow down drastically . Adding some rock dust or
      Message 2 of 10 , Aug 23, 2005
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        > > However, I maintained the practiced of leaving plant matter from the
        > > garden and
        > compostables from the kitchen on the ground to compost in place. This only
        > seemed to work
        > during the few weeks to months when we get rain. Otherwise, the organic
        > matter just sits
        > there on the ground without decomposing for a long time (a year or more).
        > There just isn't
        > enough water to break down organic matter quickly. And in a small garden
        > there isn't enough
        > space to put so much matter on the ground and have the space usable and
        > not unsightly.
        >
        > So how do I modify this practice to make it practical? Should I go back to
        > composting? What
        > are others in a similar climate doing.

        hello benjamin
        i don't have that much experience except that in the summer , here also ,
        the decomposition slow down drastically .
        Adding some rock dust or ashes to organic matter help it to decompose
        quicker ( microorganisms love the combinaison of the 2 .) if during the dry
        season the organic matter doesn't decompose it might be more aesthetic to
        not add too much kitchen compost on vegetable beds and reserve it for bushes
        and trees . for the weeds shop them down with a machete on a piece of wood ,
        that will help them rotting drastically , also mulch over the organic matter
        with rocks allowing enough moisture to condensate on the underface and worms
        to do the job right at the surface .
        let me know how does it work.
        jean-claude
      • Robin, Maya, or Napi
        We agree, Benjamin, For our school project in Richmond, Virginia, we just try to chop the cafeteria compost into small enough pieces that they are no longer
        Message 3 of 10 , Aug 23, 2005
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          We agree, Benjamin,

          For our school project in Richmond, Virginia, we just try to chop the cafeteria compost into small enough pieces that they are no longer recognizable. A big cutting board, a cleaver & a sharpener work well
          in skilled hands. For the less-practiced in knife handling, smaller blades & less vigorous whacking are much safer.

          Each day we may scatter big bowls of such ingredients as chopped outer leaves of cabbage, green pepper innards, egg shells, apple cores, orange peels, & plate scrapings, but it blends in enough not to be
          unsightly. Even when it is somewhat noticeable as a confetti of color, it is not offensive to us like big hunks & whole banana peels would be. It could be considered something like scattered lasagna gardening
          if we used a top layer of mulch or cardboard. We do collect bags of leaves from the street-side collection sites in the fall, to toss a few handsful as topping when they seem to be needed for neatness sake.

          An exception to the chopping is corn husks, which are a greater quantity & toughness after our meals than we would process. They are used more as a leaf mulch would be. We do also have a brush compost for
          large biodegradables from the park & playground. The branch pile arrangement has been a habitat for a 'possum who enjoys the gourmet compost of corn cobs.

          The visual effect of our 'compost' system is not entirely natural-looking, but it is acceptably garden-looking, in that we say a garden is a particular place where nature is teaching us about growing
          plants. In keeping with our own sense of landscape composition; the brush / long-term-compost pile is framed up with wattle-woven branches.

          The compost area is perceptually walled off from a favorite climbing tree with a random height 'pier' of tree slices from one to three feet high. The tree trunk chunks will be around for many years. They
          are the remains of the last hurricane that routed through here, removed from the streets & reduced by a brigade of helpful neighbors who have chain saws. So, we use whatever comes along to compost over time as
          subtly as possible or arrange it as intentionally as necessary.
          Best wishes,
          N

          benonthenet wrote:

          > ...However, I maintained the practiced of leaving plant matter from the garden and
          > compostables from the kitchen on the ground to compost in place. This only seemed to work
          > during the few weeks to months when we get rain. Otherwise, the organic matter just sits
          > there on the ground without decomposing for a long time (a year or more). There just isn't
          > enough water to break down organic matter quickly. And in a small garden there isn't enough
          > space to put so much matter on the ground and have the space usable and not unsightly.
        • Faith Arnold
          Hi Benjamin, By blocks do you mean soil blocks to seed into (as in little pots), or planting in blocks (square areas) of the garden? So what have you
          Message 4 of 10 , Aug 23, 2005
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            Hi Benjamin,

            By "blocks" do you mean soil blocks to seed into (as in little pots), or planting in "blocks" (square areas) of the garden?

            So what have you gotten to grow so far? Are you really just "dry farming" your garden? It limits you to only winter/early spring crops, without added irrigation. I've thought that in a good year one could get a harvest with just rainfall of things like chickpeas, fava beans, regular peas, winter wheat, oats, rye, barley, lentils, sunflowers, artichokes, etc., and you can set out tomatoes and squash about February (earlier if the weather is nice and you are in a frost-free spot) and you get rains later into the spring. I haven't been very sucessful with corn during the winter. It really doesn't do much until the weather warms up a little, but it is possible to start it in a cold frame or indoors and set it out after the temp is better. You might get an early variety to ripen just with the rains.

            As far as the dead plant residue goes, Nature just leaves it sitting around on the surface. Usually by the end of the rainy season, the finer stuff is more or less broken down, like the dry grasses from the previous year. If you spread it on the surface and don't water, there is nothing you can do about the way it looks unless you put it through a shredder first.

            My experience with compost piles around here is that, in very short order, they are wall to wall with sow bugs, which, contrary to what some sources tell you, will eat the heck out of your plants, (especially small seedlings, and tender parts like flowers). If I were going to do a compost pile again, I would do it in a fenced-in area and get a couple of ducks, or some banty hens, to eat the crawly critters. You can catch some of the sow bugs by putting out cabbage leaves, then checking under them every day. The only way to avoid a sow bug population explosion when composting is to do a rapid, hot pile, like with a lot of horse maunure, etc, and turn it frequently. It will heat up to 150 or even 160 degrees in the center if it is really cooking. You keep turning the cool outside part into the hot center every few days, and it seriously discourages the bugs. Then later, after it finishes and cools down, you get the sow bugs! (Now, where are those hungry chickens...? ) Actually, sow bugs can only live where it is damp... if they dry out they will die (they breathe with gills like all crustaceans), but, unfortunately, the only way to make a compost pile is to keep it damp.

            Anyway, if it was me, I'd just water through the dry season, and get a lot more out of the garden. If you sheet-compost on the surface (mulch) and you water it, it will break down slowly just as it does during the rainy season. And you can always put some finer, prettier stuff on the top layer to make the garden look better, like ground bark, etc.

            Want to be really unnatural? Ever hear of a "carpet garden"? There is a book out there by that title. Some people use old carpet as a "mulch" layer over their whole entire garden... you can place layers of organic material underneath it to feed the soil and plants... then cut slits in the carpet and plant through the slits (transplanting works best but if you prop the slits open you can also start seeds)... it holds in the moisture, no weeds, no mud, fewer bugs, clean plants, clean you, nice surface to work on (but you will still get sow bugs and some earwigs and slugs underneath the carpet). I know, I know, it is So un-Fukuoka-ish. But I just had to toss that one out while on the subject of mulches. I've used it on pathways... it actually works great. Just stay away from real wool carpets that may have been treated with some kind of a moth killer.

            Faith Arnold
            ----- Original Message -----
            From: benonthenet
            To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
            Sent: Tuesday, August 23, 2005 4:36 PM
            Subject: [fukuoka_farming] Natural Gardening in An Arid Climate


            After a hiatus from gardening for going on a year, I need some advice. In my natural
            (fukuokan) gardening as I practiced it in the past, I did things as Mr. F did on his farm. Over
            time I modified things so that I'd plant in blocks instead of simply casting out seed at
            random. I also came up with a planting calendar that works in my Southern California climate
            allowing me to rely only on rainfall for irrigation.

            However, I maintained the practiced of leaving plant matter from the garden and
            compostables from the kitchen on the ground to compost in place. This only seemed to work
            during the few weeks to months when we get rain. Otherwise, the organic matter just sits
            there on the ground without decomposing for a long time (a year or more). There just isn't
            enough water to break down organic matter quickly. And in a small garden there isn't enough
            space to put so much matter on the ground and have the space usable and not unsightly.

            So how do I modify this practice to make it practical? Should I go back to composting? What
            are others in a similar climate doing.

            Please help! :-)

            Benjamin
            Long Beach, CA



            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Beatrice Gilboa
            hello Benjamin , ... garden and compostables from the kitchen on the ground to compost in place. This only seemed to work during the few weeks to months when
            Message 5 of 10 , Aug 24, 2005
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              hello Benjamin ,

              You wrote:
              >>However, I maintained the practiced of leaving plant matter from the
              garden and
              compostables from the kitchen on the ground to compost in place. This only
              seemed to work
              during the few weeks to months when we get rain. Otherwise, the organic
              matter just sits
              there on the ground without decomposing for a long time (a year or more).
              There just isn't
              enough water to break down organic matter quickly. And in a small garden
              there isn't enough
              space to put so much matter on the ground and have the space usable and not
              unsightly.

              >> So how do I modify this practice to make it practical? Should I go back
              to composting? What
              are others in a similar climate doing.

              - I'm sharing this difficult dryness with you.
              I've got in reserve leaves form the winter, and put the fresh compostable
              plants and peels from the kitchen under au layer of dry leaves... It's more
              aesthetic and freshness keeps longer. Then I'm ready to wait the next
              rainseason for it to decompose.
              I find the idea of mulching with rocks allowing moisture to condensate as is
              saying Jean Claude is good but quite a work to remove it each time that we
              need to add the kitchen peeling etc.

              So part of the time I've not this patience and i'm composting apart this
              with neighbourg that are composting and giving me there compost... According
              my mood, I'm using these two ways...

              And when these neighbourgs are using there air conditionned, I'm using the
              water that goes out of it, extending the pipe until my garden ;-) That is
              helping to decompose out of the rainseason... but not really in harmony with
              the rythm of the nature here...!

              Best wishes
              Beatrice

              Udim, Israel
            • benonthenet
              Hi faith! ... (square areas) of the garden? I mean that I plant in square or rectangular areas in the garden. ... Yes, I dry farm. Living where I do, I have a
              Message 6 of 10 , Aug 24, 2005
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                Hi faith!

                > By "blocks" do you mean soil blocks to seed into (as in little pots), or planting in "blocks"
                (square areas) of the garden?

                I mean that I plant in square or rectangular areas in the garden.

                > So what have you gotten to grow so far? Are you really just "dry farming" your garden?

                Yes, I dry farm. Living where I do, I have a problem with using imported water from other
                ecosystems (the Colorado River and rivers and lakes north of here) to support my garden. I
                have grown quite a small variety of crops in my experimentation. Even during the
                summers I can still get a nice harvest of some of my crops without adding water.

                The soil here has a high clay content which is excellent for holding moisture if it is covered
                with a good layer of mulch. And I plant only drought tolerant crops to get me through that
                time. During the rainy season the garden just "pops" teeming with green life. I can plant all
                the usual cool season crops that need plenty of water. With a large enough garden it would
                be more than possible to grow all that I need to eat without irrigation.

                Of course, if I can do some rain water harvesting, I would only enhance the garden.
                However, I don't have the opportunity to that right now.

                As far as the sow bugs. I love the little critters! I haven't had a problem with them eating
                my plants since it is dry. But they do love to nibble up with moist layer of decomposing
                matter on the ground. And yes they did "infest" my compost piles in the past. But never
                seemed to be a problem. The slugs on the other hand....

                Benjamin
              • benonthenet
                Beatrice, Maybe I ll just buy some bails of straw to cover everything with. That way I can easily tuck kitchen waste and other compostables underneath without
                Message 7 of 10 , Aug 24, 2005
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                  Beatrice,

                  Maybe I'll just buy some bails of straw to cover everything with. That way I can easily tuck
                  kitchen waste and other compostables underneath without much work. Moving rocks every
                  time to do this is too much work for me. Although I like the idea of capturing surface
                  moisture from the air like that. We don't really have dew here so it might not do much
                  though.

                  I've done the stray thing before, but I have to buy it. I'd rather not be locked into buying
                  things for the garden since that doesn't free me from the "system". But until I find another
                  alternative, it would help.

                  Benjamin

                  --- In fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com, "Beatrice Gilboa" <b.gilboa@w...> wrote:
                  >
                  > hello Benjamin ,
                  >
                  > You wrote:
                  > >>However, I maintained the practiced of leaving plant matter from the
                  > garden and
                  > compostables from the kitchen on the ground to compost in place. This only
                  > seemed to work
                  > during the few weeks to months when we get rain. Otherwise, the organic
                  > matter just sits
                  > there on the ground without decomposing for a long time (a year or more).
                  > There just isn't
                  > enough water to break down organic matter quickly. And in a small garden
                  > there isn't enough
                  > space to put so much matter on the ground and have the space usable and not
                  > unsightly.
                  >
                  > >> So how do I modify this practice to make it practical? Should I go back
                  > to composting? What
                  > are others in a similar climate doing.
                  >
                  > - I'm sharing this difficult dryness with you.
                  > I've got in reserve leaves form the winter, and put the fresh compostable
                  > plants and peels from the kitchen under au layer of dry leaves... It's more
                  > aesthetic and freshness keeps longer. Then I'm ready to wait the next
                  > rainseason for it to decompose.
                  > I find the idea of mulching with rocks allowing moisture to condensate as is
                  > saying Jean Claude is good but quite a work to remove it each time that we
                  > need to add the kitchen peeling etc.
                  >
                  > So part of the time I've not this patience and i'm composting apart this
                  > with neighbourg that are composting and giving me there compost... According
                  > my mood, I'm using these two ways...
                  >
                  > And when these neighbourgs are using there air conditionned, I'm using the
                  > water that goes out of it, extending the pipe until my garden ;-) That is
                  > helping to decompose out of the rainseason... but not really in harmony with
                  > the rythm of the nature here...!
                  >
                  > Best wishes
                  > Beatrice
                  >
                  > Udim, Israel
                • Zack Domike
                  Re: Mellow-Yellow Natural Gardening in An Arid Climate A gentle reminder to use greywater from the house, except it is important to set aside urine for at
                  Message 8 of 10 , Aug 26, 2005
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                    Re: Mellow-Yellow Natural Gardening in An Arid Climate

                    A gentle reminder to use greywater from the house,
                    except it is important to set aside urine for at least
                    three days at 'room temperature' to reduce its
                    anti-microbial properties.

                    Zack in Puerto Montt, where there is more rain than sun.



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                  • partha biswas,9830511359
                    dear zack, where is puerto montt. thanks partha biswas ... Partha Biswas, National Park, PO-Naihati, Dt.-N.24 Pargs,743165,Ph.-9830511359
                    Message 9 of 10 , Aug 26, 2005
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                      dear zack,
                      where is puerto montt.

                      thanks
                      partha biswas
                      --- Zack Domike <arcada888@...> wrote:

                      > Re: Mellow-Yellow Natural Gardening in An Arid
                      > Climate
                      >
                      > A gentle reminder to use greywater from the house,
                      > except it is important to set aside urine for at
                      > least
                      > three days at 'room temperature' to reduce its
                      > anti-microbial properties.
                      >
                      > Zack in Puerto Montt, where there is more rain than
                      > sun.
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      > __________________________________
                      > Yahoo! Mail for Mobile
                      > Take Yahoo! Mail with you! Check email on your
                      > mobile phone.
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                      >


                      Partha Biswas, National Park, PO-Naihati, Dt.-N.24 Pargs,743165,Ph.-9830511359





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                    • benonthenet
                      Hi, Zack! Using grey water in the garden is illegal here. I d still do it though if I could, but my soon to be garden isn t located at my apartment. So, it
                      Message 10 of 10 , Aug 28, 2005
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                        Hi, Zack!

                        Using grey water in the garden is illegal here. I'd still do it though if I could, but my soon
                        to be garden isn't located at my apartment. So, it wouldn't be practical anyway.

                        Benjamin

                        --- In fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com, Zack Domike <arcada888@y...> wrote:
                        > Re: Mellow-Yellow Natural Gardening in An Arid Climate
                        >
                        > A gentle reminder to use greywater from the house,
                        > except it is important to set aside urine for at least
                        > three days at 'room temperature' to reduce its
                        > anti-microbial properties.
                        >
                        > Zack in Puerto Montt, where there is more rain than sun.
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > __________________________________
                        > Yahoo! Mail for Mobile
                        > Take Yahoo! Mail with you! Check email on your mobile phone.
                        > http://mobile.yahoo.com/learn/mail
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