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  • Inesinlove@aol.com
    I was posting for some advice on how to turn a lawn into a veggie garden and filed. I would like your voice on this from a natural farming stand point, since
    Message 1 of 9 , Apr 29, 2008
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      I was posting for some advice on how to turn a lawn into a veggie garden and
      filed. I would like your voice on this from a natural farming stand point,
      since I am familiar with all the other methods. I appreciate your experience
      and look forward hearing from you.
      Ines



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    • Dieter Brand
      ... Ines, Ideally you would use a cover crop to crowd out the grass and/or weeds, then cut the cover crop and transplant or sow into the mulch. In my
      Message 2 of 9 , May 3 2:43 PM
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        > ... how to turn a lawn into a veggie garden and filed. I would like
        > your voice on this from a natural farming stand point, ...

        Ines,

        Ideally you would use a cover crop to "crowd out" the grass and/or weeds, then cut the cover crop and transplant or sow into the mulch. In my experience this works only with very good soil. For any other type of soil you may have to use a different strategy. Here are three possible scenarios (A, B and C) for three different types of soil:

        A. Very good soil ("deep" and very fertile)
        You select a cover crop or a combination of cover crops that will grow well enough in your region to compete with and "crowd out" the existing vegetation (grass, weeds, etc.) and that can be cut without growing back. In my region, for example, lupines, fava beans, vetch and rye will grow in an existing stand of grass, while wheat, barley, field peas, etc. cannot compete. A good combination is rye with vetch. The rye produces a lot of root mass while the straw has weed suppressing properties, vetch, on the other hand will fix nitrogen, which your follow-on crop will be able to use. You need to cut the rye after the sheaves start to form but before the seeds harden. If you cut earlier, the rye will grow again, if you cut later it may reseed. With legumes such as lupines there are no such limitations, but ideally you cut during flowering.

        Alternately, you could also try and grow your vegetables in the cover crop without "killing" it first. This will only work with fast growing vegetables like daikon radishes for example. It will not work for most types of cabbages, lettuces, onions, carrots, etc. If you use a cover crop in this way, i.e., as a "living mulch" instead of as a "dead mulch", you best select a low growing clover. I have had pole beans and corn grow through a layer of clover without difficulty.

        If you are lucky, you can grow your vegetables in a year or two, but you still may have to manually remove weeds that keep on growing from tap roots or grasses like Bermuda grass. It is possible to crowd out Bermuda grass with closely spaced fast growing perennials like acacias, but the process can easily take three to five years.

        B. Poor soil (deep but unfertile soil, for example industrially farmed soil with low organic content)
        In the above example, you grow all your fertility on-site. With depleted soil, on the other hand, you may have to bring in organic matter from outside in the form of mulch, compost or manure. If there is still enough soil left, you can apply all the materials to the top. You first put down a layer of compost and/or manure which you cover with a layer of mulch. I usually don’t use more than ½ to 1 inch of compost topped by 1 to 2 inches of mulch since I believe that it is better to feed the soil frequently with small doses. If your aim is weed/grass suppression you will need thicker layers or use a weed-barrier such as cardboard or newspaper. In the past, printing inks used to include lead, which is poisonous. Now most inks are made of organic materials. I have tried newspaper once, but didn’t like it enough to repeat the exercise. You will find that weeds will come back anyways. Even if you manage to suppress the original weeds or grass with a vast amount of mulch or
        cardboard, you will still need a rigorous cover crop management à la Fukuoka to keep the weeds from coming back.
        You can sow into or under the various layers or transplant through all the layers. After a couple of years you may be able to switch to method A.

        C. Very poor soil (most of the top soil is eroded and only rubble and subsoil is left)
        In this case it may not be enough to apply the organic matter to the top. You may have to work well cured compost into the top 10 to 12 inches of soil so as to build a new layer of topsoil. It is best to only use well composted material because uncomposted organic matter doesn’t decompose well under anaerobic conditions when dug into the soil. When you need to disturb the soil, it is best to avoid hot and sunny days and times when the soil is water-logged. Make sure to always cover the soil after disturbing it. You can sow before you put down the mulch or you can plant through the mulch. If you don’t have any vegetables to plant, then sow a cover crop. The primary function of mulching is not to suppress growth, on the contrary, you need to encourage vegetation by any means. Better weeds than no vegetation at all. The soil enriches itself by producing vegetation. A bare soil is dead soil.

        After 2 to 3 years the soil may have improved sufficiently for you to be able to switch to method B. above.

        Dieter Brand
        Portugal



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      • Nandan Palaparambil
        Dieter, I have a question on this, please find it in the mail body below - under question. ... Ines, Ideally you would use a cover crop to crowd out the
        Message 3 of 9 , May 3 7:39 PM
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          Dieter,

          I have a question on this, please find it in the mail body below - under question.

          Dieter Brand <diebrand@...> wrote:
          > ... how to turn a lawn into a veggie garden and filed. I would like
          > your voice on this from a natural farming stand point, ...

          Ines,

          Ideally you would use a cover crop to "crowd out" the grass and/or weeds, then cut the cover crop and transplant or sow into the mulch. In my experience this works only with very good soil. For any other type of soil you may have to use a different strategy. Here are three possible scenarios (A, B and C) for three different types of soil:

          A. Very good soil ("deep" and very fertile)
          You select a cover crop or a combination of cover crops that will grow well enough in your region to compete with and "crowd out" the existing vegetation (grass, weeds, etc.) and that can be cut without growing back. In my region, for example, lupines, fava beans, vetch and rye will grow in an existing stand of grass, while wheat, barley, field peas, etc. cannot compete. A good combination is rye with vetch. The rye produces a lot of root mass while the straw has weed suppressing properties, vetch, on the other hand will fix nitrogen, which your follow-on crop will be able to use. You need to cut the rye after the sheaves start to form but before the seeds harden. If you cut earlier, the rye will grow again, if you cut later it may reseed. With legumes such as lupines there are no such limitations, but ideally you cut during flowering.

          Alternately, you could also try and grow your vegetables in the cover crop without "killing" it first. This will only work with fast growing vegetables like daikon radishes for example. It will not work for most types of cabbages, lettuces, onions, carrots, etc.
          Question - If we cut the grass and create some openings and then sow the seeds of vegetables, won't the vegetables grow faster compared to the grass? If again the grass comes fast, we may have to control it again cutting so that finally the vegetables get the upper hand. Apart from the labor part, which I think won't be too much, this method should work out for all the vegetables and this is what was suggested by Fukuoka. In this way, we need not wait for 2-3 years to start with the vegetables, till all the grass is gone. Please correct me, if I am wrong.







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        • Dieter Brand
          ... Nandan, There are many types of grasses, but the type of perennial grass normally used for lawns grows very strongly from existing root systems after
          Message 4 of 9 , May 4 1:22 AM
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            > If we cut the grass and create some openings and then sow the seeds
            > of vegetables, won't the vegetables grow faster compared to the grass?

            Nandan,

            There are many types of grasses, but the type of perennial grass normally used for lawns grows very strongly from existing root systems after cutting. Just like your hair, the more you cut the better it grows. Which means that most vegetables, grown from seeds, don't stand a chance.

            > If again the grass comes fast, we may have to control it again cutting so
            > that finally the vegetables get the upper hand.

            Carefully cutting the grass around each vegetable is so much work that it is not feasible. And most vegetables won’t be able to grow roots in an existing grass sod anyway. Much better to use mulch to cover the area you want to use for growing vegetables.

            > Apart from the labor part, which I think won't be too much, this method should
            > work out for all the vegetables and this is what was suggested by Fukuoka.

            Fukuoka used a cover of white clover (Ladino) to grow his crops.

            > In this way, we need not wait for 2-3 years to start with the vegetables,
            > till all the grass is gone.

            We don't have to wait 2 to 3 years anyway, we can start growing food immediately by a combination of the methods I described. What I meant was that even under very favorable conditions (i.e., with very good soil and ideal climate) it is going to take some time before you get to an ideal situation where you can grow all your crops from a cover crop without weeding. Just for the record, I started mostly with very poor soil, and after 10 years I'm still far from that ideal situation. And lets not forget that, when Fukuoka published his books, he had already spent 30 years improving his soil and perfecting his methods. If you add to that that he started with a background in farming and a training as a biologist, it is abundantly clear that most of us won't be able to reproduce the same results immediately when we try our hand at gardening or farming for the first time.

            Dieter Brand
            Portugal


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          • Inesinlove@aol.com
            Dieter and Robin, I appreciate your input and advice on natural farming so much and I will start working and watching. I am still not quite sure what category
            Message 5 of 9 , May 5 6:32 PM
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              Dieter and Robin,
              I appreciate your input and advice on natural farming so much and I will
              start working and watching. I am still not quite sure what category my soil is
              falling under but I would guess, it is B. It is a lawn for a very long
              time,(with regular mowing), hard soil, compact and it doesn't look very alive. So,
              let's see what happens when I start on small pieces of the lawn.
              Ines





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            • Nandan Palaparambil
              Thanks for the insights. It is true that Fukuoka had good background and also had to spend many years to acquire the knowledge. But once we learn from this, we
              Message 6 of 9 , May 8 10:15 PM
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                Thanks for the insights.

                It is true that Fukuoka had good background and also had to spend many years to acquire the knowledge. But once we learn from this, we are in turn getting that many years of experience with us. Also because of sharing of knowledge, we can get the experience quickly. But lot of things, we have to still learn by ourselves.



                Regards,
                Nandan



                Dieter Brand <diebrand@...> wrote:
                > If we cut the grass and create some openings and then sow the seeds
                > of vegetables, won't the vegetables grow faster compared to the grass?

                Nandan,

                There are many types of grasses, but the type of perennial grass normally used for lawns grows very strongly from existing root systems after cutting. Just like your hair, the more you cut the better it grows. Which means that most vegetables, grown from seeds, don't stand a chance.

                > If again the grass comes fast, we may have to control it again cutting so
                > that finally the vegetables get the upper hand.

                Carefully cutting the grass around each vegetable is so much work that it is not feasible. And most vegetables won’t be able to grow roots in an existing grass sod anyway. Much better to use mulch to cover the area you want to use for growing vegetables.

                > Apart from the labor part, which I think won't be too much, this method should
                > work out for all the vegetables and this is what was suggested by Fukuoka.

                Fukuoka used a cover of white clover (Ladino) to grow his crops.

                > In this way, we need not wait for 2-3 years to start with the vegetables,
                > till all the grass is gone.

                We don't have to wait 2 to 3 years anyway, we can start growing food immediately by a combination of the methods I described. What I meant was that even under very favorable conditions (i.e., with very good soil and ideal climate) it is going to take some time before you get to an ideal situation where you can grow all your crops from a cover crop without weeding. Just for the record, I started mostly with very poor soil, and after 10 years I'm still far from that ideal situation. And lets not forget that, when Fukuoka published his books, he had already spent 30 years improving his soil and perfecting his methods. If you add to that that he started with a background in farming and a training as a biologist, it is abundantly clear that most of us won't be able to reproduce the same results immediately when we try our hand at gardening or farming for the first time.

                Dieter Brand
                Portugal

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






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              • Robert Monie
                Hi Nandan, It has been the experience of some determined natural garderners and farmers that there is no quick route from Fukuoka s insights to their own yard
                Message 7 of 9 , May 9 9:21 AM
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                  Hi Nandan,

                  It has been the experience of some determined natural garderners and farmers that there is no quick route from Fukuoka's insights to their own yard or field. Fukuoka's general idea of seeding vegetables into native or widely naturalized short legumes (ladino clover, Dutch clover, New Zealand clover) and weeds is at best, for most of us, only a starting point. Year after year, I have tried various clovers and nurse plants for them, only to not quite get it right. The clovers either grow too patchy to provide the veggies any support or too luxuriant, forming a hard top mass like lilly pads in water. Growing the legumes right out of buckwheat as a nurse crop works only if the timing is just right.

                  The type of clover matters a great deal, and I have gone through the alphabet of clover types, finally settling on the native Lousiana S-1 and its Florida "improvement" Osceola (with my conclusions on Red Palestine Clover still pending). I can get some veggie seeds to sprout out of these much better than out of any white ladino, Dutch, New Zealand, Patriot, Durana, or any other type I've tried. But it has taken me 7 years to get to this point! The knowlege did not leap like a spark from Fukuoka's pages to my garden. It has come out of repeated, often weary and frustrating, trials and tribulations in the garden--about as far from inspiration and sudden insight as you can get. (Forget "enlightenment"--these hard won insights come creeping into the dark corners of the mind like snails and slugs--not flashes of light).


                  In my soggy New Orleans garden, Orchard grass--the mainstay of 19th century British ley farming-grows happily next to all types of chicory, including raddichio, endive and related vegetables. The orchard grass forms little clumps with fibrous roots that eventually descend to at least 3 feet. Some other vegetables will grow next to orchard grass, but I am reluctant to make a list until I see it happening for more than one season. Vetiver grass, I can testify with my hand on any holy book you choose, will grow next to any and all vegetables, at least in my garden. Perhaps this is peculiar to vetiver in Louisiana? The mammoth 2nd ed.
                  of Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, published in the 1940s, remarks that vetiver is grown in India "and Louisiana." As well it might, because at least down here, it stops soil erosion in its tracks and supports the growth of virtually anything planted next to it.

                  Then there is the switchgrass plant. A look at the USDA map will show that switchgrass, though commonly regarded as a "prairie" plant, grows in most parts of the US. In many soils, switchgrass can easily match the 5-to-10-foot-long "old man's beard" root of vetiver grass, and a bevy of recent studies have shown beyond doubt that switchgrass roots enrich the soils they are grown in. David Bransby, for example, observes that "switchgrass has a huge permanet root system that penetrates over 10 feet into the soil, and weighs as much (6-8 tons/acre) as the above-ground growth from one year. It also has many fine temporary roots. All these roots improve the soil by adding organic matter, and by increasing soil water infiltration and nutrient-holding capacity." [http://bioenergy.ornl.gov/papers/misc/switchgrass-profile.html or google to
                  David Barnsby Switchgrass Profile]. ]

                  The wikipedia entry for switchgrass notes that it, "along with other native grasses and forbs, once covered the plains of the United States that are now the Corn Belt, [therefore] you could say that they still help feed the world today. Their deep fibrous roots left a very deep rich layer of organic matter in the soils, making those mollisol soils some of the most productive in the world. By returning switchgrass and other perennial prarie grasses to the agriculturla scence, many marginal soils will benefit from their deep root systems through increased organic matter levels, permeability, and fertility.

                  I have begun growing several types of switchgrass (they come in a rainbow of hues, from red to blue) both from seed and potted seedling in my south Louisiana garden (prairie on the bayou?), and so far the herb garden loves them. It remains to be seen if the switchgrass will be as friendly to the vegetables as the vetiver and orchard grass has been. Even if the veggies do not like the switchgrass, I will keep the grass. Let it put its roots down for a few seasons, enrich the soil, then dispatch it and grow the veggies over its grave, so to speak.

                  So my present conclusions are that 1) veggies can be grown next to or even interplanted with vetiver; 2) chicory and related veggies (and maybe more) can be grown next to or interplanted with orchard grass; and 3) switchgrass will improve the soil so veggies can later be grown over its dead roots, whether or not veggies can be interpalnted with swtichgrass.

                  Nandan, long-rooted perennial grasses both native and naturialized have created major belts of soil fertility in the US, and their reintroduction into the garden and organic farm (perhaps the natural farm too) should now be high on the agenda of anyone concerned with sustainable food growing. A recent book that takes up this theme is
                  "Grass, the Forgiveness of Nature" by ACRES USA editor Charles Waters. In my garden, I am almost tempted to go mystical on the benefits of these long-rooted grasses and would never think of growing anything outside their beneficent presence. Trees for all their glory cast too much shade for most vegetables; grasses do not, and grasses can be grown and dispatched much more easily. Natural farmers should become expert in the native and naturalized grasses of their bioregion. The abrupt and misleading slogan "grow food not lawns" emphatically does not mean that (the right kinds of) grasses are bad for food production--quite the contrary.

                  Best wishes,

                  Bob Monie--among the vetiver, orchard grass and switchgrass in
                  New Orleans (Prairie by the Bayou?)




                  Nandan Palaparambil <p_k_nandanan@...> wrote:
                  Thanks for the insights.

                  It is true that Fukuoka had good background and also had to spend many years to acquire the knowledge. But once we learn from this, we are in turn getting that many years of experience with us. Also because of sharing of knowledge, we can get the experience quickly. But lot of things, we have to still learn by ourselves.



                  Regards,
                  Nandan



                  Dieter Brand <diebrand@...> wrote:
                  > If we cut the grass and create some openings and then sow the seeds
                  > of vegetables, won't the vegetables grow faster compared to the grass?

                  Nandan,

                  There are many types of grasses, but the type of perennial grass normally used for lawns grows very strongly from existing root systems after cutting. Just like your hair, the more you cut the better it grows. Which means that most vegetables, grown from seeds, don't stand a chance.

                  > If again the grass comes fast, we may have to control it again cutting so
                  > that finally the vegetables get the upper hand.

                  Carefully cutting the grass around each vegetable is so much work that it is not feasible. And most vegetables won’t be able to grow roots in an existing grass sod anyway. Much better to use mulch to cover the area you want to use for growing vegetables.

                  > Apart from the labor part, which I think won't be too much, this method should
                  > work out for all the vegetables and this is what was suggested by Fukuoka.

                  Fukuoka used a cover of white clover (Ladino) to grow his crops.

                  > In this way, we need not wait for 2-3 years to start with the vegetables,
                  > till all the grass is gone.

                  We don't have to wait 2 to 3 years anyway, we can start growing food immediately by a combination of the methods I described. What I meant was that even under very favorable conditions (i.e., with very good soil and ideal climate) it is going to take some time before you get to an ideal situation where you can grow all your crops from a cover crop without weeding. Just for the record, I started mostly with very poor soil, and after 10 years I'm still far from that ideal situation. And lets not forget that, when Fukuoka published his books, he had already spent 30 years improving his soil and perfecting his methods. If you add to that that he started with a background in farming and a training as a biologist, it is abundantly clear that most of us won't be able to reproduce the same results immediately when we try our hand at gardening or farming for the first time.

                  Dieter Brand
                  Portugal

                  ---------------------------------
                  Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile. Try it now.

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

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






                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • Robert Monie
                  Hi Nandan, It has been the experience of some determined natural garderners and farmers that there is no quick route from Fukuoka s insights to their own yard
                  Message 8 of 9 , May 12 6:40 AM
                  • 0 Attachment
                    Hi Nandan,

                    It has been the experience of some determined natural garderners and farmers that there is no quick route from Fukuoka's insights to their own yard or field. Fukuoka's general idea of seeding vegetables into native or widely naturalized short legumes (ladino clover, Dutch clover, New Zealand clover) and weeds is at best, for most of us, only a starting point. Year after year, I have tried various clovers and nurse plants for them, only to not quite get it right. The clovers either grow too patchy to provide the veggies any support or too luxuriant, forming a hard top mass like lilly pads in water. Growing the legumes right out of buckwheat as a nurse crop works only if the timing is just right.

                    The type of clover matters a great deal, and I have gone through the alphabet of clover types, finally settling on the native Lousiana S-1 and its Florida "improvement" Osceola (with my conclusions on Red Palestine Clover still pending). I can get some veggie seeds to sprout out of these much better than out of any white ladino, Dutch, New Zealand, Patriot, Durana, or any other type I've tried. But it has taken me 7 years to get to this point! The knowlege did not leap like a spark from Fukuoka's pages to my garden. It has come out of repeated, often weary and frustrating, trials and tribulations in the garden--about as far from inspiration and sudden insight as you can get. (Forget "enlightenment"--these hard won insights come creeping into the dark corners of the mind like snails and slugs--not flashes of light).


                    In my soggy New Orleans garden, Orchard grass--the mainstay of 19th century British ley farming-grows happily next to all types of chicory, including raddichio, endive and related vegetables. The orchard grass forms little clumps with fibrous roots that eventually descend to at least 3 feet. Some other vegetables will grow next to orchard grass, but I am reluctant to make a list until I see it happening for more than one season. Vetiver grass, I can testify with my hand on any holy book you choose, will grow next to any and all vegetables, at least in my garden. Perhaps this is peculiar to vetiver in Louisiana? The mammoth 2nd ed.
                    of Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, published in the 1940s, remarks that vetiver is grown in India "and Louisiana." As well it might, because at least down here, it stops soil erosion in its tracks and supports the growth of virtually anything planted next to it.

                    Then there is the switchgrass plant. A look at the USDA map will show that switchgrass, though commonly regarded as a "prairie" plant, grows in most parts of the US. In many soils, switchgrass can easily match the 5-to-10-foot-long "old man's beard" root of vetiver grass, and a bevy of recent studies have shown beyond doubt that switchgrass roots enrich the soils they are grown in. David Bransby, for example, observes that "switchgrass has a huge permanet root system that penetrates over 10 feet into the soil, and weighs as much (6-8 tons/acre) as the above-ground growth from one year. It also has many fine temporary roots. All these roots improve the soil by adding organic matter, and by increasing soil water infiltration and nutrient-holding capacity." [http://bioenergy.ornl.gov/papers/misc/switchgrass-profile.html or google to
                    David Barnsby Switchgrass Profile]. ]

                    The wikipedia entry for switchgrass notes that it, "along with other native grasses and forbs, once covered the plains of the United States that are now the Corn Belt, [therefore] you could say that they still help feed the world today. Their deep fibrous roots left a very deep rich layer of organic matter in the soils, making those mollisol soils some of the most productive in the world. By returning switchgrass and other perennial prarie grasses to the agriculturla scence, many marginal soils will benefit from their deep root systems through increased organic matter levels, permeability, and fertility.

                    I have begun growing several types of switchgrass (they come in a rainbow of hues, from red to blue) both from seed and potted seedling in my south Louisiana garden (prairie on the bayou?), and so far the herb garden loves them. It remains to be seen if the switchgrass will be as friendly to the vegetables as the vetiver and orchard grass has been. Even if the veggies do not like the switchgrass, I will keep the grass. Let it put its roots down for a few seasons, enrich the soil, then dispatch it and grow the veggies over its grave, so to speak.

                    So my present conclusions are that 1) veggies can be grown next to or even interplanted with vetiver; 2) chicory and related veggies (and maybe more) can be grown next to or interplanted with orchard grass; and 3) switchgrass will improve the soil so veggies can later be grown over its dead roots, whether or not veggies can be interpalnted with swtichgrass.

                    Nandan, long-rooted perennial grasses both native and naturialized have created major belts of soil fertility in the US, and their reintroduction into the garden and organic farm (perhaps the natural farm too) should now be high on the agenda of anyone concerned with sustainable food growing. A recent book that takes up this theme is
                    "Grass, the Forgiveness of Nature" by ACRES USA editor Charles Waters. In my garden, I am almost tempted to go mystical on the benefits of these long-rooted grasses and would never think of growing anything outside their beneficent presence. Trees for all their glory cast too much shade for most vegetables; grasses do not, and grasses can be grown and dispatched much more easily. Natural farmers should become expert in the native and naturalized grasses of their bioregion. The abrupt and misleading slogan "grow food not lawns" emphatically does not mean that (the right kinds of) grasses are bad for food production--quite the contrary.

                    Best wishes,

                    Bob Monie--among the vetiver, orchard grass and switchgrass in
                    New Orleans (Prairie by the Bayou?)




                    Nandan Palaparambil <p_k_nandanan@...> wrote:
                    Thanks for the insights.

                    It is true that Fukuoka had good background and also had to spend many years to acquire the knowledge. But once we learn from this, we are in turn getting that many years of experience with us. Also because of sharing of knowledge, we can get the experience quickly. But lot of things, we have to still learn by ourselves.



                    Regards,
                    Nandan



                    Dieter Brand <diebrand@...> wrote:
                    > If we cut the grass and create some openings and then sow the seeds
                    > of vegetables, won't the vegetables grow faster compared to the grass?

                    Nandan,

                    There are many types of grasses, but the type of perennial grass normally used for lawns grows very strongly from existing root systems after cutting. Just like your hair, the more you cut the better it grows. Which means that most vegetables, grown from seeds, don't stand a chance.

                    > If again the grass comes fast, we may have to control it again cutting so
                    > that finally the vegetables get the upper hand.

                    Carefully cutting the grass around each vegetable is so much work that it is not feasible. And most vegetables won’t be able to grow roots in an existing grass sod anyway. Much better to use mulch to cover the area you want to use for growing vegetables.

                    > Apart from the labor part, which I think won't be too much, this method should
                    > work out for all the vegetables and this is what was suggested by Fukuoka.

                    Fukuoka used a cover of white clover (Ladino) to grow his crops.

                    > In this way, we need not wait for 2-3 years to start with the vegetables,
                    > till all the grass is gone.

                    We don't have to wait 2 to 3 years anyway, we can start growing food immediately by a combination of the methods I described. What I meant was that even under very favorable conditions (i.e., with very good soil and ideal climate) it is going to take some time before you get to an ideal situation where you can grow all your crops from a cover crop without weeding. Just for the record, I started mostly with very poor soil, and after 10 years I'm still far from that ideal situation. And lets not forget that, when Fukuoka published his books, he had already spent 30 years improving his soil and perfecting his methods. If you add to that that he started with a background in farming and a training as a biologist, it is abundantly clear that most of us won't be able to reproduce the same results immediately when we try our hand at gardening or farming for the first time.

                    Dieter Brand
                    Portugal

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                  • Anders Skarlind
                    To me this post of Dieter s some while rings true and important. (Original subject was: Re: [fukuoka_farming] Dieter, Bob, are you still there?) I would like
                    Message 9 of 9 , Aug 1, 2008
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                      To me this post of Dieter's some while rings true and important.
                      (Original subject was: Re: [fukuoka_farming]
                      Dieter, Bob, are you still there?)
                      I would like to remind you of it, as I think it
                      could be relevant for the present discussion.
                      And thanks Dieter for writing it.
                      Anders

                      At 23:43 2008-05-03, you wrote:
                      > > ... how to turn a lawn into a veggie garden and filed. I would like
                      > > your voice on this from a natural farming stand point, ...
                      >
                      >Ines,
                      >
                      > Ideally you would use a cover crop to "crowd
                      > out" the grass and/or weeds, then cut the cover
                      > crop and transplant or sow into the mulch. In
                      > my experience this works only with very good
                      > soil. For any other type of soil you may have
                      > to use a different strategy. Here are three
                      > possible scenarios (A, B and C) for three different types of soil:
                      >
                      > A. Very good soil ("deep" and very fertile)
                      > You select a cover crop or a combination of
                      > cover crops that will grow well enough in your
                      > region to compete with and "crowd out" the
                      > existing vegetation (grass, weeds, etc.) and
                      > that can be cut without growing back. In my
                      > region, for example, lupines, fava beans, vetch
                      > and rye will grow in an existing stand of
                      > grass, while wheat, barley, field peas, etc.
                      > cannot compete. A good combination is rye with
                      > vetch. The rye produces a lot of root mass
                      > while the straw has weed suppressing
                      > properties, vetch, on the other hand will fix
                      > nitrogen, which your follow-on crop will be
                      > able to use. You need to cut the rye after the
                      > sheaves start to form but before the seeds
                      > harden. If you cut earlier, the rye will grow
                      > again, if you cut later it may reseed. With
                      > legumes such as lupines there are no such
                      > limitations, but ideally you cut during flowering.
                      >
                      > Alternately, you could also try and grow your
                      > vegetables in the cover crop without "killing"
                      > it first. This will only work with fast growing
                      > vegetables like daikon radishes for example. It
                      > will not work for most types of cabbages,
                      > lettuces, onions, carrots, etc. If you use a
                      > cover crop in this way, i.e., as a "living
                      > mulch" instead of as a "dead mulch", you best
                      > select a low growing clover. I have had pole
                      > beans and corn grow through a layer of clover without difficulty.
                      >
                      > If you are lucky, you can grow your
                      > vegetables in a year or two, but you still may
                      > have to manually remove weeds that keep on
                      > growing from tap roots or grasses like Bermuda
                      > grass. It is possible to crowd out Bermuda
                      > grass with closely spaced fast growing
                      > perennials like acacias, but the process can easily take three to five years.
                      >
                      > B. Poor soil (deep but unfertile soil, for
                      > example industrially farmed soil with low organic content)
                      > In the above example, you grow all your
                      > fertility on-site. With depleted soil, on the
                      > other hand, you may have to bring in organic
                      > matter from outside in the form of mulch,
                      > compost or manure. If there is still enough
                      > soil left, you can apply all the materials to
                      > the top. You first put down a layer of compost
                      > and/or manure which you cover with a layer of
                      > mulch. I usually don’t use more than ½ to 1
                      > inch of compost topped by 1 to 2 inches of
                      > mulch since I believe that it is better to feed
                      > the soil frequently with small doses. If your
                      > aim is weed/grass suppression you will need
                      > thicker layers or use a weed-barrier such as
                      > cardboard or newspaper. In the past, printing
                      > inks used to include lead, which is poisonous.
                      > Now most inks are made of organic materials. I
                      > have tried newspaper once, but didn’t like it
                      > enough to repeat the exercise. You will find
                      > that weeds will come back anyways. Even if you
                      > manage to suppress the original weeds or grass with a vast amount of mulch or
                      > cardboard, you will still need a rigorous
                      > cover crop management à la Fukuoka to keep the weeds from coming back.
                      > You can sow into or under the various layers
                      > or transplant through all the layers. After a
                      > couple of years you may be able to switch to method A.
                      >
                      > C. Very poor soil (most of the top soil is
                      > eroded and only rubble and subsoil is left)
                      > In this case it may not be enough to apply
                      > the organic matter to the top. You may have to
                      > work well cured compost into the top 10 to 12
                      > inches of soil so as to build a new layer of
                      > topsoil. It is best to only use well composted
                      > material because uncomposted organic matter
                      > doesn’t decompose well under anaerobic
                      > conditions when dug into the soil. When you
                      > need to disturb the soil, it is best to avoid
                      > hot and sunny days and times when the soil is
                      > water-logged. Make sure to always cover the
                      > soil after disturbing it. You can sow before
                      > you put down the mulch or you can plant through
                      > the mulch. If you don’t have any vegetables to
                      > plant, then sow a cover crop. The primary
                      > function of mulching is not to suppress growth,
                      > on the contrary, you need to encourage
                      > vegetation by any means. Better weeds than no
                      > vegetation at all. The soil enriches itself by
                      > producing vegetation. A bare soil is dead soil.
                      >
                      > After 2 to 3 years the soil may have improved
                      > sufficiently for you to be able to switch to method B. above.
                      >
                      > Dieter Brand
                      > Portugal
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