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Soil condition and NF

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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 1 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.

      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, ...
      > 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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