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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Mycorrhizae, clomalin, hyphae ... ok basically fungus is good

So, forests... and weeds.
Someone asked why do I load and spread that moldy wood chips. They have being composting and decomposing all right. And also I was asked why the heck did I get that dark woody mulch thing wet stuff and spread it around... Yep  that was a ground up trees stump.

Why would I need any of that?...

One thing we do not appreciate in the soil when it's tilled is the fact that... you till it it compacts by the end of the season, you til it again and so it goes...
Forest soil does not do that. Why? What's in it that gets killed by tilling?
Whatever it is loves one thing - moist and dark.  Do you know one of those living things that like that type of environment?
Right. Fungus and mold.
Learned to hate it right? It's not good in your house it ruins you property and so on. Right, inside you do not want it. Outside in the forest it's however the part of the living systems that has symbiotic relationship with one more thing that likes it moist and dark. What are those? Roots.

So what is there in the forest that forms symbiotic relationship with the roots and soil making it soil?
It turns out one can buy it on amazon and it's the good old nature R&D exists for thousands of years. It is fungus. And it's good for roots. Mycorrhizae.

What is good about it? That's an interesting fungus, makes sort of a clue in the soil
Glomalin is a glycoprotein produced abundantly on hyphae and spores of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi in soil and in roots. Glomalin was discovered in 1996 by Sara F. Wright, a scientist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service. The name comes from Glomales, an order of fungi.

So that stuff found and made by nature's R&D is an interesting thing. Here is the link regarding what that does in the lab. Long story short it's the fungus that you want to be in your soil. And one of the ways to get is free is what? Dead trees near roots.,, Your good old forest... Where trees grownicely this fungus grows, get yourself a bucket, get yourself some wood chips, some dirt, Fill your bucket in the forest with good life soil from there, cover the holes you made with material, found around, do not take all, because that living creation of natures R&D needs to live. 
It does breed given  the environment and it forms symbiotic relationships with the roots. So get some native life soil, bring that home, make fungus bed near your tree, cover it up, keep it reasonably moist, it does not like a lot of water at all. Let it grow, after a bit (3-4 month) it will establish. You can go plant that in your garden. But you do not till that. Because tilling kills it, it brings air, sun and uv and turns soil upside down. May as well go buy yourself next batch on amazon in form of spores someone took from forest (not naive to you). IF you want beneficial fungus, leave your soil be and do not till it.
Also it turns out it acts like sort of a glue in the soil and improves the texture, soil does not compact. And that's what one wants. Let the soil wok for you. 

Now we get to weeds. What about them, we hate those and want to kill. And regardless they come back. So what makes weeds stronger. Tried to dig one out? They have heck of a root system... We have all the tools and such to get the roots.
I've mentioned before if one wants to make big changes they need to change how they SEE things. What do you see looking at the weed? The top. Wrong. The weed lives below the surface. Weeds is the roots.
That's the main thing one needs to learn from weeds. They do not buls tops, they build bottoms, that's why they are tough like no one's business.
When one wants stronger plants they want to be there they need to learn from weeds. To make roots. That's why all the landscaping trees in small pots do so bad and do not grow for years and have high failure rate. They all are root bound. When one plants one of those trees it sits there. And has trouble to keep it because it has no root system to support the top.

In the forest that does not happen. Young trees build stem root and lots and lots of side roots.
Same kind of a thing does happen in meadows. Grasses and plants grow root systems, one with the strongest makes it and gets to go to seed.

Do not stick $200 tree into $20 hole. Does not work. Make soil to stick the tree in, put smaller tree in, and oh-oh-oh... I put once a seed from an apple into soil, seeded earth worms and covered with little mulch around. It was under pine tree. Made a decent tree in 2 years, so I transplanted that tree and that was hard to dig it out, so I made a hole, put some peat moss, coffee grounds, compost and good old clay dirt in,, mixed it all, placed worms with coffee grounds at the bottom. In less than 6 years that thing was thick trunk tree and taller than 2 story house... And that's being under typical grass lawn. Now does any of those 3-4-5 year old (no one tells you that $150 tree spent 3-5 years from seed to tree in that tiny pot growing taller than you are... on sale in August) transplanted trees grow in 3 years taller than the 2 story house?
No they do not. They had their root system ripped out.
They will spend a long time rebuilding that, they are sick needing water all the time and build surface roots for 3-4 years. One recalls landscaping company telling you you need to water your trees like every day after planted... How are they going to be forced to go deep to make roots if they get water and nutrients on the surface? How are they going to find fungus to extend that root systems of theirs if there are none?
If something has root system it grows. Like weeds do.

And any landscape tree needs all the help it can get. So cover the dirt, place beneficial fungus and observe your symbiotic relationship...

And if you do not believe me here is the same tree that was poisoned by 2d4d and glyphosate, dying etc.

And by the way that is end of January 2017, our dry season.

Same tree
And same tree in 2014 here 

Take a look
See the difference?

And that's June. after April and May, the 2 wettest month around here, first year covered.
Before it was all moved very short weeds here.
It needs more work, but does it look better and still here. 
Because yellow large trees do not live, do they?
Big yellow trees make nice income for tree companies 
and get brought up here as wood chips.
So I re-fed someone's tree to my tree.
Re-fed crappies mulch no one wanted taken from 
swampy boggy area.
Why? It had fungus I wanted, and lots of the spores came here for free.

Do you like the fungus and soil covering now?

Soil particles need to be formed about every 4 weeks. If one does not have symbiotic relationship with the fungus it is not building soil particles for you in there and is not depositing that glue. In other words soil is not working for you instead you are working your tail off at the office or where ever and then buy stuff to put into the dirt... working for dirt. 
If soil particles are not held together one has erosion. How fast can we do that? It turns out pretty fast...
So why is that not sold to you by corporations? Cause if you get a little fungus and make soil work for you why the heck would you buy their stuff. I stopped buying it, if you will to that's no good for their business. So one needs to do some footwork and research to find all the nature R&D and thankfully now days there are resources to learn all that stuff benefiting from other folk observations. 

Someone already shown you pictures of grass roots that go little down and do not take up water, many times. Can not do that here, do not have water for that. I need my plants and trees to make roots. And I need all the other life forms to help me to do that.
So I'm hiring me a lot of life forms.
Fungus, worms, bugs, spiders, even weeds (cause I soak them, break their cells and feed that liquid back to soil and my plants I want).

The soils are here indeed fertile. They just need to make it out of the dirt state into the soil state.

Regenerative agriculture and land steward and free stuff

One hears these days a lot about land management on small acreage. There are county programs and whole lot of information. A lot of it is marketing of soil fertilizers.
On the particular land I own that did not work.
And I do not have the worst lot per say in the area.

I'm going to go straight to the root of the problem : the dirt.
Now there are 2 words in English: dirt and soil.
When one talks to the land owner and listens .. one can make an interesting observation... these 2 words are used differently. Garden soil is one... and my plot dirt is another. Soil of  land owner worth more than dirt. And they both are 'their land' which they pay for (mortgage or inheritance or paid off...). In our area due to its location the land the house is on also costs quite a lot.
Many have troubles to turn dirt into soil. And some went straight to horses and horses boarding.
These turn land into so called dry lot. Meaning eroding land to the point all it produces is dust.

This is how my lot was several years ago, by now rumor has is even less than 10.
Some one had here horses, pigs, cow and some other life stock. They did not haul all the manure and looks like they did spread some on the back which indicated by the wild native grasses.

What does happen to dirt if it is bare dirt and there is lots of vertical pressure on it (say a road)? IT gets compacted. After that the rain comes and because water has to go somewhere when it penetrates some of it it does crack the dirt.
At this point there is little life in that dirt, if has weeds, pests, disease, it has high salinity because it is capable of generating run off, what little water comes with rain is not retained.

Land owners use term soil when there is life in it.
IF one wants get to that one needs to change how they SEE things. Because if all one does is dirt, the problem becomes our own human brain. We do not see life in it. We see sterile dirt.
In nature it is not. It becomes 'stero' when things are thrown out of balance.

What did throw my land out of balance? Overgrazed lot. They cramped too many things on the land, land was fertile for short time and then degraded quickly, they bought fertilizers salinating the soil and making it more dirt.
IT produced one thing only,,, they were paying someone else more to destroy their asset - turn soil into the dirt. And they were convinced that's how things are. Because there is marketing. And large agro-corporations trust me know what the heck they are doing in marketing their products, otherwise they would not make it up there.

The problems one deals with conventional land management are

Lack of moisture (or best to say uneven moisture during seasons)
Poor fertility
Low yields
High input costs
Too much moisture
Poor infiltration

Are these a problem? Yes they are, they cost land owners $$$$$. But what are these?
Is that a tooth ache or the reason why does the tooth hurt in the first place?
Now you SEE. It is about how we SEE things.
What we are looking at in not THE PROBLEM, they are SYMPTOMS of the problem.
These all happen as tooth ache, but that's not why the land hurts.

What does come first on dry lot? Weeds. Why? Land tries to cover and stop erosion.
Some of these weeds are pretty invasive, they are good at covering what's left out there and it does take time but even into eroded weedy dirt life comes turning it into poor soils.

When one starts SEEING life in dirt they start seeing soil.

One needs to focus on how to get rid of the symptoms. And we already know that taking pain killer (think fertilizer sold as a cure) for tooth ache does not fix bad tooth, it gets it worse and turns it into root canal that costs 1800+ to get out or pull the tooth and them face dentures and more of gut problems and more of other things...

Painkillers do not work in our own body to fix things, why would you do same for the land if it did not work? If you are trying to 'up it for fast sale' (and that's what exactly was done when we bought it when we did not know much better about high input cost landscape) it works.
Trees have 1 year warranty. Why? cause... if 200$ tree is put into $10 hole it ends up dead in a year, it DOES NOT ROOT.
No one tells you that you bought very expensive highly distressed tree in 20 gallon pot... or 10 gallon pot from Oregon. When on plants one of these in our dirt they live for 1-3 years till roots fill the hole and bind and tree dies.

This is all fundamentally wrong. One puts expensive life thing into dirt, adds expensive liquid maintenance solution (pay landscaping company) into it it still does not do well, add more pay more and so it goes.
Look at forests, are they all fertilized? They are doing fine on their own? Why?
Dig into soil, what do you see? Critters. They are free and they make a lot of life organic matter.

If you buy critters on amazon, these little bit of nematodes cost arm and a leg and then some...
In forest they are free.

I was surprised to find these and worms in covered soil where I did not seed these, they showed up.

The bottom line is
if YOU want to make small changes change the way how YOU DO things. if YOU want to make MAJOR changes change the way how YOU SEE things.

Farmers who see several years in a row crop failures are at the wits end so they are forced to change how they SEE things and allow THE NATURE  TO HEAL ITSELF.

You need to ALLOW.
Other wise let go, and that's hard. And that hurts because human mind wants to be in control. And we were told and conditioned to do all these costly things treating symptoms.
When I SEE SYMPTOM, I try to invest into treating PROBLEM, because treating SYMPTOM does not get me anywhere, it only costs more to maintain the survival with the existing SYMPTOMS.
I want to LIVE.

We need tho think in terms of
and not

How does healthy soil function in nature?
- There is no mechanical disturbance (no machines... tractor used is $10k+, a beater, more decent we talk $30k+)
- There is armor on the soil surface (if you look it nature soil tries to cover itself with... something)
- There are cycles of water
- Living plant root network (try to dig out one of those native clump grasses... man... I did... right... that clump was no going nowhere)
- Nutrient cycling via biology (yes, the critter and life forms)
- Thousands of years of R&D ( yep, geek here, nature did it's thousands of years of research and development and we came and were convinced to toss all the statistics...)

Native not irrigated plot grown grass wait tall how does it do it?
It was not plowed, it was covered. It has symbiotic relationships of life forms.
One needs to SEE themselves as a critter on land needing to form symbiotic relationships with other live forms. It turns out when these benefit one another they get stronger.

And that's being a human with the brain I formed symbiotic relationship with local tree service and local horse boarder who have... what? Organic waste they have to pay someone else to put away.

The waste is sorted and organic. One's waste is other's treasure depending on how one looks at it.

I needed to cover soil from erosion and I needed some organic matter with soil live organisms (living indeed in free poop). And all these get delivered free. Because I take and use that. And it turns out these businesses hate waste and see how I use these and started learning too...

I looked what manure did on overgrazed lot, the soil started to recover where it had not moved grass. Ok, dry grass is mostly carbon. I need more of that... What is free.
No one will give away free grass (they feed life stock. cows and pigs are hungry...)... What's free. We have lots of suburban near by. Leaves and trees. Because home owners pay a lot. Most never spray mature trees, they are too high, costs arm and a leg.

LIGHT BULB. Calling tree services.
Soon I have a steady stream of covering material coming in.
And as soon as I'm done covering next neighbor is already in line.
Why urban folk do not do it I do not know, but some of our neighbors who had to take their tree down already looking at e and seeing what do I irrigate ... no way they are giving away wood chips :)
It takes small changes.
I already asked local horse owners, who has free manure :). None :), yep seeing me doing garden for 3-rd year on horse manure because I told them so no one is giving away manure, they started USING IT, ok, I found me horse boarder near by who has exes of the materials.

TADA, loading raised bed. With stumps, wood chips and manure.
And making that raised bed with landscaping company would have costed me several grand.
That's why it was not done in the first place.
People before did not SEE the problem they were treating the symptom.

My covered with something soil does not crack. It does regenerate now. Whatever it does, it does it for free for me, cause I did not buy that fertilizer, I did not dot put my income out and made it someone's asset.

What goes out of my pocket ... just goes. Fertilizer is short lived and expensive.
Bottom line I find 300-500$ a month management of the land with additives cost prohibitive. And someone else before me did not look at it this way and paid 250$+ for maintenance + all the additives.  Did not get them much for the $... and they were sold state controlled weed class B as an annual reseeding ground cover. Was a cute looking purple not native flowering 2 times a year thing (yep, when these breed someone reports you and state comes, spray and sends you the bill. Do I want that? NOPE).

Each one of these half dead stressed not growing trees was 150$ a tree, plus pro landscaping cost.
There were also 10+ more placed just like that on dirt berms, 2 in front of the house.
 First year I pulled out 4 pines, they never rooted. I had a question why? Bad soil, ok. Next spring I pulled 3 more not rooted trees and had all these pictured dying and drying, ornamental plum frozen, maples chlorotic (I found landscaped injected these $75 per tree X5 with iron, lasts about a year, then repeat... I can buy new tree for that). And that's when I said, THIS IS WRONG. 
Will I ever pay for such a landscaping after I know what it ended up as? NOPE.
So here is my logic as blunt as it gets.
I'm not willing to pay for cute tree that gets iron chlorosis or fire blight. And I do not care about what is in landscape fashion this or that year.
I say my dirt is in fashion now. And I'm not doing it the way it was done anymore. Way to expensive and little for my hard earned $. Done with that. And I was.
Good I did learn all that quickly. I needed one hard season of loosing trees to get the idea how wrong and temporary of a face lift quick landscape it was... And it cost them over 10k rumor has it to get there, and on going 250$+ a month and most of it did not live through 2 year.
Why would I continue the same?
I did not even have enough water to water all these half on the way out plants.

I found wood chips. I covered all that. Fought bind weed, could not spray because... guess what no landscaping company will tell you that round up whole spectrum weed killer leaches in gets to roots and kills your trees. They would not sell much of that with this kind of advertisement, would not they? And same thing with others that target grass only (they are about 10 times more than 2d4d that targets broad leaf). Landscaping additives were killing threes land owners paid for... WHAT? And why would anyone do that? Because they simply did not know what was sold to them as landscape management. One pays for plant killer to kill weeds over not covered land, then paid for the boost so the remaining trees do not drop dead the same year. Next 3 month repeat the same.
Do you like that? I did not.

So I did not do it. Landscape needs to be sustainable and I do not have time and do not want to pay $$$ to manage all that. I want self managed forest and I agree to put some mulch or something cheap/free on it once a year. That sounds a lot better to me.

So I got rid of dead trees, replaced with smaller cheaper ones and invested in my own soil with free covering materials. Slow steady eddie gets to it faster it turned out.
Now I have all the landscape stabilized, surviving honey locust building root systems and covered, no spray so it does not kill them, ponderosa saved and not dead, both of them. I just saved myself mature tree and $80 for tree take down. One maple saved and stable, dead trees recycled into ashed and hugelculture, bare root tree replacements placed and growing.
I'll have to take down 3 chlorotic maples, And I'll be replacing these with seabukthorns I'm already growing and other chlorotic bushes with smaller currants already growing and in less than 2 years I'll have regenerated sustainable landscape.
That's the way I like it more.

Now I need to go to the next step. Into and attract other free life forms all over the land. Because I did see what rolipoly does decomposing, they breed like nuts and they create a lot of soil, and they are chicken food.
I've got carbon covered (free wood chips), and I've got 'the trigger' covered - a bit of manure. Both were free. And they were someone's liability (waste to get rid off) and became my asset.
Whatever living critter came with manure will be there covered, multiply, breed, eat the manure, because that's what they do, attract my worms (existing... those went deep). That's what nature R&D did for me, critters attracted to manure do decompose, if they would not the earth would be covered with poop, and it is not.
When I covered bindweed for raspberry patch I did not see any live, in 6 month I did see thick earth worms, they did sense food, they showed up and breed and live there, They breed and multiply every 6 month.
And yes, flies do pollinate my carrots now and I take buckets worth of carrot seed.
Thank you neighbor's horses :)

Next we are going to see ... WHY WEEDS are TOUGH.
I like why questions, I observe... weeds and what do they do.
Did I just say that learned that from WEEDS?
Yep, I guess I did, because WEEDS did for me R&D.
We will get to the science of weeds.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Some call this Back to Eden

Some folk asked me to publish BTE (aka Back to Eden)
The summary

What I did has many names permaculture, lasagna beds, BTE depending who one talks to. Bottom line I use a lot of wood chips on the property and sheet mulch alkaline soils.
Why? Ones who do not (neighboring properties) get soils torn 2 feet deep with 2 inches (5cm) deep cracks in the soil. Now think what will be torn from a tree...
I almost lost one of my big ponderosa's this way. And to massive amounts of fertilizers and other conventional landscaping methods (rumor has it it cost previous owners 250$ a month in maintenance alone not counting water costs and fertilizers and other materials).

Among the neighbors it was kind of ... from 'gone bunkers' stare to all kinds of other looks regarding wood chips piles to the point how one can use that many wood chips. The looks never stopped, they just changes from 'this is odd' to amused to curious to never expected ... now I go by ask your garden question lady because people stare at tomatoes 'weeds' that fruit till it freezes and grow taller than a human ... well I simply sort of run out of trellis so I simple throw them over on the other side.
More mulch was delivered was able to mulch entire orchard and add chickens. I guess I did change at least some of my used to conventional landscape neighbors look at gardening and landscaping ...kind of. Some were saying it's impossible and soils are clay and alkaline, some believed it was nuts and nothing will ever grow.
What this deep mulch method does is shown from here…/spring-part-2-and-so-on…
in particular this photo is how it started, 2 existing raised beds covered with what ever chop and drop there was.

to this

planted raspberry (transplants were moved, when it's free one takes these, and adds what can)…/and-here-is-our-spring-…
the building lasagna and making a bit of mounds because planting over the weeds s a challenge…/we-do-not-plant-till-mo……/gardening-and-building-…
to these garden updates for first year or this method of lots of mulch and chips…/…/garden-update-1.html…/…/garden-update-2.html…/…/garden-update-3.html
to June

to this…/…
and that's when people in the neighborhood stomped across something that sort of turned their garden thinking from 'odd lady' to 'we do not believe it, but...t is there'…/…
to tomatoes bushes…/…/harvest-some-more.html
and a good problem to have…/…

Doing it on larger scale cause I got mulch hog heaven :), no one is laughing anymore for couple of years by now , some are observing with interest now.
Changed some folk's ways how they look at gardens. Not many followers so near by, but many observers. I showed local close by folk what I did, but never did a group post like that before telling the story.
Hope it fits BTE, even if it's not by the book, I never seeing the book to be honest, it was easier to get the soil built in our arid climate this way and conserve water. Now we have more water rights I can do and doing more, I just never got to describing it all, but started next chapter…/winter-earth-work-and-c…

Next I'l introduce my quiet work forces


Saturday, January 28, 2017

No dig terraces. Stage 1 completed

No dig garden is my preference. Saves a lot of time, saves on weeding, builds soil, and makes a nice home for all kinds of earth worms and other beneficial critters.
Distresses pasture needs cover. In our arid climate it is a must.

No dig bed is done as layers of higher carbon material and higher nitrogen material. Wood chips, manure, grass, organic yard waste (winter clean up plants and collected leaves).
Layers are about 10cm in some places some are 15cm, does not have to be exact  no one measures the thickness of an extra large cow ... droppings :). Manure layer is thinner, wood chips layer is a bit thicker 2.5-5cm compared to manure layer.
Last layer is wood chips. Because the ground has incline the bed is leveled and large ans 'less large :)' stumps forming a retaining wall.

Step 1:manure over the grass, yard waste etc organics.

Step 2: wood chips and forming terrace, collecting logs, getting right size in the place.

Step 3: Layering chips over spread layer of manure

it gets 'watered with snow and melting snow' manure was wet because of all the snow fall, it was heavy and did not need a lot of water, but in winter it's sort of hard to have irrigation anyways. And combined with mother nature it all works all right in the end.
Next amount is delivered and layered

It works like so

This way terrace is forming

Step 4: next amount of manure is delivered, another 8 cubic yards or so, it is delivered by a truck.

the yard waste and other organic material already put in place before manure delivery, so there is less material handling.
Pile to area to be covered relative comparison

Spreading pile in layers and sections forming terrace

Bit by bit. Alternating with wood chips layer for carbon
 Next layer over same section

 Close up of the materials

Soil moisture in done prior last year section. So it does retain every bit of water.
Step 5: completed terrace with not yet delivered logs
Step 6: finalizing top terrace with logs

Step 7: additional terraces (smaller ones, similar in shape section to the top one, incline managed with terraces. This side will have large trees forming wind block

This Section above needs another layer of manure-wood chips and is not yet level.
Type of wood chips here has higher nitrogen (sticks and some live evergreens)

So why people dig their gardens anyways and who digs mine?

The answer is because tillage (i.e. ploughing)  helps loosen compacted soil which makes it easier to plant into, rips up weeds, and buries the scraps left over from harvesting.  All good right?
That's the way how it is in many many places.

Being a geek (I admit it :)), so I like to ask 'why' questions.
This then raises the logical question, why is the soil compacted in the first place if it’s constantly tilled? There are several causes re-compaction of tilled soil, namely animal-powered and mechanized farm equipment, such as tractors and oxen, people walking on the soil and rain impacting on bare soil!
When My own soil is covered by pasture the layer of the material on top of the soil is... 1/4 inch in 3 years after growing grass and cutting it (high with something called bushhog -it cuts higher compared to highest setting on awn mower and the remaining grass is about 15-20cm tall)
Even when it's winter and the soil is moist because it's cold I can see cracking on bare soil that is between the clumps of the grass.

Before we can understand the reasons for not digging soil, it’s important to understand what soil is, otherwise it’s not clear what we’re dealing with.

The soil is not just ‘dirt’ to anchor plant and tree roots, though that’s how many people treat it! The soil is a very complex ecosystem, teeming with very diverse life.
In fact, the soil is more abundant with life and more complex than any other ecosystem above the ground. There are about 50 billion microbes in 1 tablespoon of soil. By comparison, the human population numbers just over 7 billion currently. These organisms include Bacteria, Actinomycetes, Fungi, Yeast, Protozoa, Algae and  Nematodes. Furthermore there are arthropods and insects in there as well, including earthworms. That’s a lot of life in the soil!

So what are all these critters doing in the soil? The soil bacteria form a beneficial relationship with plant roots, and soil fungi form a beneficial relationship with tree roots, helping them access nutrients.
Think of it as the tree roots are 'the tree', grass roots are 'the grass', meaning when it's normal in the nature (say forest) or pasture that is not touched the most of the plant is under the ground. The plant puts out 'cakes and cookies' in form of the complex chemical compounds (and roots are quite good 'wires' for the delivery of these) and 'calls' what it needs in the soil, because all those things already live there. In the forest it's hard to dig the out a tree, and in wind these do not fall. They fall only when they are very very old and roots are not there to support the tree (rotten). Same with the grass. On the virgin pasture can not dig out one of those clump grasses...

 The soil organisms carry out the important functions of nutrient cycling, improvement of soil structure to aid water and air movement through the soil and also the control of diseases and enhancement of plant growth. Most of the soil fungi occupy the top 15cm (6”) of the soil, while the rest of the organisms live at all different levels.
Digging and turning over the soil exposes a very delicate ecosystem to the air which dries it out, and to the ultraviolet rays of the sun, which sterilize the soil – killing the soil organisms. The soil loses a lot of its nutrients, such as carbon, nitrogen micro elements. It also loses a lot of its organic matter, and as a consequence, does not retain water as well. The delicate soil structure is destroyed, compaction of soil occurs, leading to hardpan formation, and reduced water infiltration in the soil, and more surface runoff, which increases soil erosion.

Tillage is the term used to describe the agricultural preparation of the soil by digging it and turning it over. So why are the farmers so fond of this destructive practice? Well, they found that when you first dig up the soil, fertility goes up, and plants grow better. The reason is that the tiny little bodies of all the soil organisms that have just been killed by digging break down, releasing their nutrients to the soil. The catch is, it only works once, and then your soil is sterile and the plants are worse off, and they become more prone to diseases, and require even more fertilizer than they normally would. To further compound the problem, chemical fertilizers are pumped into the dying soil, which effectively kill off what soil life is left. Yes, chemical fertilizers kill soil life! It’s really a fool’s game to destroy the soil life for a short-lived, once off nutrient boost, which really shows gross ignorance and a complete lack of understanding of soil ecology and what makes plants grow!

One forgets that chemically most of fertilizes are... salts.

You will be surprised, I do not rotate my crops either, I grow tomatoes on same spot for several years by now. Do not need to rotate. And all my problems I did see with luck of nutrients are gone now.
And I'll do whidie-tidie test on my soil (aka one 'plants' new cotton underwear into distressed soil, garden bed and just covered bed and see what happens in say 3 month)

for example... life soil

and conventional

Go into  forest, rich ecosystem...

In Nature, soil does not need to be manually cultivated for spectacular forests to grow. What holds true in Nature also holds true in the garden. In a forest, organic matter in the form of fallen leaves, twigs and branches, annual plants at the end of their yearly cycle and other plants at the end of their lives, are all deposited on the forest floor when they decompose into rich humus.

I do not have humus, 10 years ago my dirt was literally ... dirt, Over grazed dry lot, as bare as it gets.
Literally. And finding that history tells me why I have 2cm-5cm of top soil on top of the clay.
And that's it. And that's why after watering the garden I wrote about for 2 days the rototiller could go into it only 5cm tilling into that very top layer 8 yards of my very first manure load.
I was loading and loading wood chips and horse waste (3-4-1 year old on that garden)

There was no organic matter in there.

We can add organic matter directly to the soil surface, such as manure, compost, straw, leaves etc. Garden waste such as prunings from trees and shrubs can be fed into a mulcher to break them down into smaller pieces, and then spread over the soil as a mulch.
Adding a layer of organic matter over the soil, in a layer approximately 5cm-15cm (2”-6”) thick is in effect ‘sheet composting’, where the garden beds become large composting areas. By the action of earthworms, bacteria, fungi and insects, the organic matter is slowly broken down and released into the soil, providing nutrients to the garden. Because the soil is not disturbed, a stable soil ecosystem is created, and plant health is improved. Moisture is also better retained due to the mulching, and the organic matter in the soil works like a sponge to better retain the moisture in the soil. The mulching also prevents soil erosion, stops runoff of rainwater across the surface, and assists the rainwater to percolate into the soil. The earthworms will create channels in the soil, which will help both water and air to penetrate into the soil.

With no-dig gardens, the soil is not compacted because it is not walked upon! Stepping on the soil destroys the soils structure by compacting it, preventing air and water penetration to the plants roots, which affects plant health, restricts plant growth and reduces productivity. Paths are constructed for people to walk on, the garden beds are for plants ONLY!!!

Now who digs?
My earth worms, centipedes and other critters. Even rabbits dig. And those darn voles hawks did get.

Mainly in my case I hire a lot of earth worms. Because my climate is arid I value every drop of moisture. And my water rights are limited.
I do grow worms, and I started with 2 hands full 3 years ago I found those survivors under rotten straw bales and still thankful to prev owners they left me them. As these turned out into much stronger worm population for my worm bins and they do live outside.

There will be a separate post about earth worms.

For now this is link and side by side same exact no dig several years ago (2014) and (2017)
This is what this new no dig bed will become. And I'll leave it to nature and seed more worms in here later in the season.

 What this deep mulch method does is shown from here…/spring-part-2-and-so-on…
in particular this photo is how it started, 2 existing raised beds covered with what ever chop and drop there was

to June
And following posts and
this picture in particular in late summer

Same land. in summer

I mean... It works.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Wood chips

Use of wood chips in landscape: this CSU extension article is a good source of information

Mulch hog heaven...
These are for orchard. A year ago there were couple of small loads we got a hold of, so mulch was put around the new trees.
Now we have more

areas where cheat grass is now covered so hopefully it will be replaced with time with more beneficial grasses. Cheat grass is an annual grass like plant, also known as brown top grass.
It is a ground cover, time came for it to give the way for other plants and be the soil

Arborists mulch is not uniform, one load is not same as others, we take it all, pane, juniper, fruit trees, it is all good.

This is to control bindweed and other undesirable plants and provide chickens close by digging ground. With time the plan for this area to plant some bushes so chickens can hide from hawks better.

chickens also use that for bedding, used bedding gets placed as under layer for new composting beds, or so called hot beds. Also semi-good to fight thistle... however I have some impressive specimens that get very tall and have very impressive roots. That one takes several straight chicken poop applications (shovel full) and still manages to come up.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Garden season retrospective. Part 1 of N

The permaculture journey is bringing ones background and family tradition and adapting it to the new piece of land one took and became its steward.
One a while ago family had a larger estate back in Russia. Their skill set and their ways of the land stewardship were preserved in the future generations. I also want to pass something on the future generation, the way of the land stewards, to me it is a good bit different than owning land (one owns the title). Sustainability of the land, the way of land stewards was passed on.

The scale is not that important, one can care of a small piece of land, one care of a larger one, One cares.

On our land we put in place certain measured towards sustainability. Observing the land and what it has in it, then bringing new things that will improve the land and create sustainable eco system including humans into it. It is about the system seeking the balance, and human guiding this balance. One would listen to the land, one would listen to the wind, one would listen to the sky. The land send the messages about what one would do with it and what would be beneficial.

Land itself is a great resource. However without water land has limited life forms. Or ones we did not particularly want. Some experiments were put in place to see what works and what does not.
We have certain amount of water we can use. Once we were told no way one can irrigate what we wanted, trees  (we like that) and herbs and garden. Some of the neighbors said they had trouble irrigating garden smaller than our planed one. I came over and looked and found amended tilled soil, rather dark compared to ours. However the soil was not covered and "needed daily over top of the plants water", at least that's what the owners used. IT also required a good bit of weeding. Same kind of thing came with the rest of the landscape,. there were some bushes that were dead, there was a like of very nice roses on western side, there was a large lawn about 1/4 of an acre. It was puzzling how that not much of land needing irrigation would use so much water that according to the owner there was not enough to water the garden.
One of the possibilities some kind of a leak in the water system. Owners would know of that. The other would be that they simply loose too much water. In hot summer time it goes up in the air, so they are watering the air around the property.

We went a different route mostly because we had not much to start with, but same classic professional landscape with couple of raised beds, flower bed, lawn, some trees that looked like new landscaping effort. I'm a lazy gardener with little time to weed. So I went mulch way. Back in Russia that was garden in hot bed or on compost pile. whatever was available was chopped and dropped down. Here I found some free mulch and some manure (not free) and some horse poop with bedding (free), made cold compost pile of it and in a year we had enough soil to claim 1/2 a foot of the good stuff. It did not come without certain nutrients deficiencies as I planted such a tender loving balanced nutrition plants as tomatoes and peppers.

Next year of soil building we felt like we could use soil longer to grow plants and add some more nutrients and organic life into it. We did some succession planting
It also meant that chicken would stay out of the garden longer and some that would get a chance would be closely supervised. Why is it...because young plants and chickens do not mix even if the chickens were fed  before they were let loose. Still not sure where all the food may fit in these velasoraptors...They also did not go after bugs first, they would dig for earth worms (and we need those) instead of roli poli (we need those for composting but not in the quantities when one takes a gallon of those from garden traps, that's way many and they eat the garden when it comes to that many of them).We did sort of get an abundance promised of roli poli bugs and they did help to build soil.

Peas and tomatoes were combined, also radish and beans, cucumber and lettuce and onions, flowers were planted in between, things that we knew nothing eats (wait, we found roli poli will eat onions :) when they run out of the rest of the stuff).
Over the topwhen it was too early to get irrigation up and going (freezes) we used hose thrown directly to out water source and over top on small battery operated timer only on warm days. This is around early march

We also had visitors. Nest never made it and got abandoned
This shows the visitor and how much water we can get in desert all in one day.
No watering for 2 weeks after that is needed at all.
One day you have this
 Next day this
 Onions in snow, yep, that sounds about right.
It does not stay long, but no one here plants anything warm lowing till after mid May.
So here is succession planting in rows (faster, and it does look like rows before the vegetation takes over). cucs just coming at 2-4 leaves point, lettuce and onions are at harvest state, onions are thinned down and only some are left to be winter onons or allowed to go to seeds

 peas and tomatoes and some squash.
 radish at harvest point with some beans planted but not showing yet, also some peppers are put in, that's already after mid may.
Peas blooming and protecting younger tomatoes from harsh winds from north west west

I tried several ways to combine these time wise, one on inside one on outside, and different timing of peas planting.
So each row had it's own experiment going. I liked peas on outside way a bit better because peas can be pushed in mid rows and add to the ground cover. This year I may do something different. And I have several other experiments in mind refining this timing and involving chickens (as one want these walking eating into crops monsters only at particular times in the garden on clean up duty and on getting rid of weeds duty)..