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  1. #11
    WhoCares
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    thanks for the tip. i'll look into that.

  2. #12
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    Natures best water tank - soil

    Its been an especially dry summer here. This scares me somewhat since I read a paper on the role of humus and our water supply. Humus is created in the floor litter of forests, when we deforest an area for agriculture or housing we destroy the process of humus creation. Grass and pastures do not create humus at the same rate as forests, especially when we harvest the grasses for animal fodder instead of leaving it insitu to rot. So whats this got to do with ater supply? A lot actually.

    Just a 2% increase in humus levels in the soil = an additional 100,000 ltrs of water retained in the soil per hectare. When soil reaches water saturation point the water runs off into waterways and groundwater. Wthout humus in the soil surface runoff occurs, leaving us with the job of endlessly irrigating farmland in order to keep crops alive which depletes water from groundwater stores and rivers. It also flushes out minerals and nutrients from the soil itself. Surface runoff never makes it into the groundwater table and mostly is channelled via our stormwater drainage network to sea or a waste processing plant.

    But thats not all. Without forests you dont get the build up of ambient humidity in the air which cause clouds to form and eventually rain. So you end up with low rainfall plus no ability to use the earth as a natural water store. Desertification is the result. Add in chemical fertilisers and you are now adding salt to soil that cannot retain water. Salinity is the result. Dead soil at speed.

    What scares me the most is that Despite the fact we know this, we continue to produce food in a manner which is killing the soil we live off. Are we that stupid? Clearly we are. This year, I have made a conscious effort to increase the level of humus in our soil at home. Numberone rule is that whatever isn't eaten is returned to the soil. So spent plants are dig into the soil rather than pulled out. It increases the amount of organic matter in the soil and our worms love it. Our crop rotations also include fast growing plants with short life cycles that produce large amounts of organic matterr (borage is excellent for this). Its used here as chicken human feed and soil feed. The result is that despite this being an unusually hot and dry summer (its hardly rained all summer) our garden has held up well and is still producing food for us.

    Our number two rule is to never have exposed soil. It must always be covered by a crop or canopy plant that retains the moisture in the soil and maintains humidity in the microclimate via evaporation from the plant leaves.

    This is why I believe potting mixes are horrible. The water holding capacity is usually a liquid crystal. Once that dries out there is zero water retention and watering the pot just causes surface runoff rather than hydration. Even though the water is running out the bottom it is not saturating the growing media, its just finding established channels through the media.

    Anyway soil culture is something we should all learn to ensure food security, and good stewardship of the planet.

  3. #13
    WhoCares
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    Dealing with noxious weeds responsibly

    Our local council provides us all with wheelie bins for the placement of green waste. I think it would be better if council provided us all with education on using green wastes...but at least its something. We have on our plot a fair number of noxious weeds that are highly resistant to composting, they are more likely to take root than decompose. If we were to place those into a green waste system for council disposal we would be effectively seeding the local environment with these weeds. Instead we use the wheelie bin as a green manure factory. Its massive, holds water, had a lid and heats up in the sun, perfect. Creatng a fertiliser for the garden is simple and if done properly ensures the absolute destruction of noxious weeds so you're not spreading them around but putting them to good use.

    1. Step one place all noxious weed waste in the wheelie bin
    2. Cover with water, close lid and place in a hot location
    3. Wait 8 weeks until all green matter has decomposed. There should be nothing green and leafy in it. But it will stink like a duck pond. There will still be be solid matter in there but it will be black and slimy, left over cellulose. Strain the liquid, dilute with 50% water and fertilise your garden.

  4. #14
    reborn PeaceBaby's Avatar
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    Interesting thread, I'll be following along. I've long been interesting in self-sustenance, growing up in a family that grew practically everything for ourselves. I can regularly remember at a summer dinner table listening to my father say, "Everything on this table came from our farm. We grew every single thing we're eating." It was a powerful paradigm to grow up with.

    I am amazed that so much has changed in the last 30 years. Even as a teen however, I was an anachronism to most of my peer's experiences, and this was in a rural community.

    I've been big into vermiculture over the years - do you currently have any worm bins?
    "Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one."
    Eleanor Roosevelt


    "When people see some things as beautiful,
    other things become ugly.
    When people see some things as good,
    other things become bad."
    Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

  5. #15
    A window to the soul
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    Quote Originally Posted by WhoCares View Post
    Dealing with noxious weeds responsibly

    Our local council provides us all with wheelie bins for the placement of green waste. I think it would be better if council provided us all with education on using green wastes...but at least its something. We have on our plot a fair number of noxious weeds that are highly resistant to composting, they are more likely to take root than decompose. If we were to place those into a green waste system for council disposal we would be effectively seeding the local environment with these weeds. Instead we use the wheelie bin as a green manure factory. Its massive, holds water, had a lid and heats up in the sun, perfect. Creatng a fertiliser for the garden is simple and if done properly ensures the absolute destruction of noxious weeds so you're not spreading them around but putting them to good use.

    1. Step one place all noxious weed waste in the wheelie bin
    2. Cover with water, close lid and place in a hot location
    3. Wait 8 weeks until all green matter has decomposed. There should be nothing green and leafy in it. But it will stink like a duck pond. There will still be be solid matter in there but it will be black and slimy, left over cellulose. Strain the liquid, dilute with 50% water and fertilise your garden.
    Why do you strain the cellulose?

  6. #16
    WhoCares
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd Girl View Post
    Why do you strain the cellulose?
    Because it clogs up the watering can spout. No other reason.

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeaceBaby View Post
    It was a powerful paradigm to grow up with.

    I am amazed that so much has changed in the last 30 years. Even as a teen however, I was an anachronism to most of my peer's experiences, and this was in a rural community.

    I've been big into vermiculture over the years - do you currently have any worm bins?
    What an awesome upbringing, although not a lot of kids think so at the time. I hear you about the videogame era, most of my friends were playing space invaders, I was hatching succulents and planning an Edna Walling garden...yeah I was a weird kid.

    When I lived in the city a worm bin was all I could fit on my balcony so I had one and brought the worms to my current garden with me. I still have the worm bin and we maintain it for making potting mix mostly. The native worms to our garden are tropical species and are much, much larger and better adapted to the silty clay we have here (we live on an alluvial flood plain). At first my idea was to expand the worm bin but I found it more efficient to just work with the worms already in the ground, they perform the same function and since we mulch and turn stuff in regularly they are thriving. Our worms are about a 1/4" thick and average about 6 inches, although we've found larger. They also have phosphorescence. Vermiculture is fascinating.

    My tiger worms eat our kitchen scraps and garden weeds. Periodically I steal some of their bedding to mix in with our soil and composted manure for potting mix.

  8. #18
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    What to do with the cellulose in the green manure

    Our green manure batch has fully fermented and I removed the large amount of solid matter still left to make using the fertiliser easier. Have about 150lts of liquid fertiliser concentrate now, all for free just by using weeds out of the garden. I was also left with about 15kgs of cellulose once I strained the liquid. I put the partially composted cellulose in the worm bins we have, they were getting low on bedding amd worms love munching on things like egg cartons which are pure cellulose. I'm hoping that its advanced state of decomposition will mean the worms can turn it into humus faster. It would normally take 3 months for that amount of cellulose to become humus in our small bins. I'll be checking it each week to see what happens.

    Fruits for the subtropics

    We planted a cherry guava seedling last winter and it is fruiting very heavily now. The tree is only a meter tall but already has over 15 fruit on it and seems to be setting new fruit all the time. We've eaten three of them and they just amazing. Aromatic, tangy and creamy. I want a whole guava orchard now.

    I also picked a black genoa fig this morning the size of my palm. It was so ripe it fell apart as I picked it and was as sweet as honey. Its the biggest crop of figs we've ever seen and the tree is about 50yrs old. Our nectarines and peaches, while few (we heavily pruned the trees last winter) are delicious, free of fruit fly, rust and black spot even though we used absolutely no chemicals or fruit fly bait at all this year.

  9. #19
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    The Power Of Biodiversity

    Last year my biggest challenge was increasing biodiversity in my mothers yard. She had a few vege patches, a banana plantation and little else. Being a wet and humid climate with plenty of standing water in the yard the mosquitos were out of control. She also had an infestation of curl grubs (beetle larvae) that eat the roots of healthy plants killing them. Last summer if I so much as went outside after dark I ws covered in hundreds of bites within minutes. I spent all autumn, winter and spring cultivating a more diverse yard with astonishing results.

    The more we cultivate earthworms the fewer curl grubs we have. I have no idea what the connection is, all I do know is that when I dig in a garden bed now instead of tossing curl grubs to the chickens I'm only unearthing worms. Perhaps its not the worms per se but rather the change in the native birds that now visit the garden who are possibly also eating the scarabs.

    We've had an explosion in the population of native green tree frogs since we installed two small water gardens. We used to have a problem with these frogs living in the toilet so we created a water grden out of an old tin laundry tub, planted it with water chestnuts and frogbit and the frogs moved out of our loo. They then multipled exponentially and cause no dramas but are most certainly keeping the mosquito population at bay. While I was skeptical we'd experience much relief from the mosquitos to be honest its now quite pleasant to be outside afterdark. I encounter the odd mosquito but the plague proportions we used to have are all but gone.

    We planted a lot of insect attracting plants this year. EVerywhere there was bare soil I liberally tossed a seed mix designed for this. Our vege patches became home to cosmos, queen annes lace and phacelia. The place looked pretty wth little flowers dotted everywhere but what it did was cause an explosion in ladybugs, sylphid flies and predatory wasps and bees. None of which are any problem for humans but they are a massive problem for garden pests like aphids. Since using these mixes we've had no call to deal with any kind of leaf eating insect pest. When they occur, the other insects in the garden quickly decimate their populations. I was skeptical about these insect attracting plants, not that they wouldn't attract insects but they would have any kind of real impact in the garden. I was wrong, the effect was massive.

    Our dis-used cob pizza oven has also become a home for the native blue banded bee. They are solitary bees and live in mud. We are so happy to support a population of them in our own yard, and since we hardly use the cob oven anymore what better use for it?

    Another unexpected benefit of changing the biodiveristy in our yard has been the disappearance of the noisy miner (an imported pest bird species) and the moving in of native honey eaters, butcher birds and fig birds. These birds are much more interesting to watch and more beautiful than the common pest birds.

    Changing the biodiversity of the yard entails some easy steps....

    Create water gardens. Any large tub will do, put 4" of dirt in the bottom, fill with water and plant both rooted and floating plants in it. Water gardens dont need pumps and filters unless you have fish in them, plants will thrive on their own with practically no care at all. We love iris but can't grow the cold climate ones. Instead we chose the Louisiana swamp iris and it looks brilliant in a tub especially with some azolla floating on the surface. Frogs, damselflies and dragon flies all love our water gardens. The larvae of all three will eat mosquito larvae keeping the ponds clear.

    Use insect attractant seed mixes, especially native mixes. I was skeptical but the introduction of these into our garden had a profound impact well beyond just prettying up the appearance. A lot of home gardening these days is geared toward edibles which dont produce a lot of flowers, and a lot of hybrid flowers are of no use to insects either. Our gardens to look nice but are biologically sterile, allowing leaf eating pests to multiply out of control. Support a broad range of insects and they will pay you back by eating aphids, thrips and other pests that murder plants.

    Ensure your garden has three levels. Groundcover, understory and canopy plants. While you dont want to completely shade your garden we've found its been entirely useful to provide levels of shade and sunlight in terms of plant survival. This has also allowed a large amount of wildlife to move into our garden. We recently had an 8ft python removed from the garden and rehomed into the native bushland (only because we have both chickens and cats) but there are no mice in our garden.
    Last edited by WhoCares; 01-21-2014 at 11:03 PM. Reason: Spelling

  10. #20
    LL P. Stewie Beorn's Avatar
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    How in the world did i miss this?
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