Maintaining the garden

There is a sheer iron resistance to the idea that farming can be done without heavy machinery. Hundreds of horse powers are out there on our fields. And people have completely lost confidence that it can be done otherwise.

However, maintaining a healthy garden gets down to one  simple  method called “chop and drop”.

Yes, we favor certain plants and crops over others that we call weeds. But it is a serious mistake to try to quantitatively remove those plants we have decided to call weeds. There is a much more simple, efficient and appropriate method than removing weeds with shoots and roots or even poisoning them with herbicides. We gotta change attitude and rather think positively of our crop than being afraid of the weed. You want to concentrate on taking care of your favorite crop, while you chop and prune some of the other plants that otherwise prevent your crop from fully developing. Following this practise, there no waste of any of the nutrients that had been taken up by the weeds. At the contrary: The weeds have – for the time of their own development – accumulated nutrients that are subsequently released for the benefit of your crop. Roots that remain in the soil decay – or at least partly decay, and enter the cycle of natural soil building right at the spot. And the arial parts of the weeds, when dropped at the place, cover the soil, preserve soil moisture and also contribute to the soil building. There is thus no serious competition for nutrients, because surface composting and root pruning recycle the nutrients to the system in favor of your favorite crops.

If you do not interfere in the garden, then it turns wild. Then eventually there is competition for nutrients and light, and certain plants take advantage. Then a succession sets in towards a climax vegetation typical for the particular climatic region. Proper gardening, however, is maintaining a young and open fruit forest. Pruning and chopping is necessary and sufficient to manage and maintain this stage for many decades.

Undisturbed soil is extremely potent in recycling organic matter. All the soil organisms needed for cycling are right in place. This is one reason why it takes a couple of years of transition when you change your practice from digging and tilling to a permanent non-dig garden. The soil fauna has to develop and reach its natural balance. Once you approach this balance, managing becomes easier and easier.

There is no real need to prepare compost other than composting directly on the surface. You may want to use larger patches of nutrient accumulating plants, such as comfrey, for surface composting at another place with the aid to translocate nutrients. But this is a soft and sensitive method which keeps pace with natural cycling for the system, allowing the system to proceed in its most productive form.

People often argue that slugs then take over and harm the cultures. But this is just another temporary problem, until things get into balance again. Firstly, slugs do not particularly go after your crop. They also eat what you chop and drop and thereby assist the composting process. Secondly, the slugs will be followed by their predators such as toads controlling their population. Ducks are an excellent garden keeper too eating the slugs and providing you with eggs. Every problem has a natural solution. No artificial measure can do a better job than inviting the natural predators into your system. Using poison will only address one problem for a short period of time while at the same time removing the basis for survival of the natural predators, pushing the system out of balance.

Modern agriculture is a synthetic system. It is hard to see for many, how to get out of the system. It necessarily requires some time and you may encouter a temporary break down of yield until nature gets back into balance. But yields recover, and takes over far beyond what can be done with a synthetic system. We cannot rely on a single crop anyway. So why not growing a rich mixture of crops together. Monocultures are only practical for the machinery we employ to cultivate them, but neither appropriate for us or nature. Mixed permanent cultures are far more productive and healthy.

Natural farming is about bringing back the natural players into balance. Once this is achieved, gardening becomes the easiest task ever. It is no more than chop and drop, chop and drop, chop …. and drop.

I reckon, once the physical primary work is done, I can manage 2 hectares and maintain them in a state of a paradies just as a single guard, while enjoying plenty of leasure time.

Imagine how much you learn by actually doing it!

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biochar oven

Efter at have afprøvet 3 forskellige versioner af ovne til at lave biochar, var vi mest overbeviste af den sidste model, som vi byggede sammen med kaospiloterne i Århus sidste uge. Derfor lavede vi vores egen i sammen stil i går ved Vadstedet i Christiania.

Denne model er kendt som “the everythingNice stove“, en hjemmelavet version af en “lucia stove“. Men vores version skulle blive en ‘scale up’ af den originale. Med hovedformålet at lave biochar, ikke mad.

Nu blev vores oven afprøvet i dag og det var en stor succes. En super ren forbrænding, og en ordentlig portion biochar som slutprodukt.

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Udover at “the everythingNice stove” brænder meget rent, så kan man fodre den med mere træ i løbet af processen, fordi det indre kammer, der hvor biomassen bliver til trækul, er åbent. Så: everything nice!

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planter på række

Heidi besøgte mig og Filip i dag ved jordlaboratoriet.  Hun er selv gartner og læste om vores projekt på nettet…

Vi snakkede om økologi og naturlig landbrug, og – som tit med gæster – kom vi til at snakke om den nuværende økologiske landbrug som er reguleret efter det økologiske regelsæt:

Hvis man driver “rødmærke-økologi”  har man faktisk kun lidt til forskel med det konventionelle landbrug. Regelsættet definere kun nogle ting man ikke gøre. Men hvis man kun fokuserer på det man ikke gøre, overser man det uudtømmelige potentiale af økologien. Tænk planternes sammenspil med hinanden og med andre organismer fik en chance for at udfolde sig?

Hvad står der i vejen for det?

For det første står planter i naturen ikke på rækker. For det andet har i naturen en specifik plante ikke nødvendigvis en plante af sammen art som nabo, medmindre det boomer af de betingelser, lige netop denne art har brug for. Ellers er – fx – en anden bygplante bygplantens stærkeste konkurrent, fordi begge to har brug for præcis de sammen betingelser.

Hvordan kan man så løse dette problem, uden at gå helt op i at designe beplantningen af et bestemt areal?

Vi snakkede om frøkugler og frøbomber. Frøkugler og frøbomber er nogle redskaber i det naturlige landbrug. Man blander frø med kompost, ler og vand og former mindre kugler af denne blanding, som gerne må tørre ud til senere brug. Frøkugler og frøbomber spreder man så efterfølgende på marken.

Hvis man nu spreder frøbomber med frø fra 50 eller 100 forskellige planter, så ville alle de forskellige planter blive blandet helt tilfældigt, og drives bedst i fællesskab med deres optimale partner de helt tilfældigt har fundet frem til. Det er startskud for en naturlig etablering af en vegetation, som efterhånden bliver fyldt med mange af de planter man oprindeligt har spredt via frø. Dyrket under de bedste forhold.

Det er helt åbenlyst, at planter på rækker ikke kan udfolde deres fulde potentiale. Tværtimod. På rækker er det så godt som sikkert, at de mangler noget, fordi planter ikke er vandt til at stå på række.

Tænk dig vi skaber et landskab med bakker og søer. Vi planter nogle træer og bombaderer helle arealet med den vildeste frøblanding af almuelige planter. Mange af dem spiselige, Men alle med en funktion. Det skulle blive den vildeste oase.

Heidi er med. Det synes jeg er sejt.

Udgivet i økologi, landbrug | Tagget , ,