Posts Tagged ‘farming’

Some of you may have heard a few people making the statement: ”I am a no dig / no till gardener” what they meant about that is that they do not follow the standard of turning or rotavating their soil every year especially in the Winter.

serveimage

Woodchip Soil Amending – year 1 and 2 onwards

No Dig gardeners do a little bit of digging, but only what is necessary such as digging a hole to place a plant in it’s final outdoor location. They Do Not however, systematically dig / till the soil every year.
One of the arguments used to justify this ficticious practice is that they are bringing up nutrients which are / have leeched deep down.
Gardeners the country over, including very experienced people on Allotments have no actual clue about the sub surface bacteria and how they are exposing these beneficial organisms to the elements and also burying them too deep which kills them off!
In permaculture we call it the Soil Food Web and it comprises the entire system from soil microbes, to fungi mycelium, the plants, moisture, decomposing matter etc…

Nature does the work for us, we just need to learn to observe and only intervene by taking advantage of the observed clues, one good example is with the Austrian Farmer Sepp Holzer, he noticed as a boy that Strawberries grow much better and produce larger / jucier fruit when stones were placed beside the plants, he also noticed how White Clover also helped (Nitrogen Fixer).

The below image describes a better understanding of exactly how the different organisms in the ‘Soil Food Web’ play their roles which interact with other organisms in the system:

soil food web

If for example, you buy a house or start a garden somewhere and you find that the soil is heavy clay, you will of course need to dig and place soil amendments (preferrably natural) in the first year on a once off occasion, thereafter only an annual surface layer of mulch is needed to feed the system with fresh compostable material, nature literlaly does the rest and after a longer period of time you will have a very healthy soil system on that particular patch of land.

So, a few bags of clean sharp sand to help break up the clay, perhaps a few bags of compost and I would say as much woodchip as can be obtained, these materials should be worked into the soil up to the depth of perhaps of one spade blade. If your woodchip is fresh, you should not grow anything in this soil for at least a year, so this year you could at least use the space to host a row of pots which will hold plants for this one season, next year you will grow directly in the ground.

Rotovating or working the soil every year destroys the food web and basically resets it everytime, in the case of using a rotovator on heavy clay, the blades actually compact the ground under the bed being prepared and pretty much can cause this layer to become a water barrier, this I have seen first hand and the plot in question was always flooded at certain times of the year … In my whole opinion, using a rotovator is only necessary in the first year of soil amandment.

If you have a perennial weed problem (weeds which die down in winter and re-sprout from sub surface root networks in spring) you can use sheet mulch (aka lasagna mulch) after your soil amendment is added and then your final layer of the woodchip or mulch layer of your choice.

I challenge any skeptics to do a control experiment where they dedicate half of their beds to a no dig with mulch method and see the difference year after year …

Nevermind mechanical tractors, the Chicken Tractor is not really a machanical machine at all, it’s just a quirky nickname for something far better than a Petrol Guzzling Monoculture Farmageddon contraption…

Simply put, a Chicken Tractor is a Chicken Coop on wheels, without a floor so that the Chickens can forage on the ground beneath the Tractor for a day then the Tractor will be moved the length of the coop the next morning in a rotation around a pre-designed (And pre-seeded) Plot of Land. This provides natural food (vegetation as well as insects) and a more natural almost free range style environment for them!
The benefits are good, The birds rely on less imports (feed) so it is a cost saver, they are healthier, the land gets ‘scratched over’ with pests becoming Chook food, the ground also gets manured so that the perennial greens have sufficient nutrients to sprout back before the Tractor is back in the same spot after sometime.

In the below Video, Joel Slatin (aka the Nutcase Farmer) explains the concept on his industrial sized enterprise:

Some more designs:

Article on Wikipedia:

Chicken tractors allow free ranging along with shelter, allowing chickens fresh forage such as grass, weeds and bugs (although these will quickly be stripped away if the tractor remains in the same place for too long), which widens their diet and lowers their feed needs. Unlike fixed coops, chicken tractors do not have floors so there is no need to clean them out. They echo a natural, symbiotic cycle of foraging through which the birds eat down vegetation, deposit fertilizing manure, then go on to a new area.

The term chicken tractor comes from the chickens performing many functions normally performed using a modern farm tractor: functions like digging and weeding the soil in preparation for planting trees or crops or fertilizing and weeding to enhance the growth of crops and trees already planted.

With chicken tractors flock owners can raise poultry in an extensive environment wherein the birds have access to fresh air, sunlight, forage and exercise, which caged birds in commercial coops do not have. With the coop on only a small area at any given time, the field has time to wholly regrow and more birds can be fed than if they were allowed to freely roam. A chicken tractor also gives some shelter from predators and weather. Moreover, hens lay eggs in nest boxes rather than hiding them in foliage.

In the below videos (Both less than 2 / 3 min’s each) the Guy explains the setup on day one of the tractor and birds being put into place, then day two (2nd Video) you see the area after the Tractor is relocated and the effects / benefits of Chicken Tractoring.
These two videos are what first made me understand the full reasoning and intent / benefits behind this practice a couple years ago when I first came across the concept.

Video 1; Chicken Tractor on first location:
https://youtu.be/3Er7R-AKQGg

Video 2; Result day after adn explanation of findings:
https://youtu.be/GQE0WyxgTT4

A nice short video from the Fuente Verde farm in Costa Rica, watch as they explain how the land has been divided up and sold off to like minded individuals or couples (Members) who want to live in a permaculture based community, limited spaces allocated ensures that the land cannot get overcrowded, whilst a fair system of a 75% vote which they call a ‘super majority’ is what they use to deal with issues that may arise (Far better than the so called democracy system of 49 – 51 % we see worldwide).

Wouldn’t it be nice ? …..