Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

This Youtube presentation (here) while aimed at producers  contains good information that is relevant to everybody who grows food no matter the scale. Hard not to be convinced from somebody like Brown who is doing it successfully in the US rural heartland's conservative belt.

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Fabulous results from working with nature! The amount of water he can store in his soil is mind boggling. And working with animals and cover crops he does not add any fertilisers and of course does not use any sprays. Weird how his next door neighbour does not take the hint! Phil this video might be more visible if you added it to our 'Video' list on the front page. It deserves to be seen by everyone interested in natural growing.

Great video Phil 

I see where the primary focus is generating organic matter in the soil which has a significant water retention flow on.

I'm wondering what the suburban backyard application protocol would be? It ain't the Prairie outback!

I'm just  short of covering my whole outback with intentional plantings. I found my attempt at green manure planting to be very disappointing so I reverted to stuff I know will grow: dog bane (Plectranthus ornatus) and pigface.  Both plants don't seem to have the attributes of Brown's cover crops -- but they do chop up for mulching and burying; are easily planted out and controlled. 

I looked at the pigface today and wondered how far I can deploy that. There's already a lot out there a'creepin' and a'crawlin' hither and yon. Of course no one uses pigface unless they want to stabilize  shifting sand. But I'm finding I can plant among the pigface even while it does its reach out work.

And my pigface -- the local species, not the one from down south -- hardly ever flowers.

Obviously it is a coloniser species and it loves my ups and downs.

So I'm wondering what am I doing by using it so much?

I'm also exploring the use of Canna Indica -- Indian shot canna...and I plant out sunflowers in the crannies. But I gather sunflowers are allelopathic. Indeed they don't seem a very good ground cover crop at all.

Not just the seed hulls, but also decaying leaves, root exudates, leaf leachates and the soil in which sunflowers have been grown, can influence the antioxidant systems in nearby plants, causing cell-membrane permeability and cellular damage, reducing the plants’ ability to germinate and causing a gradual loss of seed vigor among other symptoms.

Looks like I need to stick to my stand byes -- my safe bets. And..maybe -- since it too has taken off -- albeit weedlike/but easy to pull -- Huazontle.

  1. I guess I'm doing 'cover crops' but I'm relying on perennials.
  2. They're manageable and behave themselves.
  3. I'm creating organic matter which I return to the soil.

I see where cover crops have these functions:

  • Suppressing weeds
  • Protecting soil from rain or runoff
  • Improving soil aggregate stability
  • Reducing surface crusting
  • Adding active organic matter to soil
  • Breaking hardpan
  • Fixing nitrogen
  • Scavenging soil nitrogen
  • Suppressing soil diseases and pests

So I'm wondering how many boxes I'm ticking? I guess I don't score re the Nitrogen...but I've planted out a lot of Pigeon Peas.

If I  wanted to explore some of Brown's approaches, how would I do it? Planting out bed by bed -- or paddock by paddock --  doesn't suit me because I always plant in intense intercropping mixes...and I don't follow rotation protocols so much. I'm running a backyard kitchen garden -- not a ranch.

Cover crops have the additional function of keeping the microbes fed and housed. Something no amount of mulch can do.

Pigface has a very fine root system similar to Chickweed. Or I visualise it as having that. The microbes should love it. We need to use species which do well here. He doesn't use Pigface coz it doesn't grow where he is. Nor would seed be available in the quantities needed.

Interested in what Sunflowers do - can leave Sunflowers out of the cover crop mix. Since I'm using closed bins what's in the bin to start with cannot be modified unless I add or subtract something myself.

As I've found from reading BLF posts over the years, there's as many ways of doing xyz as there are people doing it. What works for you is best for you, Dave!

While I mix up my herbs and vegs cheek to jowl -- do you think, Elaine, I need to extend my range of cover plants as Brown does? Of course he is relying on grasses on old Prairie lands but there's an obvious advantage with mixes as the plant roots vary in depth and habit.

I should add that another of my 'cover crops' is coriander --although not at the moment. But the section I consciously planted with a succession of plantings to 'cover' has done really well. 

I dug in my hand and was impressed with the loaming up. 

I should say also that the manure crop we planted at the school garden has done  well so far. Maybe not as well as I expected.

Over the Summer Hols we are planning to plant out PPs, lay down manures and cover the beds with weed mat -- rather than bust a gut sustaining any production as there is no school until after January 26th. 

If it's at all possible, put in a dense cover crop of whatever is to hand and leave it there until you need it when school resumes. The plants will look after themselves, let them seed or whatever they want to do. Have growing plants rather than weed mat and mulch. Growing plants feed and house the microbes.

As I understand it, the greater variety of plants you have growing, the healthier the soils. I read about a horse stud in UK some of which fields had never been ploughed. They had up to 80 species growing at any one time, just naturally re-seeding. We're not going to get close to that. I used to use lots of grasses and found that when I clear-felled them (with scissors!) they regrew. I've swapped to dicots and clear-felling usually kills them. With plastic-lined beds, I'm not keen to dig or fork over the soil.

Grab as many different plant types as you can. Leave some to re-seed and await results. This is such experimentation! The variety of soils we on BLF have at our disposal is mind-boggling as are the ways of dealing with them.

Elaine, Some of the things that Brown mentioned, made good sense. Getting good advice is helpful at the beginning.  Then there are maintenance practices.   Not having bare soil, seems to make sense.

We have managed to get 3 wicking beds full of soil etc.  Now I am going to give it 5 in 1 manure mix, rockdust, dolomite, maybe a little bit of epsom salts, and trace elements and I have a bin of cheap woodchip mulch which seems to have a lot of white thready fungi in it, so I will add that. Then a cup of tea with milk no sugar will help.

After a couple of weeks or so I would like to plant a summer cover crop. Is the one from greenharvest, a good mix to use?  Will they be suitable for 300 and 400 deep wicking beds.

Is there any of the above that you would leave out.  We have one garden bed left to do, it will be my trial bed, and it will be interesting to see what happens.  Questions, Questions, Questions.

Ah but you've got to find the good-advice givers! Everyone has an opinion but not everyone is able to explain.

I've found Searle's 5 in 1 not the great mix it used to be. Add plenty of Gypsum coz the Tomatoes which grew in it had severe blossom-end rot (Calcium deficiency). Gypsum is very heavy but cheap and a good source of Calcium which doesn't alter the pH. If you need to raise the pH then use Dolomite (Ca and Mg combined).

Any cover crop is better than no cover crop. You can buy cheap Mung beans at the produce store or even use your sprouting mixes if you've got plenty. Use as many different plants as you are able. A good source is supermarket bird mixes.

The Lucerne which established itself all around my block came from a discarded sprout tray. No inoculant, it just grows. And grows! Careful though the roots are very enthusiastic. Confine it the the soil or solid-sided bins not ones lined in plastic.

The forest or even natural grasslands do not have bare soil. Bill Mollison observed that when formulating Permaculture. Anything which grows even 'weeds' are an asset to the soil providing bed and board to the microbes and worms.

Good advice, I am even thinking about transplanting my chickweed into the beds. It grows quickly and is very easy to pull out.  Before I do anything else, I will do a pH test, and maybe use some Gypsum instead of Dolomite.

Chickweed prefers the coolth. It has a fabulous fibrous root system so transplanting all but the smallest plant could end in death for the plants. Leave it where it is and it will re-seed shortly ready for next autumn. Then transplant small plants if you need to.

Wow I didn't expect this level of comment when I posted this... I'm glad I did as it looks like people got something out of the video as well as the associated discussion.

Lots! Even though most proponents of gardening with microbes say much the same thing, everyone has something different to offer. I thought he would be a tad 'ho-hum'. I was wrong. He has lots to say of use to everyone.

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