Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

This is a useful summary from Scott Strough at Sketical Science (see for full interview).

I think the claims re climate change are not fully proven as this article points out. However, the regenerative agriculture approach has so much substance that I cannot help but try to embrace it even in my own backyard.

In this regard, I think Strough offers us some pointers. This, generally, is what I do in pursuit of 'soil health'.

Instead of 'grasses' per se, I experiment with Vetiver. This I now plant inside the growing beds, leave it there to grow for around a year, then harvest and divide each clump. Over this time I'll trim back each clump for mulch.

I don't want the Vetiver to get too big and maybe slice it from its deep roots (with a shovel) when it reaches 15 tillers. I then divide it and replant it.

I have pointed out how I manage my Scurvy Weed ground cover.(Drag & Drop Gardening with Scurvy Weed as a green mulch: the story so far) but aside from using a sickle, sometimes I'll use a brush cutter on the beds.

I'm my own herd of ruminants. I'd use my chooks but they dig up my vegetable plants when in free range or escape   mode.

That's the theory anyway.

Anyway, Strough argues:

The five keys to soil health: 
  • The first key to soil health is least amount of soil disturbance possible, preferably no-till.The soil disturbance should be limited to the hole made by planting the seeds or seedlings, and the hole made by harvesting root crops. I even limit pulling weeds, preferring in many cases to cut them at ground level or even let them grow as long as they don't shade out my crop. You'll be amazed how many so called "weeds" are actually beneficial companions when the soil food web is functioning properly. 
  • The second key is no bare soil. EVER if possible. Grow cover crops in the off seasons to have a living root in the soil as long as possible. Plants are the foundation of the soil food web, and their roots feed a whole complex network of beneficial soil life. At minimum cover that soil with mulches when something isn't growing. Never allow bare soil anywhere. If you see bare soil, even between rows of plants, cover it!
  • Key three is diversity; nature never has monocultures.Part of the reason I allow grasses and forbs to grow between my rows is to insure a tomato field has something besides tomatoes growing in it. There are tremendous benefits to the soil food web when you have a diversity of plants growing together, from nutrient sharing, to pest prevention, to drought resistance, to attracting beneficial insects and pollinators and more.
     
  • Fourth, keep a living root in the ground for as long as possible.Roots have exudates that feed the whole soil food web. Think of something like tree sap, but that flows down through the roots instead of upwards to the branches and leaves. Many beneficial symbiotic soil microorganisms like arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) require a living root to feed them or they die. They trade key nutrients, water and pest resistance compounds for those root exudates. This is another reason for the grass between my rows. They are perennials and their roots will keep the AMF networks alive even through winter. Mycorrhizal Fungi: The World’s Biggest Drinking Straws And Largest ...
  • The final key is animal impact. I am not testing this particular key to soil health in this particular experimental trial. I am just simulating a grazing animal's impact with a mower to simulate grazing, and a compost pile to simulate manure. But to go to scale, this must reform animal husbandry practices just as much as it reforms crop production. But certainly many home gardeners could benefit from even something as simple and beneficial as a backyard chicken flock, if integrated properly and allowed by zoning regulations.

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GrowVetiver

Vetiver grass helps to stabilise soil and protects it against erosion.  It can protect against pests and weeds. Vetiver is also used as animal feed. (Wiki.)

GrowVetiver is a plant nursery run by Dave & Keir Riley that harvests and grows Vetiver grass for local community applications and use. It is based in Beachmere, just north of Brisbane, Australia.


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