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Vetiver and I have finally decided to get engaged so that we are retrofitting our family home together. Over the past two years we have grown closer to one another so that a day seldom goes by when we aren't interacting with one another... in an horticultural sense of course.
I've come to know Vetiver's ways and have learnt to appreciate the plant even more. In that embrace I can imagine the grass' potential.
At present I have three projects in mind:

  • Redesigning my kitchen garden around Vetiver hedges.
  • Keenly adding Vetiver to the school garden both as a model for its utility and as a source of mulch. Also I'm using Vetiver to create a maze for the children.
  • Exploring the possibility to bio-enegineer with Vetiver to protect the coast here against storm tide in a partnership between the community and a local Vetiver consultancy.

A good example of what I have in mind

Example of Vetiver hedges from Thailand.

So we're serious. An 'item'. Vetiver Dave.
For now,inasmuch as the weather allows me, I'm laying out a section of my own veg garden by planting out a succession of Vetiver hedges to delineate a series of parallel plots.
These are approximately 1.7 metres wide and maybe 3 metres long. Since Vetiver grows to around 1.5-1.7 metres in a season, I'm trying to harvest shade as well as on-hand mulch.
And when you cut Vetiver for mulch you increase the amount of sun the bed receives.
So I'm exploring a seasonal axis.
There's also some useful research about Vetiver as a localised biotic pump. This aspect suggests to me that I don't want to make the beds too wide.
Thus my obsession with size.
But should I run them east/west or north/south...? As a pragmatist I reckon I can do both -- and for now run the plots east/west in the section I'm retrofitting -- and next time lay the beds north/south if i so decide.

One thing I discovered while redesigning this section of garden is that you really do need Vetiver hedges --closely planted and dense -- to sustain your mulch needs.(*) The logic of growing Vetiver as plot borders is superb. Talk about cut and drop!

What I'm also interested in the V's root depth as the leaves are just the tip of the botanical  iceberg.Maybe 2 metres straight down -- so that, in my mind's eye, I see the section of soil bordered by Vetiver hedges as a 'raised' bed engineered by V's roots -- just as the stems themselves hold the bed in place above  ground. While the roots go straight down,sucking up desirables, the height of the plant above is easily adjusted by cutting it. Meanwhile  the plant sponsors some keen push/pull microbial and insect happenings.

Today, ever clump I uprooted for division was alive with active earth worms entwined among the roots.

Talk about Win/Win!

No wonder we're so much in love.... in an horticultural sense of course. 

Anyone seeking 'background' should peruse my earlier post and its extensive discussion:

Vetiver Ventures (Part 1)

Note:

* Despite the number of Vetiver clumps I'd planted out over the last 12 months (just under 100)  my estimation fell far short of what are now my needs.Indeed my improvised plantings had no structure and limited rationale  as I planted slips in various positions around the yard  without much forethought and with an air of experimentation. 

Hedges rule so always plant the root stock close together as though you are actually bioengineering with it.  That's a fist width apart -- give or take a few cms. You can more easily monitor and tend hedges rather than single separated clumps in the landscape.

At around 10-15 cm apart, that's 6-9 plants per metre,

There are four other lessons that are also relevant to starting out with V:

  • Try to keep your plantings in as much sun as you can  as Vetiver's growth slows  with shade.
  • Always keep water up to the transplanted slips for at least 2 weeks after they have been planted out.
  • Try to separate your clump  so that you get to plant slips made up of 2-3 tillers. Better success rate that way -- and faster growth.
  • For transplant stock, divide your clumps when they have 8-12 tillers. Any more and it becomes much harder  to uproot the plant. At 30, say, you need to do some strenuous digging if you want to  harvest  rooted slips. In my soil, I can usually uproot a whole clump just by pulling it up  -- no digging! --so long as it is no more than 10 tillers. At best I'll get 5 new plants from a 10 tiller clump. (But those 5 can produce 25 more plants...and so on).

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Comment by Evan on October 15, 2018 at 18:22

Elaine,

Sure you can mature nodes on plants to propagate but it means you have to either cut them from hedges or dig up older plants. And then they require a bit more care to get to root whereas the simpler division yields instant plants. Tissue culture is the only viable way to get a lot of plants but requires know-how, a lab, and a big nursery.

I used to propagate in pots but they transpire and grow so quickly the extra effort seemed not worth it when you can just pop them in the ground somewhere and dig them up later. Plus coming up with potting medium is a chore. One tip for pots is don't put one in the centre, put 3 out to the edges (triangle shape) so they use all the surface of the potting mix.

Comment by Evan on October 15, 2018 at 18:09

These plants are 12 months old. I may dig up some into Summer. They really start tillering after 12 months so I'm hoping to at least get high 20s and 30s for slip count. They have been inundated most of last year and now again obviously so they slow down a bit.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on October 15, 2018 at 15:53

Perhaps if you are doing a lot of V propagating, how about growing a few plants in big pots making the plants much easier to uproot for dividing. I have yet to try using the nodes as baby plants although I read about that *somewhere*, no one has so far remarked on that system so I take it that it's not as useful as using already-rooted small plants.

Comment by Evan on October 15, 2018 at 14:41
I only slice and dice on the big ones. 12-24 months I can pull apart with hands (smashing on ground loosens them), then feet for older, then shovel for woody crowns.
Comment by Evan on October 15, 2018 at 14:37
It would be easier because the plant would be smaller than one given more space to grow. You need to find the balance between available light, competition and tiller formation. Tiller formation is what we want to maximise and having more light, water, and nutrient is the way.

Killing it is easy as you just need to knock the crown out. Chipping away with a shovel or mattock could be one method. Cutting it down to ground is a method of refreshing old clumps in a suburban setting.
Comment by Dave Riley on October 15, 2018 at 13:58

Thanks Evan,

I downloaded your own pdf (you sent me the link)and much appreciated the DIY. I didn't realize it differed from the one on the International Vetiver site.

Digging out the aged clumps may indeed be hard navvy work but I've been wondering if it becomes easier if the V was planted close together in the first instance -- as in fist width apart?

Instead, you slice and dice?

I seem to moving my clumps very frequently as I generate stock.

The problem, I see, is that if Vetiver is deployed in a suburban context -- either grown in house for mulch or in the kitchen garden or as a fence or in landscaping --digging it up aftera few years of growth may indeed be an issue.

But then NOTHING could be as bad as bamboo!

I also find that Vetiver maybe has a limited potted up life.

But then it takes up much less space  than a tree and many shrubs.

Comment by Evan on October 15, 2018 at 9:44

Everyone listen to Dave when he says to divide them small. Here is a 5 year old clump that I had to dig out. The effort is not worth it, yet yielded 143 slips so not all bad.

Comment by Evan on October 15, 2018 at 9:38

It looks like we started dividing at the same time, based on your post on the Vetiver Network FB page. The day after I started putting them in, they received -1.5C. Lukcily the days were warm and they started growing straight away.

Comment by Evan on October 15, 2018 at 9:32

Hi Dave,

The link you posted earlier to my guide is the mangled, greatly-reduced Vetiver.org one. The initial point of creating the guide was to have one with higher-res pictures so they were clearer. Vetiver.org hosts reduced ones so people in third world countries can access them freely.

I ended up hosting the PDF elsewhere and it's 10MB so a hefty download for the average user. Here's the link: https://www.erosionqld.com.au/2018/02/06/prop.html

Comment by Dave Riley on August 21, 2018 at 21:53

All but one bucket of tillers are in the soil planted out in hedges. Yesterday I created a new bed bordered by  Vetiver hedges.

I decided to utilize the hedges as my in situ Vetiver nursery and what little stock remains will plug in any gaps in the green lines that should become evident once the current growth accelerates as the weather warms.

I don't want any gaps because I want to run my chickens along the pathways between the beds.

I have a mind to run a few more hedge lines in some places to divide the beds up further. Once you get the hang of it, designing bed layouts with Vetiver is easy -- all you need is the stock.

From Quyen (VNVN) in Vietnam:

"Some dedicated farmers have been using Vetiver as a key component for their organic farming practice. They have found that they can reduce the use of fertilizer and herbicides for their crops; crop pests seem to prefer vetiver rather than the main crops, and soil pH level has improved. Next step, they want to apply vetiver for agro-chemical residue treatment. 253,000 vetiver slips have been distributed to 44 farmers - Mostly vetiver is planted in the central and northern regions for erosion prevention, drainage protection, mulching and soil rehabilitation. Vetiver is planted in Southern region for pest control and acid sulfate soil decrease".

PLUS:- the overall demand is so staggering that one supplier I visited has almost 20ha of nursery and must be producing millions of slips but cannot keep up with the demand and has stopped taking new orders! One supplier has an order for 2.3 million slips.

With practice I'm getting better managing my Vetiver nursery. Once the tillers are divided out -- an art in itself -- soaking the roots in water, changed every other day, works wonders as new roots quickly grow from the base.

'Tis a magical process.

Once the  sprouting roots are evident, you can plant out with confidence.

While I was hoping to start local distribution this month, I'm now planning to delay 'the launch' until the next harvest and division. I'll turn my backyard into Vetiver nursery mode until I run out of space.

Despite what I may go on about, it is difficult for many folk to understand the versatility of this perennial sterile plant  with such a deep root habit. I aim to prove its utility. But I'm not there yet in way of creating my model garden.

Just in my own river valley and along this threatened coastline I can see so many uses for Vetiver.

Fortunately, Elaine has been so generous with her plants and with the last vigorous harvest of her big clumps -- thanks also to #1 son -- I'm now approaching my imagined threshold. With a long crowbar, despite being in the soil for a few years, they were surprisingly easy to dig out.

At the school garden I hope to -- finally! -- have the Vetiver maze trim and triffic by 4th term.

The few plants I cut for mulch  In Winter are coming on again so I'm hoping over this coming growth season to register some estimate of how much mulch i can harvest per hedgerow. Hypothetically, each  hedgerow should supply enough mulch for the plot it surrounds  -- sufficient material to keep the soil permanently blanketed. Since cut Vetiver it reputed to last a year as mulch on the surface -- it's a pretty good deal compared to alternatives. Here in the sub tropics and desopite shade issues, I should perhaps get 2-3 mulch harvests per year.  ...  I should be able to ween myself from being dependent on grass clippings.

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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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