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FOR THOSE WITH SPACE TO SPARE ON ACREAGE, FOOD FOR THOUGHT

My gardening abilities have been curbed a bit lately and have led me to reading more about different ways to increase the goodness in our soil which is the engine of our plant growth and the machine that nature provided to help us be more reliant in the future.

So much has been learnt by reading and listening to the advice given and seeing the soil improvements by Ernst Gotsch and like- minded individuals.  They have seen the damage in different counties of either erosion or degraded dead soils. He is a farmer in soils and strives to keep life in the soil.

One thing that he believes does the most damage, is the fact that humans now plow fields to plant wheat and corn for annual crops which are not good for the soils. They usually require water and growth stimulants and then pest-control, which can become work intensive and often leaving bare soil between harvests.   We, as the humans on this earth need to change our way of thinking about what we eat. Do we consume food from these flat ground type harvests or from more sustaining growths that feed both animal and humans for most of the year and each year into the future.

Ernst Gotsch does this by planting a food forest in certain stages in certain times and pruning down in specific places to allow growth.  This allows us to grow a food forest at a rate suited to our age now.  A natural food forest provided by mother nature can take decades. But timing is important and it can be controlled by humans to improve growth stimulants. One surprising feature is that Ernst Gotsch uses our Eucalyptus globulis to start his forest, as he can control the canopy by cutting off the top at about 5 m tall at the right time of the year.  Certain trees create a stimulant in their root system to help nearby plants to grow.  If you already have a canopy of existing trees, then use them while needed and coppice later when the time is right. 

Many of our existing pasture crops are planted mainly to feed animals (cattle etc.) which in turn feed us. In order to carry out these soil repairing plans, one must take steps. One such tree that provides for man and animal is the Carob tree and there are many many more.

First, we need to find parent trees, and in South America they have listed approximately 9 wild bearing trees and their natural hybrids to grow on hill fields (some examples Pecans, Walnuts, Persimmons and much more).  These would be crop trees for humans.

Then for animals, there would be similar but different trees for hilly areas as well e.g. Mulberry, Acorn yielding oaks etc.  These trees are quoted as they relate to experiments in America.  The same can apply to Australia with relevant trees to the differing temperatures and rainfall.  Once the selections of best tasting tree fruits have been selected then plantings can commence.  These will be the structure trees which will last for many years.  Under-planting can take place at the same time for shorter living species. There are plantings for chopping and producing ground covers. There are plantings of Bananas, Pawpaws and most of the plants we are growing in our own backyards.  When the trees are cut down to make room for sunlight to penetrate, the trunks are laid on the ground to save and renew soil and prevent erosion.  There would be an increase in manpower to produce and maintain these food forests and plenty of food for all.

There were comparisons made to the damaging types of rainfall in the different continents such as heavy ground damaging downpours in American regions and the gentle everyday rains in European and Mediterranean regions.  One book which I am reading now is called “Tree Crops A Permanent Agriculture” by J. Russell Smith, although this book relates to American research, we can do the same in our country. 

This type of food forest has been known to restore underground water systems and waterways and repair the living soils.  These areas can cope with droughts and flooding rains.

To promote long bearing crops for decades is better than planting yearly crops for one purpose.  I have taken notes on which trees have many purposes in life.

Here is my main interest site - http://www.ideassonline.org/public/pdf/SyntropicFarming-ENG.pdf  and there are also great youtube sites as Dave has previously given to us.

We need to grow our own Supermarkets in the forests for the future.  What do you think about this subject?

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Comment by Dave Riley on May 26, 2019 at 12:20

The drawback is bushfire risk. The more dead stuff on the ground, the more fuel there is laying around for Summer.

A work around may be this exchange.

...and livestock grazing.

Comment by Susan on May 25, 2019 at 18:53

This is fascinating Christa but I don't know if I would have the patience to do this as they lay out.  I am starting an intermix of my fruit trees and natives on the farm and I can tell you that nothing will be "removed" from the farm.  Any debris will be left on site to break down. I mostly do that here too with the few exceptions when it is just not feasible to have a ginormous log breaking down on my tiny plot.

Comment by Christa on May 13, 2019 at 8:36

My interest in Gotsch's Syntropic planting methods etc was first raised by you, thanks Dave.  There are others who have followed his trail, but he was the scientist who started these experiments.

My aim was to inspire those with acreage to spare, a way to plant a forest which could soon become a food forest in just under a decade, by planting certain trees and lopping them to control their heights and allow the taller canopy trees to grow at spacing that suits all.  

Ernst Gotsch uses cocoa plants as his income and the same types of fruits and foods plants as we do.

He also admits to using a chainsaw and manpower when he can to work the forest to maintain ground covers. He shares his info in certain lectures and also on a website where one can obtain the latest info for approx $7.50 a month U.S.    There is much  of his works online for free as well.

Maybe termites are not a bad pest in the forest and help to break down the fallen branches etc, but to us homeowners a huge pest.  Fortunately we are off the ground, and most new homes are on concrete slabs. We have seen termites in our back yard many times when timber was laying about. 

Comment by Dave Riley on May 12, 2019 at 22:32

My online Vetiver Network just shared this: Syntropic Agroforestry: A syntropic farming guidebook. 51pp

I can't rule on direct backyard applications but this image from the very thorough guide answers a few questions about the DIY:

Obviously applying Sytropic successions aren't going to suit backyard family veg production after a few years of growing sytropically.  So the system has to be 'hacked'.  My view -- my hypothesis, anyway -- is that Vetiver can replace most of the use of  trees.

The guidebook discusses Vetiver...

Comment by Dave Riley on May 12, 2019 at 20:02

Thanks for the great link Christa. I am working my way thru the references.

I posted some more Syntropic snippets HERE.

The use of logs confused me but then I found this:

  • The systematic cutting and positioning of the pruned organic matter on the soil (never within), stimulates the action of organisms, speeding up the transformation.
  • The pruned plants invest in new growth both in the aerial part (branches and leaves) as in their roots.
  • The growth information also changes the biochemical composition of enzymes and hormones in the roots, which indirectly favors greater retention of water and nutrients.

In the urban setting ( if you are suddenly smitten)  I mentioned the need to be  termite aware...but a collateral challenge is the business of  pruning trees without falling from a height and breaking your neck.

Tools too have to be a hobby.

My annual prune  always resulted in wood I just kept in a pile in the chook pen.

But now that i have religion and a'healing is upon me,   I lay it out in the garden between the trees.

A problem with growing most natives is that they grow so fast . So many die early. So you need to have a harnessing and recycling protocol.

Using a mulcher or dumping the cut timber and brush as green waste may not be your only options.

Comment by Dave Riley on May 12, 2019 at 7:52

Sure thing!

What SYNTROPICS does is apply this  logical dynamic in a scientific way rather than be ruled by garden-of-eden idealism. It is a major contribution to agro-ecology, I think.

I'm fiddling with some of it with a new approach to areas of my garden. Chop backs are being laid down in my new orchard area and I keenly trim heights & spread  of creepers and such with sunshine in mind.

As I said originally, homeowners need to be termite aware... and there's less opportunity to be anal. But you can be a lot more that way than with higgledy piggledy Permaculture foresting.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on May 11, 2019 at 16:57

Much food for thought. Thank you Christa.

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on May 11, 2019 at 14:45

I absolutely agree Christa.  

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