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Fun and Games With Monto Vetiver Grass

There's been some good info in the photograph comments so to keep the topic handy for future reference, I've pasted the comments into a separate post.

Andy asked what I am going to do with the cut Vetiver ...

'Short-term stockpile for mulch. I had thought of trying Ruth Stout's system of using hay, substituting the Vetiver I have for the hay I don't have. I will never be able to grow enough Vetiver to make enough hay! So I'm back to just mulching with the Vetiver and it will be simpler to apply when cut into 1-2ft lengths rather than struggling with the 6ft lengths I tried first. When warmer weather returns, I'm hoping to make more Vetiver plants to use as a shade barrier.'

Then Lissa added this: 'I had a wonderful little scythe, just big enough for the hand, that I found invaluable for cutting Vetiver. Bought it from the Yandina Community Garden for something like $10 or $15 but can't find a photo of it on their site. Gloves another necessity due to the bladey nature of the grass.'

And Dave responded: 'From my limited experience I'd attack it in sections with secateurs. My sickle objects as you cut near the roots -- even when sharpened.

And since you need to cut into lengths  you may need to rely on secateurs anyway.But then too much cutting gives you RSI.

In New Guinea they fold the stems to shorten them for mulching in veg beds. Traditionally Vetiver is cut back to 250 cm height when harvested as the recovery is faster than shorter cuts.

Next time I harvest I hope to try my electric chainsaw and cut low.

As for digging up some rooted slips, Elaine: don't let the Elaines kill themselves. It would be healthier to grab what you can  -- even two or three slips and plant them out for later slip harvest than tackle the creatures you have seeking more plant out stock. Harvest slips from them when you get 12-15 fresh stems.'

I used a pair of hedge shears, bought originally from Aldi and when sharp do a wonderful job, saving RSI I could get from using secateurs. Yes, gloves would be useful as would long sleeves. Tying the string meant I couldn't wear gloves so have some nicks to show for my effort.

I've left almost a metre of stems so expect the plants to grow back well when they feel like growing again.

As for slips or whatever ... I was using the swollen nodes of the flowering stems. If I have understood the terminology correctly, they are the 'tillers'. Anyway I'm happy to know otherwise, I have found the words used in the literature are confusing. I tried before winter but guess that it was not warm enough for the plants to start rooting and I will try again around September. No I won't be trying to dig up any stems! That is one job too tough for we old boilers.

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Comment by Dave Riley on August 18, 2017 at 8:29

Recent Vetiver mulch calculation done by Surabhi Jain:

(Likely less harvest bulk in sub tropics and in shade.)

today i have calculated vetiver bio-mass and result is very interesting.
1plant=6kg fresh Leaves=2.75kg dried Leaves(after every 6 month)
we can take 2,3 cut per year.
1acre =110ton dry matter (2cut per year)

Grimshaw, in 22 May 2006 discussion board, wrote: "With adequate rain or irrigation Vetiver produces up to 90�tons per hectare per year of dry grass". One hectare = 2.47 acres. The production of vetiver dry grass would only be 36 tons per acre. Surabhi, since you have used kg (metric units) is it " 1 hectare produces 110 tonnes dry vetiver grass "?

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on July 7, 2017 at 16:39

Big difference between Lemon Grass and Vetiver Grass - for me, that is - is the ready availability of the stolons. Sections of horizontal stem (could be a rhizome too, not certain of the correct word) are easy to find above the ground and will sprout very readily. I've not looked too closely at Vetiver for these structures. The culms (not tillers as I thought) with the nodes are easy to see and harvest.

Comment by Dave Riley on July 7, 2017 at 16:10

Gonna try that water approach now, today...sounds like growing lemon grass -- Vetiver's cousin.

Indoors, on a sill: easy.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on July 7, 2017 at 16:04

I've yet to test these ideas but they sound a bit more manageable for me rather than digging up rooted sections. Found online:

'

2.1 Multiplication by Stem-culm Cuttings
No matter how many nodes, mono-, bi-, or poly-node, are contained in a culm, old culms from the first four nodes in the base part of a stem have the highest survival rate, which goes up to about. 50-60%; whereas the culms from the 5-6th nodes only have 20-30% survival rate. The further the culms are from the base part, the lower their survival rates eventually to zero. In the same nodes, those which are deprived of sheaths and have revealed "bud-eyes" and "root points" sprout more rapidly, and produce more roots, than those which are not deprived of their sheaths. This is because the bud ~eyes~ and root points in culms whose sheaths are peeled off are capable of contacting directly with moisture in soil, which promotes root points to stretch and bud-eyes to sprout. If older cuttings are put in sand with saturated water, they will show "white dots" next day, and produce new roots in the third day; if younger cuttings are used it will takes more than 20 days, but they do not become dry or dead.'

and:

'3.1 Water-cultivation for Accelerating Root Growth


The method of water cultivation for speeding root growth is quite simple and is accomplished by laying the cuttings or root divisions vertically in 5-centimeter-deep water (e.g. shallow pool) for 7-10 days.

This advantages of this method are as follows:

_ Has quicker growth and tillering Through water cultivation, seedlings no longer undergo the green-turning process, but grow directly. Thus they can produce tillers in advance.
_ Roots rapidly. Water cultivation makes seedlings strike new roots only in 2-3 days, whereas the ordinary transplanting way takes at least one week. (In spring 1997, we did the same experiment, the result was that fastest new roots were produced in 3 days, and the slowest in a week or so.)
_ Increased the survival rates, and better promotion of growth and development. While cuttings are used as multiplication materials, they will not take roots and from tillers until transplanting after 10 days or a longer, respectively, even if cuttings are from the older culms. If cuttings are the younger culms, the majority do not survive after transplanting. Through water cultivation, however, old stems grow new roots and leaves only in 2-3 days; young stems also take roots only in 10-15 days, and only a few become dry and dead.'

Warm weather sounds like the best time to try again.

Comment by Dave Riley on July 7, 2017 at 5:18

I've been unsuccessful striking the nodes/culms and it isn't the norm as tiler separation is straightforward: separate and plant out with as much root as you can harvest.

The better the tiler separation the greater was my success rate. And when you separate from an old clump you seriously damage any roots you manage to pull from the core.Even with picks and axes, chisels and saws, your exertions inevitably are not so fruitful.

That's how I started when I cut into the three Vetiver I started with. Very wasteful. But a fresh clump with 15 tilers is easy to dig up and separate or part. You can even plant a tiler back in the hole you create.

I've planted out directly and I've potted up specimens and the node propagation were not successful when the tilers were -- depending on how good were their roots. You really need two roots at least to be confident of success. Three is better. Two tillers to be on the safe side.

This weather Vetiver is still growing -- judging from what's happening here -- so I'd have a go with whatever you have. Come Spring I can send you stock anyway. That's when I next hope to divide depending on growth. Planted out early you could greatly multiply your plantation in a year.

My 80+ plants may make an OK plantation but they are all young with less than 15 growing tilers. I stopped planting out in May(I think that was my last harvest) but what I did plant out is still growing.In 'Winter' they do not like the shade. So they grow slower than ones in full sun. Every time I harvest I have to stop and think where I'll plant the tilers -- and for what reason.

But once I plant out a full hedge (roughly 1x5 metres) many of my supply anxieties should resolve themselves and I can really explore design & supply issues with greater confidence. That qualitative/quantitative threshold is key I reckon.

As a matter of interest Pradeep Kumar just shared a photo of one of his projects: Vetiver islands intercropped with canna lillies. Great idea.

Anyway, the latest harvest consensus from Vetiver pros is a 7.5-8inch reeping hook sickle with a serrated edge: ebay was OK.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on July 6, 2017 at 15:08

Have you tried getting the nodes to root, Dave? That was what I tried with nil result. Too cold I reckon at that time. I am trying again in warmer weather. The nodes should root without too much bother. Digging up pieces is not for me.

Comment by Dave Riley on July 6, 2017 at 9:05

For my own edification I did a count.

I have 21 Vetiver plants in the front yard -- primarily as an exercise in landscaping -- and over 60 in the back.

The backyard ones were planted with water and nutrient uptake in mind as well as for later mulching. I reckon that if i get each plant up to harvestable size of 15 tilers, I'll finally be away on my great Vetiver adventure: more for mulching, more for drawing up the goodies and holding moisture, more for distribution, more for the school garden maze...

I lost some freshly sewn plants in the heat and because my division skills were not good enough. When you hack from a huge clump you destroy more rooted stems than you  get to use.I also planted some tillers in semi-shade which has meant that they haven't grown as fast as others.

So come warmer weather -- at least warmer than it is now!? -- the earth should move to the Vetiver song.

Comment by Dave Riley on July 5, 2017 at 0:39

FYI: came upon this(2007) by Jerry CW:Wetting Agents.

Within the excellent discussion he addresses mulches:

Vary the type of mulch used

Mulches should be varied. Wood-based mulches, like pine and teatree, favour fungi. Soft mulches, like fresh lawn clippings, and green manures favour bacteria. Mushroom compost and sugarcane favour both fungi and bacteria. Since 2003, I have varied the type of mulch used in my ornamental front garden in this order: mushroom compost, pine bark, lawn clippings, teatree, sugarcane.

It is important to mulch relatively thinly, which cools the soil, conserves moisture and – importantly – this allows small showers of rain to penetrate the soil and it allows oxygen to filter into topsoil. As a guide, apply chopped sugarcane at a thickness of up to 3cm around herbs and established vegetables (less for the onion family) and bark mulch up to 5-10cm deep around trees, shrubs, bamboo, cycads and palms.

I now mulch my 'paths' with woody offcuts and paper/cardboard. My beds are coated in grass clippings. But every year I run out of clippings as they break down so quickly and grass growth slows over the Winter months.

Thus, Vetiver.

I have one experimental bed -- Vetiver + grass clippings -- which I monitor.

I also just harvested a great load of Wandering Jew/Trad. Makes a great ground cover when growing... Impossible to get rid of without resorting to aggressive measures, I nonetheless found it so easy to 'harvest' -- and I drowned the lot in the makings of a weed tea. Another week or so I'm gonna have both fertiliser and mulch after the brew consolidates.

Comment by Dave Riley on July 4, 2017 at 23:42

Cutting Vetiver: from the Vetiver Grass Network.

Dale Rachmeler Hi Dave. There is no best cutting tool from organic ones (think goats here) to the best shears from companies like Felco. There are so many out there, it all depends on what you are comfortable with. I use pruning shears because the quantity I need is small and the shears are sharp making it easy to grab the leaves in my hand and cut smoothly. The other extreme not pertinent here is mechanical hay harvesting as seen in very large plantations where tractor borne cutters (modified sugar cane cutters) are used to cut and then bale the hay. In between are machetes, straight and curved scythes both short and long bladed ones, knives etc. In home use, you grab a bunch with your hand, so that determines the diameter of the bundle to be cut. I use gloves due to the sharp edges and lay the cut bundle where I want it to go. When vetiver is used for thatching, long leaf bundles are made and tied at one end. The height of the cut is a function of climate you are in. If you do not want to lean over so much, cut at about 18 inches from the ground, if you want to maximize the length of the hay, cut lower. I have seen vetiver clumps cut 2 inches above the ground spring back easily (in this case goats were the cutters!) since vetiver is very resilient to cutting. Good regrowth is a function of soil fertility, access to water and heat units. Cutting in cooler weather means that regrowth is slower. Gueric Bouchard's industrial planting (Dominican Republic) used to produce vetiver hay bales has four cuts per year to produce year round hay bales for use in a hay-fired low pressure boiler used to generate steam in an electric generating plant. In West Africa, I cut vetiver hedges that were mature (more than 2yr old) every two months where I would get leaf lengths of about 24" (growth after last cutting). I used long leaves for mulch as well as chopped both green and dried. A lot depends on the look you want as well as the thickness of the mulch. Long leaves are easy to lay down and chopped vetiver looks better as it is a more uniform looking surface. If your aims are to reduce weeds and conserve moisture then you must block the light so a thickness of 2" does that if your application is uniform. If you have more hay then you can pile on more to make the coverage thicker. I have found that the hay does break down like any other organic material but very slowly. I have had vetiver mulch in flower pots that are watered each week last for more than a year going from having a very light tan colored mulch to a grayish mulch were you see the leaves decaying. I do not have exact figures (others might though) about the exact amount needed per square meter of vegetable garden as there are many variables involved such as how dense the veggie garden is planted, the size and shape of rows or beds, or the amount of exposed soil between plants or rows of plants.
Comment by Christa on July 4, 2017 at 10:48

When I repotted my vetiver plant last year, I trimmed off the top and laid it down on the ground next to it and it dried up and made a good mulch just the way it laid. It would make a good long leaf cover between rows or plants.

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