Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

I began with 3 Vetiver slips. I grew them up to 1.5-1.7metres tall and started harvested root cuttings -- two to three months ago. I now have just under 100 plants in the soil with another 30 coming on in my nursery.

That may seem a lot of stock for any one plant but to bio-design with Vetiver you need to plant them close together. [See resources at the  Vetiver Network for info on the Vetiver System].

I started growing Vetiver without knowing what I could do with it.While I have a few options ticking over in the back of my mind, the initial challenge was to grow many plants. En route, via study and practice,  I learnt a few tricks.

Easy to grow. High success rate. Many uses.Loves my sandy soil.

My original plan was to use Vetiver as mulch. Indeed Vetiver is an easy-to-harvest on-hand mulch resource. The grass stems are said to last for over a year as on the soil surface (LINK) while the cut plant  supposedly offers anti-fungal properties:

As vetiver will grow on ratshit soil and still yield heavily and virtually no cost, you could cut it transport it to a stationary baler , bale it and sell it to the garden centers, - organic gardeners would love it.

Charge $20/bale - a 33kg bale would cover the average size garden. One hectare of vetiver grass would yield 16t/cut twice a year that is 32 tons/yr @ 30 bales/ton=$19,200 gross/ha. The baled vetiver is not perishable, can be stacked like hay even stacked in to containers on a wharf waiting for a ship - it can be fumigated without any problems and shipped to the States for sale.

Once people see how valuable it is as an organic pesticide/fungicide/virocide they would corner the market, and the price/bale would go up. Think about it.

-John Greenfield

Mind you, my plants are still juniors but the little mulch i have harvested sits neatly on the soil . Over the past couple of months my regular grass clippings mulch has not been delivered and as my garden suffers the loss I'm looking to Vetiver as my primary back up plan.

Think Vetiver: think mulch.

When I began to plant out my V-slips I had no special template to work from. Any ole niche suited me. Its bio-engineering attributes seemed not to be a major motivation in my outback. I neither flooded nor suffered from erosion.

As far as I knew Vetiver was primarily a source of mulch. As I thought this through and planted out more slips it began to make more sense to plant out the grass in those locales where it would be later used as mulch.

Sort of : cut and drop.

This isn't as radical as it may seem as Vetiver will grow comfortably among other plants as its thick root mass goes straight down.It is often used for inter cropping but usually on slopes.  However, Vetiver's deep root system others other attributes -- such as processing sewerage --  that suggests a lot is happening underground that warrants more attention.

So I did my home work  and noted that as well as holding huge quantities of carbon in the soil, Vetiver will maintain soil humidity. To my mind that suggests that Vetiver probably serves as a large buried sponge reaching down to the water table and aquifers and drinking as required.

The plant also grows in water -- such that it is deployed to remove pollutants.

It was material like the images above that really got me thinking.

SOURCE:Improved Household Gardening Skills
Training Tools for Pacific Island Communities 2003 ...produced by Kastom Gaden Association and compiled by Tony Jansen, Russ Grayson and Roselyn Kabu Maemouri (LINK)

Vetiver as a living fence -- serving as wind break, erosion therapy, mulch resource, defence against animal invasion... Indeed if you hedged your veg garden with Vetiver, many ground dwelling  animals are unlikely to be able to break in. It even repels rats and clipped poultry are unlikely to fly over  a Vetiver hedge.

Then I begin to think about the fact that  Vetiver grass has a lot more happening underground than above. Given that I now have Vetiver planted out hither and yon and can soon enough harvest the stems for mulch, it is also a simple task to take a succession of  root cuttings and plant these out directly as edging to all my garden beds.

Each bed would have its own supply of edging stock.

In the Caribbean. farmers plant out Vetiver before they plant out their crops. But after the fact will surely work too.

Image(at left): Vetiver borders and hedges in vegetable gardens.

So it can be done and is being done.

Not much research covers the topic but it got me thinking....

What if I could create self contained garden beds that are held in place by a perimeter hedge of Vetiver? Not just a living fence but a container or bowl formed out of Vetiver roots.

It would surely promote more underground activity and retain more moisture in the topsoil. Something like a pot. Every time the garden bed was watered so too would be the Vetiver.

This is my schematic perspective:

The size of your bed would be preferably on the small side and you trimmed the hedges for mulch.

in my case , my garden mounds are on average 1.5 metres across and a series of these tend to integrate as I've been filling the valleys between them with plants and mulch -- leaving enough open space for access pathways.

Not only do I get to play bio-engineer, if I let the hedges grow tall I'll get my own walk through maze.

The other advantage I've found is that plants like yams, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers ... will use the V-grass tussocks to rest their heavy fruits on (above the wet ground) or  to clamber through.

Not a quick convergence as such a project would require hundreds of plants. But all I need do is harvest slips from Vetiver clumps in the immediate vicinity one plant at a time...and plant them along the perimeter.

As for look options, Vetiver is no ratty plant:here is a Vetiver landscaping gallery. I'm looking forward to a trim and 'triffic veg garden edged by Vetiver. May take a year or so...but then there's the fun of watching it grow

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Comment by Mary-Ann Baker on September 11, 2017 at 15:59

yes we use sweet potato moringa etc for cattle feed but please be aware we only have 2 or 3 cattle depending on the season and whats in the freezer at the moment its two !!!!! 

Comment by Dave Riley on September 11, 2017 at 8:26

Vetiver for cattle feed:LINK

Also of note is that a friend of mine who runs organic beef near Dalby is planning to use Moringa as cattle feed. Fast growing tree -- good in dry conditions with high nutrient value, quick recovery and easily cut and reproduced. Sampler: LINK

Main resource on Vetiver:

You should download/read the book:

Comment by Mary-Ann Baker on September 11, 2017 at 4:27

thanks Dave youreally have inspired me to get going on this experiment - we would after get them growing for water conservation be using it for cattle feed and mulch - just bought a round bale of spoiled hay for mulch as the dry has sowed down our usual growing grasses here !

Comment by Dave Riley on September 10, 2017 at 21:42

Just on propagation...

Division is really the best way to go and try to get slips with at least two roots as  your propagating material.

For nursery purposes, don't let the clump get TOO BIG as you will be hard pressed to mine it and dig it up. Dividing a clump while in situ -- so that you only take a section -- is also a hard task.

You'll do more damage than the harvest is worth.

Better to dig the whole clump  up at a manageable size and plant out the slips...including one where you just harvested.

I also learnt that you need to keep the water up to the newly planted slips for a few weeks while they consolidate. I lost a few by ignoring that rule.

Also you need to think ahead where you'll plant your slips as you'll be harvesting in multiples of 12 or 15. So intent is very important.

I've also found that keeping a few plants in pots near my window is handy so I can monitor growth rates on a daily basis. Other than that, you don't have to pot them up unless you want them as landscaping features, say, on a patio.

Generally, bare slips freshly harvested with trimmed roots can be planted out immediately. Maybe soak them in a fertilized water solution first...a day should do if you are pressed for time or need to transport them -- but I've found replanting straightaway works fine.

I've found no particular advantage by potting up slips.

Consider, hypothetically, that if I have around 100 plants growing -- if I allow them to consolidate at 12 stems per plant -- I then could harvest 100x12=1200 plants. So I'm wondering where I can put so many plants.Fortunately they don't all grow so well given the shade issues --so it's sure to be a staggered harvest.

If you plant out Vetiver in one spot/bed or hedge for mulch supplies -- I suspect here, even in the subtropics, you can get 3 harvests of mulch per hear if the plants are in full sun. Even from my plants I'm growing to reach the 12 or 15 stem option, I'm harvesting mulch.

Of course if I grow clumps dedicated for mulching allowing for 30 + stems, then the mulch harvest is sure to huge. My earliest clump had around 50 stems after 8 months in the ground-- but boy it was a bugger to dig up!

I don't recommend the activity...

Comment by Mary-Ann Baker on September 10, 2017 at 18:38

thanks everyone - will look into it ! 

Comment by Dave Riley on September 10, 2017 at 18:10

Mary-Ann Baker, I got my original slips from Green Harvest --3 for $12.95 -- and now I have almost 100!

At that price you don't want to buy in bulk. indeed the cheapest Vetiver slips can be had in Australia is $3.50 each(LINK).

Given the quantity you may seek to plant out, you really need to make your own V-nursery. But Vetiver is easily divided and reproduced at the stage of 10-15 stems.

Personally, I think every home should have a Vetiver patch.

I'm not offering stock at the moment as mine are bespoken but maybe by next year I'll be swamped with slips.

In Hawaii Vetiver is sold in blocks of 1000 because they are using tissue culture and the demand is ongoing given slippery hillsides.

Now is the time to plant out --assuming we get rain. You'll be able to harvest more slips in early 2018. But I suggest you review planting protocols for bioengineering purposes.

Consider how Vetiver is deployed in this gully. Smart move. But there are so many options being explored around the world.

1.8 metres high. Dense. 2 metres straight down roots.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on September 10, 2017 at 11:31

Luckily I was given 2 potted Vetiver plants by a member of the then Caboolture Seed Savers. Only recently I have learned the theory of increasing the plants but have not done any so far. Waiting for warmer weather.

Rambling thru eBay finds some astonishing prices for rooted Vetiver cuttings, just outrageous. And no one I asked was interested in any discount for bulk purchase.

You are welcome to harvest slips from my several plants although it will be the blind leading the blind when it comes to propagation. Dave has had success but my one venture in Autumn did not result in any viable plants,

There could be nurseries or markets around this area which sell potted Vetiver plants and that could be well worth your while. Once established the possibilities are endless for making more plants from the originals.

Comment by Mary-Ann Baker on September 10, 2017 at 11:16

Where did you people get your original slips from ? sounds like a worthwhile investment for our hills ! 

Comment by Dave Riley on September 10, 2017 at 9:42

This is what fascinates me:

Dick Grimshaw I remember in India, years ago, villagers told me that those villages that used vetiver for soil conservation and boundary demarcation had wells that never dried up. whereas those with no vetiver had dry wells for part of the year. In other words vetiver hedgerows reduce rainfall runoff. More important to follow this practice with current changes in climate. By the way communities may be at first more interested in the water conservation aspects than the soil conservation resulting from vetiver - perhaps that may be the way to promote VS. A WIN WIN.

Since I harvested my first Vetiver slips this week -- despite the dry weather -- I'm clamping at the bit for experimentation adventures.

I've begun planting out the Vetiver Maze at the school not only a resource  for getting gets lost but also for mulch. It should require 100 slips or thereabouts.

The only drawback I've found over the last year with my Vetiver plantings is that over the cooler months Vetiver is sluggish when planted in part shade.

So I've begun mapping out my future plantings with various criteria in mind:

  • reproduction stock -- slips
  • mulch
  • water conservation
  • shade

And I may have my first bioengineering challenge at a local hobby farm: using Vetiver to hold back tidal ingress along a drainage channel.

Comment by Dave Riley on April 7, 2017 at 10:41

Waiting for Vetiver clumps to consolidate is frustrating -- despite their growth rate.

Now that I have technique in hand I just want to plant out more of the stuff. The penny has dropped, so to speak, and I've passed the exam for  Vetiver 101.

I'm trying to harness this great weather to get the slips going.

Obviously a passion is overcoming me.

I've laid out a row of potted Vetiver a metre and half from my computer desk not only to shield me from the reflected sun, but so I can watch it grow every day.

When all my slips grow to optimum the garden is gonna look different, I'm sure.

The recent rains should bring up the water table and aquifer to remind the grass to keep on root balling.


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