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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 Dave Riley on March 19, 2018 at 23:59

The more you practice dividing Vetiver the more skilled you become in recognizing slips that have a better chance of establishing after planting out. This time of year I want to get my divisions in before plant growth slows down as the weather cools.

As it is, I've planted out the borders of my new garden beds as well as a few hedges in the school garden.

All the transplants aren't high enough to register  as a self conscious hedges in a photo -- but maybe in a few weeks the green lines will be truly evident.

I have kept a few -- not many -- standalone Vetiver clumps in reserve to supply replacements of transplanted slips that do not take. After a while you get to appreciate a good division with consolidated roots as 'cutting corners' encourages failure-to-thrive.

Comment by Christa on February 26, 2018 at 15:35

Thanks Dave for the help. Some of the leaves are as tall as I am but should bend soon, I will trim some off the height as you suggested to stem growth.  It is a wonderful plant for now and in the future.

Comment by Dave Riley on February 26, 2018 at 8:08

Christa: 'In my experience' there is no difference in the size of the root mass and plant growth in shaded conditions.

The plant only grows slower.

However, to encourage more stems to sprout (and thus a fuller root system) it is suggested by the experts to trim back the Vetiver's height.

To 30-40 cm should suffice.

Do that sooner rather than later as the keen growth period is now...and the plant will soon throw up thicker-stemmed seed heads.

They're sterile, of course.

Vetiver does not stop growing throughout the year but will slow as the weather cools.

Comment by Christa on February 25, 2018 at 9:17

As I have mentioned before, I have planted a row of vetiver to hold back rainwater on a slope. This row of vetiver is to be extended in the future.  As it is growing in part shade in the morning and receiving sun after midday, it is growing tall and pointing leaves up to the sky.  I just hope half sun situation still gives the root depth and water retaining ability as full sun.

Comment by Dave Riley on February 24, 2018 at 22:27

I think it needs to be pointed out that designing a garden around Vetiver hedges presumes that you have  enough slips to plant out. Since the Vetiver should be the first thing you plant, that's surely a contradiction -- as where are you going to get the Vetiver from in the first place?

My work around is to retrofit -- but I still need plenty of stock to begin to do that.

I started with 3 plants and patiently divided and replanted.Then divided and replanted some more.

En route I've begun to harvest the stems for mulch and that too has been a valuable learning exercise.

There's a dynamic logic to growing Vetiver and you really shouldn't allow the grass to grow under your feet as the more you are engaged trimming and dividing, the faster you'll get those hedges planted out  and the beds mulched.

Be patient; there will be a kick off point when numbers and need begin to merge.

I've also deployed one hedge line made up of Lemon Grass -- but Lemon Grass is neither as deep rooted as Vetiver nor as long lived. I'm told that Lemon Grass hedges need to be replaced every 4 years or so. But, if you are familiar with Lemon Grass -- Vetiver's cousin -- especially the taller varieties -- you can begin to experiment.

The Lemon Grass hedge will be straggly but will perform better in semi shade. Its citronella scent may also confuse the bugs...and you get to herb up your cuisine.

Comment by Dave Riley on February 22, 2018 at 22:32

Here's an image of the work -- a display spiral -- of Irma Hutabarat in Indonesia.

Compared to all the mulch sources I'm using at the moment, Vetiver dries to a tangy yellow with a parallel directional texture. This means it layers tightly but not so moisture cannot pass through.

Since I laid out the patch a short time ago, this rain is wonderful. Already some beds are planted out with seedlings.  The Vetiver hedges are sprouting as slowly the edges of each bed is being defined by a vertical greening.

I suggest that a closely planted hedge -- knuckle width between slips -- may be enough (once matured and harvested) to mulch the bed it retains.

That's closer than in the image plantings, by the way:approx 10 cm.

Since I'm about to divide further clumps to take advantage of the weather, I'm beginning to see the end of my dependence on the unreliable drop off  of  lawn grass clippings and I can look forward to mulch self-sufficiency.

So far, I'm walking on the beds as I work there -- and that's a nice change from lawn clippings as your foot will sink through that desiccated grass.I'm not advocating trouncing all over your garden beds but research suggests that any compaction -- esp in my sandy soil -- recovers with inundation. Indeed in holistic/rotational grazing the livestock's hoof is part of the process of soil management as it helps surface mulches/dead grasses to break down.

Comment by Dave Riley on February 4, 2018 at 7:56

Much as I try I cannot cut myself on Vetiver. I grow other grasses that are much sharper.

I also trim back dried leaves and at  my entrance way here I ensure that the Vetiver grows directly up rather than any of its branches falling diagonally. I pass through that channel many times each day. On one side the whole Mosaics Club crew passes by each Wednesday -- all ladies -- without consequence. So I must be fulfilling my workplace health and safety protocols OK.

You're not the first to mention this side effect, but I haven't been exposed to it, even while cutting, harvesting and desiccating bare handed.

Maybe the soft skin of a 5 year old will prove me wrong...

Over seas -- in Latin America, the Pacific Islands, the Philippines, parts of Africa and Indonesia -- Vetiver is used extensively as an elementary  school garden tool. Children are also using it in bio engineering their school grounds. It is even a syllabus 'thing'.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on February 4, 2018 at 7:36

Wow, you really have 'hit it off' Dave!

Having managed to cut my fingers by idly brushing past Vetiver, I wonder how it will go as a maze for the children.

I've worked out a way to use it here. Cut it into shortish lengths (a foot, say) leave it to dry and use it instead of bought sugar cane as the dry matter in my compost.

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