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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 Dave Riley on October 19, 2017 at 11:29

V for Vetiver.
It's that time...while the wet is on.
In my latest adventure, I divided three clumps of Vetiver and harvested 45 slips.
Digging up was easy.In sand. This weather. Limited number of tillers.
Most of my divisions are with two tillers, some with three.
Forty five is just enough to finish planting out the School Vetiver Maze in time for community open day on November 3rd.
My earlier plantings have taken to this weather keenly so by term's end we should have a semblance of a maze.
With the many divisions I've been doing the future looks bright as in my own patch the slips have taken and I've filled in most of my nooks and crannies with Vetiver.
Of course the best of the mulch harvest (bottom of image) presumes taller clumps. But 1.75 metres is a lot of mulch when the plants get that high. I know that because I'm that tall and my Vetiver matches my statue.

Comment by Dave Riley on October 19, 2017 at 11:25

A Vetiver story. Note that the absorption figure is exaggerated and wrong. More likely 1kgm per year.

Vetiver champions for cities!! Some of you may know or have read about Alois Kennerknetch. and his wife, Maria Tupac Yupanqui who have been working with vetiver for many years particularly with urban communities in Lima, Peru. Here follows a few words from a recent newspaper article.

"Very few people know about vetiver in Peru, but this is going to be the most important plant in the future to save the environment, says Alois Kennerknetch. He and his wife, Maria Tupac Yupanqui, both engineers, studied this plant for more than a decade. "One square meter planted with vetiver absorbs up to 5 kilos of CO2 per year. When planted for gardens, parks or the public thoroughfare, besides being pretty, it uses twenty times less water than the "American" grass, which we find throughout the city (Lima) ...... You can leave the vetiver for four months without a drop of water and it continues to grow. The plant grows up to three meters but can be maintained it at any height. This, coupled with the low water requirement makes it ideal for city gardens. Today, vetiver is already planted in 18 districts of our capital and in cities such as Piura, Tacna, Puno, Cusco and Puerto Maldonado. This plant makes it possible to purify water, decontaminate soils and is excellent for lands with excess salt. After about two years, it completely eliminates salt, thus improving soil conditions. ....... "

The full article in Spanish is at: http://publimetro.peruquiosco.pe/m/a/20171017/18

I never considered it but you can really trim Vetiver to any size so that it could suit verge plantings or 'lawn' areas.

Comment by Dave Riley on October 9, 2017 at 17:46

AS Paul Truong informs me about transplanting Vetiver, "you will have at least 95% chance of establishment when planted with 3 tillers slips. with 1 tiller and good watering you will get 80-90%."
So when you divide don't par down to singles...

Comment by Dave Riley on October 7, 2017 at 8:46

Opportunistically, with the onset of the rain I bit the green bullet --dug up and divided a few Vetiver clumps. While I have a few  vacant spaces left for planting I rationalized that the rain should be exploited and I'll fill these spots with Vetiver over the weekend.

Then I wait...

Five lessons are in play:

  1. make sure recently planted out Vetiver is watered.
  2. when dividing a Vetiver clump ensure the slips have a generous root mass and more than one stem. It's tempting to par back to singles but these either don't take root or grow slowly.Research confirms this.
  3. it's OK to plant out slips in the place you removed the initial large clump from.
  4. when planting out Vetiver keep on eye on the sun quotient. It will grow in shade but not generously over the cooler months.
  5. easier harvest of Vetiver presumes digging up a clump with from ten to fifteen stems.

In this project I'm planting out slips one foot/30 cm apart. If I was bio-engineering a slope they'd be the length of one fist apart.

Here's sample of good quality division:

It took me a few mistakes to learn this.

Any slip that has a limited root growth can be potted up and nursed but don't waste your time direct planting it.

Comment by Dave Riley on October 4, 2017 at 23:26

My Spanish is almost nil -- but I came upon these images which capture the sort of Vetiver-jungle-among-the-veges I have a mind to emulate. 

Mind you I'm not in the Tropics and  mine is  a oft shaded plot but the dynamic is clear.

So by Summer's end next year I hope to have progressed some way towards this greening.

Last Vet season I got ahead of myself and didn't understand the challenges so I lost a few plants -- but this time around I'm more in sync with the grass' ways.

The obvious question emanating from the photos  is why plant so much Vetiver? The grass surely takes up room where veges could be grown. But consider the protection the hedges offer; the fact that all that mulch is to hand (just cut it); what the roots of the grass may be up to underground (the good stuff like water retention and useful fungi); and the containment afforded by the green fencing.

these images were put together by the Mexican Vetiver proponent, Jaime Cervantes Calderas.

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: http://www.vetiver.org/

You should download/read the book: http://www.vetiver.org/PUBLICATIONS/TVN_greenEng.pdf

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 ! 

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