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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

Aside from this post and its associated comment thread there is another, more recent exchange here:

Vetiver Venture (Part 2)

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Comment by Dave Riley on March 6, 2017 at 23:24

FYI: I took 15 cuttings from 4 Vetiver plants this week and potted them up. I haven't done a full inventory but I suspect I have around 50 Vetivers planted out in the garden.
These younger specimens are easier to harvest cuttings from. The associated trick, I gather, is to trim the stems (25-50 cm high)and the plant sends up fresh ones (as well as growing from the old leaves).
I hope to have enough to plant out a Vetiver maze in the weeks after Easter when we remove the sunflowers at the school.
One foot apart should do.
I'm also hoping to sell slips (as well as other seedlings) at the monthly 'markets' here.Thus promote the biotechnology...with an eye to kick starting a local project.
I did lose a few Vetiver in the heatwave as I planted cuttings direct from harvest to soil nearby.  I lost momentum and maybe 20 or 25 plants.
I'd also tried to grow-on some very poor cutting material  from an old clump -- like 18 months 'old'.
Dividing 'old' clumps is hard work as it is can be hard to separate stem root from root mass.
My experience thus far suggests you divide, pot up,plant out...and divide again from these plant outs a few months later.
When I pot them up I sit the pots in a water and Aloe Vera (fertilizer) mix for a few days.
There are a few techniques you can pursue: LINK.

I'll tweak my approach to suit myself as I learn.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on March 6, 2017 at 21:16

Thank you for that info, Dave. Mine restoration has not been an interest of mine up to now. It IS vitally important especially as I've heard recently that multi-mega-millions of our taxpayer dollars are going to be needed to restore the thousands of abandoned mine-sites even in Qld never mind the rest of Australia.

Comment by Dave Riley on March 6, 2017 at 18:36

There is a lot more usage in Qld of Vetiver than you may think -- especially in mine restoration.

(An oxymoron I know)

Our main happenstance is that Paul Truong is based here although he works a lot offshore.

Paul Truong: Technical Director TVNI, Director for Asia and the PacificHe is the leading vetiver research scientist and has especially focused on vetiver's ability to improve water quality and control pollution. He started working with vetiver in Queensland, Australia in the early 1990, and since then has promoted the technology world wide. He has been instrumental in most regional and international workshops and conferences, and has over the past 7 years initiated and supported extensive vetiver RD in Vietnam. Paul lives in Brisbane, Australia.

Sample of work: LINK.

I gather that the Permaculture folk aren't necessarily Vetiver groupies maybe because the Vetiver system' (VS) has a different approach to sustainability -- for instance using the Vetiver grass rather than swales and relying on it as the primary mulch source rather than other cut backs.

But many Permies are, nonetheless,  very keen on it -- like Russ Grayson.

The main drawback -- as I'm finding -- is securing the quantities of slips needed to plant out and to deliver stock at a manageable price.

One company in Hawaii (a Vetiver hot spot) sells only in huge lots via tissue cultivation  but generally when you are planting 15-20 cm apart -- cheek to jowl -- along a contour: that requires a lot of plants.

But really a standard hedge 30 cm(1ft) plant spaced is absolutely useful but won't stop water flow down hill as a greater density will.

  • GROUNDWORK Vetiver Grass Takes Root in Queensland (LINK)

Wider acceptance of vetiver grass by the mining industry has been limited by a number of factors:

  • The restricted availability of planting material (tubestock and splits);
  • The current high costs of planting material. Priced at $1.00 per tube and using 6 to 10 plants per metre (or 12 to 20 plants per metre for double rows) the technology is economically unattractive except in limited situations. Wider acceptance of vetiver grass technology can only be expected when these costs come down; and
  • The general lack of vetiver expertise in the industry. This has, in the past, resulted in faulty planting procedures or, more frequently, in failure by management to provide the necessary follow-up irrigation and fertilising during the first year ("We tried vetiver but it didn’t work!").

But then the plant grows so fast you can fill in your hedge as opportunity arises by division.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on March 6, 2017 at 9:47

The major drawback with Vetiver is few people locally anyway, have ever heard of it. That will change as we enthusiasts bite others with the 'Vetiver bug'. Yet to do any cuttings for propagation. Leaving it until weather a little cooler than present.

Reading about how Vetiver attracts and hold moisture in its extensive root system. Pix of gardens thriving next to Vetiver and not doing so well a distance from the Vetiver is at least an encouragement to give Vetiver a go.

Comment by Dave Riley on March 6, 2017 at 9:12

It's ironic I know, but I suspect that Vetiver Grass can turn a lot of sustainable agricultural methods on their heads. There's very little I can find about the domestic use of Vetiver except in the kitchen garden tradition of the Pacific islands.

In a country obsessed with mulching I think Vetiver has to be up there as a gardening essential.

Comment by Dave Riley on March 6, 2017 at 9:08
Paul Truong's report -- VETIVER IN THE SOLOMON ISLANDS (linked to) -- is fascinating stuff in these times of sea level rise, tidal surge and flash flooding.
My own Vetivers are coming along after the horrendous heat killed off a few of the slips I had planted.
After Easter we'll be planting a Vetiver Maze at the school garden.
You start with one plant and now and then divide it, then divide it and its siblings again ...and again.
I'm finding it best to batch divide -- then  wait until the rooted stock consolidates before dividing again.That means, for safety, you pot up the divisions before planting out.
At present my Vetiver stock is beginning to surge...the weather is just right for growth.

Dick Grimshaw: photo credit

Comment by Christa on February 2, 2017 at 10:10

It seems to an excellent boundary fence with a permanent source of mulch, and as one source mentioned it can live up to 100 years.  An excellent nurse plant and good fill for a hessian bag to repel fleas for dogs.  After reading about the benefit of planting near banana plants, I think that is where my vetiver is going. Thanks Dave for posting.

Comment by Dave Riley on February 2, 2017 at 7:41

It is cached only on Google searches but no site.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on February 1, 2017 at 23:26

Why will the image be lost, Dave? Is it part of a US govt website?

Comment by Dave Riley on February 1, 2017 at 22:53

Since this image will be lost on line soon, here's an example of a  Vetiver mulched garden.

I suspect because of the weather -- hot and dry -- my Vetiver are slow coaching at the moment so my hopes are slowed a bit and I'm behind in my schedule estimate.

But on my overall hydrology this article is fascinating (LINK):

A study of deep-rooted trees in the Amazon shows that they don't simply suck in carbon and spew out water vapor. The roots actually store water deep underground in the rainy season and bring it to the surface in dry periods, thereby boosting photosynthesis and carbon uptake beyond expected levels during the dry season. UC Berkeley climate modelers found that this effect causes a 40 percent increase in transpiration during the Amazonian dry season....Trees have long been known to lift water from the soil to great heights using a principle called hydraulic lift, with energy supplied by evaporation of water from leaf openings called stomata. Twenty years ago, however, some small plants were found to do more than lift water from the soil to the leaves - they also lifted deep water with their tap root and deposited it in shallow soil for use at a later time, and reversed the process during the rainy season to push water into storage deep underground.

In recent matters we're planning on creating a grass maze with Vetiver at the school garden.We'll add sunflowers to the mix and spend the rest of the year planting it out.

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