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 Lois Greensill on January 1, 2017 at 18:48

Oh! to have that much mulch / compost material. Sweet heaven!

Comment by Dave Riley on January 1, 2017 at 14:01
Comment by Lois Greensill on January 1, 2017 at 10:49

Probably be good to make compost with as well.

Comment by Dave Riley on December 31, 2016 at 1:39

The re-discovery of Vetiver as a bio-engineering tool is located in Fiji in the 1950s through the work of New Zealander, John Greenfield. The grass was introduced to Fiji  from India in the 19th century for roof thatching. When it was deployed in agriculture, CSR became a major sponsor for the Vetiver System and from Fiji the system was taken elsewhere under World Bank sponsorship.

The creative use of the plant is amazingly various.

Good historical overview here.

Ironically one of the world's leading experts on using the grass lives in Brisbane --Paul Truong.He is also a key figure in Vietnam's keen embrace of the plant.

As well as other uses I guess Vetiver has a new role recovering used mine sites in Qld.

Comment by CHERYL SLAPP on December 30, 2016 at 6:33

Great article.  I as reading abut vetiver grass a while ago and remember that on some tropic islands they weave it for blinds - provides shade but allows breezes through and gives a lovely scent to the rooms

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on December 30, 2016 at 0:50

The never-ending uses for Vetiver grass! Thanks Dave - good to know.

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