I don't know. Keeping your car clean will keep the paint from cracking which keeps the metal from rusting which means you can potentially keep your vehicle for longer. Then again, most cars probably go to the junkyard before they rust. I guess it depends on how long you plan to keep your vehicle. According to treehugger.com it takes over 40,000 gallons of water to build a new car. For me, my car is old, there is salt on the roads, and I can't afford a new car so I'm going to wash it.
- How much is your time worth?
- A tractor could save you time(money) which could be spent doing other, potentially more productive, things.
- How much will this tractor cost you per hour (depreciation, fuel, repairs etc.)?
- How many hours will you use it?
- Would it be cheaper to hire out the work to someone else?
- Will a tractor make you happy (e.g. less stressed, tired)?
- Do you like tractors?
Sorry, "overland flow" (hydrology term) happens when the precipitation rate exceeds the infiltration rate, i.e. water is not going into the ground fast enough so it runs over the soil surface taking all the good stuff with it.
If the problem is water erosion the solution is to hold onto that water as long as possible. The best place for water is in the ground - and the best time to stop the water is when it hits the ground. Swales/ponds slow erosion after its happened; It sounds like you already have a swale system in place or planned. I'm wondering how you can reduce the initial erosion from happening by increasing water infiltration.
The two strategies to best accomplish this are to break the soil surface and cover the soil with mulch. Breaking up the soil surface can be done with animals, or machines with a harrow, disc or key-line plow. Mulching can be done with animals if there's already standing vegetation to mash down to the ground, by importing organic stuff like round bales of hay or wood chips, or by planting ground covers.
You mentioned berms too which could be hugelkultur if you have extra woody stuff to get rid of. An added bonus is these is they slow down the wind and stop it from drying out your plants.
Just food for thought. Sorry if it seems pedantic - not sure of your existing knowledge set/experience.
Are animals an option? Could you use animals to employ a holistic management style grazing regime? Improve water infiltration; increase soil litter, and increase soil organic matter. If you have overland flow the soil is well below its water infiltration and retention potential.
Remember that as your soil organic matter increases the soil will hold much more water meaning less water will make it to the tile drain system. In time the less and less water will be lost to the drain. Seems like a key line system will prevent some of the water otherwise lost to the tile drain by intercepting and spreading it more over the field.
Some crops might be more suited to planting in blocks.
Crops like baby spinach could be a problem to harvest efficiently in a polyculture. You could however plant and sell baby green mixes, e.g. spinach, kale, chard, mustard etc.. This way you could harvest them with a larger harvesting tool instead of a paring knife and reap some polyculture benefits. This may be a hard sell though if you run a CSA. Baby spinach is a popular crop. A few beds devoted to blocks of one crop may be necessary to meet demand for some crops.
Sepp Holzer plants crops like potatoes and rye in blocks on his terraces. But he has a lot of diversity adjacent to these plantings and probably sows diverse ground cover catch crops among them. I guess it's a compromise between efficiency and diversity. He must do some crop rotation in these annual crop monoculturish blocks. I'd really like see how he does it.
I just watched the trailer. I don't think I'll bother watching the whole thing; I always cringe when I hear conspiracy theories. I find them distracting and disempowering. There are practical solutions to real world problems and that's what permaculture is about. I much prefer to talk about rocket stoves than about the nebulous and infamous "them".
Impressive. I also like the comment on your site about snow seeding. I agree with others that seed is expensive. So you may want to start saving seed for a few years, being sure to save the survivors of your initial gene pool. Then take the seed from the survivors and toss it out there using various methods to see what works best in your area.
Seeds should be tossed around when the previous years crop would have dropped it seed.
I've thought about this too but never tried it. This is the first time I've heard anyone say they've done it. Makes perfect sense to me. Why not seed all plants in the fall when the seeds naturally fall to the ground.
Not all plants reseed themselves the same way
This is also true. I will take this into account when I'm making my seed mixes.
I am wondering what unexamined advantages exist by broadcasting seed versus mechanical methods.
At first glance, broadcasting seems inefficient: Too many seeds compete for resources and seed is wasted because many will not have the resources to develop efficiently. On the other hand, nature seems to use non-mechanical ways to plant seeds, and has been planting seeds for a few hundred million years longer than homo-sapiens, and perhaps we could learn something from this.
So I am trying to think of possible advantages to broadcasting:
- Nature selects the best seeds for you; the most potent seeds will outcompete the less potent.
- Diversity of species, developmental stages, rates of growth and spacing provides more edge?
It seems there are multiple families of trees called "cedar" with allelopathic (make plants sad) properties. They come from the pine and cypress plant families. I've done a little research to clarify it but I'm not an expert so please correct me if I'm wrong.
Plants belonging to the genus "Cedrus" are part of the plant family (Pinaceae) which includes fir, hemlock, pine and spruce. True cedars are decay resistant and perhaps allelopathic.
Plants commonly called cedars actually belong to the "Cupressaceae" or Cypress family which include the Juniperus and Thuja genus. Common varieties of the Thuja genus are Western Red-cedar and White cedar, both commonly used in 'cedar' hedges. The Thuja genus of plants seem to be what Paul advises avoiding. Is this right Paul?
I started using baking soda and vinegar. I found the baking soda too harsh. Then I used vinegar which was ok. Maybe useful to get out some salt gunk. But then I just started using water and my hair feels better then ever. Sometimes when I wake up or after a workout my hair feels oily; but I find if I just wash with water the oils get distributed through my hair and the oily feeling goes away. I struggled with blemish prone skin. I tried all these natural remedies and commercial solutions with limited success. Then after I stopped washing my hair and face with soaps and scrubs, my skin cleared up. I'm sure I'm saving about $100 per year on body "cleaning" products.
I do use good soap on my body when I'm covered in dirt and dust, but mostly I don't. There are lots of wonderful soaps out there which I buy when I need it.
Inspired by my success in the hair and body department, I also stopped using toothpaste; I still brush and floss as usual but just rinse brush and rinse my mouth with water. Eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables helps the mouth feel clean too. My mouth feels fresh and clean. I'm going to start drinking kefir regularly which will colonize my mouth with about 50 strains of healthy bacteria - like broadcast seeding a polyculture in your mouth.
I think these body care techniques follow from permaculture principles and techniques. Focus on what you want - healthy soil/bodies - not on what you do not - pests/bacteria stink. Nature knows what it is doing - let her do her thing.
Really great video. I did see some things that surprised me. I saw machinery tilled land; maybe this is where he plants his grain? I also saw small raised beds planted with crop rows mulched with straw. Maybe this is where Josef differs from Sepp in his farming style? Or maybe Sepp does till and plant rows sometimes?
A few years later we simply had no more lawn in the back yard and I never spent a single moment making 'lawn eradication' a goal
I like this strategy. Sounds similar to something I read in Gaia's garden called the "net and pan" method. The site was first planted with trees into deptessions or 'pans'. Then the trees were mulched; the grass between the trees was mowed and the clippings were scattered around the trees. Swales were dug in a 'net' pattern connecting all the trees. In that scenario the grass was ignored and basically went away as the mulch circles around the trees grew bigger.
I also hate the green netting. Maybe if you keep building soil over the years it will become buried under rich soil. I suppose you could scrape up all the sod and bury it in hugelkultur beds.
Tilling several times will kill most of the grass, depending on what types you have, but you will lose organic matter each time you till. I would only till as much ground as you can plant. What about hugelkultur beds? This is a form of tillage but happens only once; this method would bury all your grass under ground. It could be done with a machine in a days or with people in weeks. Importing large amount of organic matter might be worth it if you have cheap access to them. But this can also bring in unknown chemicals which are hard to get rid of. With patience organic matter can grown own on site.
I've heard about the benefits of allowing animals to self medicate by instinctively eating specific plants that evolution has hard wired them to eat. Sepp Holzer plants so called 'poisonous plants' for this purpose. Just wondering what kinds of plants might be good to have around for cats and dogs to safely self medicate. I always have oat grass planted in an indoor pot for the cat but am considering other things too. Any ideas?
Just looked at the Abundant Water website. Their clay pot filters "filter all particles and microorganisms larger than one micron. This includes silt, bacteria, protozoa and ameba. It is unable to filter viruses, salt or chemicals, such as arsenic, but is able to filter all bacteria which cause a majority of water-borne diseases." Seems pretty good. If you could get a source of water without viruses or chemicals, and you knew how to make your own pots, then you would be good indefinitely.
I like the idea of designing hugelkultur that grows itself. I really like the potato idea because it seems to fit very well with permaculture principles - i.e. minimum effort, maximum effect. Seems there is no easy way to skip the whole piling up dirt and soil step, but growing the woody bits in place would save a lot of work and petroleum.
William mentioned lambsquarters for root organic matter. I wonder if daikon would also be good. Also what other plants could be good to build up large masses of 'wood' type stuff in the ground.
I suppose hypothetically if you had some ground and no wood or machinery you could mound the dirt as high as practical and plant lots and lots of potatoes, other roots crops and lots of legumes to feed them all. Then you could either chop and drop all the potato leaves or bury them completely with more soil and start over again the next year. Over time a solid base of organic matter would accumulate. Also maybe rodents could be encouraged to tunnel in the garden and aerate the soil.
This topic may seem contradictory, but I think there are situations where wood is scarce, contaminated by chemicals or too time/energy intensive to gather in sufficient quantity.
I am wondering what can be done onsite by growing your own organic matter to incorporate into the beds. I am thinking of a rumor I heard where Sepp ran out of wood building hugelkultur beds and planted potatoes instead. I think it was during his visit to the US earlier this year? Bamboo also comes to mind as a quick growing woody substitute that could be buried into a raised bed as it was harvested.
I am thinking that building a raised bed, steep and tall as possible, Sepp style, with only the stuff that was growing on the ground would still be better than planting on a flat piece of land as is the traditional method.
So any other ideas on how to grow your own hugelkultur materials instead of importing?
I'm not aware of any studies on potatoes in polycultures. I think the question of when crop rotation is warranted is answered with, "it depends". My theory is that if you were growing potatoes among a diversity of plant families that disease wouldn't be a problem. I'm thinking of the way Sepp Holzer grows his crops, i.e. 30+ species in close proximity. I haven't had a chance to grow potatoes in the same spot for more than a year myself so I can't comment from experience. I think that potatoes and peas are a good combination but personally I'd throw lots more plants into the mix as well.
1) Factory Model: Polyculture does not lend itself mechanical planting or harvesting. It seems more of an artisanal form of farming. There are people out there using mechanical methods like Helen Atthowe but she seems to be doing more what I would call intercropping or companion planting, i.e. planting two or three things together in adjacent rows. She has had good results but this does not really capture the full power of polyculture in my opinion.
2) Harvest Planning: This is the biggest design hurdle in my mind and one of the major reasons many people choose to mono-crop or interplant in rows. For my first season I won't be doing CSA boxes or supplying restaurants because I won't know how much supply I can promise. It will take a few years to predict accurate yields from a polyculture. For example if I have about 1000 spinach seeds broadcast among 20,000 other seeds I won't really know how many pounds of spinach I can harvest in 6 weeks. Maybe it will be better or worse than average. I'll have to take notes and figure it out.
3) Disease: I agree that the method of crop rotation and fallowing works and is time tested. And I think that the principle of crop rotation and fallowing can be incorporated into a polyculture model. For example, in polyculture there are many plants which are not market crops, like flowers and nutrient accumulators. So some areas of your soil will be fallow, i.e. not mined, each year and allowed to regenerate. Then, in the case of annuals in a temperate zone, after winter most of the plants will be dead and the soil can be broadcast seeded again. The random seeding of the ground will allow those plants to self-select where they grow. Maybe the broccoli you sowed last year won't like its old spot and will instead grow great where a bean plant was. I could see altering the seed mix year to year to imitate crop rotation techniques would be a good idea. The way I'm planning my seed mix I have at least 6 different plant families in each mix and several species of each family.
I admire Elliot Coleman a lot. From what I have read he seems to be migrating to interplanting from monoculture. I would like to see him do some polyculture. I think that a polyculture of polycultures is the way to go. I see so much untapped potential from the beneficial plant interactions that polycultures allow.
I'm thinking that if you're planting potatoes in your hugelkultur beds to build up the organic bits that store your water and nutrients, in lieu of wood, that you would want them to die; to do that you would have to smother the plant by denying the leaves a chance to photosynthesize until they give up and the tubers graduate from potato matter to organic matter.
My understanding is that if you are growing potatoes in a polyculture including a sufficient diversity of other plant families, e.g. brassicas, grasses, legumes, herbs, you don't need to worry about crop rotation - One of may reasons to plant stuff in a polyculture.
Dave: Good point. I guess it is probable that the potatoes will keep sprouting like a weed. This is a surmountable problem I'm sure if the leaves were chopped down continuously as mulch. It may be worth the extra effort if they were to add significant organic matter to the soil, that is, if the rats don't eat them first.
I also heard, I think it was from you Paul via 'Mighty' Sepp, that if you don't have wood you can plant potatoes into your hugel bed and just leave them in there as a nutrient, carbon and water sink/source. Anyone tried it?
How about this idea for an in-ground ice house. The box size is 8'x8'x3'. This design would be more appropriate for an urban homestead on a flat lot. Seems like it could be done cheap.
I was thinking it would be more efficient than a walk-in cooler because the cool air stays in the pit. Of course a walk-in would give you more space. This could be made into a walk-in if it was deeper. I would worry about water seeping in. Maybe a plastic liner could be added on the outside to prevent that or a plastic covering extending 1-2' on the surface around the pit would shed the water away. Any thoughts? Tried something similar?
Wow. What a great response. Thanks everyone for the advice and encouragement.
To clarify, the people giving me 'worried looks' upon announcing my intention to deploy polyculture are farmers with conventional organic experience. I do respect their worry because I haven't done polyculture in a commercial farming context and thus don't have the confidence to say, "well actually I've done it and it's awesome, so I must respectfully disagree."
I don't think many people outside the permaculture world know what polyculture means so I think I will follow Benjamin's advice and grow vegetables in polyculture and let people's taste buds sell the product. Then when customers and other farmers ask me my secret, I'll say the magic word - 'polyculture'. I hope to demonstrate the advantages of polycultures over mono crop and interplanting to both farmers and customers. Hopefully I will be able to carve out a niche for this higher quality produce and charge accordingly. A big part of the SPIN farming business model is selling to restaurants so I think polyculture has a definite advantage there. Who knows, maybe in a few years polyculture will become a household word meaning the best produce money can buy.
Jordan: I share your opinion about the need to transition from monoculture harvesting techniques to polyculture. I'm sure there are many efficient ways to harvest polyculture systems as this has been the most widely practiced method until the plough was invented. We just need to rediscover and adapt those traditional food system practises to contemporary situations.
Of course if I, and we, are too successful in promoting polyculture, then everyone will do it and it won't be as valuable - but I think that's a good thing! Hopefully by that time I'll be rich and retired on my permaculture homestead/oasis.
I'm really itching to put polyculture and hugelkultur techniques into practice in a SPIN farm business (i.e. farming in suburban yards). But when I tell people I'm going to do 'polyculture' for a market garden business I get worried looks. I know there are so many benefits, known and unknown, about growing food in a polyculture but I worry about the labour efficiency of harvesting when, so it seems, planting stuff in monoculture rows and blocks wins out. Any thoughts on the pros and cons of polyculture vs. organic/monoculture practices in the context of an urban market garden enterprise where income/sq. ft. is the key to profitability?
I'll list off a few things I've thought about.
- Faster sowing
- Less pest loss
- Better flavour and nutrition
- Fertility grown on site
- Better pollination
- Improved yields
- Slower harvest
- Difficult to calculate income and predict results
- Seed loss/hight up-front seed costs
- Predictable income
- Established and reproducible techniques/results
- Fast harvest
- Increases loss of carbon and nitrogen due to tillage
- Increased amounts of compost required
John: It's great to hear that some market gardeners are using polyculture techniques. Seems like you're on the right track. Too often I see 'polycultures' as a something like row or broccoli with clover planted underneath, i.e. about two species. While this is better, I don't think it reaches anywhere near the full potential of polyculture. I have only begun to experiment with polycultures. So far just one summer as an intern. However next year I plan to start selling produce at the local farmer's market and I am very keen to experiment with polycultures.
Milan: From what I have read and experienced annual vegetable polycultures require more attention then once every '15-20' days - It's necessary to harvest often and early. Otherwise the plants suffocate one another and can't mature. I hear you with the detective game. Booking up on plant ID is super critical for polyculture success.
I think there is so much work and experimenting to be done tweaking polycultures for market gardening. I've read about it from the greats like Holzer and Hemenway and while they give good advise it's not clear cut the way Elliot Coleman lays out planting methods in his books, e.g. plant your carrots 1/4 inch deep at 2" spacings in rows 6" apart. Sepp is like, "mix your small seeds in one bucket; large ones in the other and chuck them out there" -all done! Polyculture seems much more of an art form which is both frustrating and exciting.
I'd like to make it to polyculture 50 one day but this is what I have to start. It's about polyculture 20ish. The theme is salad/high-value crops. Things like mesclun, carrots and radishes sell well at farmers markets so that's the focus of this guild. Much of the stuff in the mix is more functional than profitable, like the maize and beans. The maize I don't even expect to harvest; but I hear it makes a good trellace and its sugars feed the nitrogen fixing bacteria in the peas and beans. I'll likely plant several varieties of stuff like carrots, broccoli and lettuce to see which ones do the best. The ones that do I'll let go to seed for next year. I'll put in squash, tomatoes and melon guilds in locations I don't visit as often, like a zone 1.5-2. Please comment/criticize the list and share yours!
Beans (market/N fixer)
Peas (market/N fixer)
Garlic (pest deterrent/market)
Comfrey (nutrient accumulator/mulch)
Alfalfa (nutrient accumulator/ deep rooted water pump)
Marigold (nematode deterrent/looks pretty)
Mesclun mix (market)
Leaf lettuce (market)
Head lettuce (market)
Nasturtium (nutrient accumulator)
Potatoes (market/nice soil organic matter if left in the ground)
I agree about the offsite inputs. A pond would be ideal for light reflectivity and heat capacity; however in my case the beds will be quite small, i.e. >100 sq. ft., and the area that needs to reflect light and absorb heat is the pathway. I think other high reflectivity options could be used depending on what is available. For example straw is quite light coloured and may reflect some sunlight although it has a low heat capacity compared with sand. Gravel would be good too I think.
I wonder if there is a nutrient accumulation/exchange advantage to having green pathways made of clover, dandelion and other nutrient accumulating ground covers. I think I saw 'skeeter' in one of paul's videos say that he leaves weeds in his pathways to feed the soil. I would think that the mycelium would then be able to ferry those extra nutrients from the pathways around to garden plants. Of course I could imagine some super high traffic paths would be better off mulched with whatever brown organic stuff is available.