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Introduction + Question about green manure

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Hello everyone. Let me introduce myself. My name is Daan, I am a senior student physical therapy and I rent a 50 square meter plot at a community garden next to my house.
I own the patch since last year, but fairly recently I have been getting into gardening a lot, and have stumbled upon this forum.
I am currently reading the vegetable gardener's guide to permaculture by Shein Christopher. If you have any recommendations I would be happy to hear, preferably a veganic book.

My goal for next year is to plant 2 or 3 moringa trees in the center and surround them with comfrey + other companion plants, having patches of vegetables growing around them.
I was also planning to grow grape vines through the fence, but due to its invasive nature I am pretty sceptical about doing that. For now I will stick with tomatoes, cucumbers and small watermelons.

My final goal when the soil structure is ready for it is to turn this patch into a nice veganic food "forest" permaculture garden.

The structure of soil I am working with is very dense peat that I have had tilled in spring. Now I have learnt more about gardening, I would really like to try a no-dig/till approach & green manure: chop n drop approach.

Soon my radishes will be done for harvesting, and I would like to sow a mix of green manure. What I have as a mix is Dutch white clover, red clover and phacelia, I also bought Malva sylvestris but I am not sure if I will have to use it in this case.
I would like to amend my soil as soon as possible, but also still have things to grow into my garden. My initial plan was to mulch the plot with hay, but I would also like to cover parts of my land already with green manure to get them ready for the winter.
The hypothetical goal is to sow rows of clover and phacelia (and maybe malva sylvestris) already, so the roots can aerate the soil, making it ready for my winter crops, growing things such as Kale already in nursery trays to immediately transplant after chopping up the green manure mixing it up with compost and layering it with hay.

Would this be a possible with of viable way of amending the soil naturally as soon as possible? Are there any other ways to do it? I would love to know

If it a viable method is it also possible to then immediately transplant the kale, after chopping up all the green manure?
Would it be a better option to transplant them directly under all the green matter using it as mulch, or would it be better to add materials like compost and a layer of hay or cardboard?

Would be glad to hearing from you guys, cheers!
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Posts: 619
Location: France, Burgundy, parc naturel Morvan
forest garden fish fungi trees food preservation cooking solar wood heat woodworking homestead
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Werlcome to Permies Daan. Excellent project. Are you in Holland or Belgium? I'm Dutch, living in France. Holland has some exceptional situations soil wise.
Do you mean no animals, when talking about vegan permaculture books?
Maybe Teaming with microbes would be an interesting book for you. It's about soil life.
He has done the dutch translation of Teaming with Microbes
I wouldn't know what is the best approach for your situation. I forgot if peat is fertile or not? Is the ground water level really high where you are? Not all trees will prosper in that case. Alder (zwarte els) could be a good nitrogen fixing chop and drop tree. Amazing root system, can live in stagnant water. Although you might be able to get free wood chips from the city council, it might tamper with your tricky underground air situation.
I've got tons of Phacelia growing, great plants for bees, what does it do exactly as a green manure? Other than providing carbon and worm food? It doesn't have root nodules fixing nitrogen. It will add carbon and green stalks for worms to chew on, but isn't peat carbon mainly?
Dutch white clover spreads easily and can form nice patches you can walk on without killing it. It might be better than the straw/hay for air inlet.
Does rain drain away or sit at the surface forming puddles?. Maybe adding sand will improve the drainage. Plantroots need oxygen. Usually the rain pushing it's way into the soil is acting as an air pump.  
Vines don't grow that quickly at start i found. They take kindly to pruning and don't invade by suckering in my experience. Birds come and steal grapes and spread seeds, but more than ten young plants a year you won't get from a 5 year old grape vine. Nothing shocking. You can plant all at the same time, cucumbers melons etc.
Maybe Daikon radish will be good for your situation to break up the soil and leave plugs of roots in the soil. Maybe you'll find out raised beds is the way to go for you. With a lot of sand added and compost rich in the elements lacking in the peat soil, it will have good drainage and deeper rooting vegetables can find water deeper down. Perennials like bronze fennel grow huge and sweat through the foliage creating a humid environment which helps less fortunate plants contain their moisture levels easier. If you've got enough wind break that is. Are you going to grow some trees on the north side of the property as a wind break? That will create a sun trap for your veggies. Worlds to discover.
Are you going to plant nitrogen fixing shrubs like goumi or maybe goji.


How is your snail situation? How about flea beetles (aardvlooien)?

Hang around and talk to us please! Permies is a natural information treasure trove and very helpful bunch of practice base folk!
Daan Coolwijk
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Hi Hugo,

Thank you for the great post, a lot of information and decisionmaking digest with all these reflective questions. I am glad I have plenty of time left to think about it.
As I recall correctly, a moringa tree does not fix nitrogen; I am quite confused because there are 2 parties saying exactly the opposite when i search for it.

I live in the Netherlands, with veganic I mean vegan and organic, In other words no cultivation of vermicompost, raising chickens etc.
Peat is very fertile, but the water drainage is very poor. I could also dig for a drainage pipe into the ditch (dutch = sloot), However, I still believe that building up soil full with organic matter will be the best over any condition. Will sand not ruin the fertility in the long run? Let's say 3-5 years when I will have build the soil up.
The phacelia i use because it has a nice tap root, I thought it would be nice to sow as well, because it doesn't compete with the clover meaning more coverage, The whole principal of chop and drop is to recycle nutrients from your current ground and create higher quality soil out of it (in the long run), but it does take a couple of years to my observations.
I already am growing 2 rows of daikon radish, as soon as that's done I will amend the soil with some compost, which hopefully mixes in well with the peat. Unfortunately I have a very slow growing variety, so I will probably be too late to get another row going in summer.

What exactly do you mean by sun trap? Creating a beneficial microclimate for the vegetables?
A goumi looks very interesting, I will keep that one in consideration.
The bronze fennel also has a very interesting symbiotic mechanic, I really love that, though I am not really fond of fennel myself.
The two small patches in front of the garden are actually my green manure experiments, I will probaby chop them once it reaches decent size and use it as compost or mulch for my summer vegetables.
The Alder looks very interesting, and appealing, on the other hand I would really like to grow moringa trees, not only because it's a great challenge, but also very exclusively grown in the Netherlands.
Will several goumi be a good substitute to replace an alder?

As of now I have had no difficulties with slugs, however my neighbours find them now and then. Flea beetles I did prevent by spraying garlic infused water with a little bit of biodegradable dishwashing soap which did wonders to my arugula, eventually I want to use companion planting as well as a few beds with a netted tunnel.
Hugo Morvan
Posts: 619
Location: France, Burgundy, parc naturel Morvan
forest garden fish fungi trees food preservation cooking solar wood heat woodworking homestead
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It's great having the time to create great soil. Have you checked Bryant Red Hawk's soil series ?
Do the clovers that you grow actually create these nodules at the roots? Check it out. And you can cut them through with a sharp knife and if the bacteria live in there, it should be red.

Sand is just added in small quantities, through and through in time. It might just sink in if you throw it on top. Maybe consider making your pathways of sand to see what it does. Pebbles.. Why?? Because sand and pebbles make water drainage. French drains consist of them. Water drainage makes the rain pushes through the soil in screen like qualities pushing air bubbles around. In my mind's eye i see it.
I use sand in my plant start seed mixes. It makes the water run down, so the plants have to root down well. I need those roots down, but you might not.
But don't take my word for it, just read up and experiment, that's the only way forward, because i can talk all i want, i have no experience with peat.

Speak to elderly gardeners too, at the allotment. They might have some great tips to improve soil, about what plants work and which ones don't.
And yes, yes to drainage into the ditch. But again talk to the people with hands on experience there. In summer you might want to block the drainage, drought is becoming a problem everywhere with climate chaos.
The elder folk will find you weird probably, with your vegan and organic ways,. It doesn't matter. They've got hands on experience about some aspects that can save you years of experimenting. And be happy to talk to a young person interested in gardening.

Daikon might not like wet feet. Maybe horse radish would be better than fennel. The more biodiversity you bring in the more easy insect-control will be in the long run. If you save the seeds, it is cheaper and easier to get your hands on seeds of local peat gardeners that have proven over the years. That's another way. Don't change the soil too much, change the germplasm. Local seedswaps might spur your project on.

Bio diversity will bring in birds and droppings, worms will love your soil, whatever your opinion on farming them. Mycelium running of Paul Stamets, are you familiar with him?

My daughter is flexi vegan so i am familiar and sympathetic to the idea. It does make it harder to get permaculture accepted by traditional farmers who see no harm in raising organic free range but that's how it is, People differ. Respect is a two way street. Lead by example etc.
It's up to folk themselves. Keeping chicken's can be messy in small settings and time consuming. In an urban setting like Holland is, it's more relevant to get this veganic branch flourishing.

I am not saying you have to grow Alder trees, they do root down deeper and can take serious abuse in chop and drop. Check out what other trees grow. They're of no use in a crop wise sense. But yeah handy to create a "sun trap", microclimate. Good habitat for birds. But you could get a food hedge going as well to establish that. Hazel nuts, apples/ pears what have you. Look around which varieties do well on peat soil locally. Swap wintercuttings, grafting material for myceium. Everybody is fascinated by mushrooms! World of veganic options!
Daan Coolwijk
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I love the way you are thinking Hugo! The approach you take on gardening intrigues me.

I have been talking to the elderly gardeners at the community garden, they also find it strange that I want to take a veganic approach, although one person is very genuine and wishes me luck in my journey.
I am not familiar with Bryant Red Hawk, nor Paul Stamets but I will look them up.

A lot of my knowledge comes from videos from youtube, such as MI gardener, Charles Dowding, Morag Gamble, Stefan Sobkowiak (owns a vegan permaculture orchard), Huw Richards, Self sufficient me, and so on.

Do you know Will Bonsall? Also a very inspiring character, and one of the most knowledgeable people regarding sustainability in my opinion. He explains so well why raising (land) animals is unsustainable in agricultural practices including permacultures.

One of the elder gardeners said if I would be using sand it will end up like concrete in the long run, especially when it sinks to the lower sediments.

Today I have tried Morag Gamble's approach to clearing weeds and preparing land to grow on. I have loosened the soil with a spit fork, then mulched the patch of grass land with comfrey that i cut the flowers off of, put on some nettle compost tea on it to kickstart the composting process, and covered it with cardboard.
I am protecting it from excess moisture and wind by using a tarp.

In this corner I am mainly going to grow biomass for my plot, I might add an Alder in there for the promotion of mycorrhiza.
I have a pear tree already, and I might add in another fruit tree once I have prepared the land for use. I will still have to level the earth at the back of my plot (work in progress).
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