John C Daley wrote:Its a bit unclear to understand what is going on, can you put up some photos?
Is it possible to germinate the vegetable seeds in small pots and when bigger transplant them to the garden bed?
Hard clay by itself is difficult to grow any vegetables in, can you add compost / humus / organic matter to the broken up clay?
Gypsum mixed in with the clkay also helps open the clay up.
The resulting soil will still hold water and it will have an improved ability to absorb any water as well.
Vegetables will need regular watering under most circumstances, either from rain or from you.
Cathy James wrote:I don't live in a Mediterranean climate, but otherwise this sounds very similar to my back yard. Heavy clay, snails, slugs, rain intermittent between too much and not at all.
I've had success growing fruit of various types in the clay. Apple, crabapple, raspberry, all do well here. Olives and grapes may be good in your climate.
Your climate may call for different types, but think perennial fruit with deep roots and plan to allow several years for it to drill through the clay. If you dig the clay once right planning and then don't walk or drive on it, that will help.
Growing annual vegetables on clay is challenging. This is a good example where permaculture of perennials wins over annual agriculture. Vegetables mostly require a fine seedbed, which cannot be formed in hard clay.
I am experimenting with improving clay soil by adding brown leaves and rotting wood, a sort of mini-hugelkultur. Hopefully the soil can be improved enough for hardy vegetables such as potatoes, legumes, and onions.
• suppress pathogens and pests
• enhance beneficial organisms
• increase biodiversity
Anne Miller wrote:The things that help most when you have pest problems may be as simple as building up your soil health.
I like to recommend wood chips and mushrooms.
These might help:
• suppress pathogens and pests
• enhance beneficial organisms
• increase biodiversity
Best wishes for your landrace and soil health.
Cathy James wrote:Hola, Antonio!
If it's just a matter of creating a bed for lettuce and other annual greens in quantities that meet the needs of a single household, that should be fairly easy.
The clay will need a lot of stuff added and blended in, but you are only looking at 2 or 3 square meters. Lettuce is a high-demand crop that needs extremely fertile soil and a fine seedbed.
Long term, hugelkultur techniques could improve the soil for supporting growth, but you would probably need to add a couple of centimeters of fine soil such as peat moss to form the seedbed.
A mix of roughly equal amounts of clay, peat moss, compost, and vermiculite, plus a bit of lime spread on top, would probably work. You would still need to put a centimeter or two of straight peat moss on top to form the seedbed and water it lightly every day to keep it from drying out, but once it sprouts and puts roots into the fertile soil underneath where the clay holds moisture, you can cut back drastically on irrigation.
I don't think there is any way to make lettuce grow happily in straight clay soil, or even majority clay soil. It will need a lot of amendments.
I grow lettuce easily despite being in heavy clay, but I do it in a raised bed on top of the clay in excellent soil made from compost, peat, and a bit of vermiculite. No clay in the mix!
Anita Martin wrote:I do not have super heavy clay but the soil is quite clay-ish.
With every year of cultivation it gets better.
If you don't need huge amounts of lettuce or other vegetables you could try to prepare one or two beds in a special way.
This early spring I covered two beds with cut-up plants and kitchen scraps, then covered them with cardboard (old cartons) and then covered those with all things I could find: chicken bedding, horse manure, spent coffee grains, more cut-up kitchen scraps and cut-up plants etc.
It did not look nice, and sometimes I had to water because this spring was very dry and cold.
But when I removed the remaining cardboards and plant matter there were worms and nice soil. I transplanted veggies that I had sown in seeders (seed trays, quickpots). But I also noticed that there were voluntary vegetable plants from the mulch (tomatoes, cucumbers, one physalis, marigold). I do have lots of slugs but it is more difficult for the slugs to detect a seedling when it has grown spontaneously - no guarantee though!
Depending on time and available material I might rotate this method on other beds because not only makes it nice crumbly soil, but also suppresses weeds to some extent.
However, we are talking about tiny beds where I can keep ahead of the weeds in normal times.
Hugo Morvan wrote:Hola Antonio.
What a nasty trio of pests you're dealing with.
The farmer I work with has dumped tons of clay on our poor acid granite soil. We've grown potatoes in them. When it came it was wet and lumpy. I just had to push the potato seedlings in the crevices and cover with some compost and mulch that. They grew well but then the clay lumps hardened,the potatoes pushed themselves out of the crevices and got green. Still managed to eat all winter of those potatoes and had enough potatoes to start bigger this year.
Why I say this. Because after the harvest the long mount of clay was barren and had to be planted.
Since I save loads of seeds I had a lot to work with.
We don't have this ant problem so this will probably not work for you. But anyway I seeded Claytonia and corn salad and golden beets and andives and alfalfa and lettuces. The lettuces are a four season variety which is self seeding even in a lawn sometimes.
I didn't weed a lot, just made sure nothing but this grew there. The corn salad did extremely well and grew into a cover crop like mass which blocked seeding wild plants from germinating.
I just leave it. And will plant by just removing some and dig a hole fill it with water and get out more clay.
Make a column and fill that with damp compost.
The slugs are terrible this year. I feed them wild herbs that decompose around my transplants. They did prefer those over my transplants at first but now they are big and eat all.
Some plants they will not touch though. My cucumber this year is safe. Most of the beets, the pumpkins and butternuts have been left to grow.
Now they re at the stage where they get into that exponential grow rhythm. Only a massive slug attack could hold them back.
Mind you I always dreamed of just seed by hand since I've started Joseph Lofthouse landracing.
I am still transplanting.
But with so many slug voiders I will be able to save as much seeds as with the corn salad that I use as a cover crop. I can give it a go next year.
But I have no seed hauling ants.
They do in the south of France where my girlfriend and Pascal Poot live. I wonder if Poot has crops he can seed by hand?
My girlfriend says the snail pressure is immense. They have tiny ones which carry a house on their back. If you're silent you can hear them chew.
What kind of snails do you have?
A good thing I discovered was that the Jerusalem artichokes I use as a wind break and sun trap triple function as a climbing rack/support for my snap beans. The trees i seeded start to produce shade and block grasses and wild native plants.
The chenopodes I used to erase are delicious in fact so I let them go to seed and will try to use them as a cover crop next year there where weed pressure us high. They are good to eat and use as a mulch.
Do you have a pond? It might attract insects etc that deal with plagues in unexpected ways.
Also leaving stems of umbelleforae dies a good job of increasing biodiversity.
Anyway hope this story has some points that can help you stay positive. Because only continuing the struggle will make us the examples we need to be.
By the way I have been protesting loads for freedom and sharing my seeds at demonstrations with strangers. Now I hear good things about their effectiveness.
Those folk will become growers that will save seeds and spread the landrace revolution.
All the best
Abraham Palma wrote:Hola Antonio.
Have you tried Fukuoka balls? In theory, the ball of dirt will protect the seeds from pests until the time is right for them to sprout.
They are easy to make. Have some dirt, some compost and lots of mixed seeds, with very little water, form balls of mud and let them dry. Then, throw them around. Forget about them, and just make new balls. Try hundreds of different species of seeds. At least two of them are guaranteed to root, hehe.
Anyways, you won't be able to grow tomatoes on a bad soil. If you want that kind of grocery vegetables to have any chance, you have to build your soil first. If you remember my triangle beds, there I have built good soil. It's a very limited space, but the soil is good for veggies. (Still my tomatoes die without watering...) Outside of the triangle beds, only chard is brave enough to grow without heavy care on our part. Maybe artichokes and 'tagarninas'.
I don't have experience myself, but I think that you may build your soil in large areas by spreading compost distillates over a moist ground. That is, wait until a couple of days after raining, then mix a bucket of compost in a gallon of water (not sure myself about the proportions), stir it, and use that water rich in microbes for populating your soil. Then let your weeds grow, they will feed your microbes until you can use your desired seeds. You can use these weeds as fertilizer once you are ready to plant something.
I want to try this myself this year, but I don't expect rains until october.
Jane Mulberry wrote:My immediate thought is that lettuce is about the most challenging plant to try to grow in a dry climate without additional water! They tend to either get bitter, or bolt to seed. Would trying other salad leaves like mache, amaranth, and purslane be a good place to start?
Apparantly oak leaf lettuce are considered the most drought hardy, so they may be useful to start your landrace from.
Jones Green wrote:Hi Antonio,
Regarding the disappearing seeds, here in Murcia I had the same problem. I thought it were ants, but after observing closely I found out it was a small species of mouse (a very tiny one!) and one particular species of bird (blackbird).
I read that the mice can smell where you planted the seeds as the area smells different then compared to the surrounding areas, I guess because of the seed and your hand. I solved this by laying some dead weeds on top to disperse the smell. Also against the birds we cut small pieces of shade net (the white type of net the greenhouses use here) and lay it on top of the area where I planted seeds, with 4 small rocks in each corner. This also helps against most snails for the first 2 weeks. After that the plant should be big enough.
This solved the problem for me for species that prefer direct planting like pumpkins and melons etc. Some other vegetables that are not so sensitive, like beans, I first raise in pots and then transplant as it is easier.
I also have bad soil here and made beds in order to improve things a bit. I mix the bad soil, with compost from my compost pile, fermented animal manure and old straw from my chickens. All mixed together it makes nice beds for the vegetables and they are happy.
Hope this helps