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Plants that "grow anywhere" aka "pioneer plants"  RSS feed

 
Aslan Khamat
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Hello, It's my first post so excuse me if that info is out there already, I haven't found it, searched the google too, my searching skills must be terrible or that info is that rare.

Now I'm specifically looking for info on plants that, as they say - can grow "without soil", the idea is simple, if there are certain species of plants that are incredibly adaptive (thinking of plants growing out of stone or tree bark) to be able to grow, say on wood chips, well right now I'm looking for plants that I can plant right on top of a bunch of wood chips/forest slash/hay/straw with minimal amount of extra effort/material required, especially without any soil added, in other words I guess I'm talking about organic soilless mix, but considering that it will be in contact with the soil and not watered or preferably not watered, or watered once and left alone "for good", anything can be added to make it more survivable for plants as long as it's cheap or better - free, and not labour intensive and ofc - not a poison.

I've heard a few things about wood chips and other woody types of mulches(good and bad), atm I'm convinced it's one of the best all purpose garden material, I'm also aware that there are organic soilless mixes out there using wood chips and usually some kinda of manure, and I also heard about "nitrogen fixers", the ones doing rather well in poor nitrogen soils... well, what if these or some other kind of similar robust species can grow without soil(buckwheat?) or with very little soil on top of wood chips, with modifications if needed? I suspect nature has a way to solve this problem by adapting to wide range of environmental situations, there must be plants "designed" for that.
This is what I understand "pioneer plants" do in nature, they open up and prepare the eco-system that is otherwise unlivable for other more demanding plants, for next plant's succession phase until it matures into a forest eco-system, would be very interested to know how nature solves this and mimic it by planting a right succession of plants in order to make most of the current situation, this requires a specific knowledge and observation experience I assume, something that I don't have, would love all the info and advice I can get. Thank you in advance, and sorry if that all is gibberish and doesn't make any sense, I'm a complete novice.
 
John Elliott
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Take a look around at the weeds in your area, those are the "pioneer plants".

To help you out, you need to give us some more information; where are you? what climate zone? is this compacted soil? are you throwing wood chips on a piece of land that was leveled with a bulldozer? A little of your motivation for asking the question would help.

When I moved into my place about 4 years ago, there were spots with a few inches of bare dirt compacted on top of clay. Not much to work with. Wild garlic and dandelion were some of the weeds that were successfully colonizing the place. Where there was richer soil, blackberries were pioneering their way into tangles. The first fall, I planted a bunch of daikon radish to act as natural tillage plants. That helped out quite a bit.

The various vetches would also fit into your category. I find them growing and thriving in neglected areas. The good thing about them is that they are legumes and enrich and build soil for whatever follows them.
 
Aslan Khamat
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Thank you for speedy response. I'm in Belgium, that's small enough for 1 climate zone I guess.

It's a rather regular suburban home garden, around 50 sq.m., hasn't been cultivated for a long time, it's mostly lawn and some bushes, only recently got access to it, so I don't know about the soil yet.

Main motivation is building a self sustainable garden with chickens and maybe sheep along the way, lots of trees, not yet sure about the layout/ratios, still need to go through lot's of info.

The main question for me right now is - how to start growing stuff, doesn't matter what, as long as it grows, from what I've read and heard so far, the best way to improve soil is to grow as many plants as possible and the more diversity the better, I'm not in a hurry to grow veggies or cash crops, I wanna let it grow wild and interfere only by seeding beneficial plants and mulching, till it matures enough and only then I plan to start growing edibles in between, don't even wanna make garden beds, just tossing the seeds, whatever survives grows, whatever dies, well, it dies, natural selection. I wanna minimize the care needed to a bare possible minimum, as well as physical work.

Since I've got access to woody material of all kinds, tree slash, wood chips, it's mostly fresh and I hear you need to let them rot for like a few years before using, Now I'm wondering is there a way to just cover the whole area with that layer of woody material and try to grow something on it right away, like Hugelkultur, but then without the top layer of soil, it might be impossible to grow anything on wood chips alone or impractical, I'm basically looking for a way around it without having to add soil and mulch layers little by little as plants grow, I was thinking about rather then plant into the soil through mulch or make the compost filled holes, find plants that can grow in conditions as hostile as barely decomposed woody material, and just seed them on top of the mulch, which then acts as a growing medium, it might be more useful and productive to decompose that material by growing stuff directly on it, ofc if there are plants that could grow is these conditions.
Although I guess the main reason is I'm lazy to do all that planting and looking for an easy way out. People grow things in soilless mixes, that gives me hope.

I hope I clarified myself somewhat.



 
John Elliott
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Plant some radishes now. Big ones. Not the little French breakfast radishes that are a few cm long, I'm talking Japanese daikon that can grow 30, 40, 50 cm long. You still have enough growing season left to grow some nice vegetables with deep roots. Turnips, carrots, parsnips, salsify, beets, anything that has an enlarged root, plant some. This isn't going to be for harvest, although if you do get a few nice ones, you can save them for the soup pot. The purpose here is to have the roots till the soil for you. If you leave them in the ground to get killed during the winter, what they leave behind when they decompose will fertilize the area for next year's spring garden. You can also add dandelion and witloof and alfalfa to the list. They also have tenacious roots that will help build up your soil.
 
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