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Introduction and questions about starting BTE  RSS feed

 
Brian Lanning
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Hi everyone. My name is Brian. I live in Uruguay. I'm getting ready to start a BTE garden. After much searching and fighting with the language, I finally have a source for wood chips. The first 21 m3 were delivered for free (a miracle in this part of the world).

The place that produces them makes two wood chip products. The first is a lot finer than what we might expect for wood chips. The other product is larger. What I get is whatever falls out of the hopper and misses the trucks or falls from the 10 story high conveyor belts. They need clean and dry chips for, I think, paper mills. So I can get for free anything that's not clean and dry. I have to pay for delivery. This "dirty" mixture results in quite a lot of material that's already starting to break down. So while there' no green in the mixture, some of what I get is basically black, nearly top soil. The price is fairly reasonable, figure $100 for about 30 m3.

I'm working on another source which is from tree trimming services. It appears that I can get this for free also, but I have to provide the truck. Basically, the chipper blows it into my truck instead of theirs. So again, free but I pay for the truck.

I also have a source for chicken manure. The good thing is that it's right down the street. The bad is that I haven't been there yet. So they might not have a way to load a large truck. And it might be fresh rather than composted for a while.

My place is a small farm, although I haven't planted anything yet. The area I'm going to plant is currently covered by grass and weeds. It also has furrows. So my questions are surrounding preparation.

I know this is heresy. But I'm thinking to run the tiller. I have a 5 foot wide tiller for a tractor, so I could do the whole area in less than 15 minutes. I have several reasons for wanting to do this. First, it would take out the grass and weeds, mixing some green back into the soil. This is nice because I can't get a lot of newspaper like we do in the US. So this might take out 99% of the weeds without having to put something down. Tilling will also flatten out the furrows. I also wouldn't have to wait for the chips to fix soil compaction. I would get instant loose soil down to as much as a foot. Once the wood chips are down, of course I would never till again.

I should also note that the soil quality here is very good. The government in Uruguay provides a score for soil quality in all rural areas so that everyone knows what to expect. The scores range from around 50 for rocky soil to around 210 for the best. Mine is 196. So I could probably get away with not fertilizing up front at all. But I think I would get better results if I added something in.

From watching the BTE film, it looks like they recommend starting out by amending the soil before putting the chips down. I maybe could do the chicken manure I mentioned, assuming it's composted. Or I could add some 10-10-10. Or both. I could til it in or throw it on top. Then afterwards, add four inches of wood chips, pull it back in rows, and plant in the soil, and push the chips back as things grow. Or maybe I could put some (composted or not) chicken manure and/or 10-10-10 on top of the wood chips. Maybe that would create a slow release sort of thing as the rain washes it through?

What does everyone thing is the best approach?

It's heading into fall here now. We have mild winters and can plant a lot of things year round since it never snows and there's never a hard freeze. I figure I'll start with the cole crops, root crops, and greens. I think even beans and peas might survive the winter.

brian
 
Miles Flansburg
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Howdy Brian, welcome to permies!

Ya Tilling is frowned upon. Tilling loses much of your soil nutrients to the atmosphere, disturbs the native mycelium, and creates a hard layer below the tilled area.
You should be able to just cover the area with you organic material and let it work all winter. It sounds like the wood is already breaking down and may already have mycellium in it.
The chicken manure will be pretty hot but the chips may help with that?
Then plant next spring.
A winter cover crop may also be a good idea. Some legumes and radishes are good. As many different things as you can grow over the winter. A polyculture is what you are trying to create!

Can you identify any of the grasses and weeds? Here at permies we think weeds are a good thing. They tell you much about your soil and many are very helpful in other ways.

Have you done any soil testing? It sounds like the government says you already have a good soil. Rather than putting on fertilizers you should have an idea of what is already there .
I would not waste any time or money on fertilizers.
Could be that the native soil with wood chips and manure will have much of what your plants need already.

What is the BTE film?

There is lots of info here at permies. Be sure to take a look around !
 
Brian Lanning
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Miles Flansburg wrote:Howdy Brian, welcome to permies!

Ya Tilling is frowned upon. Tilling loses much of your soil nutrients to the atmosphere, disturbs the native mycelium, and creates a hard layer below the tilled area.
You should be able to just cover the area with you organic material and let it work all winter.


What about the furrows?


It sounds like the wood is already breaking down and may already have mycellium in it.
The chicken manure will be pretty hot but the chips may help with that?


This is why I was hoping that it's been composting for a while. Maybe if it's fresh, it's better to use less and put it on top of the chips.


Then plant next spring.
A winter cover crop may also be a good idea. Some legumes and radishes are good. As many different things as you can grow over the winter. A polyculture is what you are trying to create!

Can you identify any of the grasses and weeds? Here at permies we think weeds are a good thing. They tell you much about your soil and many are very helpful in other ways.


I know there's camomile and stinging nettle. There's also a wild variety of carrot. There's other things I can't identify.

There's also frightening weed that that just look mean and angry. It can't stand up to the goats though.


Have you done any soil testing? It sounds like the government says you already have a good soil. Rather than putting on fertilizers you should have an idea of what is already there .
I would not waste any time or money on fertilizers.


I'm sure it's possible to test the soil. Getting the test here is nearly impossible. I'd have to import the test kit somehow.


Could be that the native soil with wood chips and manure will have much of what your plants need already.

What is the BTE film?


www.backtoedenfilm.com


There is lots of info here at permies. Be sure to take a look around !


thanks!

brian
 
Victore Hammett
Posts: 54
Location: near Hickory, NC
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While BTE shares some similarities with permaculture, there are some differences. Permaculture tends more toward polyculture planting than BTE, but they both advocate keeping the soil covered. BTE is more modified row cropping, as presented in the film.

Ok, as to the main questions. If you have major compaction issues, even Toby Hemenway said in "gaia's garden" that it's ok to plow once just to get it loosened up, then immediately cover it up with mulch. A permaculture way to relieve soil compaction would be to plant deep rooted species like comfrey, daikon, alfalfa, etc. It would also be advantageous to add leguminous species like clover, vetch, pole beans to add nitrogen to the soil.

The chicken manure should be fine composted or not. Watching geoff lawton's videos show him planting right after letting chickens scratch and poop on a patch of ground. I would just spread it thin.

If your climate is semi-tropical, the winter season should be fine for almost any cool season crop and a great time to get some fruit trees in the ground.

As always, my opinion don't mean craps. So, do your own research.
 
John Elliott
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Brian Lanning wrote:
I also wouldn't have to wait for the chips to fix soil compaction. I would get instant loose soil down to as much as a foot. Once the wood chips are down, of course I would never till again.


There is no need to apologize for tilling, especially as you describe it. I did this with my garden 3 years ago, tilling in a large load of chips, and I haven't tilled since. It can also be good to till once in a while, if only to give the Fusarium that is dormant in the soil a jostle and mix them up with other, beneficial fungi that will kill them off through competition.

Sewing it with cole crops is an excellent idea, and if you add some peas to the mix, they can fix nitrogen for the coles.
 
Brian Lanning
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Victore Hammett wrote:While BTE shares some similarities with permaculture, there are some differences. Permaculture tends more toward polyculture planting than BTE, but they both advocate keeping the soil covered. BTE is more modified row cropping, as presented in the film.


There's another film on youtube with paul gausche giving a tour of his garden (do a youtube search for L2Survive). I'm not sure if it's in the original film, or this tour, but he says that he does rows because he just likes rows. You can plant in any formation you want.

He also does things like planting coriander under the leaves of his squash plants so that they don't bolt. He also plants kale under trees to protect them from snow fall and cold weather. And he has a wood pile wall he uses to trap heat for grapes that he shouldn't be able to grow where he is. He even mentions micro-climates directly.


Ok, as to the main questions. If you have major compaction issues, even Toby Hemenway said in "Gaia's Garden" that it's ok to plow once just to get it loosened up, then immediately cover it up with mulch. A permaculture way to relieve soil compaction would be to plant deep rooted species like comfrey, daikon, alfalfa, etc. It would also be advantageous to add leguminous species like clover, vetch, pole beans to add nitrogen to the soil.


Daikon and carrots are on the list to plant as well as pole beans.


The chicken manure should be fine composted or not. Watching Geoff Lawton's videos show him planting right after letting chickens scratch and poop on a patch of ground. I would just spread it thin.

If your climate is semi-tropical, the winter season should be fine for almost any cool season crop and a great time to get some fruit trees in the ground.


I have 1200 fruit trees now, all planted monoculture in rows too close together and tied to wire (as is the local custom). I plant to cut down at least every other tree, probably more, then mulch deeply like in the BTE movie. Since I won't need to get the tractor in there anymore to spray, I'll get all the tractor rows back as planting space.

I have all kinds of seeds my daughter brought back with her. Many are fruit trees as well. Hopefully I'll be able to get those going. At the very least, the more boring and basic varieties are available here as potted trees. So I'll definitely get some of those going also.


As always, my opinion don't mean craps. So, do your own research.


Thanks for the info. I definitely have no idea what I'm doing.

brian
 
Brian Lanning
Posts: 13
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John Elliott wrote:
Brian Lanning wrote:
I also wouldn't have to wait for the chips to fix soil compaction. I would get instant loose soil down to as much as a foot. Once the wood chips are down, of course I would never till again.


There is no need to apologize for tilling, especially as you describe it. I did this with my garden 3 years ago, tilling in a large load of chips, and I haven't tilled since. It can also be good to till once in a while, if only to give the Fusarium that is dormant in the soil a jostle and mix them up with other, beneficial fungi that will kill them off through competition.

Sewing it with cole crops is an excellent idea, and if you add some peas to the mix, they can fix nitrogen for the coles.


I'm very interested in the idea of companion planting. I'm not sure how to go about it though. In the case you describe, how close together would I need to put the coles and the peas to get the desired effect?

I know marigolds are good for insect control. Also onions and garlic help with fungus problems. And apparently basil planted next to a tomato will increase the yield in the tomato plant by 20%. Are there any other classic combinations I could easily do here?

brian
 
Victore Hammett
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Location: near Hickory, NC
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I found a pretty good book that gave tons of examples of companion plantings and plant relationships. It's called Carrots Love Tomatoes. Pretty easy to follow and understand. It was designed for row cropping but can be easily adapted to polyculture cropping. You may also want to search for "permaculture guilds" online, which is basically creating plant communities which support each other and forms multi-leveled beneficial relationships among plants in the group to naturally fertilize, mine and share minerals, draw pollinators, resist disease/infestation, etc.

http://www.amazon.com/Carrots-Love-Tomatoes-Companion-Successful/dp/1580170277


Hope it helps.
 
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