Su Ba wrote:I suspect some of the effect you are seeing on the one thriving garden is due to the weeds shading the soil plus the higher humidity trapped among the leafy layer of live plants. Let me explain better.
When the soil surface is bare or mostly bare, I find that my soil dries out very fast from the action of the wind and the sun. When the soil surface is covered (either shaded heavily by the crop, by weeds, or by mulch of some kind), the soil retains its moisture. So if my soil is too wet (like right now because we have been getting rain every day), I can remove the mulch in order to help dry the soil. But during drought times I apply mulch to help keep the water that I applied via irrigation. But a thick mulch can prevent a light rain from getting through, so that is something to keep in mind too.
When plants are growing closely, they benefit from the increased air humidity around themselves. Plant leaves emit moisture due to normal plant expiration. When leaves are close, they block the moving air and the sunshine. Thus the moisture tends to stay around the plants. Plant leaves can take up that moisture from the air via their leaves, re trapping the expired moisture. Plants that are close like this also block the sunshine from getting to the soil, thus preventing soil moisture from being driven off too. This is basically the mechanism that causes closely mowed lawns to go dormant during the summer while an unmown lawn next door stays greener.
Keeping your cover of weeds lower in height than your growing crop can help your crop retain moisture. But I suspect the weeds should be those that don't compete heavily for nutrients....and at the same time have root systems that don't hog all the moisture. I have found that heavily rooted (lots of tiny rootlets and root hairs) type plants, like grasses and clovers, prevent light rains from wetting the soil much beyond their own roots. We have a tree here in Hawaii called the ohia. It's root system is a tight mat of roots. Thus other plants cannot thrive growing under the ohia, except for grasses. Grasses are just as water aggressive as the ohia for shallow surface water.
I often tell people that a somewhat weedy unwatered garden can be more productive than a weed free unwatered garden. I don't think people believe me, but I've seen it to be true, but I think it depends upon the type of weeds and type of crop. If you figured out which weeds and which crops to use, then I see no reason why it couldn't work. Would your garden be as productive as one being well tended? No. But it would produce something edible at least.
The system you are proposing may work but won't produce much food. I suppose one would have to decide if low food production combined with low labor input was what was acceptable. In my case, it would not. I need to produce almost all of my own food and livestock fedd plus have some extra for income. A "no labor" garden simply could not do that.
On another note, I totally agree with you about chickens being fed on commercial chicken feed. My own chickens get very little commercial feed. They are fed grass clippings, garden waste, foraged fruits, seeds and vegetables that I grow for them, meat waste, plus what they forage on their own 3-4 hours a day (bugs, lizards, and whatever else they like). As a result their eggs and meat tastes and smells superior to store bought chickens.
As for using urine........ I usually get plenty of rain where I farm. Salt build up is not a problem. Besides, I do not have lots of urine to use. I only use what I collect from ourselves.