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Helen Atthowe: goddess of the soil  RSS feed

 
John Polk
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There are many regions of the world lacking in water and organic matter.  It could take decades of inputs to make those regions productive.  However, as populations expand, and resources diminish, such expenditures will become necessary.
 
Tyler Ludens
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John Polk wrote:
However, as populations expand, and resources diminish, such expenditures will become necessary.



Stabilizing population is permacultural.

 
Geoff Kegs
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
Where do you think it is not possible to use it?




In areas where the soils or climate precludes any possibility of it.  The best example would be Antarctica, but believe me, there are plenty of places around the globe that soils will not support an organic system to grow food.

Also, as noted during the latest podcast by Helen - there are many places we would not want to consider attempting to change the vegetation so that it would become an organic system of producing food for humanity, even if it were possible - because conserving biodiversity is extremely important too (e.g. other critters need to have a habitat).

 
John Polk
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True enough.  Unfortunately, it is usually the least productive people who produce the most children.
 
Geoff Kegs
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blackpowderbill wrote:
Kegs,

 Never doubt yourself even in a discussion with a PhD...I always tell myself, not everyone graduated at the top of the class.
AND any PhD worth their salt should be able to explain the topic so you/I can understand it.

I'm not looking to feed the world. I'm just looking for a few tips on how to improve my garden, with the understanding that we all don't plant in the same dirt.

 


I understand what you're saying, but I've been in some conversations with specialists (PhD. level).  I've worked beside several PhD. and post doc folks in the lab, and it is not a problem to explain certain things, but technical aspects have technical terms and if you don't know the terminology it is difficult to communicate.  When it is difficult to communicate, it becomes difficult to gain knowledge.

Technical knowledge is what agriculture is missing the most in the field.  If more commercial, conventional farmers had a higher level of technical knowledge, their interest in going organic (and especially in not signing certain annual seed purchasing agreements) would increase dramatically.

I am slowly moving in the direction of providing assistance to feed a larger portion of the world.  There is no shortage of knowledge lacking in this field.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Kegs wrote:
In areas where the soils or climate precludes any possibility of it.  The best example would be Antarctica, but believe me, there are plenty of places around the globe that soils will not support an organic system to grow food.



Ok, thanks. 

Personally I don't think we should be developing more lands, but rather be repairing those which have been damaged by prior use.  Areas which won't support organic methods won't support non-organic methods either, except very expensive indoor intensive methods.

 
Tyler Ludens
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John Polk wrote:
 Unfortunately, it is usually the least productive people who produce the most children.


Yeah, it's hard to be "productive" (whatever that means) when you're pregnant all the time.

http://www.populationconnection.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issues_defendingwomensrts
 
paul wheaton
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aha, you do listener questions as well? great!

Because after listening to the previous podcast, the one about sustainability and efficiency i had some questions.

When Helen was explaining how perrenials especially woody plants are less efficient because a lot of the carbon that is taken up by those plants will be stored in the stems and trunks, not used for production of edible parts, i was wondering about some other factors and if they were taken in to this equation (they probably were).

- as patrick whitefield writes, annuals will need to spend a lot of time and energy in sprouting and growing enough foliage for reproduction before starting to produce the edibles (leaf-crops excepted), perrenials just need to put out leafs, and after that can immediatly start using energy towards their reproduction (usually our crop).
- she spoke about efficiency being only measured in yield. But surely for efficiency to be measured it will be an input vs output equation? so invested time and energy and other recources vs yield? (just to be sure, so i understand correct)

- When she speaks about importing fertility because self-maintaining systems yield less, being needed for feeding our current world population i was wondering, this imported fertility has to come from somewhere, so this land is still -indirectly- used for the production of those vegetables. They may have been externalized from the on-site equation, but there is stil some land or recource being used somewhere in the world.

for that reason i didnt get why importing fertility or not would be of any difference for feeding the current world population with a certain arable surface.

whether you have a patch for growing comfrey and other mulch (or fodder) plants, to maintain and build soil fertility or import mulch/manure from elsewhere, this land is part of the 'footprint' isn't it?.

interesting discussion...

edit:
and i forgot,
when we speak about yield, many permies have emphasized the importance of redefining yield, especially long term yield. have the ressillience and stability of no-dig polyculture systems been also incorporated as yield in the equation?

 
paul wheaton
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When I corner helen for a podcast she wants to know the topic.  So I come up with some stuff and she usually refuses because she has a lot to say on the topic and she wants to spend six hours researching certain key points first, and, of course, she does not have the six hours to do the research. 

Usually when she and i talk, we end up disagreeing on something only to go to google to find stuff to support our positions - and usually it turns out that we are both right, and the whole topic is vastly more massive.

As for user questions, Helen stops by here once in a while ...

The question that was in that podcast:  I can't remember where that came from.  I happened to have it on my screen when she came by.
 
                                      
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yeah,

i think i'll have to do at least a night of googling after these last podcasts with helen. (i love vids and podcasts with her!)

For example about the n-fixing qualities of legumes.

The most experienced and knowledgeble dutch teachers here are of helen's opinion that n-fixers dont add more in in the soil than they need themselves to grow, while growing, but are thus less demanding for N themselves (making them good companions, in stead of competing for the n with other plants, like corn).

they can however do this by chopping (part of) them.

They teach chop 'n dropping n-fixers in order to get them to give of n to other plants.

then i wonder, does this still work after harvesting the seeds? or did they then use al n for seed production?

because if not, legumes would be still functioning in your system like as n-providers (depending on climate and stuff). Here in the netherlands it is best to use broad beans in a 3 sister system, since other beans haven't started fixing n early enough in the season.

So, i have the broad beans grow, harvest the pods, then mow or chop it and it then gives a boost of n to the soil helping the corn, which at that moment really needs it...

anyway, more interwebs time tonight, even though i know i wake early tomorow to tend the gardens.
 
                        
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In the podcast today you got into quite a discussion with Helen about the possibility of eventually being able to do without any external inputs.  I wondered about that as it seems to me that eventually you WILL be using up some of the minerals at least, which may not be returned to the soil in sufficient quantities to replace the minerals lost.  For example, selenium and boron are  pretty important to have in the soil but only in minute quantities. Since plants won't grow properly without some, clearly they use it. Over time, it seems reasonable to think that the areas which were deficient in it to begin with may simply use up what has been added to produce the healthy soil, and need more. If  most of the selenium is contained in the straw or waste material you are using for mulch, it might take a long time but I would think that if ANY of it is consistently  found in the harvested material, eventually over time the soil will again be deficient.

I don't think that any "natural" environment is entirely self sufficient anyway..wind and air currents bring in ash from exploding volcanoes  many many hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Who knows what else it brings in less spectacularly? Lightning strikes apparently somehow add nitrogen. Birds and animals bring in nutrients from other areas.

Also, there is the question about different soils, because of climate or vegetation or whatever, perhaps needing something that soils in another area and climate might not. One diet won't work equally well for all humans..some people  have a higher than usual need for certain vitamins or minerals  to maintain optimum health.  Why should all soils behave identically given the same diet?

If you are talking about good soil, then probably you could generalise and come up with something which would indeed work almost anywhere, but if you are talking about great soil which is robustly healthy and hugely productive over a long time, I'm not sure you could convince me that a one plan will work for all and once set, nothing need ever be added to the system for infinity. You are, after all, always taking more from the soil than you are putting back, in a closed system..the green manure plant material you cut has used the substances in the soil to grow. So unless you add a little something from time to time it would seem to me that in the long haul the soils will become deficient in any area they were deficient to start out with.
 
maikeru sumi-e
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Farms and cities have been exporting nutrients out to rivers, lakes, and oceans (with disastrous consequences), among one of many ways that topsoils have been depleted and destroyed. I don't think it's totally a bad thing to reverse the flow and start enrichment and replenishment of topsoil again.
 
John Polk
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Many good points within this thread.  This proves (to me) that for every question that gets answered, a hundred new questions are generated.

"Perpetual" soil, IMHO is not a possibility.  I will use the metric system in my explanation, (since 1,000's are easier to deal with than fractions).  If a berry plant uses 1K of calcium to produce a crop, even if we were not to eat a single berry from the crop, and allowed the plant's residue to go back to the soil, it would not put the full 1K back into the soil...some has been lost/consumed in the production of the berries.  It is like a pendulum...it may be capable of swinging for a long time, but with each swing, its arc diminishes a bit.  Eventually, the pendulum will cease all motion...all of its energy having been consumed.

This effect is much more pronounced in a monoculture, because each crop has its unique requirements of needed nutrients.  Even in a polyculture, (though at a much lower rate), the nutrients will diminish over time, without some type of input.  At present, this is not a real problem, as abundant sources of free/cheap sources of natural nutrients are available.  Some farmers actually will pay to have crop residue hauled away!  As more farmers realize that incorporating that residue into their soils will reduce the amounts of nutrients they need to buy, those free sources will vanish.
 
                                      
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So these podcasts with helen really stick with me.

I hope she would like to come by and explain some things she is saying a little bit further to us.

i get most of what she is saying; where people who import fertility, wheter in the form of manure or mulch, have a higher pounds per acre efficiency than people who grow fertility on-site. (wheter it is by incorporating animals, grazed pasture, fodder/mulch patches, or grow it right next to the plants that need it. You are using land for that.

Someone who imports this is not using this land (herself), therefore the pounds per acre equation is in favor of the importing grower.

When the land is being externalized out of the growers equation it is still bound to show up in other ways in the equation (in terms of invested money?) wont it?

How does helen look at approaching the efficiency measuring different, and looking at energy in and out, would it then still be in favor of the importer?

-----------------------------

Added after reading john polks post:

this is another thing that bugs me
- i get how there are no perpetuum mobiles or anything perpetuum. entrophy at work and stuff, but:

how with the whole syntrophy of the biosphere, from a rocky barren land a multilayered forest can evolve, building biomass and soil every year, a complete system, animals can exist in this system, as long as we see our selves as within the system why not could our food system be building up as well?

 
Dave Bennett
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Excellent explanation of the "Big Picture" Kegs.  I too am just a country boy that has had my hands in the dirt all of my life.  I did not study soil science as a curriculum in college but I have done a great deal of reading so that I could better understand the dynamic of truly healthy living soil.

Fixing a system corrupted by Big Oil and the GMO/Molecular Biology Industry on a worldwide scale seems quixotic at best.  I have been adding my voice in fighting Monsanto et al for over 20 years with only small victories here and there.  I cannot see that system continuing to flourish with the ever increasing cost of producing Oil.  I do believe that the voices of the "Organic Movement" against the GMO Industry would have been better more effective if it had focused on educating the public about how Petroleum dependent Industrial Monoculture is to sustain production.  I am fearful that the unleashing of GMO Alfalfa will be catastrophic worldwide.  The most important open pollinated perennial forage crop on earth is going to be contaminated everywhere.  I believe that the entire food chain worldwide is in serious trouble and have no clue on how it can be stopped.

When I moved on to this tiny patch of red Piedmont clay it was just that clay that would barely support the grasses that were attempting to grow.  It was really acidic because of the stand of White Oaks spitting sap all throughout the rowing season.  Now after caring for my tiny plot for 17 years it is black down about 8 or 9 inches and much softer.  It retains rain water really well too.  I spread my compost over it twice a year with a push along lawn seeder.  I dry it and screen it so it won't clog up the spreader.  It has been a lot of work but mow my "lawn" of weeds helps to feed my rabbits.  I have an unbelievable colony of both English and Broadleaf Plantain and Dandelions.  It took me a while to get rid of the nutgrass and I do have a nice crop of Yellow Dock but when my stand of Fiddlehead ferns gets going in the Spring it shades the Dock back under control.  I am really happy how my soil improvement efforts have turned my patch of clay into relatively healthy soil.  The lush greenery helps to keep my house cooler too thus reducing my energy needs.
 
maikeru sumi-e
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Joop Corbin - swomp wrote:
-----------------------------

Added after reading john polks post:

this is another thing that bugs me
- i get how there are no perpetuum mobiles or anything perpetuum. entrophy at work and stuff, but:

how with the whole syntrophy of the biosphere, from a rocky barren land a multilayered forest can evolve, building biomass and soil every year, a complete system, animals can exist in this system, as long as we see our selves as within the system why not could our food system be building up as well?




IMO, it can if we give back more than we receive, so that the favor and debt is paid back in kind.

For example, I'm sure many people have heard of the connection between the salmon and the forests of the Pacific Northwest. The massive trees rely on and are sustained by the salmon runs.
 
                                      
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hmmm, well i think i can guess for helen answer:

yes, that is possible but (like with the deer and other animals in a patch of forest) it kan only sustain a certain amount of animals/humans. There is a limit to how many people can be supported.

I agree with paul that, yes, we can feed the current world population (as long as we distribute the food equally*), we could probably feed an even bigger population.
Why i say this? Well recent studies have showed that when everybody in the world would consume recources and live like we do in the 'west' (europe/ us), we will need 3 or 4 planet to support that lifestyle. When everybody would live an african lifestyle, reducing our footprint to as small as possible, the earth could sustain a much bigger popuation than we have right now.

But i also agree with helen when she says it is quite selfish to want to do this, i would rather reduce my (our) footprint, not in order to sustain this many people, but to be able to sustain way more wild(life) than we are doing right now.

So lets reduce our footprint,
ánd reduce our population,
lets start distributing our food more equally,
and leave room to way more other creatures then we are giving room on earth now.


*
I heard that there is not an actual world food shortage, but that it is just not equally distributed. Not hard to believe if you know how much of our food is thrown away even before it reaches the consumer.
 
Dave Bennett
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Kegs wrote:


Technical knowledge is what agriculture is missing the most in the field.  If more commercial, conventional farmers had a higher level of technical knowledge, their interest in going organic (and especially in not signing certain annual seed purchasing agreements) would increase dramatically.



This reminds me of Alexis de Tocqueville's observations while visiting "The Colonies" and his amazement at the incredibly high educational level of farmers "out in the hinterland."  My thinking is that farming has taken incredible leaps backward as agricultural industrialization continually crept forward.  I believe that we are on the brink of a devastating collapse of much of the food chain.  I learned much of my farming from both observation and hands on experience from "old school" dairy farmers that always spent the growing season harvesting hay because winters were long and harsh and they would never consider feeding their cows silage or any commercial feed with the exception of a grain supplement.  They never used anything other than a manure spreader on their pastureland and only used the most well composted manures for their gardens.  All of the soil amendments were actually just returning what came from that same land.  I grew up drinking that milk raw.  I am healthier for having that opportunity.  Many of those very same farms have been taken over by the current children of those "original" families and the farms have been "modernized" into "Frankenfood" operations where the cows stay in barns and never see pastures.  It is heartbreaking to me.
 
                        
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Kegs wrote:
I understand what you're saying, but I've been in some conversations with specialists (PhD. level).  I've worked beside several PhD. and post doc folks in the lab, and it is not a problem to explain certain things, but technical aspects have technical terms and if you don't know the terminology it is difficult to communicate.  When it is difficult to communicate, it becomes difficult to gain knowledge.

Technical knowledge is what agriculture is missing the most in the field.  If more commercial, conventional farmers had a higher level of technical knowledge, their interest in going organic (and especially in not signing certain annual seed purchasing agreements) would increase dramatically.

I am slowly moving in the direction of providing assistance to feed a larger portion of the world.  There is no shortage of knowledge lacking in this field.


One or two thoughts about this. First, I would bet that many if not most farmers (in North America at least) consider themselves to be fairly well  informed; it's just that the information they are getting (and using) is not necessarilly that  which most permies would espouse. In my area, all the "younger" farmers  (including those who are taking over family farms) are graduates of some sort of ag education program, usually university.   Highly educated specialists in virtually any field you would care to mention can be found to disagree on what the data means for unresolved topics; climate change being the most obvious example at present. So it could be a problem considering people to be uneducated because they don't agree with your pov. They might feel the same way about you!

Secondly, scientists are NOTORIOUS for delving into details and beating them to death and NOT joining the little bits with the larger view of things; and the more specialized they are the more apt they are to do this.  This is how we end up with drugs that help people with arthritis but cause them to have heart attacks, or light bulbs that use less electricity but if they break are potentially lethal from mercury poisoning or spray for hay so it  won't mould  - but can and has caused horses to abort their foals.

This is not to say that I am down on science or Phds or anyone. Though I have known PhDs who had the brains of a fruit fly and the common sense of a piece of cheese I have also known brilliant ones, obviously most fit somewhere in that continuum.The thing is to see how what they are doing and teaching fits into what the people like Helen and Sepp and others in the "real world" are doing and teaching and not to be dazzled with jargon or letters trailing after the name.


 
John Polk
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I worked (7 years) on a research vessel.  Believe me, there were times I believed PhD stood for "Piled Higher & Deeper".
 
                        
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Re: sustainable cropping

humus and Terra preta (biochar) are made of mostly molecues freely available from the atmosphere, as are all plants. The remaining molecules are found in the parent material (subsoil, bedrock etc). Human activity has dumped huge amounts of what is essentially fertilizer into the atmosphere. Too much carbon dioxide and global warming? C4 grasses are the best biomass producers, and they thrive in hot, c02 rich environments. There is no limit to the potential biomass of the earth - well, at least as long as father sol keep pumping those precious photons. tropical Rainforests and temperate grassland are two of the best ways that nature converts minerals from subsoil into biomass. Earth wants to be more alive, and teeming with creatures. Fear not that we will strip the earth of resources. In fact, earth receieves a constant influx of energy and minerals from the sun and meteors. All we have to do is learn to cycle these inputs effectively. Even seawater can be used to good effect as fertilizer in some places - highland rainforest being one. If we cycle resources properly, I think the earth can litterally grow into space and begin converting extra-terrestrial minerals into life (millions or billions of years from now). Even nuclear radiation (I hate nukes, they are abomination if anything ever was) may speed evolution/adaptation through mutation.

Good soil is made of parent material and air. Trace nutrients litterally rain down from the sky. Permaculture (I mean effective use/recycling of matter and energy) could lead to a planet with tens of billions of people, and trillions upon trillions of other creatures all doing the same "Hana" - creating more life (biomass).

Hana is a Hawaiian word that is translated as "work" but I think it means something like "enjoyable labor"or maybe "fufilling duty". Plants delight in growing, humans delight in growing plants (and animals) and then eating them.

Economists talk of "sustainable growth". The growth they refer to is like a cancer, eating it's host until both expire. Permaculture speaks of permanent culture. The earth says, life (biomass) is good, more life is better. Grow grow grow. I want to see  ten thousand planets with a trillions diffrent life forms on each, turning unliving molecues into life.

Earth is a seed germinating in a rich compost. Humans could be (are not now?) the microbes that recycle nutrients back to the seed, or the fungus that makes nutrients available. The universe is the atmosphere and is enriched by the growth of the seed. Remeber, this planet was once a lifeless rock floating through space with many other lifeless rocks, but for some reason it germinated and now we've got life covering every inch of the planet. 

Each of us will die and become fertilizer for that which comes after, and the universe says thanks.

Too much hippie mumbo-jumbo? 
         
 
paul wheaton
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Ok, so I have a question.  Why do we need to worry so much about weed seeds getting into the garden beds?  I ask because when I dig a garden bed, I cut up the sod in squares, set it to the side, take my garden fork and loosen the lower soil, shovel that up and put it aside.  Then, I take the sod and layer it, grass side down,  and top with the lower soil.  Usually I will put an amendment in afterward, double digging.  After that I never dig again, as I am a "No Tiller".  I don't have any unusual problems with weeds and since I have been doing this, the growth in my garden either meets or exceeds expectations. 
Is this kind of method not possible in a medium or large scale farm?  I also mow my lawn every couple of weeks and lay the fresh grass in my beds as mulch.  Haven't seemed to have any problems with nitrogen immobilization and my lawn has a ton of clover growing in it.  I admit, I haven't done any soil testing, so I bet I have lots of nitrogen in my soil already. 
Even though Helen's methods are effective, all I could think when she was talking about tilling her soil  was all the worms that were getting cut up, all the little insects in the ground being turned out to the birds, and all the bio-organisms that dried out while she was drying out that bed.  I mean, we need people willing to experiment for sure, but do we really need to go to these extremes to get rid of weed seeds?  A weed, conveniently planted can be turned into some excellent mulch if you are handy.
 
John Polk
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I think we need to remember that Helen is
a.) Experimenting to see which works best/worst
b.) Operating a production facility that needs to turn a profit.

If you want to know the benefits of no-till/minimum-till/conventional-till, you need to do all three alongside of each other so you can visualize and measure the results.  She is well educated, scientifically minded, and constantly experimenting.  Her efforts will help many to improve production, and hopefully, to get more of us experimenting, rather than just take a paradigm at face value without seeing for ourselves the benefits/drawbacks of various methods.

While she is seeking long term sustainability, it cannot be just a hole in the earth that she keeps pouring money into.  To be sustainable, in a commercial business, it needs to output more than the input.
 
                                
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I have another question about this output/input issue.  With most foods we are eating a very specific portion of the plant, and although the plant utilizes nutrients to produce the entire plant, if we put most of the plant back into the ground in the form of mulch or compost on top of nutrients produced on-site like humanure, animal manure, straw, AND the energy produced by the sun, rain would that not balance out?  I'm thinking of a situation in the forest in which the plants and animals live in tandem with each eating taking and giving in equal measure energy.  Perhaps a truly sustainable farm would have a composting toilet to take advantage of the resources of others?  I remember reading in ancient Japan there were composting toilets for the commons, and if I'm not mistaken humanure is still utilized in China.
The concern for me always comes down to cost.  If you are spending money on inputs that takes a percentage out of your bottom line.  Most farmers don't want to completely take that out of worker's salary, and cannot offset to customers as they would have a hard time competing.  I know a lot of farmers have improved profits through direct sale, or at least gotten out of the red that way.
There was a radio broadcast today sponsored by Harvest Public Media about local food and how to build a broader consumer base of local food. It was disappointing because I didn't think the guests wanted to acknowledge that cost is a primary issue for buying local foods.    That is to say that if I have a $1.00 to spend on salad, I can't spend $3.00 no matter the quality. 
It got to me to thinking of this input/output issue, and how permaculture can help local growers compete with larger ag on cost.   If it's possible for a farm to  maintain good soil and fertility with little to no external inputs, could that help avoid the higher cost of smaller production?
 
Len Ovens
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Nerdmom wrote:
Ok, so I have a question.  Why do we need to worry so much about weed seeds getting into the garden beds? ...  I mean, we need people willing to experiment for sure, but do we really need to go to these extremes to get rid of weed seeds?  A weed, conveniently planted can be turned into some excellent mulch if you are handy.

I didn't get the idea she was doing things to get rid of weeds so much as pointing out that the weeds were a good indication of the soil condition. She said that because the pasture had no fertiliser for some years that the soil was getting to a place that weeds liked and started to grow. The mulching was more to improve the soil, getting rid of weeds was secondary. At least that was what I got out of it.
 
Dave Bennett
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The weeds were multiplying because the nitrogen level had dropped considerably. 
 
John Polk
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Each plant, whether it is a weed, or your crop, should tell you something about your soil. Dandelions are a good example in a lawn:  A few dandelions in a typical lawn are normal, but if they begin to take over your lawn, you should know that your soil is lacking in calcium (the dandelions will collect calcium from a foot or two below the surface, but surface plants cannot find enough).  Sage brush that will not grow knee high indicates no nutrients in the soil, etc, etc.
 
Dave Bennett
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John Polk wrote:
Each plant, whether it is a weed, or your crop, should tell you something about your soil. Dandelions are a good example in a lawn:  A few dandelions in a typical lawn are normal, but if they begin to take over your lawn, you should know that your soil is lacking in calcium (the dandelions will collect calcium from a foot or two below the surface, but surface plants cannot find enough).  Sage brush that will not grow knee high indicates no nutrients in the soil, etc, etc.


I was just reiterating what Helen stated in the film.  She stated that was why the weeds were doing so well in HER field.  I have lots of dandelions because I make sure that they grow in my "lawn."  My rabbits love them as much as I do.  That is a food source for me.  Greens in a pot with a little water for me and raw for my rabbits.  The plantain is the same.  I encourage it to grow in my yard.  I only have grass out by the street to keep the property manager happy.  Living in a mobile home park and "guerrilla farming" on a postage stamp size lot is a challenge indeed.  I am not supposed to be raising rabbits.  Any and all pets must be approved by the management at $25 per animal per month added to the rent.  My rabbits are right over there---------> hanging out getting ready for bed.  They have finished eating and are settling down.  That means it is time for me to turn in also.  It's 5:46 AM and the sun is coming up.
 
T. Pierce
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John Polk wrote:
Each plant, whether it is a weed, or your crop, should tell you something about your soil. Dandelions are a good example in a lawn:  A few dandelions in a typical lawn are normal, but if they begin to take over your lawn, you should know that your soil is lacking in calcium (the dandelions will collect calcium from a foot or two below the surface, but surface plants cannot find enough).  Sage brush that will not grow knee high indicates no nutrients in the soil, etc, etc.



cool info.  where could i find more info like this?  a book perhaps?
 
John Polk
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"Pets?  Nah, I don't have any pets.  Them's just Sunday's dinner...don't have room for 'em in the freezer, an' I'm just keepin' 'em fresh."
 
                                      
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cool info.  where could i find more info like this?  a book perhaps?


well for starters there is some info on the website 'weeds- guardians of the soil'

http://journeytoforever.org/farm_library/weeds/WeedsToC.html

also there are lists out there, search the interwebs for lists of 'indicatorplants' with and without space in between.

Also there are lists of 'dynamic accumulator plants', plants that are good in mining for certain nutrients. these are often indicators as well, indicating a deficiency in the nutrient that they are good at collecting.

Still, indicatorplants dont always indicate. many indicatorplants will grow anywhere anyway, and seeing a lot of them just isnt enough to jump to conclusions about the state of the soil, so when a hypothesis about your land surfaces, for example certain plants go nuts on your land; try to look for more clues supporting the hypothesis, are there more indicatorspecies present, or do you know (can you find out more about) the history and previous treatment of the land.
(this will usually tell you if indeed your land could be compacted, overfertilized or nutrient deficient.

try to find more clues, how does your soil look like, analog soil tests? (digging, profile-ditch, fingers, pot with water)

alltogether you can start piecing down the info youve got, apart from indicatorspecies, compacted, waterlogged, to well drained, nutrient rich or deficient.

there is this book by patrick whitefield (writer of permaculture, earth care manual)
called 'the living land -reading and understanding it'.

I havent read it (yet) but it sounds promising to me.
 
Dave Bennett
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John Polk wrote:
"Pets?  Nah, I don't have any pets.  Them's just Sunday's dinner...don't have room for 'em in the freezer, an' I'm just keepin' 'em fresh."

My point exactly but......... then I couldn't have them at all and my rabbits are my primary protein source.  I do love my rabbits and care for them extremely well although I would rather allow them to be in a more outdoors environment.
 
T. Pierce
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Joop Corbin - swomp wrote:
well for starters there is some info on the website 'weeds- guardians of the soil'

http://journeytoforever.org/farm_library/weeds/WeedsToC.html

also there are lists out there, search the interwebs for lists of 'indicatorplants' with and without space in between.

Also there are lists of 'dynamic accumulator plants', plants that are good in mining for certain nutrients. these are often indicators as well, indicating a deficiency in the nutrient that they are good at collecting.

Still, indicatorplants dont always indicate. many indicatorplants will grow anywhere anyway, and seeing a lot of them just isnt enough to jump to conclusions about the state of the soil, so when a hypothesis about your land surfaces, for example certain plants go nuts on your land; try to look for more clues supporting the hypothesis, are there more indicatorspecies present, or do you know (can you find out more about) the history and previous treatment of the land.
(this will usually tell you if indeed your land could be compacted, overfertilized or nutrient deficient.

try to find more clues, how does your soil look like, analog soil tests? (digging, profile-ditch, fingers, pot with water)

alltogether you can start piecing down the info youve got, apart from indicatorspecies, compacted, waterlogged, to well drained, nutrient rich or deficient.

there is this book by patrick whitefield (writer of permaculture, earth care manual)
called 'the living land -reading and understanding it'.

I havent read it (yet) but it sounds promising to me.


thankya.  the book sounds interesting too. i'll have to hit up amazon.
 
Kirk Hutchison
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John Polk wrote:
"Pets?  Nah, I don't have any pets.  Them's just Sunday's dinner...don't have room for 'em in the freezer, an' I'm just keepin' 'em fresh."



BWAHAHAHAHA
 
Sergio Santoro
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I can't wrap my mind around this thing that weeds are indicators of poor soil.

Especially ever since I came in contact with permaculture, I am like a Native American (who don't have a word or concept for weed). If I don't get food out of them, they provide me with mulching material or whatever.

I mean, what we thought was one of the weeds until a couple of months ago turned out to be purslane, one of the richest plants in nutrients. And since we always make compost in a hurry we get a lot of viable seeds in it, and this year I have tomatoes popping up everywhere... like weeds.

So, what plants are indicators of poor soil? Is there a certain category of plants that are grouped as weeds? Even just dandelion, it is an accumulator, but before that it's a source of salad greens and medicinal properties, so what I had actually planted dandelions and the weeds are something else that pops up in my dandelion patch?
 
Dave Bennett
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SergioSantoro wrote:
I can't wrap my mind around this thing that weeds are indicators of poor soil.

Especially ever since I came in contact with permaculture, I am like a Native American (who don't have a word or concept for weed). If I don't get food out of them, they provide me with mulching material or whatever.

I mean, what we thought was one of the weeds until a couple of months ago turned out to be purslane, one of the richest plants in nutrients. And since we always make compost in a hurry we get a lot of viable seeds in it, and this year I have tomatoes popping up everywhere... like weeds.

So, what plants are indicators of poor soil? Is there a certain category of plants that are grouped as weeds? Even just dandelion, it is an accumulator, but before that it's a source of salad greens and medicinal properties, so what I had actually planted dandelions and the weeds are something else that pops up in my dandelion patch?

Think of them as "pioneer plants" instead of weeds.  They are the first plants to develop on "disturbed" soil that may not be the best for supporting plants requiring more nutrients.  Most of the pioneer plants have long taproots that penetrate compacted soil bring much needed minerals to within reach of more species.  When they die they leave a rotting taproot which provides organic matter plus leaves a hole for water to penetrate instead of running off and eroding whatever topsoil that may have developed.
I love weeds.  My "lawn" is a mixture of dandelions and both broad leaf and "English" plantain.
 
paul wheaton
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Helen talking about using penny cress as a living mulch where you simply select to not pull it as a weed.



 
Suzy Bean
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Paul and Helen's podcast reviewing geoff lawton's Food Forests DVD: http://www.richsoil.com/permaculture/417-417/
 
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