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does anyone use Ruth Stout methods with success?

 
Posts: 1947
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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It's true, it turned out to be a short season for the things in the ruth stout bed. Similar plants on the hugelbeets went like gangbusters. I'm blessed to have a big field of full sun. I only use a tiny bit of it for the garden, and the tiny bit is still more than I can handle right now. I think pulling back the mulch to let the ground warm up more will be a good idea. Next year that will be possible, this year I put cardboard down. I wonder if the cardboard was slowing down the growth of the plants and the increased moisture from recent rains got the cardboard nice and rotten.

The thing I like about the cardboard most is shading out the heavy load of weed seeds in the soil.

I wonder if piles of rocks in the ruth stout beds would help make warm microclimates? Has anyone tried this? I do like to use rocks for borders for the microclimate effect
 
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Location: Southwestern New Mexico
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Re Beer and Raccoons... Raccoons are creatures of habit so if the plates of beer are temporary and intermittent they would only attract the Bandits that are already there. I've never seen a drunk raccoon, probably bad tempered.

I looked up bindweed and found this
http://organicgardening.about.com/od/weeds/p/Bindweed.htm

It says to "starve" it by simply cutting them off at ground level, not pulling as any broken root bits will propagate. But with seeds that can wait 30 years... It would seem getting the ground wet, letting a whole lot sprout and then cutting or burying the small plants might reduce their numbers. It also suggests some good uses for it like plant ties and medicinal tea.

I also wonder about the premise that it is there because it gets what it needs, in this case nitrogen(?). I've read that the plants that are growing will tell you what WILL grow. So plant competition? Is it fixing or using nitrogen? It isn't part of Stout's work but perhaps a specific winter cover crop? I don't have that info but I bet someone here does.
 
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Matu I think you should try putting some rocks around those plants that are coming in late and
just see if it helps keep them going. I don't think it could hurt.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1947
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The rocks in New England farmland are a long-standing annoyance and joke, but I love them.

Not using a plow helps!

This idea of Ruth Stout plus rocks is an interesting one. The rocks are also good to twizzle up bindweed plants under. Stacking functions
 
steward
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The rocks in New England farmland are a long-standing annoyance and joke, but I love them.



A friend from Maine once said "I had a great crop of rocks this year. They all doubled in size, or I'm getting older."

 
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Did the same thing, had the same problem.
What worked for me was beer.
I cut the top off a juice box, you could use a can.
Dug a hole in so it could be almost flush with the top of the straw.
First day I came out there was only one slug.
I was disappointed, but I forgot the container.
I checked on the garden two days later and it was FULL of them.
I tossed em to the chickens and that was it.
Now the white powdery mildew, and grasshoppers are another story.

There's always next year.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1947
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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Wow. The bottom layers of spoiled hay are almost soil now and they look great. Black and moist. I'm feeling optimistic about next year...
 
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My parents were friends with Ruth. I remember her coming to visit our farm in NW Connecticut, and walking through the garden with my Dad. We visited her a few times since we had an elderly aunt living in Fairfield. My Dad took Ruth's advice to heart and we mulched and mulched. Some years we had our own spoiled hay, other years the neighbors would have some. We also had horses, cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits and turkeys, plus the compost pile from the kitchen. It all went into the garden. We grew pretty much all our vegetables including corn and a great asparagus bed, and there were eight of us. That is when I learned the hard way how much work gardening with annuals can be. Going trout fishing in the brook across the road was much more appealing than being in the garden on those May Saturdays.

This was during the 60s and 70s. The climate was relatively stable and pesticide use was not all the rage. It worked well, but even then we had that damned bind weed. Dad called it witch grass, but I'm pretty sure it is the same stuff.

With climate disruption being what it is, one year could be drought (although that is less likely in the Northeast as time goes on), and the next year could be rainy. Given the conditions it would be best to use various methods to spread the risk; Ruth's mulching, raised beds, big tall hugelculture, naturalizing annuals and perennials, mushrooms, bushes, shrubs, tree crops etc. . . and a system that allows for both rainwater harvesting and drainage.
 
steward
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More potatoes this year. Threw them down under some spoiled hay. They are doing just fine.
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Posts: 154
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Keeping a covering on the ground just makes good sense (look at the woods or the uncultivated fields) and can lead to no till.
I inherited some pretty tough soil...quite like subsoil. One fall I piled leaves in the garden inside a round of snow fence. The following spring as I tilled my hard ground, when I got to the spot where the leaves had been, the tiller sank effortlessly to it's maximum depth! So the soil critters tilled the soil in the spot as they fed from the leaves and enriched the soil.
So mulch is a good thing keeping the ground cool and moist. Best applied after the soil has warmed and always pulled back to plant into the soil, then move back when plants are well established.
As for slugs and snails, the beer traps along with diatomaceous earth are good choices.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1947
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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I just planted peas in one of the Ruth Stout beds. Yesterday I pulled the mulch back from that bed and from another that I will plant into soon. We shall see. I'm not giving up on Ruth.

The chickens really love to scratch around in deep mulch, they can make a real mess of it. As they scratch they are aerating and fertilizing, so that's not all bad. I hope I can keep them away from the pea sprouts.
 
Michael Vormwald
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You really can't have chickens in your vegetable garden and not expect them to eat tender sprouts!
Also, Ruth's method really only works in time as the soil life expands and tills the soil for you.

Matu Collins wrote:I just planted peas in one of the Ruth Stout beds. Yesterday I pulled the mulch back from that bed and from another that I will plant into soon. We shall see. I'm not giving up on Ruth.

The chickens really love to scratch around in deep mulch, they can make a real mess of it. As they scratch they are aerating and fertilizing, so that's not all bad. I hope I can keep them away from the pea sprouts.

 
Alex Ames
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Matu Collins wrote:I just planted peas in one of the Ruth Stout beds. Yesterday I pulled the mulch back from that bed and from another that I will plant into soon. We shall see. I'm not giving up on Ruth.

The chickens really love to scratch around in deep mulch, they can make a real mess of it. As they scratch they are aerating and fertilizing, so that's not all bad. I hope I can keep them away from the pea sprouts.



Glad to see you are back at it.

In this picture you can see Swiss chard that were plants I bought and plugged in.
Next to that is a row of young collards I started from seed.
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Matu Collins
Posts: 1947
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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It does seem like the bindweed roots grow under the mulch and on top of the soil. We shall see.
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Alex Ames
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Matu it seems to me deep mulch is your best shot to beat that bindweed.
I hope it works well for you this year.
 
Posts: 70
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What about making habitat for gardner snakes around your slug problem. Rock Piles?
 
Alex Ames
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Adam Buchler wrote:What about making habitat for gardner snakes around your slug problem. Rock Piles?



I find garter snakes quite often and they are usually in close proximity to
snails. They slither around in the lettuce. The mulch alone is good habitat
but enhancing with rock piles, etc. might help build up lizard and toad populations.
 
Michael Vormwald
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Another great example of the power of 'cover' (mulch) is Paul Gautschi's Back to Eden garden and orchard... worth the watch!... http://www.backtoedenfilm.com/
 
pollinator
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Nothing better than pulling a great long length of bindweed Matu - so satisfying! Keep going with the mulch over bindweed, it really seems to be working for us. I need to reapply around our raspberries, but the growth is noticeably weakened compared to last year.
 
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I've used the Ruth Stout method with mixed success. I think the big reason I've had mixed results is the new generation of long-term herbicides that are being used. You can tell if it's a herbicide issue by soaking some of the straw in water and watering pea seedlings with the runoff. Pea seedlings are fairly sensitive to herbicides, and they grow fast enough you can see right away if the ones you water with the straw water are dying. Here's some linky goodness:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2008/jun/29/food.agriculture
http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/sfn/f09Herbicide
http://theprepperproject.com/toxic-herbicides-a-long-term-threat-to-your-garden/

Anyway, two of the beds I covered with straw did fine, another two killed everything, and then I moved. I've tried to find out which herbicdes were used when I buy straw but it's nearly impossible. Nobody knows.

I've switched to woodchips instead of straw- Jean Pain did that in a climate similar to mine, and if you haven't seen the Back to Eden video on Vimeo it's worth watching, even if you're not Christian (I'm not, and Paul who runs the garden very much is, but it's great stuff). L2Survive has a bunch of interviews with Paul that aren't edited like the Back to Eden movie, and I got a lot out of watching those, too.

There are some benefits to using wood chips. First, it's unlikely that someone's going to spray a tree that the're cutting down or trimming, and you wouldn't use the same sorts of evil herbicides on a tree because it would kill it, so the risk of chemical residues is almost zero. It's a waste resource, your local tree trimming companies usually have to pay to dump it, so if you're not in a super rural area (like I am now... sigh) it's easy to get your hands on some. There's more minerals in wood chips, since they had deeper roots. You don't have to re-apply them as often as straw, and it's better cover for seedlings that birds are liable to pick at. My plants did better in the wood mulch than they did in the straw mulch, even in the mulch that wasn't the poisoned straw. I had more worms with the wood chips, and I had myceleum there, which there was none for the straw. It also looks nicer if you're trying to establish a front yarden, the straw mulch is kind of messy, where the wood chips stay put after the first rain. I have to water my straw mulched beds more often than my wood chip beds. The straw beds were dry after a week, where after a month without water, if I put my arm in the dirt, after 3 inches it was delicious-chocolate-cake levels of moist, perfect for plants.

Any mulch is better than no mulch, but I found that the wood chip mulch worked better than straw mulch, for me. I'm in Central Texas, in the incredibly difficult drought-riddled zone 8B/heavy clay.

 
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Alex Ames wrote:

Linda Ford wrote:What about the plates of beer I always heard about. Has anyone tried that?


It kills them well enough but I wonder if it should be used outside the garden rather
than in it. It is like "calling all slugs" when you put the beer out!


My suggestion is to put the traps at the corners of your garden. That way for any pest on the outside of your garden, the shortest path to the nearest trap will not cross your garden. I haven't tried it with beer and slugs but it seemed to work pretty well with yellow jackets and Japanese beetles.
 
Michael Vormwald
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By the way, and just for the record, unlike Ruth, I always garden with my clothes on!
 
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i use spoiled hay and hedge clipping waste from my garden maintenance as mulch.

If thick enough it killed couch grass, and bindweed, but it rotted by the followuing year and needed replacing.

It kept the soil moist and cool, perfect for fruit ushes, trees, potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, alliums, brassicas.

Not good for carrots parsnips. They need a very fine tilth through tilling or a top dressing of a fine soil to germinate in.
 
pollinator
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Hi Michael-

Michael Vormwald wrote:Keeping a covering on the ground just makes good sense (look at the woods or the uncultivated fields) and can lead to no till.
I inherited some pretty tough soil...quite like subsoil. One fall I piled leaves in the garden inside a round of snow fence. The following spring as I tilled my hard ground, when I got to the spot where the leaves had been, the tiller sank effortlessly to it's maximum depth! So the soil critters tilled the soil in the spot as they fed from the leaves and enriched the soil...



Thanks for sharing this method. I have an abundance of leaves, and wanted to take Ruth Stout's advice to use them, as one option for deep mulch. Unfortunately, I never found a suggested method in her books for keeping the leaves on the beds. The method I tried did not work: used stakes around my 2 4x8 foot beds, and stretched landscape cloth between them, to make an enclosure, so I could pile the leaves up, and keep them from blowing away over the winter. Even though I stapled the cloth to the stakes, used sturdy stakes, driving them deep, the wind just tugged it into a slack mess, and the leaves were blown off the beds. I used landscape cloth only because I happened to have it around.

But snow fence, with the ability to allow air to move through would likely withstand the wind, and keep those leaves in place. Keeping them in place will not be such a problem in the summer, I think, as they will "sog down" with snow over the winter, and the winds are less strong in summer.

Thanks!!!
Mariamne
 
Michael Vormwald
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You might have had better luck if you pinned the landscape fabric to the ground over top of the leaves. I plan to use leaves this fall, but as I'm up on a hill with some wind, I'm thinking I'll cover the leaves with some hay to hold them down. (Also, the leaves will be well shredded which makes them blow less easy).

Mariamne Ingalls wrote:Hi Michael-

Michael Vormwald wrote:Keeping a covering on the ground just makes good sense (look at the woods or the uncultivated fields) and can lead to no till.
I inherited some pretty tough soil...quite like subsoil. One fall I piled leaves in the garden inside a round of snow fence. The following spring as I tilled my hard ground, when I got to the spot where the leaves had been, the tiller sank effortlessly to it's maximum depth! So the soil critters tilled the soil in the spot as they fed from the leaves and enriched the soil...



Thanks for sharing this method. I have an abundance of leaves, and wanted to take Ruth Stout's advice to use them, as one option for deep mulch. Unfortunately, I never found a suggested method in her books for keeping the leaves on the beds. The method I tried did not work: used stakes around my 2 4x8 foot beds, and stretched landscape cloth between them, to make an enclosure, so I could pile the leaves up, and keep them from blowing away over the winter. Even though I stapled the cloth to the stakes, used sturdy stakes, driving them deep, the wind just tugged it into a slack mess, and the leaves were blown off the beds. I used landscape cloth only because I happened to have it around.

But snow fence, with the ability to allow air to move through would likely withstand the wind, and keep those leaves in place. Keeping them in place will not be such a problem in the summer, I think, as they will "sog down" with snow over the winter, and the winds are less strong in summer.

Thanks!!!
Mariamne

 
Mariamne Ingalls
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Hi Michael-

Michael Vormald wrote:You might have had better luck if you pinned the landscape fabric to the ground over top of the leaves.



Ah, also a good idea!

And yes, I was lazy and so racing the weather when I did my landscape cloth method last Fall, and so did not shred 'em.

I also left lots of whole leaves on the beds in the perimeter of my yard against a fence, unshredded: I could see that the vegetation and fence was keeping them trapped there, and so let them be, and they pretty much stayed there over the winter. I raked 'em out this Spring, shredded them with the lawn mower, and re-applied them, to keep the weeds down, and those did stay in place better. And they are doing a pretty good job of keeping weeds down, there. However, I need a greater thickness, if they are to do a really complete job of that.

So, lessons for next year: Shred my whole leaf crop (from my 100 year old oak) and apply thickly. And I think I will try laying the landscape cloth over top. The fabric would still admit snow melt. And it's still a material that I've already got!

Thanks again!
Mariamne
 
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I am currently using the ruth stout method although i would not recomend it, and also i would not recommend planting things in rows. But my current employer wants that so that is why i do it. Even with a deep mulch of hay grass grows through the straw mulch. But it does seem that the mulch will make "weeds" more easily managed in the future. but with all of the inputs and the work required i would say that there had got to be a better way. the atratched picture is of 1 of the 2 50*100ft gardens that i am covering with 6in of straw mulch and i am going through 900lb bales of straw as if i have mulch madness. it takes about 900lbs of hay to cover 2 rows in 6in of straw. Using other methods such as living mulches would accomplish the same basic idea, use less inputs, and require less maintenance than using a straw mulch. and don't plant things in rows. that causes problems. for example our potato plants have all had colorado potatoe beetles because of the feast presented to them in the 200 feet of potatoes planted right next to each other.
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my garden
 
Michael Vormwald
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I would agree that growing in beds 3-4 feet wide is better than conventional rows. Conventional row gardening also often has 3 foot walkways so a lot of space is wasted.
I can't agree that mulching can't be recommended. I can see how a low cover like White Dutch Clover might be good, but in time the decaying mulch enriches the soil and will better allow no till as the soil life comes alive and loosens the soil.
As far as the work...I guess spreading mulch is work, but so is tilling, rock picking, making and turning compost, weeding ... At the end of the day, I think a good layer of mulch can be far more productive. Not to mention that a lot of farmers that are doing no till with cover crops report higher yields with less fertilizer.

If all goes according to plan, this will be the last year I till the vegetable garden. I'll still hold on to 'big red' for digging new ground and perhaps cleaning up the walkways, but the beds are built and I'm gonna mulch with a combination of leaves, compost, hay and wood chips. In the fall, I plan to add a good layer of leaves covered with hay...we'll see how it goes. This should allow me to plant earlier and harvest later in the season than ever before. I also plan to culture some European Nightcrawlers this summer to seed the garden in the fall.
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Alex Ames
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Daniel Kern wrote:I am currently using the ruth stout method although i would not recomend it, and also i would not recommend planting things in rows. But my current employer wants that so that is why i do it. Even with a deep mulch of hay grass grows through the straw mulch. But it does seem that the mulch will make "weeds" more easily managed in the future. but with all of the inputs and the work required i would say that there had got to be a better way. the atratched picture is of 1 of the 2 50*100ft gardens that i am covering with 6in of straw mulch and i am going through 900lb bales of straw as if i have mulch madness. it takes about 900lbs of hay to cover 2 rows in 6in of straw. Using other methods such as living mulches would accomplish the same basic idea, use less inputs, and require less maintenance than using a straw mulch. and don't plant things in rows. that causes problems. for example our potato plants have all had colorado potatoe beetles because of the feast presented to them in the 200 feet of potatoes planted right next to each other.



Looking down the road there should be less work required and better growing conditions
with each passing year. You will not need to apply as much mulch next year. If it is only a
one year project I would recommend against it too. It need not be that. Once the soil is covered
permanently a great many benefits begin to emerge. Watch and see.
 
Daniel Kern
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I agree completly an
d i am looking forward to all those great benefits. But from my perspective there are better ways to manage soil fertility such as a living mulch or a green manure. in another of my gardens i am about to plant alyce clover for this purpose. The biggest issue for me is the amount of inputs. But then again maybe it would be a requirement on some land. And maybe the mulch could come from your own self sustaining
system. With a living mulch you can allow the plants to reseed on there own thus eliminating inputs after the 1st planting.
 
Alex Ames
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Daniel Kern wrote:I agree completly an
d i am looking forward to all those great benefits. But from my perspective there are better ways to manage soil fertility such as a living mulch or a green manure. in another of my gardens i am about to plant alyce clover for this purpose. The biggest issue for me is the amount of inputs. But then again maybe it would be a requirement on some land. And maybe the mulch could come from your own self sustaining
system. With a living mulch you can allow the plants to reseed on there own thus eliminating inputs after the 1st planting.



It seems to me that a "living mulch" would be a competing mulch. When you plant you
would have to prepare a place where seed could germinate. With a "dead mulch" you simply
pull it back with a bow rake and plant. Some of what I do would not scale up to a larger garden
maybe but it works pretty well. You can plant in short rows and get a good bit of diversity in
every bed.
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Matu Collins
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I don't consider the spoilt hay that I use for mulch to be an input. It comes from some kind farmers in my village who won't use it for their livestock. They are friends of mine, cousins to my across-the-street neighbor, and my favorite farmers market meat vendor. They are part of my community, thus part of my permaculture design
 
Daniel Kern
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http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/icm/2004/12-6-2004/livingmulch.html

I wish I had a better example of this but I took a classmates garden who had interplanted with vetch, clover, and rye grass but then I lost it :/

all of these plants add to the soil fertility year after year. Legumes such as clover and vetch affix nitrogen and the grass pumps organic matter into the soil through its rootsystem.

From wikipedia:
"Unfortunately, living mulches compete for nutrients and water with the main crop,[8] and this can reduce yields. For example, Elkins et al. (1983) examined the use of tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea), smooth bromegrass (Bromus inermis), and orchargrass (Dactylis glomerata) as living mulches. They found that herbicides killed 50% to 70% of the mulches but corn yield was reduced 5% to 10% at the end of the harvest."

But this study used 3 grasses as a cover crop and then planted a grass as the main crop. OBVIOUSLY this will cause a nurtient deficiancy in the corn, namely in nitrogen.

You have to choose your plants wisely in order to create symbiosis between the plant community.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_mulch

Although I say all of this but the practical experience of actually doing this I do not have.

 
Alex Ames
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I think Helen Attowe's garden in Mizzoula was pretty ideal in using
living mulches. There are YouTube videos around of what she was doing.
It is very different from what Ruth Stout did. It was more like farming
than gardening. She used a tractor to beat back the mulch so her crops
had a chance to get going.
 
Daniel Kern
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One more example is the one straw revolution. masanobu fukuoka does not use any heavy macinery in his method. Although it is farming, the ideas could be scaled down. http://www.motherearthnewscom/homesteading-and-livestock/masanobu-fukuoka-one-straw-revolution-zmaz78jazbur.aspx#axzz31GYzOVtZ

I'm sorry guys. i took this thread way off topic.
i will post updates about how my Ruth stout style garden is going as the season goes by. by the way i do think that the ruth stout method is quite amazing and that she is a pioneer of no-till practices. and i believe that one using her method can be wildly successful and can reduce all inputs drastically (no fertilizer required)!!!
 
Alex Ames
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Tomatoes are growing well so far.
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Ken Peavey
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RESULTS

Red Pontiac
Bed: soil amended with compost a couple years before, lots of weeds, covered with old hay, left for a couple months, planted, then mulched each plant with a couple of spades of compost at 6" of growth, heaped high twice with wood chips as the plants grew
Volume: 15# seed went in, 3+ gallons out, not weighed but I'd estimate 20-25#. I got more back than went in which is better than previous years.
Quality: The ants were heavy on one end of the bed, did some minor damage to some spuds. Majority of the product of any size found to be rough, dimpled. poked, pecked, a good third of them scabby, with some downright hideous specimens.
Size: ranged up to 4", 75% 2-3"

White, cultivar is a mystery
Bed: was planted to sweet potato a couple years before, went to weeds, smothered with grass clippings then piled oak leaves a foot deep, mulched as above
15# seed went in, about 7 gallons out, 40-45#
Quality: These are smooth, clean, beautiful potatoes, practically blemish free, better looking than supermarket. A Glorious Crop.
Size: Much uniformity in size, 2" wide, 3" long for 1/2 of the spuds, most of the rest golf ball or larger

Pink, a mystery brought in by my assistant
Bed: compost and grass clippings, mulched with compost and grass clippings
Volume: 4 of the nastiest looking just about rotted gooey blistered things you ever saw. Surprised they grew, eyes were looking strong so in they went. Perhaps a pound out.
Quality: These plants got sick and died a month ago, had to poke around to find where they were, tops were gone. Lots and lots, perhaps a dozen tiny potatoes per plant, very clean, smooth, pink like cheeks in winter. A few had been attacked by ants in search of moisture.
Size: ranging from 1/2" to 1"
I'll plant what came out, see if I can coax some production out of a fall crop

Fingerlings, Russian Banana
Find out tomorrow
2# went in directly beside the reds

All plants were well attended until early May when assistant moved on and job took me away. Hot and dry these last 3 weeks.
I suspect better irrigation would have produced more. Even after a couple of hot dry weeks, several inches down the wood chips were still moist. Hay was downright damp. Leaves were bone dry all the way down.
For 30# in, 60-70# out is the best I've had in this sandy soil. About a half pound per plant.





 
Ken Peavey
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I found the time to harvest the rest of the potatoes.
That row of Fingerlings...yeah, that was a row of Reds and a few more Whites. Hauled another 60 pounds out of there which makes the Red production AWESOME.
The fingerlings, on the other hand, failed to give back what I put in.

TOTALS. . . IN . . . OUT
Red . . . . . 15 . . . 80#+
White . . . . 15 . . . 50
Fingerling . . 2 . . . 0

 
Alex Ames
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Here part of my garlic crop.
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My, my, aren't you a big fella. Here, have a tiny ad:
Food Forest Card Game - Game Forum
https://permies.com/t/61704/Food-Forest-Card-Game-Game
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