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Gardening without animal manure or products  RSS feed

 
gardener
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Emerson White wrote:
When you break down the benefits of keeping animals into all of the little components you get a comparable amount of work between keeping them and not But the fact of the matter is that the cost of keeping them is a bill that comes just as seldom if you are doing 10 things with your animals as if you are just doing one. If you keep your chickens indoors and only give them food and take eggs that's a decent payout, but if you have them clearing your garden of insects and rooting through the soil, and laying eggs, and recycling waste calories (something plants can't do at all) and providing bedding, and flavoring and company  you have a great payout. That is why every farmstead had them. It's not that they were too stupid to figure out that it was easier with out them, it's that they knew that the animals did more for them than it cost to raise them.

As for hunting I support it up and to a point, however fossil records show that uncontrolled hunting is probably more ecologically devastating than even modern day farm practices.



The arguement that 'everybody is/was doing it' doesn't make it right. Most of todays farmers are doing corn,wheat,soy monocultures reliant on fossil fuels and heavy machintery, for example... Just because every farmstead had animals, and even if they're more worth than their trouble to any given family, doesn't mean they are necessarily worth it when you look at the issue from an environmental health standpoint. I realize that many think keeping stock can be environmentally sound too but there are many who disagree.

Hunting: I never said one should get into uncontrolled hunting. And with the hunting, I should have added fishing, (the government here breeds and stocks lakes anyhow...) and clarified to include hunting overpopulated 'pest' animals (eg. songbirds) as an untapped resource and control method. We've surely got to be responsible with hunting and not take too much.
 
gardener
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Somebody take the initiative and seperate this thread.
  Organic no-manure compost being a vegan requirement and everything else somewhere else.
JMY's initial thread entry was more of just a statement and I am curious as to just how effective he and others have found it to be.
I am  not vegan so that isn't a real issue for me but I am interested in what others have to say about non-fecal infused compost.
Merits of eating vegans braised, broiled or baked  in yet another thread .

 
                                      
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Location: Amsterdam, the netherlands
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Well even though it is really interesting to read about all other ways to fertilize the soil apart from 'vegan organic' it is a bit pity that it keeps turning up in this topic.

I am very interested in this. Lets take this away from being vegan or not, and the use of animals in a system, or not. Even if you are not vegan it can happen that you dont have the opportunity to have livestock. And being a real permie and all, trying to make a system that's as closed as possible, you might want to try NOT to haul animal manure over distances. (off course your neighbour might have chooks but that's just not the topic of this thread). Whén you are not having animals as a source of manure how to do it then?
.....

I think, first of all, we should try to compost our own manure, but health regulations or other factors might prevent you from doing this. Is there another method of maintaining, or even building soil fertility over the years without importing it, when growing vegg?

Yes there is.
As the UK 'vegan-organic-network' has invetigated, there are methods of completely relying on plant material, grown by yourself, to keep fertility in the soil.

I have just read a very interesting book about it in dutch, but im afraid its a dutch translation of a german book (i remember people saying here that they read sepp's book in german, so i wíll post it here: 'mischkultur- gertrud franck - isbn: 90-6410-151-5 ) Mischkultur meaning mixculture.
It describes a very interesting method, growing your own mulch.

Some people might call it 'not permie' because it is based on rows, i think it is a practical system, that i might even convince my old boss (organic farmer, but really conservative in his growing methods) of trying it out...
It is a no-dig, mixculture system, that requires no additional substances being imported... It makes perfect use of the principle of 'stacking in time and space. So i think it can fit perfectly well in a permie system, for example in your kitchen garden.

It is based on a row-system with a spacing of 20cm between productive rows.
There are three types of rows
A: (bigger) veggies that take a whole growing season, and will be with you for the rest of the year, usually also bigger plants...
B:  (medium sized) these rows have two harvests a year, an early and a late crop, for example an early cabbage followed by parsnips
C: (small), little demanding crops, that might allow more harvests a year, like radishes, carrots, onions, herbs, leaf-vegg, etc.

Between the rows they create footpaths by growing a mulch consisting of spinach, mustard or other such things, this is mulched every two weeks.
This i do as well, although i dont walk on them, I never walk on any bed and just make sure that beds are small enough to be accesible from the main paths. I have heard a suggestion of somebody who made a little 30cm wide footpath consisting of clover every 6 rows (every 120cm that is, meaning everybody with 60cm long arms will be able to reach to the middle)

In the beginning of the year, the first action will be to make the rows by seeding a row every 10 cm with spinach or other early stuff. In the growing rows you can also choose a very early crop that you know of benefitting somethin you will grow there later (broad-beans, mustard etc). For theThe mulch-rows... i think lots of herbs make a fine mulch-crop as well btw, but thats my own take on it...

Then,
every other row becomes a mulch row, and every other row becomes a growing row. So your growing rows are 20 cm apart.
So your system will look something like this:
mulch-crop
A
mulch-crop
C
mulch-crop
B
mulch-crop
C
mulch-crop
A
mulch-crop
C
mulch-crop
B
mulch-crop

Etc... When i say mulch crop this doesnt mean you cannot eat this spinach, it is up to you how much you eat, and how much you chop and drop, the book suggests an every other week cutting session but i guess this really depends on your climate and soil type. Competition with productive crops will probably make you decide when to mulch it completely and stop the growth of this (fertilizing) support crop. Basically you always have so much spinach (and other, not bolt-sensitive, leaf vegg.) growing that there is always something to pick.

This means that there is 40cm between an A and a B row, but 80cm between two A-rows and 80cm between two B rows.* The C-rows are low, non-demanding crops that are not only giving edible stuff but are also chosen for their supportive properties towards other crops. So if you are growing tomatoes in an a row, calendula and basil might be a good one for the C-row next to it. Also it is possible to mix inside the row, like carrots and onions.

So... It is a little later in the growing season and first real crops can be sown. For this we hoe or hack out the spinach in the B and C rows we want to sow. The plant material is of-corse left where it was hacked, maybe just shoved aside a bit when sowing. These seeds allready have a bit of (low) cover from the spinach in the mulch rows, that is keeping the soil retentative and moist, and protects the new sprouts.

Most crops that will grow in an A row have to be sown later.

For this again you hoe or hack the growing mulch and mulch it before seeding.

Later in the year the B rows are harvested and a new crop is sown or planted (you might wanna/need to sprout them before your first crop is harvested).

Mulch rows might also need a new sowing if it is not a plant that you can cut and grow back. You might even not need to do this because it takes a whole year to decompose your first mulch drop... All depending on the plant you chose, climate and other conditions...

If i look at this now, i realize that the three systers is basically set up on this system, where the corn is an A, the beans a C and the pumpkin a B row... Only the mulch rows are missing... Anyway, coming season i will be experimenting with this in my kitchen garden.

*
Also, when the B rows contain crops that can tolerate each other being close by, and the A crops really need more space you could choose to go:
mulch
A
mulch
C
mulch
B
mulch
C
mulch
B
mulch
C
mulch
A
 
Travis Philp
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We had success growing peas, lettuce, and mustard, in a hugelkultur bed with no manure.
And this can be done by anyone who lives in an area where people celebrate Christmas, since all we did was lay old christmas trees out and bury them with soil. The soil we used was light-ish clay loam from the B horizon of an area dug for a pond.

So even if you live in a high density urban area without access to forest timber, you could go around your neighbourhood and either ask people permission to collect their christmas trees after they're done with em, or just grab them from the curb before the garbage trucks come for the corpses.
 
Robert Ray
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Great idea I just cut down 10 large lodgepoles and was planning on burning the piles of brush but have delayed since the quail are holed up underneath for the winter.
Wonder how blueberries would do in a hugelkultur bed.
 
Travis Philp
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I think they would do fine. I think in Gaia's Garden there's a page or two about gardening using woody debris and it mentions planting blueberries in a bed of buried wood.
 
master pollinator
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Good to know, Travis!  There's been controversy about if it is safe to plant in hugel beds without manure or if there would be a drain on the soil nitrogen.

 
                                    
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Location: Anoka Sand Plain, MN Zone 4/5, Sunset Zone 43
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Travis Philp wrote:
I think they would do fine. I think in Gaia's Garden there's a page or two about gardening using woody debris and it mentions planting blueberries in a bed of buried wood.



yes.  apparently they can be seen growing on floating logs sometimes.  i buried some logs by my blueberries this fall.  im thinking of just buying more and putting them right up against the wetland, BUT thats another thread.
 
gardener
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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The book learning suggests that nitrate sequestration is temporary... once a wood particle surface is encrusted with bacteria the rate of nitrogen consumption declines (that is why sawdust has a greater effect then a log -- more surface area to volume)... the fungi are what move in and begin to break down complex stuff like lignin and start trading in the good stuff only they can access.  Wood has nutrients they are just not particularly accessable to vascular plants.  Then the fungal network would become the arbiter of nitrogen in the system, with releases occuring through fruiting body death (which can create a patchy spring pulse of nitrogen in forests).  So the system would favor plants that barter heavily with fungi.  Mustard and Spinich families are not heavily into fungi if I recall... Families like ericaceae which include blueberries, huckleberries, salal and a host of other forest dwelling berries, are heavily into the fungal economy.

This suggests that a wood based organic matter management system (as opposed to animal manures or rotting herbaceous plant material) would shift your species focus.  I don't see why rotting herbaceous plant material couldn't substitute for animal manure, except for the floral and faunal content of the animal gut which may interact with soil life (and which the original biodynamic theorists worshiped.)
 
master steward
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I got a note from somebody that thinks that the vegetarians are getting picked on a bit.  I think there is a bit of truth in this concern, although I think people are doing a pretty good job of qualifying their stuff.  For the most part, I think the omnis here just outnumber the vegetarians. 

So, I would like to ask folks to word their omni posts with respect to a few things:

A)  vegetarians are attempting to live a more evolved life - respectful of other living things and and the planet in general.  Most of the omnis they know shop at safeway and dine out a macdonalds.  I think everybody here could admit that nearly all vegetarian diets are better than that type of omni diet.  It is possible that a permie-omni diet is more evolved than a typical vegetarian diet - but it is not utter fact - and it might end up being utterly false.  I think there is lot of excellent info the vegetarians can bring to the table here.

B)  Some people have tried the vegetarian path and later changed their mind.  Often, those folks want to "save" other vegetarians from their mistakes.  I think voicing concern for others along this line is valid, but let's also keep in mind that there millions of people that have thrived on a vegetarian diet for decades or even their entire life.  Therefore, while some people thrive on omni, that doesn't mean that everybody will. 

Sorry for this interruption.  I'm gonna post this in a few threads in the hopes that certain threads will be more about building collective wisdom and less about trying to convert folks.

 
Travis Philp
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I would be cautious about planting anything but light feeders in the first year in one of these christmas tree or a hugel bed in general. If I recall correctly, in Sepp Holzers 'Permakultur' book, he states that if using small brush, its ok to grow heavy feeders but if using mostly logs, its best to wait until the second year before doing so. Instead one should grow nitrogen fixers and other crops with minimal nutrient requirements.
 
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I have gardened the same small plot for 30 years organically.  I have not used animal poop,  although I have no objection to doing so,  I just dont have it here on my place for free.  What I do have are trees and leaves.  I put 25 to 30 small cart loads of leaves on every year and till them into the soil.  If I have time I do it in the fall so that they rot faster,  if I dont get to it in the fall,  oh well,  I do it in the spring.  I also collect my grass clippings to put around the plants and on the paths to keep the weeds down.  The grass composts right on the ground in the garden.  I have been putting some ground lime on the garden in recent years and it has helped production.  I am not a veggan,  so I do not really know all of your rules as to what you can and cant do.  My thought has always been  "  if it came out of the ground,  it can go back into the ground  ".  Its a pretty simple idea,  but it works well for gardening,  and no chemicals ,  so the ground is healthy.   
 
Paul Cereghino
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From less of a survivalist vein... I maintain a lawn like vegetation over my septic drainfield, and cuttings from that go onto the garden as mulch, and is dragged underground by worms pretty fast.  I assume this is a passive N import from my own waste stream.  The largest Nutrient import into my home system is through purchasing food off site.
 
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jmy McCoy wrote:Vegan-organic/stockfree organic broadly means any system of cultivation that excludes artificial chemicals, livestock manures, animal remains from slaughterhouses, genetically modified material and indeed anything of animal origin such as fishmeal.


http://www.veganorganic.net/


I just recently ran across the term 'stock free' and realized we unintentionally ended up close. We are not vegan and not true vegetarians but mostly. Our compost has egg shells and the pee bucket added but not the humanure. Forty years ago we started with goats, rabbits, chickens and ducks but for the last twenty nothing but a dog and a cat and a bee hive and abundant wildlife. We deliberately use what is 'provided ' on this forty acres. I save all of our seed except I am buying more cover crop varieties lately that eventually will be self sustaining. We are seeing the results of cover crops that are chopped as mulch with the roots left to decompose. We use leaves, grass clippings, some wood ashes and our gardens and fruits are better than ever. For us the choice to give up livestock was to do with woodworking and weaving as our chosen work for creative satisfaction and of course money. Both homebased but we traveled to craft shows to sell which didn't work well with animals to maintain. This way of growing food has worked well for us for the twelve years we have been on this piece of land.
 
pollinator
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Vegan agriculture is as possibly sustainable as is agriculture with input of animal manure or bone meal. It all depends in how it is done.

With this, I refer to not have any input from large animals, such as animal manure, but of course the worms and insects will still live in the soil. With no worms and insects, your soil will be dead. That is the line to draw.

Now input of animal manure of bone meal is not a must. Why?

The simple point that if you have a cow, it is still eating the grass from your own property, so it is not going to add any new minerals. Unless you use manure or bone meal from an animal coming from ANOTHER property. Then, it is obvious not a self-sustainable system by definition, but if can help to enrich your soil.

But again, you can draw many different lines about how sustaining and self-sufficient you are eager to be. From chemical inputs to manure external inputs to no inputs at all except the recyling of organic matter within your own property, without anything external (at least done by you).

However, in nature, animals do travel around and carry minerals from one site to another, as well as rivers and wind do. This is a very good thing because it helps plants to establish. Example. Here in Iceland, a volcanic eruption happened in the sea in 1963, it formed a new island. Then, a couple of years later the first 4 species of plants establish themselves (carried by wind), but later, seeds carried by birds dispersed there and also their nests, and with that, many plants established there in nitrogen enriched soil (they could not in soil not fertilized by those birds).

So if you have a property you can technically do it without any large animals and external inputs by growing nutrient mining plants (nettles, comfrey) and nitrogen fixing species (clover, lupins) and using a lot of compost crops. This is ENTIRELY possible. I do it and it works.

My opinnion is to avoid using external inputs (animal manure and bone meal), just because I like to push my self-sufficiency challenge further. I prefer to use the leaves of the trees of my local property rather than travelling around to ask for manure or bone meal. Or by the same token, going to the coast to pick some seaweed. Often this is a much easier solution, it will make your crops grow much better and you are not really being that unsustainable by doing this. This is a quick start-up so that later and long-term you can have nursing c crops do that chop and mulch work for you.

Even better, and far easier, is to have a few chicken walking around and having them fertilizing further the soil, cultivating the soil by their digging, eating slugs, etc... It is a more sustainable loop because it will have increased biodiversitity.

But nevertheless vegan agriculture is totally possible, but it requires growing your own compost crops or having trees leaving a lot of mulching and organic matter down to the soil.
 
Paulo Bessa
pollinator
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This thread went really offtopic.

People are discussing more why doing vegan permaculture versus animal products, but the thread is rather about alternatives to those animal products.

Why do I ask this? Because I have no animals at my permaculture garden. But I am not vegan either. I also believe that animal manure is a natural part of fertility. But it just happens that I am in this situation.

I have been using a lot of compost, cut grass, tree leaves, some compost trees, but somehow I feel I still have a low fertility problem. What do you think is the problem?

Soil was originally a lawn in a very poor sandy rocky soil. Very poorly deep soils, as most are in Iceland, and also acidic. It rains heavily in winter and leaches minerals even if soil is always covered by vegetation, though this dies during the cold winter. Any natural and easy solutions for this? Ideally by just growing plants.

 
pollinator
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If you are not averse to pulling things from the industrial lifestyle wast stream I have a suggestion. From time to time I com across a house where pets have soiled the wall to wall carpet and it is being torn out and destined for the land fill. I have found this to be an ideal soil cover to promote the incorporation of vegetation into the soil. You indicate that part of the time you are in a harsh heat climate and part of the time in a harsh cold climate. On my farm I have cool rainy winters with occasional freezing and snow spells. My soil varies from sand and gravel to old volcanic ash clay. I use the same method but different plants on each type.
I collect as much mulchable vegetation as I can during the summer and fall and place it on top of the vegetation that is in the planed planting bed then cover it with carpet. During the winter tremendous amounts of biological activity take place under the carpet. Worms move in to the sole/vegetation boundary then moles tunnel through to eat the worms but also the destructive grubs. Slugs move in with snakes and killer beetles to eat them. When I pull back the edges of the carpet in the spring the soil under the remaining mulch look rototilled.
If the carpet strips make rows apropriate width for my crop all I have to do is plant along that seam. The carpet during the summer protects the soil from the hot sun and drying wind. after harvest I roll up the carpet and plant a cover crop or re-mulch and cover again. If the summer is to hot and dry for a crop then mulch and cover in the spring and plant in the fall when the temperatures are more favorable for vegetables.
 
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Abe Connally wrote:

Its not so much about exclusion.Domestic animals take alot of effort and inclusion is not(IMO)the path of least resistance.Much of the hardwood forests of the east were cut to make barns and fences.Domesticated animals are made possible today largely through cheap oil(metal barns and fences).Take away that subsidy and it looks alot bleaker.Wild animals contribute to the system without all the ecological and energy costs.They meat their own needs and are thus more caloricaly efficient.Avoiding all animals in a system I disagree with.



My domesticated animals require less time than my garden.  They tend to themselves just fine, if you let them. I don't have metal barns and very few fences.  Every homestead 300+ years ago had animals. They didn't have cheap oil to make it possible, and that's why they had animals.



Second that one. Wire can be handy, but it's not essential. Brushwood, living hedges and wooden fences work for me and I keep goats. I don't use dry stone walls, but they could be added to the list of barriers that don't need cheap oil
 
Peter Ingot
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Travis Philp wrote:We had success growing peas, lettuce, and mustard, in a hugelkultur bed with no manure.



I have experimented with vegan systems and also hugelkultur. Hugelkultur involves initial, massive disturbance to the soil. Like double digging only more so, for the first year at least. Are you talking about your first year or (say) 10 years after establishing the hugelkultur bed? Deep digging causes a lot of mineralisation of organic matter, and the amount of soluble minerals released can be 100 times more than any plants (especially seedlings) can use (yes, I've measured this kind of thing in the lab). IMO it makes no sense to call Hugelkultur zero till until at least a year or two has passed, because in these early stages you are mining reserves of humus which may have taken years to build up.

For several years I cultivated urban gardens without animal manure. Urban gardens are a sink for all kinds of minerals - birdshit, human urine, dog, cat, rat and mouse excrement, rubbish, nitrogen from car exhausts etc. and many of these gardens lie fallow for years, growing grass, deep rooting weeds and clover. Cultivating this kind of soil can produce bumper harvests for the first year or so without any applications of animal manure. Compostable materials are often readily available in cities: grass clippings, spoiled vegetables from the greengrocers etc. Cities are accumulating way more minerals than their relatively few vegetable gardeners can usefully use, and so almost any technique, good or bad, will work for a year or two in an urban garden.

With hindsight it could not be said that what I was doing in garden after garden for a year or two before I moved on elsewhere was really sustainable, or proof that animal manures are unnecessary.

My later experiences trying similar vegan techniques in a remote area with degraded sandy soil, showed me how much I had been exploiting the existing soil fertility of these urban gardens. In the poorer soil, cultivation had little or no benefit, besides clearing the weeds. Compost teas and vegetable compost did help, but moving the compostable vegetable matter around proved extremely labour intensive. Manure is concentrated. Grazing animals will wander over large areas and concentrate manure in their stables, this saves a lot of energy, whether human muscle power or fossil fuel. Zero and minimal tillage did stop further degradation of the soil, but it was still necessary to put a lot of compost onto the soil, to get respectable yields. Vegans please note that lentils and beans seemed to grow best with animal manure and worst without it.

I would not go back to veganic methods. Animal manure is magic. On the kind of rough mountain grassland, scrub and forest where I live, grazing animals can produce manure as well as meat and milk for me. The veganic alternative in these kind of places would be to cut all this vegetation (with a sickle or strimmer, as a scythe would get ruined on the rocks), gather it and compost it - not a good use of time and energy, and not very productive either. I still bring in organic matter from outside - waste vegetables etc. but much of this can be used as animal feed before it feeds the soil. Organic matter from outside is a bonus, but it's not an essential as it would be in a veganic system.
 
Peter Ingot
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Paul Cereghino wrote:From less of a survivalist vein... I maintain a lawn like vegetation over my septic drainfield, and cuttings from that go onto the garden as mulch, and is dragged underground by worms pretty fast.  I assume this is a passive N import from my own waste stream.  The largest Nutrient import into my home system is through purchasing food off site.



Thanks for sharing. Human bodily wastes and bought in food can be very significant nutrient flows on small scale gardens and farms. I did a calculation once and found I was importing most nutrients in dog food, and exporting most in puppies. I concluded two things 1) I should have got my dogs neutered and 2) dog poo was one of the most valuable resources I possessed
 
Peter Ingot
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Paul Cereghino wrote:The book learning suggests that nitrate sequestration is temporary... once a wood particle surface is encrusted with bacteria the rate of nitrogen consumption declines (that is why sawdust has a greater effect then a log -- more surface area to volume).



There are apparently a lot of non symbiotic nitrogen fixing bacteria in rotting logs. They produce a lot of nitrogen, but it is probably mostly still temporarily "locked away" by other microbes busy digesting the carbon rich woody stuff. I found hugelkultur didn't unbalance the soil N as much as I expected.
 
Peter Ingot
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Travis Philp wrote:jmy, I posed this question earlier but I think it got lost in the shuffle. What did you do for bed preparation in the first year? I'm planning on establishing a whack of new vegetable and fruit gardens next year and would like to avoid manure if I can. I'm gonna go big on fresh eating and drying beans as a companion plant but that'll only get me so far



It will only get you so far. Green beans help the soil, but most of the benefit comes from using the mostly green leaves and stalk that remain at the end of the season as green manure. Drying beans actually do the soil not much good at all. Experiments have shown that the soil is generally left with about as much nitrogen at the end of a season growing drying beans as it had before they were planted, sometimes slightly more, sometimes less. The straw left after harvest contains little fixed nitrogen, that is all in the beans themselves. Also consider the nutrients washed out of the soil while it is bare or semi bare, and the phosphate, potassium etc. removed by the beansMy own research on this suggests that transfer of nitrogen from roots of legumes to their companions is generally pretty low, and mostly happens at the end of the growing season when the need for nitrogen has mostly passed. Legumes and non legumes will share the soil better than a monoculture of either, and the companion will force the legume to get nitrogen from the air. legume monocultures actually take a lot of their nitrogen from the soil, so a mix is best.

Of course I'm assuming you have a flushing lavatory not a composting one....if you are eating those nitrogen rich beans, then most of their nitrogen, phosphate etc. will end up in your faeces and urine.....where they go next is up to you
 
Peter Ingot
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i think someone mentioned it before on a different, but eliot coleman uses only on site compost made from hay.  so there is one.




I don't have "four season harvest" in front of me, but I'm pretty sure that in it Eliot Coleman promotes rock phosphate, greensand, ducks and compost made from a wide variety of ingredients. I think I remember blood and bonemeal mentioned as compost additives. He certainly didn't suggest making compost from hay alone, in fact I think he warns that too much hay can make a compost heap anaerobic and smelly
 
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Travis Philp wrote:

Yes, plants can go into areas and break up soil. Tap rooted plants are great for that, they don't wake me up at 4 in the morning, or raise my risk of cancer when I eat them. In fact many tap root plants fight cancer. I don't think you can't say that for any meat that I know of.



Beef liver or gelatine?
 
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