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Mulch and putting soil above it

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Hi All,

I am from Kerala,India and do natural farming and also maintains a small backyard for vegetable cultivation. Summer here is very hot and soil becomes very dry. I was using mulching on raised beds earlier, but in summer if plants are not watered for a day, they start wilting. I have been hearing about "Lasagna method' where multiple mulch layers and soil/manure is added for boosting fertility. Recently I started doing this,not to great scale, but keep a mulch of 2-3 layers after each layer of mulching apply some cowdung slurry and then little bit soil. So far it works fine, I am also greening this area with cowpea+pearl millet seeds and then transplant or put seeds of the crops like cowpea,okra etc..

Just wanted to get some opinions about this. People say, in tropical climate mulch gets oxidised quickly and hence humus generation is less, if I put soil above the mulch, oxidisation gets prevented and humus formation is better?


Regards,
Nandan
 
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For your area I would say you are doing a great job.
The lasagna  method works really well in this situation, If you can get to where you have 5-7 layers it will do even better at holding the moisture in the soil.
Your cover crop selection is also really good for your area.
Keep up the good work there and you will be rewarded greatly.

Redhawk
 
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It sounds to me like you're using the mulch as a matrix to increase the airflow and surface area to which your manure slurry is being applied. It is best to cover manure if it is not completely processed, so a layer of soil is probably a good idea.

Honestly, if you don't have pest problems, and if the top layers aren't keeping water out, then if you still have any doubts, put on another layer. All it will do is add more biomass.

Buried mulch can act as water storage in the soil. I have in the past dug mini swales and dug organic matter in the form of slash and wood chips down into them, and then put the topsoil back and planted into it. The soil retained enough moisture from rains and dew that I didn't need to water anything.

One thing you need to be aware of, though, is the potential for woody mulch to cause a nitrogen deficiency in the soil as it decomposes. I think the manure slurry may already be making up for that, but be aware of the issue.

-CK
 
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Planting with cowpeas is an excellent choice, as they will fix nitrogen. This should help overcome any mulch-induced deficit and help the heavy feeders like okra. I think this is a great solution for a tropical monsoon climate, as the aeration effects of the mulch layers will also increase soil permeability when the rains come.
 
Nandakumar Palaparambil
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Thanks  Phil, Chris and Bryant for the responses...

Will update  on the progress...


Regards,
Nandan
 
Nandakumar Palaparambil
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Chris,

I have one question...why do you say if manure is not completely processed, it is better to cover it with soil? Would like to know the reasoning behind this and also if there are any material to read on this.


Regards,
Nandan
 
Chris Kott
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If waste is processed or composted, all the pathogens will have died. If it is raw waste or sewage, though, the pathogens are alive and can be carried by flies to infect others. So it is critical that if your waste isn't processed or composted, that there be a soil barrier between it and the open air.

-CK
 
Nandakumar Palaparambil
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Thanks Chris.

But in olden days, people used to use cowdung thick slurry on the earthen floor as a means of cleaning it. Even I have slept on such floors on my child hood days. Still in some villages they use fresh cowdung and make a circular shape, dry it and use it in place of firewood. But all these were traditional cows and this cowdung is very thick and no watery at all. At least the fear of pathogens are not seen while handling it.

Anyway I am planning to cover it with soil, just to be on safer side.


Regards,
Nandan
 
Bryant RedHawk
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The main concerns of cow pathogens tend to come from "feed lot" cows over pasture cows.
The issues come from crowded together animals fed a corn based feed and manures piling up and being walked in all the time.

In rural countries and even in Canada and the US, pasture grazing cattle that are spread out over larger areas (1 acre or more per animal) we see far fewer pathogens in the fresh manures than in a  feed lot setting.
 
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One other thing I notice a problem with species, such as tamarind in your country, is fungal attack.  We use a lot of similar methods like you, but an abundance of uncomplicated wood will just create a lot of fungal mycelium under the soil .  Truthfully this makes the most amazing soil you will find, but if you are growing trees, be aware they might get attacked and sometimes it's not aparent sometimes for year but in the end there is often huge crop loss and/or death.

If your using wood bits, I would let it all wit and work away for a year or more before growing woody tree species in the tropics
 
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