Ben Stallings

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since Mar 26, 2012
Emporia, KS
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Recent posts by Ben Stallings

I built a hugelkultur about 4 years ago as an experiment, and as I took it apart this spring in preparation for selling the house (it looked like a grave...) I took a sample of the soil there and sent it in for analysis at my local extension office. The pH, organic matter, nitrate, and potassium are all similar to my sheet mulched beds, but the phosphate is through the roof at 253 ppm compared to 110-119 ppm in my other beds. (The testing service says the "optimum" range for growing veggies is just 47-76 ppm.) What to do about it is a moot point since I'm moving out, but how on earth did it get that way? This hugel bed was built without any manure of any kind, just rotten wood and green plant matter. I didn't notice any nutrient deficiencies (zinc or iron) in the plants that were growing there. Has anyone else seen outrageously high phosphate in a hugel bed? What do you suppose caused it? Thanks in advance.
2 months ago
Folks above have already made some good points, but here are a few more...

Many (not all) of the ecological benefits of burning prairie can be achieved through high-density, short-duration mob grazing of livestock. Alan Savory argues that the reason the prairies are so dependent on fire is that they aren't getting the intensity of disturbance they need from livestock. As I understand it, prior to the native Americans' arrival, mastodons and mammoths provided that disturbance. When the native Americans exterminated the native megafauna, they found they had to introduce regular burning to keep the land in prairie for the bison. So regular burning is not native to the landscape -- mob grazing is.

If your land is crucial to a species' or ecosystem's survival, your local Nature Conservancy will know, and it might make sense to restore prairie on your land and use land elsewhere for your own needs. But if they don't jump at the chance to restore your land, it probably makes more sense to follow permaculture's advice and provide for your own needs.

The climate is changing, rapidly. In a few years western Oklahoma will be more like Arizona. Maybe prepare for that biome instead?
3 months ago
Is anybody fighting the jumping worm infestation in Wisconsin or New York? I've been seeing increasingly alarmed posts from my friends in Wisconsin, saying that the worms destroy the soil organic matter and its ecosystem, leaving the soil the texture of coffee grounds, that won't clump or hold water. They are resorting to gardening in containers and watching their formerly productive gardens turn to dust!

Information from the state DNR is three years old and only talks about slowing the spread of the infestation, not what you can do once you've got them:

I have to think that once agriculture is affected, the chemical companies will swoop in with some poison or other, which likely will kill a lot of other things at the same time, which means permies will need to be on hand to spread compost tea and reintroduce more helpful worms.

But what else can be done? Are chickens effective at getting rid of the worms, or do they just chase them lower into the soil? Same question for solarizing. Has anyone on the forum had any luck at fending off these worms from your farm or garden, or heard of any promising techniques? Thanks in advance.
3 months ago
This is not a comprehensive answer, but something leapt out at me from your description... hugel beds settle quite a lot as they decay, so a hugel herb spiral is going to collapse. Either do a hugel or an herb spiral, but if you build an herb spiral, build it solid or you will be disappointed. Good luck, and I look forward to seeing other people's comments.
4 months ago
Great video, Mike! Thank you for sharing that. I don't have experience growing pawpaws myself, but in my home town of Bartlesville, OK, there are large stands of wild pawpaws growing under a black walnut canopy.

Here are photos of my walnut guild in various years and seasons, in which you can see mulberries (Illinois everbearing grafted on dwarf stock) doing quite well. The tree is English walnut grafted onto black walnut root stock.
6 months ago
Well... maybe not quite that simple!

Pawpaws and mulberries are happy to grow under walnut trees. Same with red currants and aronia berries.
6 months ago
I've also thought about -- but not implemented -- chinampas as a way to incorporate aquaponics into permaculture. The problem with most aquaponic setups is that they require at least an electric water pump and a lot of plastic pipe. But the small change in elevation between water and land in chinampas means that a simpler bubble pump or mechanical pump could do the trick; you could even manually scoop up water a few inches into a trough.
8 months ago
OK, but the point of the diverter is to keep the barrel from overflowing into your house foundation when the rain comes down fast. If that's not a concern, by all means pipe your downspout directly into the barrel. But I flooded my basement doing that before I bought one of the Fiskars things.

Here's another approach I came up with:
1 year ago
I stand with those who say a weed is a plant that doesn't play well with others. As ecologists, we need to ask not what a plant is, but what it's doing in the ecosystem. If it's physically choking other plants (like bindweed), smothering them (like bermuda grass), crowding the root zone with durable, woody roots (like trumpet vine), or making people sick (like ragweed, poison ivy, etc.), that is a detriment if not an outright threat to our efforts to build a functioning ecosystem. If the same plant is not doing those things in your particular locale, then that's great. But please don't try to tell other gardeners in other locales that those plants aren't causing problems for them.

That said, I believe it was Ruth Stout who said, "A handful of weeds is a nuisance. A wheelbarrow full is a resource."
1 year ago