Marco Banks

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since Jan 31, 2015
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Los Angeles, CA
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Recent posts by Marco Banks

Slug bait.

Then mulch heavily around them and discourage any competing plants within a foot from the artichoke plants themselves.

They need consistent water until they are established.  Even a 2 foot tall plant still needs water 2 or 3 times a week in the summer heat.

I don't have too many problems with slugs but I get a ton of ants farming aphids onto my artichokes. 
As a kid growing up in Kansas, we looked forward to fall for quail and pheasant season.  To this day, quail are my favorite game bird.  Yes, they are small, but they are wonderfully tasty.  My dad used to clean them and mom would hardly even want to cook those little drumsticks, but as a kid, that was my favorite part. 

I currently raise chickens but I'm thinking about adding quail to the animal integration on my "operation" (READ: suburban yard with WAY too many trees).  I have such wonderful memories of eating them as a kid.  There is a Mexican restaurant down in Rosarito (15 miles south of Tijuana) that has a big cage of quail inside the front door.  I'll often order the quail --- they'll catch and dress the bird to order -- doesn't get any fresher than that.  My thinking is that if we had a nice cage/coop filled with 50 quail or so, it would be easy enough to kill 2 birds for my wife and I and enjoy them for dinner.  Not as big of a commitment as a whole Rhode Island Red or Bar Rock. 

But can you free range them the way you can backyard chickens?  Or once you open the cage, are they all gone forever?
2 days ago
Yes you can.  From first hand experience -- yes, you can.

Once a tree is established (two years or so), you can pee all you want around the drip line and they usually show nothing but gratitude for your contribution, but even there -- I've got a young mango tree that I've been attempting to help out that is showing signs of burnt leaf ends.  Salt damage?  Too much N?  Both?

For annuals, particularly small ones, you've got to use some moderation.  If you are out there in the garden (at night, under cover of darkness), keep the hose moving, so to speak.  Don't empty the whole tank on one or two plants, and certainly try to direct the "application" a few inches away from the stem.  Tomatoes are nitrogen pigs, but even with young tomatoes, it's easy to burn them.  For brassicas, young herbs, and even grains (corn, etc.), I'll usually pee in a bucket that's half-filled with rainwater and will use that more sparingly.

But by the heart of the growing season when the tomatoes are 6 feet tall and the corn and okra are over my head, let it rip. 

Citrus trees take it full-strength.  You just can't seem to give them too much nitrogen.  Stone fruit -- I'll give them a dose once a month or so, but they seem more than capable of finding enough N in the soil.

And I've never once burned the compost pile by peeing too often or too long. 

I wish there were some way to calculate how much N has been kept in the system down through the years by faithfully taking a leak in the orchard.  My guess, at this point, is hundreds of pounds of N, with significantly less K and P, although measurable none-the-less.  If the NKP of human urine (as it's been reported) is 11-1-2, there are hundreds of dollars worth of free fertility being added to the garden annually. 

I'd say this: if there is any doubt whether or not human urine is too hot, then just pee on the compost pile and the carbon in the pile will capture a significant % of the N in the stream.  You can integrate that N-rich compost into your potting mix, planting holes, or as a soil amendment or top-dressing/mulch. 
2 days ago
Yes to all the above . . . coffee grounds are wonderful, pee, grass clippings, etc.  You'll need some browns if you are adding too many grass clippings as they'll start to stink if they're not mixed with some sawdust or shredded paper or dried leaves.

My addition to the list: comfrey.  When I go around and harvest it all, I get about a cubic yard of comfrey leaves.  Within 2 weeks, it's all gone --- it decomposes super fast.  But it's a compost activator and his high in both nitrogen and water, which are necessary for the heat you desire.
4 days ago
The largest concern with anything like this is how will you assure that it will be maintained?  Having the best intentions are not a sufficient guarantee that it will be kept-up and carefully looked after.

1.  People will start use it as a dump for all things organic like their food waste and leaves . . . and then larger stuff like tree limbs and scrap lumber and that giant tree stump that they dug out for two days with a massive excavator.

2.  And then one morning you'll show up and there is an old mattress, a dead washer and drier, and 800 lbs. of waste concrete, brick and shingles from a tear-down.  So . . . someone will need to police the yard, fence it, inspect loads coming in . . . strict limits on what can or cannot be dropped off.

3.  It will smell.  It will.  Maintaining a large public compost facility is very different from a home pile where you just throw in a handful of browns and turn the pile quickly to absorb odors.  You'll want your site downwind from any NIMBY's, and any trucks that are delivering compostables to your site will need access from a non-residential street.

4.  Anything of a decent commercial size (like more than 2 acres) will attract pests.  Sea gulls, rats, raccoons . . . those sorts of friends.  Try keeping sea gulls out once they've found that there is an easy source of food.

5.  Cities are worried about liability.  If there is the remotest chance that someone might be hurt, they run for legal council and wrap everyone up in bubble wrap.  Any plan you present to the city needs to have that base covered.  Have your own legal counsel speak to issues of assumption of risk and release of liability. 

I wish you well.  I don't mean to be a Debbie Downer, but I worked for years to try to get my city to just make the wood chips available from the city tree trimmer.  How complicated would that be?  Just dump them somewhere and let citizens come by of their own free will and pick them up.  10 years later, they are still considering it.  Wood chips.  Nothing stinky, nothing needing to be turned, nothing that would attract vermin . . . and they are still so risk averse. 

Perhaps an alternative would be to start a compost club, with membership, insiders vs. outsiders . . . only the cool kids get to come in.  Membership requires that you show up every two weeks to put in an hour of turning, but membership has its rewards (2 yards of compost every couple of months).  If you can only get into the club by membership or application, it would keep the slackers out and you'd be able to maintain quality and keep the expectations up regarding what gets composted.
4 days ago
I wouldn't remove the chips --  just scrape them back in places and seed in those spots.

Commercial lawn seeding businesses create a slurry of water, paste made from newspaper, some fertilizer and of course grass seed.  They pump it out of a tank through a big nozzle (like a fire hose) and burp it out onto the bare ground.  All that cellulose makes a perfect medium for grass to get started in.  Within 2 or 3 days, it germinates and quickly grows up through the paper mulch residue. 

Perhaps you could so something like that yourself.  Mix grass seed with compost, finely shredded paper and a bit of very mild fertilizer (like 8-8-8) and hand-seed your pasture.  If you water it down into the chips, I'm sure that it would sprout.  The key is to keep it moist.

Once it finds a little pathway up through the wood chips, it'll thrive.  No, chips do not tie up nitrogen in the SOIL as long as you don't till them under.  As a growing medium themselves, chips would be lousy.  But as a mulch on top of the soil, they are dynamite. 
1 week ago
To answer the original question, I planted a nitrogen fixing cover crop in the third week of January.  I just terminated it this week.  11 weeks and the roots were loaded with tons of salmon-colored nitrogen nodules. 

It doesn't take long—less than 3 months.   I have to buy the inoculant because we don't naturally have the correct bacteria in the soil, so I slightly moisten my seed and inoculate it with the bacteria overnight before I plant it the next day.  Works great every time.
1 week ago
This is a question that gets asked again and again on this forum.  Do a search and you'll find a wealth of great advice on first steps when working with a new piece of land.

Check some of these threads out:

My suggestion would be to buy a couple of books and do some reading.  Search that as well, and you'll find plenty of helpful suggestions on best books for a permaculture newby.

Best of luck.
1 week ago
Great link Dennis.

Fascinating article.  We know so little about microbes and their impact upon plant life.  This is the future. 
1 week ago
Years ago, I was delivering hay with my grandfather from his place in South Dakota to a farmer in Iowa. Having off-loaded the hay and with the truck empty, he stopped at a friends place where there were a half-dozen ewes that Grandpa had bought at the sale barn a week earlier.  We loaded them in the back of the old hay truck.  He was taking them back home to South Dakota that night.  That same farmer had 3 massive old sows that he wanted to take to the John Morrell packing plant in Sioux Falls.  So grandpa agreed to load them into the back of the truck with the sheep.  It was a crazy chore getting those three massive mama hogs into the truck, but we finally managed to get them up the ramp and into the back with those sheep.

The drive from his farm to the John Morrell slaughterhouse was about 45 minutes or so.

When we got to Sioux Falls and opened up the back of the truck, two of those ewes were gone.  GONE.  Nothing but a little blood on the bed of the truck.  Those sows ate two of them, bones and all.  Even their skulls were gone.

A big mama sow will take your hand off without so much of a tug.  Big boars are even scarier. 

I'm not sure that I'd want to put my trust in their good manors.  Pigs are omnivores.  They are criminals of opportunity.  When in doubt, they'll put it in their mouth and take a chomp on it to see if they like it.
1 week ago