L. Tims

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since Sep 13, 2018
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Recent posts by L. Tims

You are much better off planting slips in the ground, fertilizing with the compost and mulching with the hay on top of that. You'll get way more results from the same resources, I mean. If you're short on space you can run the vines up a trellis or something else that they can climb, so they aren't spreading out all over whatever else you have going on.
1 day ago
Mike- wild rice was just an example. Having done a bit more research, yields per acre for wild rice, even when commercially grown, seem quite low compared to wheat and such. Not sure where I heard 1/2 lb per plant, maybe that wasn't a great example. In my defense, the plants can get really big and that's just looking at the above water part. So it was easy to believe, wherever I heard it.

I forgot to mention, another thing that makes me think this will work and gives me confidence in a plant's ability to concentrate a large area of roots into a small area of aboveground growth, is amaranth. If you search "giant amaranth" on youtube there are a few videos of guys growing a single amaranth plant without much else around and them getting comically big. One guy uses plastic sheet under it and has nothing else growing for a few feet around it and he says he got almost a pound of seed off of it. Not that I'd use plastic sheet but it's proof of concept. I know amaranth is a pseudocereal, but still.

Joseph- wait, so the 1.6 grams was from just the one head? So if you're right and a plant will grow 50 heads, with 283 heads to a pound that is still almost 1/5 of a lb per cluster, yeah? Which isn't half a pound but it isn't terrible. Actually, if they did that at 1 plant cluster per square foot then that's a higher total yield than half a pound at 1 per four square feet.

Also I think the bashing against the side of a bucket method should be more effective the more heads you are doing, because more weight means more inertia. The way I've seen it done was with a tied bundle of plants, never one head at a time.
That's awesome Joseph and I'm all for using the least amount of seed possible, but your varieties seem pretty wild (I seem to remember you saying at some point that you grow actually wild rye) and I suspect the common ones would be less inclined to tiller so heavily so I still think planting multiple per spot is worth it. Also there is the issue of time, it takes time for any plant to decide it's got enough room to spread out and then do it, and more seeds = more starting energy and so probably quicker establishment of a cluster, better competition with weeds (since I would be mulching them with just the straw from the previous crop) and sooner harvest. 6-8 seeds per 4 square feet (that's about what I'm thinking) is still way less than broadcasting uses.

I'd like to be able to grow and harvest enough grain for more than myself, at least enough for a family, preferably some to share with others. For me the exciting part of permaculture is being able to feed a lot of people on a small patch of land without machinery or chemicals. And grain/starch growing is the hard part of that. Growing maize is one way but it has it's limitations and I think this could be another. I've read that wild rice can grow half a pound of seed per plant cluster, if I could emulate that and go around knocking half a pound of wheat or barley into a barrel and thus providing someone's daily bread with each few thwacks I'd be very pleased with myself. And I know the thwacking technique works with common varieties harvested at the right stage.

(Having looked it up and done some math, that is actually about what it would come out to if the yield was similar with clusters spaced at 4 square feet each. Exciting! 150 bushels barley at 48 lbs per bushel = 7200 lbs. 1 acre is 43,560 square feet. 43,560 ÷ 4 sq ft per plant cluster = 10,890 clusters. 7200 ÷ 10,890 = 0.661 lbs per plant cluster. 150 bushels per acre is optimistic though. Also, if I can harvest 3 clusters per minute and 180 per hour, 10,890 ÷ 180 = 60.5 hours to harvest an acre, so actually doable in a hard week's work.)
I'm gonna test it eventually, for sure. Might not be this year though.

Any grains you think it will work particularly well/poorly with Redhawk?
By one person, enough to feed many people? I believe I have, at least for wheat and hulless oats/barley.

I thought of this from thinking about clay balls, and also from looking at the way wild rice grows in nature.

I think the trick is to get the plants to grow in clusters, sort of like the rows and columns you see in machine-planted industrial agriculture fields, but with several plants per spot, and more space in-between.

To achieve this I propose using seed balls, not in the normal way seed balls have previously been used for grain, with one seed per small ball, but more like seed "bombs" with several seeds per large ball. Dropping them in place would most likely be preferable to throwing them for this purpose.

Experimentation will be needed to determine the optimal number of seeds per ball and distance between clusters. Also whether a living mulch like clover would need to be used or if the spreading roots would do a good enough job of suppressing weeds on their own.

Most of the pain and effort I see when I watch people harvest grain by hand is in the cutting the stalks and getting the plants to lie straight on the ground, either on your hands and knees with a sickle, or with a scythe with those very cumbersome and inconvenient-looking finger attachments. And also in the tying of the plants in bundles, usually an entire second job for a second person.

Growing the plants in clusters would eliminate both of these things. All you would have to do would be to grab the cluster of plants beneath the seed heads and cut it below that. No specialized tools needed, a cheap sickle or even a machete would work. And thus it is already in a bundle in your hand, and the simple and already-popular "bang it on the side of a large metal drum" method of getting the seeds off can be used.

The only difficulties left are in getting the metal drum to follow you around the field, and in the winnowing. The first is easily solved with a small cart and a cow or a donkey. Or you could push it yourself I guess, every ten feet or so. Winnowing I think is not much of a time/energy consumer as long as you wait for a suitably dry and windy day.

I think that with this method, the growing of wheat, oats and barley is made just as practical small-scale as growing field corn (maize) is. Winnowing and shucking can be called comparably difficult, I think. Also you don't have to nixtamilize wheat/oats/barley like you do with maize. Maize will kill you slowly if you try to survive principally on it unnixtamilized, did you know. Also I think it doesn't taste nearly as nice to most people. And it doesn't like chilly places.

And If you are thinking that growing them this way will drastically reduce yields, I beg to differ. Grains are grasses and grasses love to grow in clusters. Take the wild rice I mentioned earlier for instance, or the crabgrass that probably grows in your garden. Also, plants generally do a good job of spreading their roots quickly over any available area, and in growing their leaves so as not to compete for sunlight with their own kind. I'm fairly certain that yields would be comparable to broadcasting.
Hey Dustin, I'm reasonably confident it will work, the idea is just to get them sprouted and stick them in the ground not to get them to a large size. I'm sure I can manage the moisture well enough under a cold frame to keep them from dissolving.  

I've seen time lapse videos of seed balls and it seems more like the plants themselves break up the ball as the seedlings grows upwards and the roots spread into the ground than it just dissolving.  Here that would be negated by keeping the ball out of contact with the ground and keeping it to one seed per large ball.
Thought of a novel use for seed balls the other day. I'm gonna try it, thought I'd share it with you all before I've actually done it, maybe save somebody some money or frustration this year. If it's actually a garbage idea, well, sorry.

For those who don't know, you can get these things called soil blockers that make a block of soil for starting seeds in. They're supposed to eliminate transplant shock by causing the roots to "air prune" themselves instead of wrapping around and around like they do in a cup. Also there's no dumping involved, so that probably helps. None of that awful webbing stuff you get with those peat pots either.

Buuuut they're pretty expensive. So I thought Fukuoka style seed balls, which are usually used for direct sowing, would make a great replacement. Just made bigger than they're normally made.

Advantages, #1 of course is you don't have to buy anything to achieve the same effect. #2 is you can make all different sizes and everything in between. With soil blockers you've got to buy different sizes and you're still limited to those. #3, the mix needn't be so specific, with soil blockers you need specific mixes which usually involves buying bagged materials. Spheres are a more forgiving shape; simple heavy clay soil with some manure mixed in should do fine. #4, I swear I had a number four but I forgot.

(Important to note: the seed balls or blocks have to be kept off of the ground with a board or something, as well as from touching each other, or the roots will spread where you don't want them. Keep them moist if there's a lot of clay in them.)

ALSO, I've got a grand idea for the cheapest and best greenhouse/cold frame ever. It involves windows made from split branches or 1x1s or other long and straight pieces of wood, with the edges of plastic garbage bags pinned in-between them with thin, peenable nails. And four simple corner joints holding it all together.

That probably needs pictures though so I'll make a post when I've built it. But hey, if you can figure all this out from words then you've got a professional market gardening level seed starting system with basically zero financial investment. Beats the heck out of starting stuff in cups in your window.
Before I started reading this site I'd always heard and believed that if you took an heirloom plant variety to a new location and saved seeds from the best plants, it would adapt over time and five years or so later you'd have a new variety, similar to the original in appearance and taste but better suited to thrive in your climate.

However, a lot of people on here seem to think that heirlooms are incredibly inbred and thus incapable of adapting, and that you'll continue to get the same results year after year unless you introduce new genetics. Implying that either the best plants were the best by random environmental factors and chance, or that saving the best does as much harm through further inbreeding as it does good (contrary to the common wisdom that saving from eight plants is enough for most vegetables).

Also, I've seen seed companies online that apparently have been growing an heirloom from some location other than their own and selling the seeds for years, so they must also subscribe to that theory, or at least they'd have you believe it.

Not having done the long term experiment, I'd like to hear thoughts on this, maybe from someone who has and can say for sure. Or somebody else's theorizing at least, lol. They should adapt even if they are somewhat inbred, because epigenetics or something, right, right? Or if you've got a strong argument that they don't, well that's fine too.
3 weeks ago
Anyone know of some nice thick-skinned storage/cooking varieties, that would probably be not very nice to eat fresh? It's hard to find information on those, haha. I get the sense that older varieties and russets are the thing to look at but haven't found much in the way of specifics.
3 weeks ago
I'd plant some cold hardy Russian pomegranates. There's a few different varieties that are good for those zones.
3 weeks ago