This is the World Organic News for the week ending 21st of September 2020.
Jon Moore reporting!
Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!
I’ll start this week with a big thank you to Simon who completed the No-Dig gardening course on Udemy, link in the show notes. Well done Simon! And a huge thank you for the five star review. I’ll leave a screenshot in the transcript over at worldorganicnews.com if you’d like to see what Simon says! Thanks again.
This week is about world view. Long term listeners will know my favourite Masanobu Fukuoka quote: “What less can I do?” it came to mind this week as I was reading about an ancient raised bed technique from both Ireland and Scotland. What caught my mind was the name of this bed building technique: “Lazy Beds”.
From the Wikipedia page:
Lazy bed is a traditional method of arable cultivation. Rather like cord rig cultivation, parallel banks of ridge and furrow are dug by spade although lazy beds have banks that are bigger, up to 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in) in width, with narrow drainage channels between them. It was used in southern parts of Britain from the post-Roman period until the post-medieval period, and across much of Ireland and Scotland until the 19th century.
The cord rig referred to in that quote is basically the same thing but from prehistoric periods. There’s a link in the notes if you’d like to read further.
Now before we get into the simplicity of these raised beds, I’d like to address the use of the word “Lazy”.
I have a problem with the word and a quote to help explain why.
Bill Gates is often credited with the quote, “I will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”
It’s a great quote, but it came from Frank B. Gilbreth Sr. He studied the best and poorest bricklayers and stumbled on an astonishing fact; he could learn the most from the lazy man!
He noticed lazy workers eliminated unnecessary movement and reduced fatigue.
He also discovered that expert workers were the most wasteful of their motion and strength. They had the ability to produce a large quantity of good work, but they tired themselves out of all proportion to the amount of work they accomplished.
The other thing that annoys me with the word is the cultural loading associated with it. Lazy people are often lumped in with the undeserving poor. Whatever that might mean. I’m of the opinion that the poor require help. Improving the lot of everyone in a society is good for all members of that society. This all goes back to the Poor Houses of the English legal system. Link in the show notes. A system designed to punish the poor for an outcome almost designed into the system, if not actively then at least by result.
The other quote I am at this time unable to find is that lazy people will find a better way. Now if we take “lazy” out of that statement and replace it with “innovation” we get: innovative people will find a better way.
What the hell has this got to do with gardening? A fair question. The Lazy beds I spoke of earlier are, indeed, a form raised beds that require less work to create than other systems. Similarly the garden beds for which I advocate in the free eBook: The World Organic News No-dig gardening book, require very little effort. The greatest expenditure of labour is in the building of the beds.
Compare this to the double dig system recommended elsewhere and the continual cultivation method I have spoken of seeing at a famous organic farm. The no-dig beds basically remove any weed problems. The more “traditional” methods result in months of hand weeding, in an organic setting. I’m working on the assumption, listener, that you’re not into the GMO, spray and kill system.
Now to move a no-dig garden system onto a market garden level, as per Fukuoka perhaps, I think, requires the organic matter tossed on the top of the garden beds to be grown in situ as cover crops and slashed to become a new layer on top of the beds. Depending upon what you’re growing, the cover crop will vary. I’m looking to grow large seeded crops. Corn, peas, broad beans, garlic and cucurbits. That being the case, the broad beans and peas will be my cover crops. They die on slashing, mostly and they will be from this Spring onwards, slashed with a sickle bar mower. The slashed legumes then act as a sheet mulch across the soil, keeping it covered and rotting down to create soil carbon. This I have discovered through experimentation at work during lock down. The key I think is to use dicots as cover crops. A dicot has two leaves popping out of the seed. A monocot has one. Peas and broad beans are dicots and grow from the outer edges of the plant. Monocots like wheat and barley, have the one leaf and grow from the bottom up. When a lawn is mean it continues to grow, when clover is cut, it tends to die off. With the broad beans in particular, a good kill is possible once the flowers have appeared. Later in the life cycle works too but leaves viable seed in the mix.
Now this might not be a problem as I’m thinking of growing peas at least and maybe broad beans between the rows of corn all summer to act as nitrogen sinks for that crop. One pass with the seeder, corn and legumes planted together saves me doing it twice. A “lazy”, in inverted commas, solution.
The other thing that comes with being lazy/innovative is space. Space for natural systems to work their magic. The art of this sort of food production is to do as little as possible, let natural processes occur and still achieve a yield. The Lazy Beds from the start of the show are on the path towards this outcome.
I’ve quoted the work of Dr Christine Jones in the past and I would highly recommend a reading of her work and a look at her website: Amazing Carbon. Link in the show notes.
Let’s all go out into the world this week, see “What less can we do?” and watch the world become a much better place for all life.
As we “Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!”
Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.
Growing a No-Dig Garden on Udemy
Or copy and paste this link:
Dr Christine Jones ~ Amazing Carbon