This is The ChangeUnderground for the week ending 25th of January 2021.
I’m your host, Jon Moore
Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!
Now this crops/climate thing is getting to be a little trickier as time passes. The last two years here in the North West of Tasmania have been 300mm down on the average rainfall. In Australia, as a rule of thumb, the average rarely represents any one year’s actual rainfall. It’s the midpoint between the drought and the wet years. Things aren’t in drought here but they are drier than they could be. And a month to six weeks without rainfall doesn’t do the pastures nor the crops much benefit.
This has me thinking about alternative processes, crops and so on. The major animal species this year will be ducks. We have a bore and I’ve set up little rock lined channels that take the overflow from small water containers. These “ponds” are about 1.5 x 1.5 metres, so a number of ducks can pile in to swim about. I empty them daily onto the channels to spread the water and nutrients horizontally across the top of the field gardens. The water and nutrients then make their way through the garden beds.
So I’ve been looking for shorter season crops to feed the ducks and to feed us. Buckwheat is the summer crop of choice for both feed and cover cropping. These will be followed by broad beans which I’ve also planted in early summer to prepare the way for garlic next Autumn. The sweet corn took on one of the larger gardens but on the two next to it were too dry. Those gardens were also the thinnest part of the available land so I’m growing buckwheat as a living mulch to plant peas and barley into before the frosts know down the buckwheat and I’ll have another crack at sweet corn next summer.
“What less can I do?” Let nature kill off the cover crop. Yes, I’ll probably have some buckwheat seeds falling into the soil but they’ll just be a part of the next cover crop over summer and shouldn’t interfere with the sweet corn. I’m reaching the conclusion that rather than grow winter cover crops to protect the soil then, our cash crops will be in over winter and summer will be our soil protection, organic matter creation season. This is probably not a radical idea in these parts but it is a major leap in thinking for me. Live, learn, adapt, improvise and overcome.
The ducks will be in areas where I’m putting in grapes, fruit trees and berry crops. They will rotate across these and through the sprouting winter grains to fertilise both and get some tillering in the cereals.
The winter grown cash crops will be Spelt, Wheat, Barley and garlic. Apart from the garlic these produce goodly amounts of organic matter to be placed on the field garden in which they grew, as per the Fukuoka method.
This is all in a state of flux to some degree as I juggle these things in my mind as I walk across the property.
The two themes I’m trying to blend (?) maybe, are: perennial fruit production and Fukuoka field gardens. The five year rotation I designed last winter needs much adjustment and was just a first draft. The cereals will be for our use too but mainly as stock feed. A sort of localised duck blend. The way to make the duck eggs profitable is to grow our own feed. They will have pastures to graze but do need a grain based supplement.
Working the “What less can I do?” thoughts into this side of things will free up time to plant, prune and harvest from the perennials. With any luck, each month should have a different task depending upon how the seasons roll out.
We’re all a couple months out from the turning of the next season, either Northern or Southern hemisphere, obviously so now is a good time to get the next season planned.
As such I’m adding a new module each month to the ChangeUnderground No-Dig gardening course. January was on mulches. A few creative ideas and a quick look at a trap for young players that I fell for. Next month will be on Community Gardens as a resource. I was up on the mainland visiting, well meeting for the first time, my first grandchild, a bouncing baby boy who’s just short of 5 months. The delay being another side effect of the COVID restrictions. We’ve been lucky here with relatively and absolutely low numbers of both infections and deaths. My heart goes out to all those in more difficult positions. This will eventually pass but wow, what a time to be living through?
So while visiting the young fella, I was able to drop into the community garden in Katoomba with its wonderful avenue of heirloom apple trees.
Those two modules go with the primary teaching material which covers building a basic no-dig garden bed with a few variations, tools, pH explained, the gentle art of hot composting, seed selection and basic garden planning. Enrollment comes with twelve months access to the material and all the extra units added during that time. Each month I hold an ask me anything session to help people through anything they’re stuck on or is playing on their minds. If that’s of interest to you, there’s a link in the show notes that’ll get to a video explaining “Why No-dig Gardening Matters” and the links to enroll in the course.
I’d love to see there. I think we can build an army of no-diggers feeding themselves, their families and their communities without too much trouble. Last year and probably most of this year will be affected by the CoV-Sars2 virus but who knows what else is coming down the track at us? Growing food is a skill that will never go out of date.
And while we and others are growing our food in our no-dig gardens we will be: Decarbonising the air, recarbonising the soil! Win/Win!!!
Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week for the 5th anniversary episode!
The ChangeUnderground Academy No-Dig Gardening Course: