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Old February 5, 2015   #1
Redbaron
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Default The Red Baron Project year three

I am starting year three today! YEAH!

For those following the project, the first year can be found here: The Red Baron Project year one
The second year can be found here: The Red Baron Project year two

For my project I am using these 10 principles:

Principle 1: No till and/or minimal till with mulches used for weed control
Principle 2: Minimal external inputs
Principle 3: Living mulches between rows to maintain biodiversity
Principle 4: Companion planting
Principle 6: The ability to integrate carefully controlled modern animal husbandry (optional)
Principle 5: Capability to be mechanized for large scale or low labor for smaller scale
Principle 7: As organic as possible, while maintaining flexibility to allow non-organic growers to use the methods
Principle 8: Portable and flexible enough to be used on a wide variety of crops in many areas of the world
Principle 9: Sustainable ie. beneficial to the ecology and wildlife
Principle 10: Profitable

I am still asking humbly that anyone else interested in helping to try it out themselves, even in a small test plot, and welcome them to post their results good and bad here.

Quote:
"When farmers view soil health not as an abstract virtue, but as a real asset, it revolutionizes the way they farm and radically reduces their dependence on inputs to produce food and fiber." -USDA
New and exciting things this year:
I managed to work a deal for a third field. This will give me an extra 1/2 acre and could potentially be expandable to up to 40 acres in the undetermined future. That's the good news. The bad news is that it is an old abandoned farm and not only is the soil in sad shape, it is overgrown with scrub juniper. So this may take a whole lot of work to say the least. I got my foot in the door though. Now it will be up to me to make it work. Good test for the system though. If it can be made to work in old abandoned farm scrubland, it should work almost anywhere.

Also I managed to get approved as a cooperator with the Nobel Foundation Agriculture Consultation Program. My consultation manager is Steve Upson. He has been advising me how to run this project like a case study, to obtain more usable scientific data. Thanks for all your help so far Steve.

I also managed to get approved as a cooperator with Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies! This really is the cutting edge in biotech. I am so excited about these trials I will run. It will be peppers, tomatoes and sweet corn. Suppose to add drought resistance and yield increases for dryland farmers. I will be posting pictures here of the test plots. Let you all be the judge.

Last but not least I planted my spring cover crops today. I went with rye and cool season peas. Of course inoculated with the good stuff like mycorrhizal fungi and rhizobia.

Looks like this just might end up being a very exciting year!
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Last edited by Redbaron; February 5, 2015 at 08:45 PM.
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Old February 6, 2015   #2
heirloomtomaguy
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Congrats on the cooperator status! Cant wait to see what your dry farming data holds for folks like us in drought ridden California.
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Old February 6, 2015   #3
salix
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Best of luck in year 3, Scott. Looking forward to your updates and pictures.
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Old February 6, 2015   #4
Rairdog
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I am going to try this approach this year. I experimented last year by putting a couple tomatoes that where left over in the grassy common area of my neighborhood.



It is river bottom soil and basically a big wicking bed. I very rarely watered and pretty much neglected them. The soil is always moist. The tomato's grew to the top of the stakes 4 to 5 feet and back to the ground. I dug out a 3 gal size hole, turned the sod over and added some mulch but I don't think it was needed. I also put grass clippings around the base to keep weeds and grass down. These 2 plants showed very little Septoria compared to my normal garden. They did finally succumb but it was late in the season and acceptable.

The plan this year is to mow with my 44 in deck in a checkerboard pattern. The tomato area will be roughly 2x2. This will allow an easy pass with the mower and minimal trimming.

This is rich river bottom soil. It is black 3 plus feet down until you hit sand or limestone. I assume there are less Septoria hosting plants and much better air circulation. The neighborhood association has pretty much dissolved and no one cares about this area. The teens like to take their 4 wheel drive vehicles out there when its wet and leave big ruts which make it a pain to mow. I figure they don't want a tomato cage wrapped around their axle. They drove around them last year.

I could plant 2 to 3 acres of crops out there. I have also debated strawberries but the ph is fairly high. Another idea was rows of tomato's with a Florida weave. The soil is rich and toms can get 10 ft plus so it would take a lot of support. Let me know f you have any other ideas.
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Old February 6, 2015   #5
BigVanVader
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This is essentially the system I use and will be using to turn yard into farmland at our new house this year. I look forward to the data obtained and its great that you have people to help you get more of that data. I always think to myself that its obvious a system that mimics nature is going to be better than any that doesn't, but without data to show it the masses will never get on board. Good Luck!
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Old February 6, 2015   #6
JJJessee
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I'm late to the party, but I think I've read all your posts from previous years on the project.
Still, I have some questions and seeking some clarification.

In year year one, you applied various substrates to essentially "prime" the soil for conversion to crop production. Over this you rolled hay as sort of sheet compost and mulch. The primary objective being to increase biological life using inputs. Is this a fair assessment?
How large of an area was actually focused on for year one?
Were there any other inputs?
Were any other crops besides broccoli attempted?
Did the storm decimate the entire crop or did it survive to yield a harvest?

In you evaluation of the first year in year two, you noted that the the virgin sod seemed to be yielding better results than the area that had been enhanced in year one. That is surprising.

What crop was that?
Was the virgin sod directly adjacent to the year one enhanced area?
Was there any indication the re-sodded area had been enhanced?
How much decomposition did the cardboard, newspaper and burlap show after one year?

In year two, you began using municipal compost. How many yards did your project use?
Is it correct that the compost was made with sludge and ramial chip wood (that's typical of our area)?
Your project expanded to a new acre of very difficult soil and the primary crop was tomatoes.
How much of the acre was improved?
Where any other crops, cover crops, employed besides tomatoes?
How many varieties of tomatoes and how many plants were planted.
How would you classify production, excellent, good, fair, or poor?

In year three, are you returning to the initial sod with any new inputs or treatments?
Are you doing any specific type of documentation of exactly what you are doing on a weekly basis?
Do you have any time parameters (x) that you are expecting to see specific results (y)?

I'm very interested in the permaculturing techniques. I started back to gardening in 2012 with a lot less of the concepts in mind you seem to already have. But generally, I've gardened on the organic side of the spectrum. I have about 1100 sf of raised beds built, and grew crop in 2014. Plus about another 200 sf in progress hopefully to plant this spring. I have another area about 60x100 that is being used for berries and tilled with cover crops and considerably fewer other inputs than the raised beds. I have grown potatoes, peppers and tomatoes in this area. All this ground has been in sod for many years. It's all clay, but pretty decent clay considering. I realize that I have a tilling addiction, and I may convert this area totally to berry production eventually. We'll see ;-) I use a camera prodigiously in the garden, it helps immensely when reviewing -a visually notebook I guess. I wish I had been more rigorous on input details. I'm starting to document from memory now and have mostly finished cataloging and organizing my seed database before it got T-totally out of hand.

Good luck for 2015!
It'll soon be tater time.
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Old February 6, 2015   #7
Rairdog
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It seems odd to me to see people spending money on containers, mending soil with numerous bags of mulch, peat and such when there is green vegetation in the background. Granted...some are in arid rocky soil areas and need to find alternatives. New housing additions are notorious for stripping off all the topsoil then leaving limestone gravel everywhere. It's sometimes hard to even grow grass in these situations.
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Old February 6, 2015   #8
JJJessee
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Exactly, Rairdog. Capturing waste streams for conversion to soil ammendments however is very time and back-consuming. Therefore I use some bagged goodies, like peat, coir, EWC, and even some specific types of mulch, not to mention minerals, seaweed, oyster shell. But I'd like to be bag-independent someday. I'm always on the prowl for compost/mulch stocks. When I see a pile of stray wood-chips along the road, and I have my shovel....
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Old February 6, 2015   #9
Redbaron
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
I'm late to the party, but I think I've read all your posts from previous years on the project.
Still, I have some questions and seeking some clarification.
Very happy to answer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
In year year one, you applied various substrates to essentially "prime" the soil for conversion to crop production. Over this you rolled hay as sort of sheet compost and mulch. The primary objective being to increase biological life using inputs. Is this a fair assessment?
Yes. I mowed twice. Once at 2-3 inches and again 5 days later at ground level basically as low as my mower would go. The second mowing was only in the rows I would be covering with paper/cardboard/burlap and mulch. Next after mowing I sprinkled coffee grounds to keep the worms fed until the mulch started decomposing. Lastly I laid the paper and mulch, sprinkling the paper to keep it wet and not blowing away in the wind before the mulch got on it. Coffee grounds are free from StarBucks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
How large of an area was actually focused on for year one?
Plot 1 was 1/10th acre About 1/3rd of that was used for crops and 2/3rd between rows left as grass.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
Were there any other inputs?
I make a "special soil" that is used only in the transplant holes. Basically a mixture of compost and soil that has a small amount of organic dry fertiliser like TomatoTone added. In some cases after I ran out of compost, I made do with just soil and some coffee grounds. When I water in the seedlings they get inoculated with Mycorrhizal fungi and the "water" is actually compost tea.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
Were any other crops besides broccoli attempted?
Brassicas, peppers, tomatoes. The brassicas are mostly broccoli, but I did have a few others like cabbage Kale collards. Also between each plant is herbs as companion plants. I grew basil, marigolds, tarragon, rosemary, bush beans, stevia, oregano, celantro etc.. between plants in the rows (mostly basils). I also planted sunflowers at the ends of rows.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
Did the storm decimate the entire crop or did it survive to yield a harvest?
Crop pulled through without problems.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
In you evaluation of the first year in year two, you noted that the the virgin sod seemed to be yielding better results than the area that had been enhanced in year one. That is surprising.
Surprised me too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
What crop was that?
Tomatoes peppers broccoli

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
Was the virgin sod directly adjacent to the year one enhanced area?
Yes

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
Was there any indication the re-sodded area had been enhanced?
Sod came back thicker than it was before I started.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
How much decomposition did the cardboard, newspaper and burlap show after one year?
Mostly gone. Only a few traces left of the mulch and only in areas it was extra thick.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
In year two, you began using municipal compost. How many yards did your project use?
I only used about 6 garbage bags of actual compost, just for the "special soil" in each transplant hole. The rest was the free mulch. I used one front loader scoop of that and experimented using it instead of hay mulch on one row each both plots. It seemed to do a little better than the round bales of hay, but is a whole lot more work than just unrolling hay.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
Is it correct that the compost was made with sludge and ramial chip wood (that's typical of our area)?
Possibly. I didn't smell any sludge, but it is wood chips and leaves and there is a water treatment facility nearby so it might have some wastewater from that facility.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
Your project expanded to a new acre of very difficult soil and the primary crop was tomatoes.
How much of the acre was improved?
Too early to tell the improvement. There instead of 2/3rd sod and 1/3 mulch, I spaced it differently so it was about 50/50 over most the acre.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
Where any other crops, cover crops, employed besides tomatoes?
In plot 1 yes...see above. In plot two I didn't interplant basil and such, I regret that. I did grow a small area of peppers and sweet corn though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
How many varieties of tomatoes and how many plants were planted.
How would you classify production, excellent, good, fair, or poor?
Plot 2 about 500 tomatoes 2 dozen peppers and a very small test plot of sweet corn. Pepper yields were poor, sweet corn good, heirloom tomatoes fair-poor, Rutgers determinate tomatoes good. I should note that although yields were disappointing, it still was profitable because inputs were so low. I suspect yields will improve as the soil gets healed. Remember, this was on land so poor that the farmer had to stop even growing hay. REALLY bad soil. And besides the mulch, a few coffee grounds, and the little bit of "special soil" in the transplant holes, I didn't add inputs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
In year three, are you returning to the initial sod with any new inputs or treatments?
I did this year for the first time broadcast winter rye to get a cover crop. and in plot one I will again test the difference between moving the rows to fresh sod, or going over the same spot again. This time though instead of just going over the same row again, I planted winter rye and peas as a cover crop on those 6 rows. This is on the theory that the surprising results last year were due to not rotating crops. Hopefully a cool season cover crop will correct that issue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
Are you doing any specific type of documentation of exactly what you are doing on a weekly basis?
I will be this year on the advise of the consultant.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
Do you have any time parameters (x) that you are expecting to see specific results (y)?
Not really. I am simply observing at this time without specific expectations. We will see. I don't want to bias the results. But as a overall general project goal, eventually I want the method expandable to full size commercial scale and a business model I can take to the bank and get a mortgage to buy a farm. I am starting this a bit old so I got to get the move on!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
I'm very interested in the permaculturing techniques. I started back to gardening in 2012 with a lot less of the concepts in mind you seem to already have. But generally, I've gardened on the organic side of the spectrum. I have about 1100 sf of raised beds built, and grew crop in 2014. Plus about another 200 sf in progress hopefully to plant this spring. I have another area about 60x100 that is being used for berries and tilled with cover crops and considerably fewer other inputs than the raised beds. I have grown potatoes, peppers and tomatoes in this area. All this ground has been in sod for many years. It's all clay, but pretty decent clay considering. I realize that I have a tilling addiction, and I may convert this area totally to berry production eventually. We'll see ;-) I use a camera prodigiously in the garden, it helps immensely when reviewing -a visually notebook I guess. I wish I had been more rigorous on input details. I'm starting to document from memory now and have mostly finished cataloging and organizing my seed database before it got T-totally out of hand.

Good luck for 2015!
It'll soon be tater time.
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Scott

AKA The Redbaron

"Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless labour; & of looking at plants & animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system."
Bill Mollison
co-founder of permaculture

Last edited by Redbaron; February 6, 2015 at 12:25 PM.
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Old February 6, 2015   #10
Redbaron
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rairdog View Post
I am going to try this approach this year. I experimented last year by putting a couple tomatoes that where left over in the grassy common area of my neighborhood.
Welcome to the project! I know Noblesville well! I used to live there. That's REALLY good soil in that area! Tomatoes explode out of the ground! My grandmother used to claim there is no better tasting tomato in the world than a central Indiana tomato. Of course she may have been slightly biased.

ETA Since I know the area well I can say with experience that tomatoes is definitely your go to crop. Rows with a florida weave would work if you can source the posts. I would try and find some cheap or free that were left around when the local farmers largely took out their fencing. Alternately you could go with determinates and let them sprawl.
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Scott

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"Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless labour; & of looking at plants & animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system."
Bill Mollison
co-founder of permaculture

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Old February 6, 2015   #11
Redbaron
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Quote:
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Best of luck in year 3, Scott. Looking forward to your updates and pictures.
Thanks
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AKA The Redbaron

"Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless labour; & of looking at plants & animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system."
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Old February 6, 2015   #12
JJJessee
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Thanks, Scott.
I'm broke-down with a pulled muscle today, so no shoveling, I'm figidity and full of questions apparently.

Wow, 500 tomatoes, is no small undertaking. especially on unimproved land.
Did you use any trellising?
Did you spread the loader scoop(a bout a yard I'm guessing or 270 gallons in the generous side) of mulch evenly or or just put a skirt on each tomatoes thickly?
500 tomatoes on a 2' x 4' grid pretty much uses a 1/10 acre.
What's the plans for this tenth this year?

Have you considered using buckwheat or some other cover this summer, and maybe eventually go to alfalfa, on the unused 9/10 or just focus on the 1/10?


Our municipal compost uses sludge(N) to burn chips(C) basically, but by the time they sell it, it has a pretty sweet smell. They say they test for E.coli, salmonella, and something else I think before selling it.
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Old February 6, 2015   #13
Redbaron
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
Wow, 500 tomatoes, is no small undertaking. especially on unimproved land.
Did you use any trellising?
No. I do have some cages built for this year.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
Did you spread the loader scoop(a bout a yard I'm guessing or 270 gallons in the generous side) of mulch evenly or or just put a skirt on each tomatoes thickly?
2 feet X 300 feet long row, paper underneath.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
500 tomatoes on a 2' x 4' grid pretty much uses a 1/10 acre.
What's the plans for this tenth this year?
I am aware the density is low. The between the row grassed areas though I eventually want to use as forage for chicken tractors.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
Have you considered using buckwheat or some other cover this summer, and maybe eventually go to alfalfa, on the unused 9/10 or just focus on the 1/10?
I have considered adding some clover, but there already is a diverse mixture of plants growing in the sod. So for now working with what's already there.
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"Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless labour; & of looking at plants & animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system."
Bill Mollison
co-founder of permaculture
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Old February 6, 2015   #14
Dutch
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Thank you Scott, The more that I have learned in life and in this case of growing vegetables, the more I have discovered there is to learn and try to understand the “why’s’” and “how’s”. Thank you for your continuing research and for taking the time to share what you have learned. I am looking forward to reading more in this thread as your growing season progresses.
Thank again.
Dutch
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Old February 6, 2015   #15
JJJessee
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I'm still not sure I have a good picture.

8 sf x 500 tomatoes = 4000 sf ~ 1/10 of an acre
As an example, I would have laid out as 10 -100' rows with 50 tomatoes per row, the row 4' centers

So you had 2'x 300' rows, covered in mulch, with tomatoes down the center?

Or better, what was your spacing between tomato plants and between rows?

Have effective was your paper and chips at weed control?

Ultimately, if I understand organic reasoning, low yield will almost always trace back to poor soil health if the crop is matched to the climate and season of course.
But poor yield can manifest in a variety of ways, disease, pest, lack of water, lack of nutrients, or all the above. How did it manifest for this crop?
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