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Old February 6, 2015   #16
Redbaron
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Originally Posted by JJJessee View Post
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?
You will have a better picture this year, I promise.

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Have effective was your paper and chips at weed control?
Weed control isn't an issue. In my system I have defined "weeds" as nothing more than beneficial companion plants. It is a POV thing. But to answer your question, suppression of the sod for long enough to grow a crop was excellent. Good enough to be a non issue completely.

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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?
Exactly. Poor soil. Now the challenge will be to document how fast working with biomimicry in this method will take to restore soil health and all those ecological services provided by healthy soil......like drought resistance, nutrient cycling, pest control etc.... As I stated, my consultants have given me help with this documentation. So this year I hope to do better.
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Old February 6, 2015   #17
Misfit
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Best wishes for 2015... my new small plots were started using techniques that you (and others) have described here on T-Ville. I'm pleased and looking forward to this season.

Please keeps the pics and info flowing!

-Jimmy
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Old February 6, 2015   #18
JJJessee
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I understand your struggles with poor soil to some extent -none of mine is excellent. My row garden (the 60x100) area was just clay sod(weeds) in 2012. It had been plowed once maybe twice for taters 10 years prior. I have never had a soil tested. I had a tractor till it and I used about 20 x 100 for 2 rows of raspberries. They don't require a particularly rich soil. The remaining 40x100, I bought a tiller and sowed and tilled in 3 crops of buckwheat that summer. I could have grown a veggie crop there but I thought would be more beneficial for focus on building soil value.

I understand the value of weeds, they do some invaluable things in a garden in their progression toward compost. I like to help them along in fact ;-) I would fall short of calling them beneficial companion plants. Beneficial plants, I agree 100%, they definitely are. But as companions I'm very picky. But I do tolerate some yarrow, mullien, evening primrose, clover,chickweed, heal-all. But ragweed, grasses, chuffa -not so much. My concern is that a vibrant weed crop seems to compete with a veggie crop and suppresses production to the extent that my time in the field might be better spent than squeezing a fair to poor crop from it. That could also be a POV, partly depending how you value your labor. There are more benefits that time can yield than money. But it's a balance I guess.

But I had an advantage. I did not need to see a profit nor feed myself from it. I had another plot, where I was to end up building my raised beds, I tilled (with dolomite) and planted 3 dz tomatoes. Similar to you, I just mulched them at the base. But I had tilled in the sod. They did fair. We put up about 40qt and a maybe a dz pts of ketchup, fresh use, and a little give-away.
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Old February 10, 2015   #19
drew51
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I don't see weeds as valuable either unless nitrogen fixers. They take 100% of nutrients from your soil, so you may break even composting them back, but you're not gaining anything. You're putting back what was already there.
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Old February 10, 2015   #20
Redbaron
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I don't see weeds as valuable either unless nitrogen fixers. They take 100% of nutrients from your soil, so you may break even composting them back, but you're not gaining anything. You're putting back what was already there.
Plants create soil with exudates. They also have different specialties in root systems, some deep tap roots and some fine sod making roots and many variations in between. Then through mycorrhizal fungi they share what they have excess for what they are lacking.

Now to be clear, this depends how the crop gets its plant nutrients. If you feed your plants with outside nutrients, (whether chemical ferts or manure) then yes, eliminate the weeds. But if you use biological processes for the bulk of the plants' nutrition, then no, as biodiverse as possible is best, because that creates soil.
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Old February 11, 2015   #21
peppero
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RedBaron many of us here have benefitted from your efforts knowledge and experiences. I hope that your season turns out well and all of us can benefit some more.

jon
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Old February 13, 2015   #22
JJJessee
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I just watched Gabe's video, Keys to Building a Healthy Soil. Thanks for recommending it. He has produced some amazing results over the past 20 years. And I'm sure he can speed that process up considerably (and we can too) with what he has learned. I considered no-tilling my last crop 2 cover crops last summer, but I was unclear on how to get the new seed into the soil through the cover residue. Of course, Gabe just hooks up a seed drill to the tractor.I need some instruction on that. Maybe I should trade in my Troy-Built tines for a seed drill. The remaining 40x100 I vacillate on leaving it for annual row crop or going ahead and putting it all in raspberries, currents, or something. I plan to move from the area in 5 years or so, maybe visiting every other weekend), but would like to try maintain at least my perennial plantings from a distance. So I will consider doing the chop n drop on the wheat and peas that are on it now, and leave the section the where I sowed diakon to maturity. I will put in 1-100' row of tomatoes, and maybe another 100' of raspberries. I liked Gabe's cover crop cocktails, so maybe the remaining area will be used for that.

I also have about 2 acres of grass on a hillside(steep) that I'd like to re-seed with honey bee-forage (and a few more fruit trees). Any suggestions?
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Old February 13, 2015   #23
Redbaron
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I just watched Gabe's video, Keys to Building a Healthy Soil. Thanks for recommending it. He has produced some amazing results over the past 20 years. And I'm sure he can speed that process up considerably (and we can too) with what he has learned. I considered no-tilling my last crop 2 cover crops last summer, but I was unclear on how to get the new seed into the soil through the cover residue. Of course, Gabe just hooks up a seed drill to the tractor.I need some instruction on that. Maybe I should trade in my Troy-Built tines for a seed drill. The remaining 40x100 I vacillate on leaving it for annual row crop or going ahead and putting it all in raspberries, currents, or something. I plan to move from the area in 5 years or so, maybe visiting every other weekend), but would like to try maintain at least my perennial plantings from a distance. So I will consider doing the chop n drop on the wheat and peas that are on it now, and leave the section the where I sowed diakon to maturity. I will put in 1-100' row of tomatoes, and maybe another 100' of raspberries. I liked Gabe's cover crop cocktails, so maybe the remaining area will be used for that.

I also have about 2 acres of grass on a hillside(steep) that I'd like to re-seed with honey bee-forage (and a few more fruit trees). Any suggestions?
Here is a link to a no till planter that I intend to buy, but haven't yet. I'll need it once I get up to around 10-20 acres +. dew drop drill Here is the expert on hill sides, fruit trees etc... actually his son as Sepp is now retired: Sepp Holzer's Mountain Permaculture Farm
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Old February 13, 2015   #24
drew51
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Plants create soil with exudates. They also have different specialties in root systems, some deep tap roots and some fine sod making roots and many variations in between. Then through mycorrhizal fungi they share what they have excess for what they are lacking.

Now to be clear, this depends how the crop gets its plant nutrients. If you feed your plants with outside nutrients, (whether chemical ferts or manure) then yes, eliminate the weeds. But if you use biological processes for the bulk of the plants' nutrition, then no, as biodiverse as possible is best, because that creates soil.
I stick by my statement. I don't see any benefit. Weeds rob soil, they do not create it. Weeds can kill trees, by taking all available nutrients. Why you mulch to keep weeds away from tree roots. Common knowledge. It's not just trees, many plant suffer greatly from the presence of weeds. So much so seed packets sometimes warn about weeds.

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Old February 13, 2015   #25
Redbaron
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I stick by my statement. I don't see any benefit. Weeds rob soil, they do not create it. Weeds can kill trees, by taking all available nutrients. Why you mulch to keep weeds away from tree roots. Common knowledge. It's not just trees, many plant suffer greatly from the presence of weeds. So much so seed packets sometimes warn about weeds.
No problem. I fully understand this project is only an experimental trial using the most advanced cutting edge breakthroughs in biological sciences (but not proven conclusively in a working vegetable agricultural system). While your view has 10,000 years of experience and tradition worldwide (and a fair bit of science itself).

It would be arrogance for me to argue with you about this. You are more likely to be right. You have the majority view after all. Mine is the unproven minority view. My experiments have been unexpectedly successful these last two years. I actually thought it would be harder and take longer, but who knows? The project could fall apart this year with a total crop failure.

But no one will know till they make the attempt. One thing is certain, the current conventional model for agriculture is unsustainable and hugely destructive to the environment. Success has been made in making regenerative models of grain production and animal husbandry large scale commercial, whereas commercial vegetable production hasn't currently a regenerative model scaleable to large size. Gardeners can do it, but it falls apart at commercial scale. I am attempting to create that new scaleable model.
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Old February 13, 2015   #26
drew51
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What some people fail to grasp is many cash crops are domesticated plants that would not survive on their own. Farming is not natural in anyway. Nothing like it occurs in nature.
if it were not for synthetic insecticides we would have millions starving. I agree we have to change this, but denying it's true doesn't make it go away. I see little difference between organic or synthetic. For example I will not use neem oil because it decreases predatory mite populations by decreasing egg production and these mites do more to remove other mites for me than any artificial product. I use science to garden, not organics.
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Old February 13, 2015   #27
Redbaron
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I use science to garden, not organics.
Whose science? Biology? Life sciences?

Organic is science based. Different scientific foundation, but science none the less. In fact the father of organic agriculture was Sir Albert Howard, a formally trained, published and working agricultural scientist and lecturer.[1][2] (Alma mater University of Cambridge)

This project is also science based. (see the multiple sources I have posted in the first two years) You are welcome to join the project if you wish, or you are free to abstain if you wish. As you please.

All I ask is that this thread be used for the project's purposes. Please don't derail it with debate over irrelevant fallacies of logic.

The definition of organic for the purposes of this project is:
Quote:
“Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.
I am not about to subject this trial to debate over dogma. It will either accomplish its goals as stated in the first post each year, or it won't, and the evidence of either will be posted here.

Thank you.
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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."
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Old February 13, 2015   #28
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Scott have you considered planting buffalo grass?
After all it is the original grass of the great plains and is one heck of a turf builder.
It takes little from the soil and helps tremendously.
I would really like to see you try this stuff on a small scale.
It only needs about 2 inches of water every 2 weeks and no fertilizer.
I think it would be right down your alley.
I have a small patch growing in decomposed granite of all places.
And I don't water it so it will go dormant until the next rain.
Due to this it will keep out unwanted weeds and other grasses.
It is a natural for Oklahoma and Texas literally.
I'm here to help not hinder.

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Old February 14, 2015   #29
Redbaron
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Scott have you considered planting buffalo grass?
After all it is the original grass of the great plains and is one heck of a turf builder.
It takes little from the soil and helps tremendously.
I would really like to see you try this stuff on a small scale.
It only needs about 2 inches of water every 2 weeks and no fertilizer.
I think it would be right down your alley.
I have a small patch growing in decomposed granite of all places.
And I don't water it so it will go dormant until the next rain.
Due to this it will keep out unwanted weeds and other grasses.
It is a natural for Oklahoma and Texas literally.
I'm here to help not hinder.

Worth
I have strongly considered it yes. Right now I am mostly using whatever was there to start with, but as time wears on there is the potential possibility of introducing buffalo grass and other natives as I rotate the beds each year. I am already seeing some natives just popping up on their own. I haven't seen any buffalo grass yet though. Steve Upson advised me to do a trial on keeping a few rows as permanent beds and a few rotated and plant all in the same tomatoes, so I can test which is better. Last year the beds I rotated did better. The permanent ones not so much. But I didn't set it up in a way to collect data. He helped me to set that up this year. If my observations last year are backed up by data this year, I will drop the permanent bed idea all together. That means every year I have the opportunity to plant a native mix as a cover crop/living mulch. In 2 to 3 years that could theoretically transform a field to mostly natives if it works. While still pulling a crop off it every year. That most certainly fits the goals of this project for sure! But I am not sure it will work?
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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
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Old February 14, 2015   #30
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Scott, I'm wondering what you're doing with the tomato plant biomass at the end of season?

I know I end up with a huge compost pile every year, to consume the nutrients locked up in those big plants and turn them back into soil. Great producers of biomass, for sure, but problematic to return it directly to the soil without a good hot composting to get rid of any diseased plant residues.

If the plants themselves or an equivalent amount of compost weren't returned to the original bed, it would explain a lower return the second year, IMO, as the sheer mass of the tomato plants represents a large withdrawal of nutrients.... Just a thought.

Congratulations on the beginning of year three! And on the new partners/sponsors or what I should call em - interested parties contributing one or another kind of help.
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