I was planting out wheat seedlings today, and looked over at two of the unplanted beds. A couple of days ago I had needed to empty a compost bay, so had tipped two wheelbarrow loads onto a series of unplanted beds. Having just written a post on Crop Rotations, Soil Fertility, and Digging, I realised that the two barrow loads of compost on the beds was three times the level needed to maintain soil fertility needed for the Grow Bio-intensive system of Jeavons. (As explained in the earlier pos)t. I started to think about the actual amount of compost that it takes to feed two people. What follows might make you think twice.
I’m using a wet day to take the time to commit to writing my thoughts on soil fertility and soil building.
I’ve not made a secret of my belief that the ‘digging is bad for the soil’ argument is too simplistic. I liken it to the way that you warn a child about fire by repeatedly saying ‘HOT’. Eventually your child will need to know how to make and use fire for themselves. In gardening terms the argument that digging is harmful is fine as a general warning, and for people who are happy not to delve deeper into soil and its’ workings, but once you have a decent knowledge of the subject it is possible to be more specific.
It’s been a little while since my last post, and for most of that time I have been contemplating the detail of my vegetable/grain polyculture, how the crops will be rotated, and how I will incorporate compost, green manures, and intercrops into the system. I waited, in the hope that I could post the finished article, but have to admit, that I still have a bit of thinking to do.
The problem has been trying to get the PERFECT system, whereas I may have to compromise on perfection, and settle for just pretty good. It hasn’t helped that I’ve learnt more during the process, which has added some complexity.
What I hope to do is explain what I’m aiming for, why I’m doing it, and outline where I am now. What follows is for my larger vegetable growing area.
Yesterday evening I read ‘Growing Green’, by Jenny Hall and Iain Tollhurst, which had been recommended to me by a friend, Nick Vowles. There was a lot in the book that I already knew, but, as always, there is always something new to learn. The book is about Stock Free Organic farming, and much of the book is devoted to listing the standards that you need to adhere to to be registered. The book deals with farming at all scales, so quite a bit of it, the bits that dealt with machinery, were of little relevance, but there was enough new information to have made the purchase worthwhile. The main topic that caught my attention was the recommended amount of compost to use., which was one wheelbarrow load per 10 sq meters, for most crops, dropping to 5 sq meters for Nitrogen fixers, and some other crops.