In my Sustainable Grains design I referred to the fact that I was waiting for books to arrive to allow me to continue my research into Small Scale Grain Growing. I am gradually working my way through an abundance of information, but there is plenty to be encouraged about. This includes observations of the continuous production of wheat in the same fields, with interplanted legumes, and measurements of grain yields with legume interplants as part of a formal experiment. Both of these were recorded by Sir Albert Howard in India.
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.
I have been reading books on Traditional Indian Agricultural practises, in order to improve the way that I maintain my soil fertility. Combining this knowledge, with what I already know, and what I’ve read about Chinese methods, should see another boost in fertility, and hopefully plant health. What I am learning, and the way that I am applying that knowledge is still developing, but there are some things that I can share now.
It’s funny how ideas, or inspiration, comes into us. This one relates to my Chicken Scavenging System. I have been using a shredded Miscanthus product for chicken bedding. It is about the same price as a bale of chopped straw, but is grown without chemicals, is a perennial, and most importantly works well. My long term aim is to house a single flock of chickens, and possibly another of ducks, on a deep litter system, with the raw materials coming from on site. Probably a combination of Common Reed harvested from gray/brown water systems and Swale, along with tree and shrub prunings, straw from my grain growing, and bamboo. In the medium term, I have two deep litter systems, along with two conventional poultry houses, and another house due to be used soon.