The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

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  • Sat, Apr 11, 2009 - 02:45pm

    #151
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    Cardboard in the Garden

 

Does anyone have any info on whether cardboard may be treated with chemical treatments that may be toxic?  I worked for a couple years in the chemical end of the nonwoven fabric (a sort of paper/cloth hybrid) industry, and in the products I worked with there was a surprising array of chemicals with which they were treated.  A vaguely recall something about having to be careful about burlap, because some of it is treated to prevent rotting.

  • Sat, Apr 11, 2009 - 03:07pm

    #152
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    Re: Cardboard mulch

hi crash

i hope you dug a trench at least 12 inches deep and layered it with compost, humus and ag lime fro your asparagus 

that will have more to do with the vitality of your asparagus than the compost in the raised bed

  • Sat, Apr 11, 2009 - 03:52pm

    #153
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    Re: Cardboard mulch

[quote=Crash]

Hi,

 

I am now regretting not doing the cardboard mulch thing at the bottom of my raised bed. I just dumped a load of compost and manure in on top of the grass which was rampant with creeping butter-cup amongst other things. A bit worried about the viability of my asparagus and root veg now. The butter cup might choke them

 

I’ll see how it goes, but have definetly learnt my lesson.

 

Worst thing is we just had a six week battle with the council trying to get them to pick up our huge back-log of cardboard recycling – including the big boxes we used for moving house with which would have been perfect for my raised bed.

 

humph!! We live and learn. This is our first season gardening and I am preparing myself for a long list of hard lessons!! The first one was: Don’t propogate your peas too early cos you’ll be left with a bunch of dying plants which won’t fruit.

 

hugs

 

Crash

[/quote]

Good luck, Crash. I’m in the same boat – just starting a garden for the first time.

I haven’t dug up the sod and planted yet, and I’ve heard of the cardboard and raised bed idea. I guess I’ll decide in the next few days what to try – either that, or else get rid of the sod, dig out the rocks, amend whatever’s there and see what happens.

-Russ 

  • Sat, Apr 11, 2009 - 04:16pm

    #154
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    Re: Cardboard Sheet Mulch Question…

You can. You can even use a stack of newspaper. Hemenway recommends cardboard mostly because the papers blow all over on a windy day.

  • Sat, Apr 11, 2009 - 04:24pm

    #155
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    Re: Cardboard mulch

[quote=RussB]

Good luck, Crash. I’m in the same boat – just starting a garden for the first time.

I haven’t dug up the sod and planted yet, and I’ve heard of the cardboard and raised bed idea. I guess I’ll decide in the next few days what to try – either that, or else get rid of the sod, dig out the rocks, amend whatever’s there and see what happens.

-Russ 

[/quote]

Russ –

We used brown paper bags from the grocery store.  Cut them along the edge and open them up to get the full area.  We folded up the side of each bag about 3" and placed these along the edges of the box and then layered the rest in each box.  We didn’t even bother to take up the sod – our boxes are 12" deep so I figure any grass that grows up through that deserves to live.

Depending on what we planted in each box we added bonemeal, lime etc to treat the soil for a specific veggie.

Off to the Farmers market for shallots and garlic and whatever.

  • Sat, Apr 11, 2009 - 04:55pm

    #156
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    Compost and Slugs

I’ve found you can pretty much compost anything that was once alive. All the rules of do and don’t are a bit excessive IMO. The only exception is if you want FAST compost… in that case, don’t use any flesh or omnivore/carnivore poop. A hot pile (140F for a week+) kills 99% of all microbial pathogens and nearly all parasites/worm eggs. If you’re really scared about parasites or weed seeds, you can try to get your pile up to 170F for a day. Letting any pile cure for a year or more eliminates pretty much everything (except some parasite eggs). Since we add in some "unsavory" stuff we have a 3 pile system… one active, one cooking (first year cure) and one fully cured (second year cure). Your best friend will be your compost thermometer, and a moisture meter if you want to be all scientific about it 🙂

I think of my compost inputs as 4 colors:

  • Green: grass, weeds, veggie & fruit scraps, egg shells, etc
  • Brown: leaves, wood shavings, paper, cardboard, straw (these work best chopped or shredded)
  • Red: flesh, blood, guts, bones, fish scales, dead critters
  • Black: feces & urine (especially omnivore & carnivore)

If you intend to get a hot pile then you can (and should!) use all 4 colors. If your pile can and will get this hot and you intend to let it cure for a year or more, an even balance of all 4 produces safe compost that contains everything your soil could ever need. If you aren’t sure your pile will get that hot for that long or you can’t let it cure for a year or more, stick to the green & brown and limit feces to herbivore poop (chickens are omnivores, so be careful!).

I haven’t found that turning the pile is necessary as long as you have a good layer of loose browns covering any new additions. This lets plenty of oxygen into the pile and eliminates the need for turning, especially if you have good worms and let the pile cure. In arid climates, turning the pile can dehydrate it and stop the process… you end up using a lot more water just to keep the pile cooking. In humid climates, turning the pile may actually help keep the pile from becoming too wet and going anaerobic (stinky!).  I live in rainy Seattle and have never turned my pile and it has never gone stinky because it is well-drained and we have a plethora of worms. However, if you have the time and water to invest, turning your pile several times a day for a week or more in the dead of summer can help it get really hot and break down faster.

We use several methods to control slugs and snails – the only one not previously mentioned in this thread is diatomaceous earth. You can get it from any gardening center and the slugs hate crawling over it because it cuts into their flesh. It’s great for the garden so you can just till it in after the harvest. We’ve also used flexible tubing (an old garden hose works great) cut lengthwise and filled it will rock salt placed around the plants. We all know what happens to slugs when you pour salt on them and them crawling over it does the same thing!

  • Sat, Apr 11, 2009 - 07:02pm

    #157
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    Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

There are lots of great ideas here. I am going to have to get started on a garden sometime soon. I have never been much of a farmer or gardener so I expect that it may take a while before I actually get proficient at it.

 

I am afraid that my dear wife will be shocked when she sees that I have started a garden. She already thinks I am a little  eccentric.

 

Ken

 

  • Sat, Apr 11, 2009 - 08:33pm

    #158
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    Re: One word for the graduate: cardboard

"don’t get me started on plastic."

Actually…..  plastic definitely has its place too.  But not for mulching as such.  We call this technique Solarisation.  We solarise to kill off large areas of an incredibly aggressive grass that was planted here by the previous dairy farmer owner of our land.  I now believe  that Kikuyu holds the Earth together!

Kikuyu will ‘crawl’ its way out of sheet mulching, even refrigerator sized boxes!  But black plastic out in the hot sun will kill it.  One of the very best uses of fossil fuels I can think of.  As we face the highly possible scenario of no more access to fuel within five years in Australia, we are now planning to kill all the grass on our 1.6 acres with black plastic.  You have to lay it down twice, first to kill the original grass (takes about 6 weeks), then take it up again to allow the seeds dropped under the plastic to germinate and grow, and lay it down again to kill the second wave.  Then we’re planning to plant with legumes and species like Pinto’s Peanut as ground cover that never need mowing.

I should also say we are about to start planting barriers between us and the neighbouring blocks…  but hopefully, once they start realising that we are right about the future, they might join us and turn their land into a buffer against invasion for us as well… 

It’s going to be a lot of work, but the end result of never having to mow again is worth the effort.

Mike 

  • Sat, Apr 11, 2009 - 11:47pm

    #159
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    Want someone to do the dirty work? Contact MIT asap!

http://tech.yahoo.com/news/ap/20090411/ap_on_hi_te/tec_robotic_gardeners_4

I, robot – and gardener: MIT droids tend plants

  • By MELISSA TRUJILLO, Associated Press Writer – Fri Apr 10, 2009 10:46PM EDT

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. –

These gardeners would have green thumbs — if they had thumbs.

A class of undergraduates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has created a set of robots that can water, harvest and pollinate cherry tomato plants.

The small, $3,000 robots, which move through the garden on a base similar to a Roomba vacuum,
are networked to the plants. When the plants indicate they need water,
the robots can sprinkle them from a water pump. When the plants have a
ripe tomato, the machines use their arms to pluck the fruit.

Even
though robots have made few inroads into agriculture, these robots’
creators hope their technology eventually could be used by farmers to
reduce the natural resources and the difficult labor needed to tend
crops.

Last spring, Daniela Rus, a professor
who runs the Distributed Robotics Lab at MIT, began a two-part course.
In the first semester, the students learned the basics of creating and
using robots. By the fall, the students were ready to have robots
tackle a real-world problem. Rus and Nikolaus Correll, a postdoctoral
assistant in Rus’ lab, challenged the students to create a "distributed
robotic garden" by the end of the semester.

The
12 students broke into groups, each tasked with solving a different
problem, such as creating the mechanical arm needed to harvest the
tomatoes or perfecting the network that let the plants and robots share
information.

By the end of the fall term, the "garden" inside Rus’ lab was green and growing.

Now
there are four cherry tomato plants nestled into a plywood base covered
in fake grass. Next to each pot is a gray docking station for the
robots.

Each plant and robot is connected to a computer network.
The plants, through sensors in their soil, can tell the network when
they need water or fertilizer, while the robots use a camera to
inventory the plants’ fruit. The robots also are programmed with a
rudimentary growth model of the cherry tomato plants, which tells them
roughly when a tomato will be ripe enough to be picked.

But the students quickly encountered challenges, both robotic and biologic.

Huan
Liu, a 21-year-old computer science major, said designing the robot to
pick the delicate tomatoes was made more difficult because the fruit
would grow in unreachable places, such as behind stems or above where
the robot’s arm could reach.

"The tomatoes, they come out of nowhere, or just in weird places," Liu said.

Robots have made factory assembly lines
more efficient and are being developed for in-home purposes, such as
serving as health care aides. Yet there hasn’t been much use for
robotics in agriculture, partly because of the challenge of getting
machines to work in unpredictable environments.

There
have been attempts to get robots to replace humans at farm tasks, from
thinning apple trees to picking asparagus, but none of the machines
"have sufficient capacity to compete with human beings," said Tony
Grift, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at the University of Illinois.

Even
when technology has proven to be useful in agriculture, such as on
tractors equipped with satellite imagery of fields, it often is
prohibitively expensive.

Rus and Correll hope to conquer those kinds of challenges and get robots to work in farms.

"Agriculture
contributes a lot of damage to the land, the soil, the water and the
environment," Rus said. "So if we can figure out a way of using robots
and automation to deliver nutrients to plants — pesticides,
fertilizers, water when it’s needed — instead of sort of mass spreading
them, then we hope we would have an impact on the environment."

  • Sun, Apr 12, 2009 - 09:41pm

    #160
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    Re: Cardboard mulch

[quote=RussB]

Good luck, Crash. I’m in the same boat – just starting a garden for the first time.

I haven’t dug up the sod and planted yet, and I’ve heard of the cardboard and raised bed idea. I guess I’ll decide in the next few days what to try – either that, or else get rid of the sod, dig out the rocks, amend whatever’s there and see what happens.

-Russ

[/quote]

 

Thanks Russ,

 

if you want my advice (for what its worth, my successes are very few at the moment!) I would, if you have the space and time, to try both (or as many) methods simultaneously and see which ones bear fruit so to speak – and which ones are more hassle than they’re worth.

 

good luck to you too,

 

Crash 

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