Eco Friendly Gardening Techniques

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Syed Adnan
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Re: Eco Friendly Gardening Techniques

Post by Syed Adnan » November 13th, 2013, 4:47 pm

M Farooq wrote:
Syed Adnan wrote:I normally crush the charcoal and add a handful of it in the top soil,moreover in fish aquarium shop porous charcoal for carbon filters are available serving the same purpose, i add cornmeal (serve as food for beneficial fungus) in the soil also.
i dont think BIOCHAR has any fertilization property.

BIOCHAR + VINEGAR + CORNMEAL + COMPOST + MANURE + SAND = Pure Organic Gardening
This treatment is costly and i give it to bulbs and exotics only.

Peatmoss some how failed me and i believe it should not be used if somebody has fungus problem in soil.
This year i have started experimenting Solarization technique and addition of Trichorderma fungus into potting soil.

Following are some of the examples of the problem i faced in the past.
That is an interesting mixture. What is the origin of this mixture? I mean did you read about it somewhere? I am guessing biochar must be alkaline and rich in potassium, because what we are left with after burning wood and plant material is pot-ash ( potassium carbonate i.e. the early origin of the name potassium). Does this explain why you add vinegar?

As to the sada bahar, its poor health is certainly due to poor drainage of the potting medium. Sada bahar does not tolerate over-watering and/ poor drainage. Would you like to share what is solarization technique for us?

Regards.
Farooq,

Yes the reason to use Vaniger is to reduce PH. i started using CHARCOAL for the problems related to fungus as CHARCOAL helps increase beneficial organisms, the recipe of the mixture is self made based on experience as i have to use old potting soil (soil being too expernsive here) so i treat it with cornmeal (makai ka atta ) and CHARCOAL and vaniger....

regarding solarization i have photos in anothre hard drive, will get it and share the details .... :)

Farhan Ahmed
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Re: Eco Friendly Gardening Techniques

Post by Farhan Ahmed » November 13th, 2013, 8:12 pm

will definitely work on your composition.

mikhurram
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Re: Eco Friendly Gardening Techniques

Post by mikhurram » November 14th, 2013, 9:12 am

Terra preta soil is characterized by the presence of low-temperature charcoal in high concentrations; of high quantities of broken pieces of pottery; of organic matter such as plant residues, animal feces, fish and animal bones and other material; and rich in vital minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, zinc, and manganese found rarely in most of the tropical soils. It’s most notable ingredient is charcoal – vast sources of it, the source of terra preta’s colour.
Burnt residues of wood ash would certainly be high in potassium and contain moderate levels of phosphorus. If mixed with leaf mold would not have much of impact as leaf is low is nutrients. In order to get minerals like Calcium, Zinc and Manganese we would need to add some trace elements? Any suggestions please how to add these minerals naturally in the mixture without resorting to the use of trace elements?

M Farooq
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Re: Eco Friendly Gardening Techniques

Post by M Farooq » November 14th, 2013, 10:04 am

mikhurram wrote:
Terra preta soil is characterized by the presence of low-temperature charcoal in high concentrations; of high quantities of broken pieces of pottery; of organic matter such as plant residues, animal feces, fish and animal bones and other material; and rich in vital minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, zinc, and manganese found rarely in most of the tropical soils. It’s most notable ingredient is charcoal – vast sources of it, the source of terra preta’s colour.
Burnt residues of wood ash would certainly be high in potassium and contain moderate levels of phosphorus. If mixed with leaf mold would not have much of impact as leaf is low is nutrients. In order to get minerals like Calcium, Zinc and Manganese we would need to add some trace elements? Any suggestions please how to add these minerals naturally in the mixture without resorting to the use of trace elements?
I think calcium is quite abundant in soil, all we need is the right pH. Similarly wood ash will certainly have these micronutrients like zinc and manganese. Again we need the right pH to bring them into soluble form. Wood ash is very alkaline like a laundry soap (you must have noticed that our villagers often use wood ash for cleaning cooking pots). This table might be helpful, taken from here. Note that ash pH is 12 similar to laundry detergent.
Presentation1.jpg

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Re: Eco Friendly Gardening Techniques

Post by Syed Adnan » November 15th, 2013, 10:46 am

Additionally wood ash can be used as a pesticide, it repels insects and harmful pests, but also it has lye which increases PH, so PH control is must. Iam adding potting soil which has micronutrients, moreover the commercially available Manure has some micronutrients as well.

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Re: Eco Friendly Gardening Techniques

Post by mikhurram » November 15th, 2013, 3:13 pm

I think calcium is quite abundant in soil, all we need is the right pH. Similarly wood ash will certainly have these micronutrients like zinc and manganese. Again we need the right pH to bring them into soluble form. Wood ash is very alkaline like a laundry soap (you must have noticed that our villagers often use wood ash for cleaning cooking pots). This table might be helpful, taken from here. Note that ash pH is 12 similar to laundry detergent.
Presentation1.jpg
Thank you Farooq sahib for the information.


Below are some details about an environmentally friendly approach known as "NO DIG GARDENING" which increases soil fertility and has proven to be very successful in particular Brazil where it's has been implemented in more than 50% of the irrigated land.


1. NO DIG GARDENING

The presence of air in top 15-30 cm of soil is why most soil organisms are concentrated there. This layer is known as the topsoil and if we dig a hole its clearly more visible as its much darker than the subsoil layer below, its colour comes from humus-rich organic matter that has been broken down by worms, fungi and other micro-organisms into a soft black material.

Subsoil beneath the topsoil contains a diminishing proportion of micro-organism life the deeper we dig. It’s basically just a collection of compacted and inert clay, sand and silt and is a very poor growing medium in comparison to the good stuff above. This is precisely the reason why the subsoil must never be mixed with the topsoil.

Digging or tilling is bad for the soil. When the top soil is removed it contributes to soil erosion as important nutrients are leached out apart from destroying the beneficial micro-organisms mentioned above. In addition more watering is also required as the soil is now more disturbed and has less ability to conserve water.

Most people think that ploughing is essential for soil. Yet in some places some people do not plough at all. After harvesting a crop farmer leave what’s left of last year’s crop to rot in the soil. The next year’s crop is planted directly on this decomposed mat. It’s called ‘no dig or no till’ approach.

More 50% of Brazil’s soil is not ploughed and practices the ‘no till’ approach which in 1990, was merely 2.2%. This partly has been one of the reasons which have transformed Brazil into a breadbasket within a decade. Details about the Brazilian miracle has been discussed in a post titled “Brazilian Agriculture:Miracle of Cerrado” at the url mentioned below.
viewtopic.php?f=30&t=2541

‘No till’ has also become popular in water scarce places like Australia and some parts of USA. In certain parts of India farmers save so much time by using no till that they are able to squeeze in an extra crop.

This approach can ideally also be used in our gardens in plain areas around end of April till August. Around end of April when the flowering of spring annuals is over and the choice selection of summer annuals is very limited. Additionally even if we choose to go ahead with plantation of summer annuals like Zinnia for instance the display time span of these annuals lasts for a month or maximum 2 months which is cut short by monsoon onset in July. Thus we may as well allow the soil replenish its nutrients. The bed area can be left in this condition for 4 months (May, June, July & August).

Below are steps to steps outlining the ‘No Dig’ approach.

First we need to remove large obtrusive weeds from a leveled area. Removing the small weeds is not essential as they eventually will be suffocated by the much layer which will added later on.

Next adding opened out pieces of cardboard or layers of newspapers on the leveled area and then watering it.. If using newspaper put down layers at least of 6 pages of papers. Wet the paper with as hose after spreading it and ensuring that the layers of newspapers are interlaced so no soil is showing. This layer works as a natural weed matting to kill any grass or weeds Cardboard and newspapers are broken down easily by earthworms and micro-organism activity in the soil. Just avoid using glossy magazines and waxed boxes-they don’t rot easy and contain harmful chemicals. These wet layers are eaten up by earthworms, bacteria and fungi within a few months-long enough for any grass or weed to be killed.

Then add at least 10 cm layer of mulch (dried leaves, composted leaf mold, grass cuttings, straw, paper, wood scraps, untreated sawdust etc) on top of the damp layers of newspapers or cardboard. Any organic material if fine but its important to include grass clippings or animal manure like cow manure as these are high in nitrogen and start the composting and breakdown of all these materials into soil. However a note of caution it’s difficult to get hold of weed free manure here in Pakistan and may better to avoid cow manure as it inevitably would lead to weeds later.

As each layer of mulch is placed it should be wet (wet no soggy) thoroughly with a hose.

The mulching material spread over should not touch the plant stems which would suffer adversely from the heat generated by new mulch, but not, under any circumstances, dug in to the soil.

Hopefully in another 2-3 months this newly constructed layer will turn into rich compost.

Note: Also included are some articles on No-Dig from some magazines which give another perspective.

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Hamad Ahmed Kisana
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Re: Eco Friendly Gardening Techniques

Post by Hamad Ahmed Kisana » November 15th, 2013, 6:19 pm

wonderful article sir.i am using home made compost and it is very rewarding.plants are healthy and water is absorbed well in compost.

mikhurram
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Re: Eco Friendly Gardening Techniques

Post by mikhurram » November 15th, 2013, 6:36 pm

Thank you Hammad. I really hope you find it useful. Zahrah Nasir had once also written about No-Dig Gardening as well but the past articles more than 6 years old are now inaccessible on Dawn's website. Great to know that you are using your own compost. You have rightly pointed out that water is absorbed well owning to the fibrous nature of compost in particular leafmold apart from improving aeration as well. Please share details of materials being used in your compost? Would you like to add some details about your compost preparation within this post?

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Re: Eco Friendly Gardening Techniques

Post by mikhurram » November 18th, 2013, 4:57 pm

Another perspective on "No Dig" Gardening by Zahrah Nasir written in 2006. Dawn's website has been revamped recently with the drawback that the previous article archive from 1999-2007 is no longer accesible. Fortunately i had a copy of this article which is not available online. With this the articles on no dig come to a conclusion. Moderators aware of other articles pertaining to environment friendly practices posted elsewhere on other threads in this website can choose to shift them here in this subsection which would make it easier for others to view articles like e.g. mulching, crop rotation and growing legumes etc posted by members. Members aware of other eco friendly gardening practices which haven't been discussed can choose to post them here.

No Dig Gardening
November 30, 2006
by Zahrah Nasir
Published in Dawn Newspaper

Imagine being the proud owner of a wonderfully productive, bursting to the brim with flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables garden which doesn’t even have to be dug. Absolute bliss!

Let me explain the simple, basic mechanics of turning your precious garden into a no dig zone. Leave your large garden spades and forks to rust in their storage cupboard and polish up, or purchase if need be, a hoe and a rake instead. A hand trowel, the use of which is not classified as actual digging, will also come in handy at times but, whatever else you do, if you employ a ‘mali’ then do not let him use the trowel for anything other than transplanting. Absolutely one of the perpetual dig, dig, dig which 'malis' are apparently, most destructively, addicted too.

The backbone of a no dig garden is mulch; be it a mulch of homemade organic compost, sweet earth mixed with manure, ‘boosa’, the weeds which are pulled out by hand before reaching the flowering stage, shredded newspaper and cardboard, even grass clippings will do.

First of all the garden must be weeded, carefully, by hand although, if you have an up and coming crop of tough perennials you may, just this once, have to retrieve your spade and dig them out otherwise, if only the tops are removed then their deep roots will fight to send up new shoots in an effort at frustrating your weed free garden plans…something they usually succeed in doing if even a thread like piece of root is left lurking in the soil.

Next, and this is the fun bit, you need to spread whichever mulching material you have on hand, laying it between one and four inches deep depending on the type of plants you are growing, don’t go smothering the pansies for example. Over almost every single square inch of exposed soil and the ‘almost’ is important here as the much, particularly if it is fresh, green material, shouldn’t come in to direct contact with your existing hands as it could damage them as it heats up before rotting down.

This mulching material is not dug into the ground but is left as protective, water retentive, weed suppressing, food rich carpet which is slowly but surely pulled down into the soil by creatures such as the ever industrious earthworms, busy beetles, organised ants, greedy woodlice, wriggling centipedes and the legions of other species of creepy crawlies who, I fallowed to go about their constructive tasks uninhibited by chemical or human intervention, form legions of the best soil management teams that nature has designed.

This amazing collection of insects feeds both on and in the mulching material, chewing, chomping, digesting and recycling the stuff until it is broken down in the best soil and plant food imaginable. Rainfall or judicious watering, serve to help the entire process along and the mulch will quickly disappear into the soil, enriching it with valuable minerals and nutrients as it goes. Great isn’t it?

Much, whichever form you use, also acts as a weed suppressant as seeds find it difficult to struggle through the layer in search of the light and air required for them to grow. It protects the valuable earth from the scorching rays of the sun, thus reducing the amount of watering necessary to keep the plants happy and also prevents another enemy, the wind from blowing particles of soil halfway around the world and more.

No. Mulch does not smell bad at all and neither does it attract rodents and other nasties as long as any homemade compost is properly rotted down before being applied. I do admit that those of you who insist that your garden appear perfectly manicured, perdicured and coiffed at all times, may find much a little unsavoury for the first few days after it has been applied and it doesn’t bend in and ‘settle down’ before to long and the benefits, to all concerned, are enormous.

Before I forget, you should keep the mulched topped up at all times for it be fully effective in the long term, so every time you spot a gap or notice that the layer has shrunk to almost nothing then spread on some more. There should never be even the tiniest patch of un-planted ground left uncovered during any season of the year whether you live in the heat of the plains for the cool of the hills. Even’ ‘dormant’ earth needs lots of loving care, attention and much if it is to provide you with bountiful harvests in the future.

“My annuals” I hear someone scream. “How can I plant my colourful display of seasonal plants with all this much lying around?” Don’t worry. Nothing to it. Whist you cannot seed directly in the much for obvious reasons you can do the following.

Start off you seeds in suitable containers such as shallow trays or plant pots in the normal way. Meanwhile, spread a one to two inch layer of much all over the surface of the beds in which the plants are destined to be located, keep it damp and, by the time your seedlings are large enough to transplant, the mulch should be at the right stage of decomposition for you to take up your trowel, make suitable holes through the much in to the soil below, then insert the seedlings in these, firm up the soil, water in and let them grow as per usual.

If growing varieties to seeds which need to be sown directly in their growing position then, if you are new to mulching, use a hoe and a rake to create a suitable soil consistency, this isn’t digging, plant your seeds as normal and, after they germinated then careful dribble fine mulching material around them, adding to it as the seedlings grow up and become established.

However, if you have mulched before and the much is well merged with the soil, then hoe and rake this until suitable soil conditions for seed sowing are attained then continue as above.

Honestly, once you catch the mulching habit there is no going back and you will be stunned at how grateful every living thing in your garden turns out to be.

mikhurram
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Re: Eco Friendly Gardening Techniques

Post by mikhurram » November 19th, 2013, 6:12 pm

2. Mulching & Soil Fertility

The benefits is mulching are enormous. Mulching helps conserve water loss through evaporation, insulate the plants from the heat and as well as cold, suppress weeds and most importantly prevents soil erosion.

There is a wide range of organic mulches used in our garden consisting of leaf mold, compost, saw dust, tree barks, grass clippings, wood chips, saw dust etc. All these components over a passage of time are decomposed by soil micro-organisms making the soil more fertile.

It’s important to note that not all the organic mulches can increase the soil fertility by the same measure. The ability of a mulch to increase soil fertility is dependent on ‘Carbon to Nitrogen’ ratio (C:N). Basically what happens is when carbon rich mulch is layered on the soil, the microbes in the soil take up and immobilize nitrogen, making the nutrients inaccessible to plants. When mulch starts decomposing, the carbon levels start declining gradually and these microbes doing the decomposition start releasing nitrogen back to the soil which is taken up by the plants.

If the C:N ratio is less than 30:1, the amount of nitrogen present is more than sufficient to support the microbial activity. A ratio greater than 30:1 implies that there is insufficient nitrogen to support the activity of these microbes and they out-compete the plants by taking the nitrogen from the soil making it less available for plants.

Thus mulch with low C:N ratio is more beneficial for areas having plants and mulch containing high C:N ratio for usage in paths and areas away from plants. The image below shows the C:N ratio of various organic mulches. Yard is used in USA and Canada to refer to a garden. In the image 'Composted yard waste' would imply 'compost from garden waste' and 'Recycled pallets' in my opinion are wooden pallets.

Source: Excerpts from Organic Gardening Oct/Nov 2013 edition.
Attachments
CN Ratio Chart.jpg
Carbon to Nitrogen ratio of various organic mulches.
CN Ratio Chart.jpg (46.4 KiB) Viewed 1273 times

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