Winter came and evenings are dark and long. I am not on the field so much anymore, so I can blog again until Easter I guess.
This summer I tried different permaculture techniques in my open-air lab-garden. Some of them are these:
Cover: works against weed, against soil drying and as fertilizer. Straw and black cellulose films are popular. I lack straw, so I intend to use small branches and old leaves from the forest, grass from fields and algae remains from the pond. Algae remains in big amounts worked well around apple trees, but it was a lot of wet and heavy work. I intend to use old garment to carry old leaves from the forest. Previously used old roof asbestos sheets are heavy, dangerous for lung health and uncomfortable.
Here you can see preparation of a strawberry bed with use of grass cover. Cover was there to block weed since end of June till end of August and blocking weed. After removing the grass cover place was almost clean. I should have put cover earlier, then it would’ve been much better. Anyway digging with a shovel was much easier compared to place with no cover. And of course there is no strong weed so strawberries will have a nice place to start their life.
Crop rotation (relocation) and companion planting (stacking): helps against weed and soil degradation, protects against pests. Until now I only use potatoes + beans in spring /winter rye in autumn combination and sequence. Other techniques that I know: linen have to be planted only in virgin soil; strawberries + onion. Calendula adds calcium to soil, helps against couch grass and scares away some pests with a smell of its flowers. I almost never have colorado beetle in potatoe, and I believe, it is because I had several smaller separate fields instead of one big field.
On the picture you can see a plum tree combined with horseradish, peas and beans. Horseradish came naturally after I put there waterplants from the pond. I guess molerat made a nest there then and brought some pieces of roots. Beans and peas did not show any progress. I guess they were overwhelmed by the plum. I must admit that I could have removed more weed there and planted beans and peas more distantly from a plum.
Soil choice: provides right environment for plants. Potatoes need very soft soil, best is where nettle used to grow. Grey peas appeared to grow alright in clay soil, where potatoes would give no harvest at all.
Selective weeding: to save time and for companion planting. I don´t remove clover, alfalfa and other legumes. Chickweed is also harmless to other plants and is edible. To improve berry taste and to avoid dust and excessive sunlight, weed at strawberries should be prevented only during the first year, then it can grow and be cut shorter.
I have to mention, that about 40 wild pigs were ransacking one of my fields in spring and it looked like after plowing. So I used my single-person-harrow to make it soft there and planted some linen and barley. Barley seeds were several years old and I planted in may so it did not work out. Linen grew however, but I think I harvested less than I planted. It is very improtant to have fresh seeds.
I don’t know how is it in other parts of the globe, but in Latvia if you don’t remove some of the branches, you may get no harvest at all. It does not apply to all the breeds. Older breeds are alright, but this tree was from the shop so it needs some care. It is April on these two pictures, but the best is to do it in Novermber or December, when tree is asleep and before you put some protection from forest animals on it. And here I made order on one of my fathers cherry trees. Cherry trees that we have trend to get lots of small dry branches so the best would be to cut after harvest, which is july, when you see, where are leaves and where is empty, but since I wanted to make order, I cut also in spring, to remove crossing branches. They say of course, that the best time for this job is late autumn and winter. This is actually the season, when you have some free time to do it.
My father and I also noticed, that bird-cherry seems to have positive effect on garden cherry (to the right). On the first picture you see the row of cherry trees, where biggest is a bird-cherry. Close to it is a normal cherry which gives the most berries. I suspect that bird-cherry knows where it is the best for cherries to be. Maybe bird-cherry pollinates regular cherry. And that place has some meleoration pipes in the ground, so some place has more water, it is too technical for me so I am not sure.
Chemistry: onion peals with nettle or just nettle mixed in water against aphids and full moonlight is believed to improve deadly effect; ash (against worms and snails). For some reason this year there were very little aphids so I didn’t have to use this.
Insects: bumblebees are earlier pollinators than bees. Making nests for bumblebees in your garden should improve black currant yield. Once used, home has to be “refreshed” next year. Home has to be placed close to the place, where bumblebees usually nest in nature. This year I had only bees, however. I can’t find a fast way to make those bumblebee nests in my conditions yet.