Friday, January 28, 2011

More about Herb Day- Thought on Sustainability

Terry Hollembaek, of Nancy’s Meadow Herbs, gave a wonderful presentation, on his thoughts about sustainability.


Terry suggested to feed the organisms that live in the soil, not the plants. He advocated for keeping a deep layer of fluffy straw on your garden beds, never allowing the soil to be exposed to the radiation from the sun. He says not to dig, plow or till your soil. He believes composting in the usual manner is a waste of time, and that we should just throw our compost offerings on the beds themselves, tucking them under the straw, if we think it is too unsightly on top. Terry also advised us to just let our weeds and grasses grow amongst our plantings, as they are a valuable habitat for predator insects, which will feed on our damaging types.  He sighted studies where it had been shown that there was 60% less bug damage to crops in a garden where the weeds had been allowed to grow around it. Terry said we could just tuck the whole plant under the straw to compost when it was in the way, or before it sets seed.

Terry was an engaging and knowledgeable speaker, who presented a convincing case for his sustainability thoughts. He went into great detail about how microbes, fungi, worms and other soil dwellers did their own job of composting our offerings. He also shared many examples and tidbits along the way. He shared that to further enhance and encourage decomposition of bones and egg shells, for the garden, to first soak them in vinegar for awhile:) This is sustainable for us now that we have constant batches of vinegar brewing both at Eric’s home and mine. Comfrey Cottages 1 and Too (2) lol! He also threw out there, that in India, it is a government law that any trees planted in its cities, must be a fruit bearing tree! How cool is that? Wouldn’t that be lovely to be able to walk around town, in the right season, and just pick a fresh fruit if you desired?

Seed germination, was another subject he talked about. We have all seen directions for, or tried ourselves, cold stratification by using the refrigerator. Terry said he had great success just doing fall or very, very early spring plantings of seeds like chervil, dill, cilantro, and dandelions. He expressed thoughts I had before, that the refrigerator just doesn’t completely mimic natures freezes and thaws.

Terry also spoke of the 10 Rules of Landscaping. Saying you can never have too much variety, suggesting lots of places to sit, plant close together and other bits:)

He spoke about natural farming in Korea, and Janong Farms. I loved this part of his presentation and the site is well worth a look through:)

One Straw Revolution, by Masnobu Fukeota, is a book, Terry recommended highly. He told us the story of Masnobu and how he changed his family farm around from traditional farming methods to totally sustainable and organic methods. The website is another one to thoroughly enjoy, with a nice video.

Ruth Stout, was another writer Terry spoke about. Her No Work Gardening book was highly recommended. Ruth is the “Mulch Queen”!

So if you see an event with Terry as one of the speakers, I suggest you go to it!

Terry’s wife gave a presentation on micro greens, that we had to miss. Poor Eric had been at work daily for three weeks and we just had to go get him laid down in our hotel room!

Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx


Rowan said...

The whole Herb Day sounds like a really interesting event. I was interested in the theory about letting weeds grow among your plants. I don't exactly do that (most of the timeanyway) but I do have a lot of wild plants growing around the edges of the garden especially in the woodland area at the bottom. It's true that I don't have much problem with insect pests but I've always put that down to having a large and varied bird population. Maybe the weeds help too!

Gerry Gomez Pearlberg said...

Lots of good info here, including the links. Thanks!

I used raised beds with lots of hay mulch (straw is a fortune, so we use hay which has lots of weed seeds...).

It's by no means a "no work" process; plenty of good exercise to be gotten from hauling the bales around, spreading them etc. But we do get great harvests and lots of biodiversity and activity in the soil.

Not sure about the advice to leave all weeds. I'm hardly an avid weeder and I certainly appreciate plants like goldenrod on their own merits, but neglect has enabled certain tough, deep-rooted plants like goldenrod to become permanent residents, reducing my limited space for vegetables and flowers.

That said, I tolerate some weeds, but the ones that set super-deep roots I'm learning to stay more on top of. Removing them once they're really in there is a ton of labor. Letting them stay essentially leads to their taking over the entire bed. All of these approaches, though, are good food for many thanks again.

Anke said...

Thank you Leslie for all the info. I've read a little about the no till method, and I'm going to research the "straw" idea a bit more. I'm sure it would be very beneficial to the garden to have this straw cover and it probably wouldn't dry out as fast either. Lots of things to think about...

Rita M said...

Sounds like a really interesting event Leslie.
Straw mulch ok , but weeds ....

Comfrey Cottages said...

Hi everyone:) Thank you for you thoughts and experiences! Now let me tell you mine... I ended up getting shingles last summer. Not fun and being out in the sun and sweating was definetely out so Comfrey Cottages gardens did not get weeded out once! Quite a shambles and looked pretty horrid too! Tall weeds shaded many things including the strawberries, which fruited great actually, but all in all I am like Gerry and think that just totally letting it go is not helpful. I feel that all these approaches have some merit and some things I just am not completely at peace with:) All food for thought. And Rowan, I imagine that your wild plants on the edges is probably the best idea. And oh yes, I am sure the birds help:)and yes Anke, great for helping with moisture.
Rita, love you agree straw yes and weeds.... :)Thank you all for joining in the conversationxx

Rita M said...

Interesting Links Leslie :)

*Ulrike* said...

I have actually heard and read about just that. How tilling is not the best thing for the soil, all the things that he talked about. This year I'll be doing some raised beds as I believe our garden (being too close to the road too) is in need of nourishment and rest. I may plant some squash or other low growing crops, who knows. I would have loved to have been at the herb day. It seems like there is so much happening up north!
Take Care,