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Tsinava
Nov 15, 2009

by Ralp


I'm going to provide all this thread's resources first because it seems more convenient that way, especially if you already mostly know what I'm talking about.

Resources posted:

Links:

A variety of complex plant guilds described in detail
Good website for homesteading and farming.
A database of plants commonly utilized on sustainable farms. (Work In Progress)
An informative homesteading blog.
101 diagrams that illustrate and describe techniques I haven't shown. Feel free to point them out.
Paul Wheaton may be known for being a bit of a drama queen but he runs a good forum and makes informative videos.
The permaculture subreddit generates informative links every once in a while.
An extensive article on hugelkultur
Nifty companion planting guide
Maps out local useful plants in your area. Generally the better your internet is the more likely people in your area participate.
Very useful chart showing which nutrients certain dynamic accumulators mine and fertilize with.
Geoff Lawton's website requires you to sign up with an e-mail but has very informative videos.


Other relevant Something Awful threads:

Foraging
Woodworking
Gardening
Botany
Leatherworking
Living in the Wilderness

Recommended Reading:
Gaia's Garden - I'm not too big on the title either but it puts otherwise complicated concepts into rather simple terms and if you're new to all of this it's definitely a good book to read.
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands Vol. 2 - This book talks all about earthworks and how to make them with specific measurements to determine how much water your land captures and goes over the concept of earthworks pretty well.
Sepp Holzer's Permaculture: A Practical Guide to Small-Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening - Sepp Holzer is known for his unconventional approaches to agriculture and his intricate gardens.

Youtubes:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTpAYHg-YZ0 Wood gasifier
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChhY76euxlE Earth bag adobe
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVAF-JjuYc4 Oehler structure
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJ3QIZMta98 Worm composting
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vJdZP_FMi4#t=1425s This video demonstrates how much of a difference even the smallest, lowest effort earthworks can make. (timestamped)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gy_H-eQf6Ng Neighborhoods that have turned to sustainable agriculture are doing this all over the country
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruF0ZqXPuaw Compost powered hot water system for greenhouse heating



Understand that this thread is not just about growing plants. It's also about maybe keeping livestock, or raising worms, or weaving garden beds out of dead reeds. It's about how you utilize the products of complex natural systems to make life more convenient for yourself. It can also be about how you can live off of your land and how you can provide as many necessities as possible for yourself without having to depend on an outside system. This isn't any rejection of an outside system. I appreciate my municipal power and water as much as everyone else but I think itís important for people to understand how food, medicine, power, building materials, water, etc. can be cultivated, harvested, and implemented in their everyday lives. Learning some of these methods has given me an acute appreciation for certain materials I come across around me and habitually I find myself recycling more. Not out of moral compulsion but self-interest. I see a free self-watering contraption that others see as an empty orange juice carton. I see a bunch of free compost and fertilizer that my neighbor sees as a bunch of leaves and weeds from his backyard that he raked up and put in a bag out on the street. That isnít to say that the ideas discussed or utilized in this thread canít be applied in massive systems because they can and should. They are sustainable methods meaning that they are designed to reciprocate with nature or at the very least not damage it.

Iím aware that there are multiple threads about cultivating plants and at least one other thread about foraging and I would suggest you look over those threads, which are listed in this post. Especially the foraging one. It seems that goons really like the concept of living off your own land, so maybe an agriculture sub-forum would be an appropriate suggestion for future site features. *Makes baby-eyes at admins.*

Sustainable agriculture is practiced in differing forms all across the world largely due to necessity. The methods can be adjusted to any amount of land whether youíre using pots and mounds of soil, your backyard, or multiple acres of land you live on or own. Many of the ideas behind sustainable agriculture are simply rearranging objects that already exist on your property and letting them sit there. Growing food in a sustainable way is largely a low-labor and low-energy venture and initially is slow to start (though some people are surprised) but when it gets going you have so much produce you donít know what to do with it. The labor it requires comes in waves, especially when youíre just starting out.

One of the main concepts in sustainable agriculture is the polyculture. A polyculture is a set of multiple different plants growing together in one area that are designed to support each other in various ways. This differs from a monoculture such as a giant field of wheat or potatoes. Monocultures are considered unsustainable and inefficient by most farmers. This is because they require constant fertilization from outside sources, pesticides, and tilling to initially start the seed. Monocultures are also extremely vulnerable to pest outbreaks or plant disease and can be subject to massive crop failures. Grain polycultures exist and can be created though as with most plants. The trade off with farming with polycultures rather than monocultures is, while inexpensive to maintain, polycultures require laborers who are knowledgeable about the crops to harvest them efficiently.

Polycultures are also referred to as ďplant guildsĒ or as ďcompanion plantingĒ. A common plant guild of the Native Americans was corn, beans, and squash. The corn would grow tall stalks for the bean vines to grow on and the squash would provide ground cover to prevent the soil from drying. Their different root systems didnít make them compete. This guild was referred to as the ďThree SistersĒ.



Here would be another example of a polyculture:


Another concept in sustainable agriculture is the utilization of self propagating plants or perennials. Essentially plants that you can leave alone and can reproduce by themselves and be productive. This can range from onions and potatoes to berry bushes and fruit trees. If you have soil thatís constantly being mulched by wild plant life or trees and you plant sweet potatoes or potatoes and forget about them youíre going to come back to small field of them later on. This goes for a lot of different food varieties, even for some in certain conditions. Did you know that tomatoes are actually perennial? Only when you allow them to be though. People who have grown different varieties of tomatoes directly from their compost piles find that they keep coming back or they sometimes stay year around. Effortless tomatoes are a pretty nice thing to have.

Sustainable agriculture has term that encompasses it that you may have heard of called ďpermacultureĒ which was coined by a person named Bill Mollison. It essentially examines how different forms of wildlife seem to constantly do labor and in a lot of circumstances, they seemingly work against humans. Well using very specific observations and principles we can curb plantlife and animal life to work for us instead of against us. We can cut the weeds on our property and mulch them or let them break down in irrigation water to fertilize other plants. If you live out in the woods and have a lot of bugs around your house you can get chickens or guinea fowl to eat them up and run around your property doing other useful things. Itís really all about the utilization of passive systems. Any system that can potentially produce something of value to you that you donít have to touch is a passive system. Every plant is a passive system to an extent and especially any self-propagating or perennial plant. You can keep certain livestock passively if you are growing the right plants on your property. Some people do it already without even meaning to by having wild elk or horses and such on their property.

Sustainable agriculture breaks down into what can you do to live off your land and just your land. These concepts can of course extend to people living in apartments who donít have access to backyards exactly. For the most part though if you had a bunch of cheap land, you could live off it, eventually, if you did certain things and took certain precautions, and you would especially thrive if you had people to help you. Our modern basic needs come down to needing a constant supply of drinking water, electricity, waste treatment, shelter, food, heat sources, and medicine. Even the most barren land can be worked on and taken to a point where it can provide all of these things if itís large enough, eventually in abundance. There are many ďsmallĒ and low-tech things we can do in order to make it easier for not only things to grow, but for our land to absorb and retain more water and absorb more energy in various different forms.



If you are the type to mow your lawn a lot or just have to deal with clearing away a lot of wildlife you could of course observe how fast it all grows back. Even on the barren lawn you have to constantly fertilize and take care of you keep getting weeds. What most donít realize is that if you just keep slashing and dropping the weeds as they keep growing you will eventually over time restore your soil and theyíll stop growing because most weeds canít sprout in nice soil. Anyone whoís had to clear well established forest would probably know how difficult they are difficult to get rid of even with all our industrial woodcutting tech. Pretty much every plant in a forest has filled itís niche and exists in a polyculture and is thriving in a vast network of mycorrhizae, which are varieties of fungi that connect the root structures of different plants and trees and exchange information and nutrients between them. Itís indeed difficult to cut down a forest when you have multiple varieties of fungi acting as one organism in the subsoil. You can achieve these conditions in your backyard by the way. Cultivating different varieties of mycorrhiza is as easy as collecting a bunch of leaves and leaving them in big piles in your yard.

One of my favorite things about sustainable agriculture is the cheap little things you can do to improve fertility or the health of your plants. If you have young trees or plants that are stressed out by harsh temperatures put big rocks next to them. The rocks absorb heat and sunlight during the day and radiate heat back out at night, regulating the temperature. Thatís a popular trick for young citrus trees. Burying wood under wherever you plan to grow food is also a popular trick that runs off the concept of hugelkultur which is basically burying wood under multiple layers of mulch, compost, and soil. Wood naturally absorbs a water and releases nutrients as it breaks down. Different types of wood break down differently of course which make the whole thing even more interesting if you ask me. Reshaping the surface of your property around a well that collects from the groundwater can actually increase the amount of water it harvests. Planting certain trees, bushes, and shrubs over the area can help the well retain much more water too. That addresses another concept thatís important in the practice of sustainable agriculture, stacking functions.



Above is an example of Sepp Holzerís work. He is an Austrian farmer that basically writes manuals on stacking functions and where to utilize them. In this you can see him using hugelkultur, swales, berms, and rocks. He also observes the different microclimates that are created when you alter the shape of the earth like this and plants things accordingly.

The basic idea behind sustainable agriculture is getting as much output from your plants and animals as you can with as little inputs as possible. The goal is laziness and not having to do a lot with regards to physical labor. In return to paying more cognitive attention to your environment and what you choose to cultivate in it you will get massive returns and have to perform less and less physical labor.

This thread definitely covers gardening, if thatís all you want to do. Thatís totally fine. Itís also meant to cover bushcrafting, foraging, woodcrafting, treatment of livestock, anything that can really be linked back to living off of what could be cultivated in a sustainable way. I myself created this thread with the express purpose of learning techniques from others and sharing the ones I know. If I know anything about goons, it is that they are cheap and crafty. If you tell a goon there is treasure in trash, they will find treasure, even if you lied to them. This thread isn't a lie, itís more of a statement of the obvious and Iím positive that people on this website have figured out a lot of tricks that I donít know and I would like to read about them.

If you own a lot of land you donít really know what to do with you should consider this thread because sustainable agriculture is indeed profitable, especially if you approach it without intent to make profit. There are many examples of people who finally get their gardens going and they end up having too much so they just set out ďhonors systemĒ stands and make money that way. Keep in mind that running a sustainable farm successfully takes time and the learning curve with regards to farming this way is pretty steep. However once you get one section of your property going itís hard to stop.

Iím just going to list some cool techniques I know now.

Passive Heating Techniques

Greenhouse: This one is pretty obvious but itís important. All you need is a structure propping up a medium which light passes through but air and moisture donít. So, cellophane, glass, transparent plastic tarp that doesnít degrade in the elements. You can buy these things for under $20 you know. I mean a whole greenhouse. They arenít fancy but they do the job.

Compost Power: In every compost pile, occurs countless chemical reactions between bacteria. The larger the compost pile, the more volatile these reactions are as a whole. This power is converted into heat and potentially combustible gas. A cool French dude named Jean Pain figured out that by distilling wood pulp and other types of mulch in water a certain way he could generate heat for hot water and gas for electricity and other heat sources in his house using just compost. He generated 100% of the power he needed for his home this way.

You could potentially use compost to heat a greenhouse to significantly extend your growing season if you live in a rather cold climate. It would also expand the varieties of crops you could grow as well. It provides natural gas and heat, there are really all sorts of applications.

Passive Cooling Techniques

Planting stuff: vegetation does three things to cool the air. It removes CO2, it adds moisture through transpiration, and it shades the soil around and below it from the sun. There are certain plants and trees that naturally cool and regulate the air better than others. You would be surprised at how many fruit trees thrive in desert biomes. Letting trees and bushes grow around your living space will cool it significantly even if itís not in the direct sun.

Evaporative cooling: is quite an old system of air conditioning that is still heavily used today. You redirect warm air into a dark chamber full of water to cool it as it enters the house. It is a principle that can take many forms. Cooling the air in certain places causes air pressure to change and air to move, cooling the air even more.

Here is a diagram of a wind tower system that uses evaporative cooling principles:


Passive Water Harvest/Irrigation Techniques

Roof runoff: if you donít do this already, hooking up water holding barrels to your rain spouts and drip irrigation systems to those barrels can and will make long droughts a lot more tolerable for wherever youíre trying to grow food. There are many things you can do to make your property harvest and utilize rainwater more efficiently.

Berms/Swales/Earthworks: one of the biggest issues concerning erosion is water runoff. If you just have flat planes of earth with nothing blocking rainwater runoff youíre going to have areas of erosion and the groundwater levels arenít going to be as high as they potentially could be. When you do hugelkultur youíre essentially creating a berm, and when you dig a swale youíre redirecting the flow or rainwater so instead of running straight downhill it maybe zigzags downhill and much more of it is absorbed into the water table. Earthworks are just pinpointed depressions in the earth designed to slope runoff and rainwater into areas with plants.



People use berms, swales, and other various earthworks in hilly or mountainous areas or around depressions in the earth to restore natural springs. Overtime, multiple earthworks can harvest so much rainwater that certain levels of the soil can no longer hold it so it comes to the surface in certain areas. If you have multiple acres of property, depending on what type of terrain there is, you could potentially do this. You can apply the same idea to wells like I pointed out earlier. Earthworks around wells will harvest more rainwater runoff and if you plant trees and shrubs on those earthworks the well will harvest even more water because the soil would be able to retain more of it. To clarify though, make sure the root systems of the species you plant around your well won't get big enough to crack the well or plumbing around it or the pump. Willow trees are a bad choice for example because they head straight for water and spread out. This isn't as much of a problem if you have a modern well installation because they tend not to have the cracks in their structure that tree roots can get in.

Air Wells: are quite a neat concept. At their most primitive, air wells are basically cairns, mounds of stones. When air passes through them it is cooled to the point where moisture collects on the rocks inside of the mound and drips down into the soil. A little more thought put into this concept goes a long way for sure.



Stone structures can be designed in a way to cool air efficiently and harvest surprising amounts of water but going beyond that, dew condensers also exist. A dew condenser is typically a specialized hydrophobic plastic film covering a layer of insulation and it condenses droplets of water as air runs across itís surface. This can be observed to occur in desert climates. Air wells inspired dew condensers. I have yet to see a measured example of the two concepts combined but Iím sure people are working on that.





Ollas: Ollas are basically any container designed to gradually leak or sweat water out into the surrounding soil but only if itís dry. They can be unfired clay pots filled with water and buried in the ground, or they can be orange juice boxes with a little hole at the bottom and top. Theyíre good for makeshift solutions to irrigation.



Wicking beds: if you have cloth or some kind of wicking medium between a reservoir of water and soil, the water will wick up to the soil and keep it hydrated very efficiently. Itís constantly watering the soil from the ground up so there is little loss from evaporation.

Hereís an example:


Wicking can be utilized in multiple ways. Iíve seen it used to automatically aerate someoneís aquaponic system. Iíve seen it used and used it myself in individual potted plants and potted gardens, and of course garden beds. Remember that logs of wood can serve as wicks, they arenít as immediate as cloth but they do the job.


Not So Passive Techniques

Chop and Drop: just have a machete or something that can cut down vegetation quickly and go around slashing ďweedsĒ or otherwise plants that have gotten too big for your liking or need a trim. If you donít feel like composting them just leave them there. As you chop and drop weeds over and over youíll start to observe change in your soil structure and what types of plants are growing on your property. I mean really, chop and drop is considered pretty passive as itís something you do when you harvest usually. Every technique Iím going to describe is supposed to be as ďhands offĒ as possible.

Wood Gasification: if you have a lot of property or even a backyard you probably have varieties of ďweed likeĒ trees that like to spring up out of nowhere and have really hard wood and also tend to coppice when you cut them. Essentially with wood gasification, if you have a lot of wood you donít know what to do with you can put it to efficient use and even generate electricity from it. It also burns very clean.


Gasifier Schematic posted:

English: A schematic showing the wood gasifier built by Dick Strawbridge and Jem Stansfield for the show "Planet Mechanics".
Parts:
A: wood
B: fire
C: air inlet (air going to 4 nozzles)
D: reduction zone; contains charcoal; smoke goes trough the accumated charcoal and reacts with it. H20 and CO2 becomes H2 and CO
D1: top grating (movable)
D2: lower grating (not movable)
D3: handle: used to stirr up the wood to provide evenly high temperature over top grating
E: smoke
F: single-cyclone seperator (coarse filter)
G: partially filtered smoke
H: radiator (reduces heat of gas and hence condenses the gas, making it more flammable/potent)
I: cooled, partially filtered smoke
J: fine filter (consisting of clay balls on top of a grating)
K: wood gas (= fully filtered, cooled smoke)
L: air/gas mixer (replaces IC engine carburator)
L1: air inlet valve (operated via handle mounted to gear stick)
L2: choke valve


When you burn wood in a high temperature environment with little amounts of oxygen you release itís natural gases which can be utilized to generate larger amount of heat and even electricity with a wood gas generator. If Iím making some goon scientist rip his or her hair out because Iím wrong or am not clarifying anything please correct me. Wood gas electricity generation is a viable resource for power generation on both small and I believe, large applications.




Remember that the growing techniques I previously described arenít oriented towards certain plant species or anything theyíre just working with plants in general. Individual plants themselves actually serve different functions on your plot. Here are some of the more common functions and some example plants:

Plant Functions posted:

Nitrogen Fixers = Black locust, northern bayberry, redbud, clovers, beans, peas, vetch

Dynamic Accumulators = chicory, dandelion, comfrey, yarrow, mullein, plaintain

Pest Confusers/Repellers = Allium species (onions, garlic, ramps), African marigolds, nasturtium, paw paw

Insectary Plants/Pollinator Attractors = native wildflowers (bee balm, Jerusalem artichoke, amaranth, milkweed, asters), fennel, dill

Wildlife Habitat = comfrey, hollies, roses, echinacea

Nitrogen fixers and dynamic accumulators both restore the soil with their mulch, pest confusers and insectaries, and wildlife habitats attract predators that eat pests that would otherwise ruin your crops. Pollinator attractors are basically anything with flowers and those boost the productivity of your garden, especially if you grow fruit of any kind.


So to summarize the thread:
-Sustainable agriculture benefits the surrounding ecosystems
-Sustainable agriculture is about getting as much out of your land as possible with as little work as possible.
-There are many methods that benefit all gardens and there are also many more techniques that only benefit gardens under certain circumstances, there are also certain techniques for certain plants. In short thereís a lot to learn, for everyone.


Iím going to do my best to follow this thread and organize, and categorize different techniques so people looking through it will be able to identify solutions to their problems. For example, if you have a trick that utilizes evaporative cooling, please donít be hesitant to discuss it because you saw another technique that used the same principle. I have found that the subtle differences in how people use these concepts can be very important. I also encourage people to geek out about their favorite animals and plants and explain why they like them so much. (How do they benefit your garden or farm?) I'm also going to update the the OP as posters here find more resources. Anything that allows you to utilize materials you produce from your land is a welcome topic. I would definitely love to see pictures and examples of related projects you have worked on! Even if it's just a swale or something!

Tsinava fucked around with this message at 07:04 on Sep 24, 2014

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Tsinava
Nov 15, 2009

by Ralp


Passive Techniques
- Compost Power - generate heat and possibly electricity from rotting biomass in your backyard. Here is a video that demonstrates this method pretty well https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruF0ZqXPuaw

- Air Wells - AKA Talus Garlands, or Fog Fences. Basically, any loose structure of rock is going to collect moisture from the air, regulate the temperature, and create differing microclimates with it's shade.

- Composting Techniques - extensive articles on composting manure, which people have a lot of when they have it.

- Garden Pool - A pool converted into an underground greenhouse and grotto. This is a very neat idea and is even more versatile when done with depressions in the earth such as dry ponds. Artificial grottoes retain water and eventually can be used for aquaculture. http://gardenpool.org/


Non-Passive Techniques
- Rocket Mass Stove - very efficient method of heating. Here is a video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoW-ICO83hM

- Sheet mulching - a fast and easy way to clear weeds in an area you want to plant a garden in without using roundup or any of that junk. It also restores the health of the soil depending on what materials you use.

Tsinava fucked around with this message at 04:31 on Mar 11, 2014

Tsinava
Nov 15, 2009

by Ralp


Reserved

Liquid Communism
Mar 9, 2004


Out here, everything hurts.




This thread is highly relevant to my interests.

I see you have a short note on hugelkultur up there, here's a much more in-depth look at it. I'll transcribe it into this post later.

http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/

Tsinava
Nov 15, 2009

by Ralp


Yes, please do! I did a lot summarizing in my OP. Sustainable agriculture can get into pretty extensive subject matter so there's definitely a lot of stuff I missed. As the thread progresses I will add new resources to the OP and link to informative posts as well as other content I can find.

apatite
Dec 2, 2006

Got yer back, Jack



Wonderful OP full of glorious info.

I've also started some hugelkultur and have plans/are working on an "orchard" that is closer to what some would call a "food forest"


This is a great idea for a thread and I look forward to following a long and contributing where possible. THANKS!

Cpt.Wacky
Apr 17, 2005


This is a huge and wide-ranging topic that barely fits a single thread. I'll just add a few notes off the top of my head...

People in permaculture are moving away from the term "sustainable" and using "regenerative" instead. I think Toby Hemenway (author of Gaia's Garden) covers this in one of his youtube talks. The idea is that sustainable just maintains the current situation indefinitely, and the current situation sucks. We need to make things better by regenerating our environment.

I don't see anything in the OP about rocket stoves and rocket mass heaters. They are wood burning stoves designed to burn hotter than a normal wood stove thereby using less fuel and producing practically no pollution. Rocket mass heaters duct the hot exhaust through a large thermal mass to store heat and slow release it for heating your home. The main book describing rocket mass heaters just released the 3rd edition, available for download now or pre-order of a hard copy: http://www.rocketstoves.com/ I bought the second edition and it was pretty good but I'm looking forward to an update since there's been a lot of improvements on the idea.

Paul Wheaton has a small empire of permaculture stuff going on including richsoil.com and the permies.com forum. It's pretty much the main forum for discussing this stuff on the net. Just be aware that Paul is very savvy about profiting from this stuff and he has an ego the size of a small city.

I'm very into the polyculture/food forest idea. I backed a Kickstarter last year for a documentary of a polyculture orchard in Montreal: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/oasselin/the-permaculture-orchard-beyond-organic It should be available later this year and I'm really looking forward to it. I really like Michael Phillips approach to orcharding too and you can find several full-length lectures of his on youtube.

Paradise Lot is a great story of two guys making a temperate food forest on a lovely city lot. I'm in the starting phases of doing the same thing with my lot although I'm also saving up to buy more property in the next few years to do it on a larger scale.

Tsinava
Nov 15, 2009

by Ralp


I struggled with the thread title for a bit. I think regenerative is a good description because it's definitely more accurate I just haven't seen it used as much. Regenerative is indeed a better description for this type of farming though. It's pretty much impossible to do sustainable farming without generating or regenerating ecosystems around your plot. The principles of farming this way demand that your farm thrives in a complex ecosystem so you really have no choice but to make one.

Cpt.Wacky
Apr 17, 2005


I agree, and I realize that sustainable is what people know and it will draw them in.

Sheet mulching, sometimes called lasagna gardening, is a good way to turn grass lawn into garden. Put down a layer of cardboard and as many layers of organic matter as you can find (compost, manure, straw, leaves, woodchips) and let them compost in place. It smothers the grass and weeds and the worms love to come eat the decomposing cardboard, tilling the soil in the process. It's advertised as a really easy way to make gardens but don't underestimate the amount of time and materials it will take to do it. On the other hand you won't have to do a lot of manual labor digging with tools or running gas-powered tillers.

Back to Eden is free documentary on a local guy, Paul Gautschi, who does deep sheet mulching, just ignore the evangelical stuff. I've been to his farm for a tour so I can try to answer any questions on what he does. Some other people have posted a lot of youtube videos from him on various topics like his approach to fruit tree pruning which produces to very unique looking trees.

Here's one of several awesome slime molds that appeared on my latest sheet mulches:

Tsinava
Nov 15, 2009

by Ralp


That's a pretty photogenic slime mold right there. It even looks like a footprint. That also goes to show that sheet mulching is another good technique for the cultivation of mycorrhizae too. Mulching any area of your backyard with weeds or leaves and stuff is going to create molds and fungi, which definitely include some mycorrhiza varieties.

Tsinava
Nov 15, 2009

by Ralp


To help get this thread going (or to keep it alive!) I'm gonna post some information about stuff you can easily regrow from the grocery store.

It's pretty common knowledge that most stuff you buy at your average grocery store doesn't bear fertile seed. (Sometimes this isn't the case though!)

One popular vegetable you can regrow is an onion. All you have to do is cut the bottom part of the onion with the roots off leaving a centimeter or so of onion and you just bury it in some soft soil, perhaps in one of your garden beds. Eventually you will get at least one other onion if it grows, if the root spawns multiple nodes then you can eventually split the plant into several different onions which will grow on their own. From one discarded onion at a grocery store, you can get an entire crop of onions eventually.

Here's a video of a child doing it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMagN62UvHM

Another popular plant you can grow from your grocery store is garlic! Try to get one bulb of as many different garlic varieties at the store you can find and split them into cloves and plant them. A new bulb will grow from each of those cloves and multiple varieties seem to grow better to together.These two vegetables that you can get at the grocery store, one of which you essentially grow from something you'd throw away anyways, are good additions to any garden because they also act as natural pest repellents.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xkg3UpJ83k


Scallions, lemongrass, and leeks can all be regrown in glasses of water. I've been repeatedly growing scallions on my windowsill after continuously harvesting them for like 4 weeks and they are showing no signs of dying. I don't know when I'm gonna plant them or even if I'm gonna. I might do a small passive hydroponic set up for these using a wick next time I feel bored and productive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=co3DEo1rRSg Here is a video of someone starting root systems on a number of things using glasses of water including leeks.


You can regrow celery as well, though you have to chop off the root end and some people are rather particular about how they keep their celery. Cut of the base, put it in some water, let the leaves come up a little in the center, then bury it in the soil with the very tips of the leaves poking up. That will grow you some celery.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QiwUaRnLtE


You can regrow hearts of romaine lettuce in the same way you would grow celery. Bowl of water, bury.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9z8VpdJ2ES4


You can also regrow ginger, just stick a big enough part of the root in soil that is constantly moist and in shaded or filtered light. It does well in greenhouses I believe and it takes a while to grow. Ginger is a powerful herb though and if you can grow it without paying too much attention to it, it's definitely worthwhile.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kqgxaMIjyY


Potatoes and sweet potatoes are awesome. Just leave potatoes out until they turn green and green buds start popping up in them and bury them in soil. If you just leave them alone, over time you get a field of them. Sweet potatoes, in my opinion, are cooler because you can stick them halfway in water and they'll sprout roots and eventually slips, which you can just pluck off and plant. The slips will grow into vines. This is where, I think, sweet potatoes start to get a lot cooler than potatoes. You can partially bury the vines in small mounds of soil, and those sections of the vines will root and start producing sweet potatoes as well. You can do this over and over and get a huge crop out of like one or two sweet potatoes. (Edit: actually potatoes can be just as awesome to grow as sweet potatoes as the poster below me points out. You can grow both in potato towers. I still think sweet potatoes are tastier and more useful however!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6ih05P1wPw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhcbQ8X_JqY

If you ever get a pineapple from the store, just twist the top off and peel the lower leaves off until you see fresh roots sticking out and put it in a vase of water until its root system extends at least six inches and then plant it in some nice soil and wait a few years and eventually you will have a pineapple, if you plant it in a nice enough microclimate or climate that is.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1klxRnjZOI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrcCPAnFtnE
Here's backyard full of pineapples: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1vNGPS10RY


There's more stuff from the store you can grow of course but these are just the common ones.

Edit: I'm subbed to this guy on youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nF4lG6iZ3I
He grows a number of things from store bought seeds.

Tsinava fucked around with this message at 01:39 on Mar 20, 2014

NPR Journalizard
Feb 14, 2008



Tsinava posted:

This is where, I think, sweet potatoes start to get a lot cooler than potatoes. You can partially bury the vines in small mounds of soil, and those sections of the vines will root and start producing sweet potatoes as well. You can do this over and over and get a huge crop out of like one or two sweet potatoes.

Im reasonably sure that you can do this with potatoes as well. My mum used to use barrels and start off with only the first 1/4 full of soil, then keep adding more soil every few inches of growth till the whole barrel was full.

Tsinava
Nov 15, 2009

by Ralp


Oh yeah potato towers! Those are a neat trick, especially if you don't have much space. I totally forgot about those.

Cpt.Wacky
Apr 17, 2005


Tsinava posted:

Oh yeah potato towers! Those are a neat trick, especially if you don't have much space. I totally forgot about those.

I did a neat version of potato towers last year. Welded wire fence formed into tubes and tied shut. Then lined with landscape fabric on the inside. Large binder clips or closepins can hold the fabric in place folder up over the top while you tie a string all the way around the outside rim. Start it out with 12" of soil for the seed potatoes and hill up during the season. When it's time to harvest untie the welded wire and they spill out for easy picking.

Atticus_1354
Dec 9, 2006

Don't you go near that dog, you understand? Don't go near him, he's just as dangerous dead as alive.


Those wicking beds look pretty great and I think I may make a couple to throw on my backporch with some hot peppers in them. Evaporation is a major concern around here since I am in a very dry area and I can also not worry about watering as often as with my normal container setups.

Also does anyone have any advice on turning horse poo poo in to good compost possibly with worms since worms are cool? I am now living on a ranch and have as much horse poo poo as I could ever want.

Atticus_1354 fucked around with this message at 01:40 on Feb 9, 2014

Tsinava
Nov 15, 2009

by Ralp


You can vermicompost horse manure in multiple ways I think. Apparently a good way is to let the manure partially compost first and heat up enough to kill all the bad pathogens and then introduce worms to the pile or vice versa.

Here's a link: http://www.redwormcomposting.com/reader-questions/largescale-manure-vermicomposting/

johnnyonetime
Apr 2, 2010


Atticus_1354 posted:

Also does anyone have any advice on turning horse poo poo in to good compost possibly with worms since worms are cool? I am now living on a ranch and have as much horse poo poo as I could ever want.

Read up on Sir Albert Howard, the father of organic agriculture. This blew me away the first time I read it.

The General Idea
http://www.the-compost-gardener.com/compost-pit.html

Chapter from his book
http://journeytoforever.org/farm_library/HowardWPA/WPA4.html



Also wanted to throw this little anecdote in the mix:

Years ago my father worked for an agriculture research station in Texas and was sent to Hawaii for work. Picked up a box of pineapples to bring home for everyone. My grandmother chopped the top off of hers and planted it in a regular flowerpot her sunroom in north Texas. Grew into a little 2 foot tall tree/bush. Twelve months later she gives my dad back the pineapple fruit off her tree.

Tsinava
Nov 15, 2009

by Ralp


Here's a cool website you can probably use if you live in an "internet-friendly" area: http://fallingfruit.org/


People document useful wild plants growing and pinpoint them on the map. So if you wanna add some species to your garden you can get clones from what you find on here.

LostEnder
Jul 3, 2012



Such a timely thread! I've grown up in agriculture, but only in the common commercial sense. That compostpower/Jean Pain concept just pretty well blew my mind. I'm looking into buying my first house in the near future and have already fallen in love with hydronic heating. And I live in timber country, with a number of local sawmills, which ought to drive down input costs pretty significantly.

So, it looks like for the cost of making (and having) a big pile of chips in the backyard, I could conceivably heat my house and have hot water for a year+. Any more experienced composters have feedback on what the potential downsides might be? I'm concerned that there would be a pretty distinct smell after rains, having it be a eyesore, etc.

canyoneer
Sep 13, 2005


I only have canyoneyes for you


This discussion is not complete without Garden Pool.
http://gardenpool.org/

Tsinava
Nov 15, 2009

by Ralp


LostEnder posted:

Such a timely thread! I've grown up in agriculture, but only in the common commercial sense. That compostpower/Jean Pain concept just pretty well blew my mind. I'm looking into buying my first house in the near future and have already fallen in love with hydronic heating. And I live in timber country, with a number of local sawmills, which ought to drive down input costs pretty significantly.

So, it looks like for the cost of making (and having) a big pile of chips in the backyard, I could conceivably heat my house and have hot water for a year+. Any more experienced composters have feedback on what the potential downsides might be? I'm concerned that there would be a pretty distinct smell after rains, having it be a eyesore, etc.

As long as it's just normal wood mulch and leaf mulch and not food matter it shouldn't smell too much. If you have money to burn you should invest in constructing or buying a biodigester to get natural gas from your compost as well.

If you want to run pipes through mulch its best to keep it contained in some sort of structure with openings in the side to allow airflow. You want to keep the pipes in the pile itself pretty tightly closed of course and insulate them the rest of the way.

If you want to keep the pile from looking like an eyesore you can plant tall plants around it like sunflowers and other various things on the pile itself to cover it. This will actually help to retain and generate heat in your pile.

If you or anyone else manages to find any good manuals that explain how these systems or biodigesters work please link them here.



Edit: If you got your own garden growing you could grow your own mulch pretty easily especially if you use certain species, such as bamboo, so you wouldn't have to depend on the mill as much. If you have as much as half an acre or more you could easily get heated water and electricity eventually, even if you're starting in some west Texas desert where the soil is like a foot deep. Within five years you can get an area like that producing it's own power, and perhaps even it's own spring water depending on how much land you own and the shape of the terrain. If you have deep soil well water is definitely an option.

Tsinava fucked around with this message at 04:28 on Mar 11, 2014

LostEnder
Jul 3, 2012



I didn't think that the smell would be much of a thing, but the place I'd want to have a pile at is on the edge of town and I'd rather not trouble the neighbors. The sheer size of the recommended pile is pretty daunting though, and seems like it could easily cause friction with neighbors. Some coverage would help, but 20x20x6 ft is pretty eyecatching no matter what. I'd have to do some math on the chemistry that's happening, but ideally I'd want to sink the pile into a depression and use some big irrigation tube to allow airflow. It would make it much harder to change out the pile though.

In my area we have about 3ft of topsoil on average and dirt quite a bit deeper depending on the local topography. Most wells are 100-300ft deep, and common, along with lots of rain. If you put the effort in, it would be pretty easy to pull it all together here, provided you had enough space. The mills might be a good way to save some otherwise useless materials, but I'd also be able to pull deadwood, storm falls, etc from quite a few places. It would be interesting to see how large of a bamboo stand it would take to produce an appropriate pile each year though. I assume that it would decompose roughly the same way though.

Even if I don't wind up with the property I'm looking at, the family farm and large garden might be able to justify an experiment pile. It'd probably only wind up as simple compost, but it never hurts to have a proof of concept. I could pretty easily rock some hugelkultur out there anyway though. I'll have to see how much scrap wood we wind up with this spring after we clear the field edges.

I did find this MIT paper talking about a range of digesters. The ones in India look like they could be done on a DIY scale.

GardenPool is tight, but pretty heavily dependent on being able to keep animals around. Good concept for a tough environment though, as long as the city doesn't shut you down.

Tsinava
Nov 15, 2009

by Ralp


There's honestly all sorts of mulch sources. Bamboo is just one of them and it grows particularly fast. The best candidates for mulch in your area are whatever grows fastest really. Trees, shrubs, weeds, whatever.

I've never had enough land to work with the concept but I imagine you could have a constant source of compost if you just kept a giant pile near a clearing that you let fallow and you trim every year or so.

Tiny Brontosaurus
Aug 1, 2013

by Lowtax


Bamboo is a rhizome and spreads incredibly quickly/aggressively. It can damage the local ecosystem if left unchecked. Do not plant it unless you're prepared to take full precautions to keep it contained, which can involve burying barriers and regular root pruning. More here.

Everyone please consider local ecosystems when you do any of this. Agriculture isn't "sustainable" if it unleashes a bunch of invasive species.

apatite
Dec 2, 2006

Got yer back, Jack



Not sure a Pain Mound (the best name for anything, ever imo) would have worked out for me this year. We had -20F and below for extremely long periods of time with no snow cover as insulation. The frost depths are incredible!

It is a neat idea but maybe you would be better off growing willow or other species and combusting or gasifying them to provide your heat etc in place of the rotting pile? Well dried material burnt in a gasifier has incredibly low emissions when you consider that you are burning stuff

Tsinava
Nov 15, 2009

by Ralp


Tiny Brontosaurus posted:

Bamboo is a rhizome and spreads incredibly quickly/aggressively. It can damage the local ecosystem if left unchecked. Do not plant it unless you're prepared to take full precautions to keep it contained, which can involve burying barriers and regular root pruning. More here.

Everyone please consider local ecosystems when you do any of this. Agriculture isn't "sustainable" if it unleashes a bunch of invasive species.

It depends on the variety you get. Generally everyone goes for clumping bamboo because it stays in it's place. I believe what you're talking about is running bamboo varieties, which can and will become a nuisance if they aren't planted in a controlled areas.

More info here: http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/non-invasive-bamboo

I was just using bamboo as an example really. There are plenty of options for mulching plants you just have to see what's native.

apatite posted:

Not sure a Pain Mound (the best name for anything, ever imo) would have worked out for me this year. We had -20F and below for extremely long periods of time with no snow cover as insulation. The frost depths are incredible!

It is a neat idea but maybe you would be better off growing willow or other species and combusting or gasifying them to provide your heat etc in place of the rotting pile? Well dried material burnt in a gasifier has incredibly low emissions when you consider that you are burning stuff

Compost hot water is generally a thing when you have giant compost piles anyways and it's just extracting energy from a system that's already there.

Wood gasification is much more convenient, especially if you have a lot of fast growing lumber trees in the area

Tsinava fucked around with this message at 22:17 on Mar 12, 2014

dwoloz
Oct 20, 2004

Uh uh fool, step back

apatite posted:

Not sure a Pain Mound (the best name for anything, ever imo) would have worked out for me this year. We had -20F and below for extremely long periods of time with no snow cover as insulation. The frost depths are incredible!

It is a neat idea but maybe you would be better off growing willow or other species and combusting or gasifying them to provide your heat etc in place of the rotting pile? Well dried material burnt in a gasifier has incredibly low emissions when you consider that you are burning stuff

Jean Pain's method is brilliant because it makes three products from one heap: heated water, biogas and compost.

Tsinava
Nov 15, 2009

by Ralp


I would definitely like to see a project where an acre or so of land is set aside with the flora planted there oriented towards a high energy output and a compost power plant or wood gasification plant are set up or both.

A compost plant's power output would be less controllable than a gasification plants which is why I want to see good examples of both. I'm sure they already existed in some form but imagine if we grew our own power instead of mining it or waiting for the appropriate weather?

I also recently found out something interesting about shallots. Shallots are something you can purchase at the grocery store usually. Most varieties of shallot are actually a kind of multiplier onion. So if you plant one, you get a whole cluster! They also ward away pests since they're an Allium species. Not a bad deal!

Tsinava fucked around with this message at 03:36 on Mar 19, 2014

TheMightyHandful
Dec 8, 2008



Same as garlic then! Plant one leftover clove and it brows into a bulb.

Tsinava
Nov 15, 2009

by Ralp


So now that spring is here I figured I would post some pictures of what I've been doing. My garden still has a lot of room to grow, I only started working on it about a year ago!

Today I noticed my neighbors left out tons of large bags of leaves. (AKA free mulch!) I had been hoarding bags of leaves for a little while but I found quite the haul today.



I live in a house with my parents and it's on a hill. The lower half of south side of our backyard is constantly exposed to the sun so as you can imagine, it completely dries up in the summer. It was previously flat with nothing intercepting water flow so it would gradually erode too. We first addressed this problem by putting cinder blocks at the foot of our yard to stop the erosion somewhat. That helped a whole lot, now I just dumped a bunch of leaves over the cinder blocks making a berm.



some more leaves on it




The next couple of pictures show what I did with a relatively large swale I made in the yard. I just dumped all the leaves in the lower part of it. Sorry for the poor quality. I'll probably take more pictures of these areas as they develop over time.






Here are the left over bags I still have, quite a bit of mulch still there.



For extras, here's a black locust I planted several weeks ago. It used to be a little taller but it got infected with a locust borer,(!!!) so snapped the infected limb off and smeared a clove of garlic all over the area where I snapped the branch off and some onion too, I planted some garlic around it as well (I do that with everything that has pest problems) and it seems to be doing fine.



edit: some typos, old as heck but w/e

Tsinava fucked around with this message at 06:33 on Sep 24, 2014

Placid Marmot
Apr 28, 2013


dwoloz posted:

Jean Pain's method is brilliant because it makes three products from one heap: heated water, biogas and compost.

I saw a video where he or his son (a while ago, I forget) stated that the remainder of the pile, when it has finished generating gas, is no longer useful as compost.

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Tsinava
Nov 15, 2009

by Ralp


Hey! I just wanted to update this thread with some new info I found about a cool contraption called a trompe!

This is a passive system with no moving parts. The water flows into an orifice designed to maximize air filtration, the falling water carries the air bubbles down into the reservoir, creating a pressurized air pocket, which isothermically compressed air can be extracted from and used for all sorts of things. (breathing tanks, pneumatic engines, refrigeration)

Have some diagrams:







Bill Mollison explains them in this video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SScpJMsCm9c

There are also other contraptions called pulse pumps and ram pumps that use the same principle, although they don't isolate compressed air for your use.

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