Episode-917- 11 Common Gardening, Permaculture and Homesteading Questions — 19 Comments

  1. A couple yrs ago DH made a few 2-ft-high frames out of PVC pipe and window screen material to keep cabbage moths off Brassicas. You could do something like this to keep critters from eating seeds (except for small insects). The diggers may not realize what is there b/c it is covered with the “cage.”

    RE tilling soil: Since we plan to move in about a yr, I didn’t want to do the whole Dirt Doctor amending-tilling thing to start the new beds I put in last spring. (I live in north TX, land of the clay gumbo – I mean you couldn’t put a shovel in the area where I wanted to expand my garden.)

    So I tried a modification of the lasagna gardening thing: mainly, I scattered kitchen scraps on the ground (for which the neighborhood wild rats were infinitely grateful) and then dumped about three feet of dried leaves on top.

    That was last spring, and this yr the plants growing in that area couldn’t be HAPPIER.

    Sometimes, being lazy works. 😉

  2. Great show Jack! I’m beginning to understand what I need to do to get some beneficial stuff to grow on my property back home. I really like understanding the “why” some of these things work, and why some don’t.
    I get to look at land in Afghanistan a lot, and I notice that they trim their trees for fuel a lot like you just talked about. They do other interesting things too, like plant trees (I think?) to provide shade for whatever they grow in the midst of the trees. And anywhere they dig ditches, something is growing. It’s amazing the contrast (in vegetation) from where they live to everywhere else here. If they can do it, maybe I can do it better : )

  3. OMGs, Jack wasn’t eating ribeye? It’s a sure sign of the end of the world!! (JUST KIDDING, but had to tease for a moment there)

    Great episode, I’ve actually been noticing that out here, the trees grow IN swale-like areas. Not on the hill above, but IN ditches or low spots between ridges.

  4. Good points, good show! The part about chipmunks eating seeds hits home. They ate my green bean seeds twice this Spring directly from the garden. I finally said, “That’s it!” and have planted them indoors where they are not popping their little heads up out of the soil. Didn’t eat peas, corn, lettuce or radishes. Just ate the green bean seeds! Little buggers!


  5. Great topic! I argue with my wife sometimes when things don’t go perfect in the garden and she thinks it’s a waste of time (it’s the programmer in her). I just tell her I’ll try a different approach next time. So many variables…

    • @Cal, funny ask her how many coding projects have no bugs in their first or for that matter second versions.

    • In our house, it’s just the opposite. My husband, the wicked-smart “professional nerd”, wants to have every T crossed and every I dotted before starting a project. Thing is, you don’t always know what’s going to happen and what’s going to work. I couldn’t have been more thrilled this year though when I got him talked into starting chickens. We built a chicken tractor from a kit, and now we know what we’d do differently if we were building from scratch. In previous years, DH would have called this coop a failure, but he sees that it’s not a failure just because things didn’t go perfectly. We’re learning a ton!

      I hope to do the same with gardening too. 🙂 Awesome show, Jack!

  6. This show reminded me of the article on ZH stating “even one dissenting voice can give people permission to think for themselves”

    I do this in my garden. I live in GA but I’m trying avocado’s, lemons, oranges and working with the different climates that exist on my half an acre. If I succeed it will give permission to others to try for themselves.

    Thanks for all you do Jack!

    It’s a good read for those interested:

  7. Loved this episode, I wrote last week that I am acquiring some land (3 acres), that is almost a clean slate except it already has a pond which i’m very excited about. I’ve been listening to both the 5min w/ jack and tsp, and have been generating all sorts of ideas and concepts. Last night I watched a video w/ Geoff Lawton
    This video gave me even more inspiration and was a perfect follow up to this show. Permaculture is still relatively new to me but I can’t wait to start applying different principals and just trying things.

    Do you have any suggestions for learning more about different varieties of plants, or sources to help find plant varieties that I might like or what to plant. I’ve heard a lot about seed blend packs, but I want to know what’s in them and how to use what I produce.

  8. There has been so much content on gardening and permaculture in the past 2 weeks I can’t keep up!

    Yes, I can.

    Keep up the good work.

    • Normally I replay all of the gardening/permaculture stuff multiple times. Lately it has been coming at such a pace that I don’t have a chance to do that. The swale in my head is starting to fill up and will soon began to overflow.

  9. H i Jack

    I’m a listener from Aotearoa/NZ living on a 1/4 acre of sand. Yes sand, not silt from a river, but sand from the sea. Would hugelkutur work in sand?

    Really enjoying the show!


  10. Pingback:11 Common Gardening, Permaculture and Homesteading Questions « occupysecession

  11. I’m not sure I understand the forest vs. plains comparison. True, there aren’t typically fungi in pasture/garden conditions. But can’t plant matter decompose by bacterial decomposition (as in composting) without first being turned into manure? Is the idea that manure and fungi create more fertility for a given amount of input?

    • @BeninMA,

      First understand it isn’t like one is “better” than they other they are simply different. Next understand that fungal break downs require high humidity, which is far more present in a forest then a savanna. Now grasp that even with irrigation it is hard to maintain the humidity of a forest in a open space unless you know that is what you are trying to do and compensate with poly culture and heavy mulch.

      Once you see it that way you begin to understand the complications for most people with growing soil in a open environment with out ruminants. Now can you compost, yes but it doesn’t burn hot and fast with out the right ratios and sufficient volume which is about one square meter.

      So the key here is understanding that we need to do our best to either,

      1. Recreate the high humidity for at least the cool part of the year of a forest


      2. Bring in sufficient manure to recreate the bacterial components of a plains situation

      Either will work but if we don’t understand this dynamic generally things end up sub optimum or if we do hit the balance right it is by chance not design. The problem with that is it become very hard to replicate even when we do it right if we don’t understand exactly how we hit the sweet spot.

      • Jack, thanks so much for the response.

        So if we chop-and-drop a cover crop, it won’t build fertile soil, but if we have animals eat and excrete that same crop, in the same place, it will build fertile soil?

        Thanks for helping us to actually understand this stuff!

        • @BeninMA, no, not even close. The key is humidity, you need humidity for fungal breakdown to occur. Open areas are generally dry but bacterium in the manure can do their work anyway, not to mention that animal pooh has some moisture to work with. Chop and drop is a great way to build soil it has to be done during high humidity (when rainfall exceeds evaporation) or you have to create the humidity. What happens to dry grass sitting on the ground if it stays dry? Does it become soil or just sit there?

          Also understand there are fungi in a savanna and bacteria in forest, this is about the dominant component in each environment.