Monday, July 06, 2009

New look for the garden

We got a little tired of the clover growing well when it's wet, and going all crispy and crunchy underfoot when it doesn't rain for a few weeks. Also, the feijoa and olive trees were planted too close together, and because the ground wasn't prepared properly they weren't thriving.

So we asked Y's garden to remedy the situation by pulling up all the clover, improving the soil, and moving the trees somewhere more sensible.

Y came with a crew of three gardening men and they worked all day with much sighing and lamentation, pulling up the deeply rooted clover. They proposed to take away the clover in their truck, but I'd sooner lose a finger than let such a large amount of composting material out of my hands.

When the gardeners pulled up the trees, they promptly baled them up with sacking, as is their way. The root balls were no bigger than when the trees were brought in two years ago, attesting to how miserly the last lot of gardeners were with their ground preparation -- the roots hadn't grown at all.

The medium selected for improving the soil was this Canadian peat moss. English peat moss being a very dodgy, unsustainable sort of material, I promptly looked this up in alarm. It's supposed to regenerate itself, but I wonder if say, composted shredded bamboo wouldn't be a better option in Japan. Not that it's available...

My contribution to soil amelioration is this pot of charcoal with other secret ingredients. My reading on Terra Preta leads me to believe that charcoal alone won't be enough. Something biologically active is required. The high aroma of this preparation and its attractiveness to flies of all sorts suggests that a certain level of biological activity has been achieved. As I worked it into the soil, I recalled my visits to restaurants in isolated parts of France where the owner would bring out his most challenging homemade cheeses to test the mettle of rare foreign visitors.


mmbtupr said...

Sender is retired energy economist with agricultural, aquacultural and bioenergy experience, although not in Amazon.

Your insight is correct.

Abandoned sites in Amazon basin indicate clearly that biochar was part of a poorly understood family of soil managment systems which also include compost, sometimes pot shards and possibly an acid, among other ingredients. Resulting soil is called "terra preta" in Portuguese.
Experiments elsewhere indicate that biochar alone doesn't do much. It is the combination. Biochar is porous and its vast internal surface area provides a storage site for nutrients and a platform for microbiota to "snip" molecules more efficiently.
Some sites near Manaos, on the Amazon, are being "mined" with the "terra preta" sold to commercial farmers, producing greatly increased yields.
Try to view BBC video on "el Dorado" taken of agro platforms in NE Bolivia. ###

Rod said...

Thanks for posting.

Since I first read about Terra Preta in "1491", I've been curious about the function if any of the pottery shards. I wonder if they might be smashed chamber pots or something of the sort.