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Messages - pineislander

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I don't keep many long-term container plants but have seen on here some folks who noted benefits of non-chlorinated water. The article seems to be speaking of in-ground crops.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Re: To Mulch or Not to Mulch (Fruit Trees)
« on: April 19, 2019, 02:23:46 PM »
I had a hard top layer of soil, over past 5 years with mulching the soil has become very soft and you can drive a thin stake 12-18 inches without hammer. I believe that work mulch needed to do is done, as trees mature, all I will be doing is fertilize them both organic and non organic. once in a while do a very thin layer of much may be every 2-3 yrs, no more than 1" thick.  Thoughts?

I agree with the thinner mulch under mature trees, and you may even explore living shade loving cover plants under the tree. They can help become a "catch net" to hold leaf fall and encourage build up under a tree. Most if not all prunings from the trees need to be recycled and can amount to a large amount of material. Organic matter isn't permanent, it does eventually mineralize especially in humid tropical conditions. If something isn't added, grown or recycled organic matter levels won't stay in equilibrium but will steadily decrease over time leaving the soil unprotected.

The whole video is good but pay attention to formative pruning instructions at 8:00:

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Re: Terra preta or what i do with branches
« on: April 18, 2019, 07:35:22 PM »
Last year I removed several clumps of timber bamboo, loaded it on a trailer and offered it to give away but got no takers. Eventually it dried well and I dug a trench wider at the top than the bottom with my tractor front-end loader and as long as the longest pieces.
I started some on fire at the bottom and then began piling the bamboo on as fast as possible. It did expode frequently but within an hour it had all turned to coals and I quenched it with a large fire hose. The next day I removed then crushed the charcoal by driving over it on a concrete slab until it was fine grains or powder. The result was 300 gallons of fine biochar, enough for about 100 trees.
I did soak the char in fish emulsion with micronutrients then added it to a large compost pile for a month.

The key to making charcoal in an open pit is to get the fuel hot enough to create combustible vapors but keep the fire up above the pit which limits oxygen near the bottom of the pit. Without oxygen the fuel down low is less liable to burn into ashes.

Here is a video showing how it can be done using log wood.


Tropical Fruit Discussion / Re: Mulch problem - need your help
« on: April 17, 2019, 10:00:48 PM »
Most city folk are accustomed to grass, pure green uniform clipped off grass. They see a forest floor as being covered with trash. They don't recognize the mulch you are using as ordinary mulch because it isn't uniform it has variations, some fragments are large, some leaves, some grass. If you could top it off with a uniform material it would become more acceptable to most people

I doubt that it will ever be acceptable to people just out to spite you. They will try to work their evil no matter what you do, there is no satifaction for them, they are miserable and want to share it. Good luck to you I think your place looks very nice.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Re: To Mulch or Not to Mulch (Fruit Trees)
« on: April 17, 2019, 09:44:43 PM »
The ideal mulch for Florida’s sandy soil is living roots, a combination of grasses, weeds and herbs kept above 6 inches.  Tall living mulch is a carbon drip system for what’s living in soil the soil life feeds and sustains the tree and provides the home for soil life like fungi and bacteria.  Most weeds that grow in Florida attract and are home to beneficial insects.  This perfect nutrient cycling system along with the cation exchange which will naturally bind nutrients and pollutants in a stable matter that will not easily leach into the environment.
Most members in cities don't have the option to let weeds grow over 6 inches, that is a code violation. Just like the Demeter certification system you chose restricts you from bringing in resources from off-farm, they can't grow weeds. No organic material source is higher in carbon than woody material, no weed, grass, or plant comes close.

There is no plant based carbon mulch that feeds the tree unless you are mixing synthetic fertilizers in it.  The synthetic fertilizers will mostly pollute your yard and leach into the environment and this will stop natural nutrient cycling.  Plant carbon feeds the soil biology.
Definitely not true. Any plant based mulch will recycle nutrients in the material back into the soil with no need for synthetic fertilizer. That is a natural process which happens in nature all the time. Mulch as it decomposes is a microcosm of life and is in fact an ecosystem of it's own with macro/microorganisms including bacteria, fungi, nematodes, protozoans, arthropods, insects, even snakes, lizards, toads, moles. The life itself which is in the mulch as it decomposes represents to a large extent the source of nutrients which will feed the tree. The life is cellular and contains all the components of life, the dead bodies of micro and macro life and their excrement. That is also what happens in natural forest systems we can observe any time.
Having a tall living mulch will trigger the cation exchange and build soil.  Cation exchange happens under tall grass at soil levels. Mulch or plant carbon added in small increments every other week are an excellent way to provide a perfect environment for trees to thrive.  A high quality compost is best for speeding this process.  I have found biodynamic manure compost tea sprays are great for building soil thru the cation exchange.
Well first you say only roots can supply fertility then just small amounts of mulch. What I see is that larger amounts of mulch combined with macro and micro life does generate compost in place. When it rains, the composting mulch washes down obviating the need to prepare and spray manure or compost teas. Eventually shade from well grown trees will reduce if not eliminate most plants/weeds unless they are adaptable to shade, and leaf fall and pruning will begin to accumulate mulch on their own as if in a forest so why not jump start the process?
On my plantings I use mulch but also plants adjacent and far between trees, a full ground cover relying on legumes and so I am working with both ideas, one doesn't mean you can't do both.

The cation exchange will not happen under a thick layer of woodchips as they need grass roots and fungi to bind the organic matter and nutrients into soil structures.  Eventually the carbon from thick mulch will get into the soil with the help of worms, rain and segregation but this is easily leached and will not build stable organic matter in soil. Living root system do a much better job at putting carbon and biology into the ground and for building soil thru the cation exchange.  These are facts.
Cation exchange can happen or be improved absent any living plants or roots at all. Cation exchange can be simply from clay fractions or organic matter such as compost. There is no reason to say that thicker mulch would prevent cation exchange fro happening, would not build stable organic matter, or let it leach out. Mulch builds organic matter no different from any other organic matter.
Fungi happen to love mulch it is their food. Macro and micro life of all types consume organic matter and mulch, even thick mulch will form soil structures and build organic matter in soil. Organic matter from mulch will not leach any differently from organic matter from plant roots. One benefit of plant roots is that they advance down into the soil and is why I do use plants even trees and bananas since they have the most aggressive roots. I even use root crops which I can make productive use of. As root crops get harvested some deeper soil mixing happens for free.

However, my main complaint with the ideas you put forth is the dogmatic approach. Likely what you are saying is a result of the constraints imposed by your certification which limits off-farm inputs. That constaraint is your choice but isn't necesarily the only or possibly even the best way. It is your way and you are certainly free to do as you please.

Using mulch if ordinary precautions are followed does no harm, it has always been known to be beneficial.
Using mulch, even thick mulch definitely does not mean having no support plants/weeds/trees along with the mulches. You can have it both ways. Mulch does not have to be thin to work, it can be thick as well and many have proven that. I see mulch as being an entire ecosystem which produces as much as it recycles and works as an edge against sun, heat and evaporation, and a way to prevent unwanted plants so that more productive plants can be utilized.

The whole story is I'm composting discarded vegetables from a packing house next door. Some days they ship in multiple semi truckloads and generate a dump truck load of oversized, damaged, or overripe vegetables that I mix with rough mulch to make compost. All farms should look out for any organic waste in the area, even breweries generate stuff which can be useful. We have rum factories, vegetable, fish, shrimp, and crab processors, you'd be surprised what folks have which may be a problem for them but a solution for the farm. Our county is currently raking seaweed algae off the beach but it is a little too far from my place that would be a great score.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Re: To Mulch or Not to Mulch (Fruit Trees)
« on: April 15, 2019, 05:05:20 PM »
I have a tractor mounted chipper and point the chute directly into my truck for easy transport. I've applied fresh chipped mulch from legume trees (Acacia) and applied 4 inches thick with no problem. If it is thicker like a pickup truck full it will heat up. Like the video I posted from Australia above says, however, some fresh chipped material can be harmful and they suggest letting it age. They also show a test which involves soaking the chips in water to see it they stain the water. I will say that aged mulch has significant benefits and gets better with age. I sift out old mulch which has been decomposed and get a fairly good potting mix.

I guess what we are all wondering is...why do you have so many cucumbers. lol

They go well with and are higher in calcium than the peppers.

I started a collection of sour culinary citrus and calamondin is a great one. I got the whole range meyer lemon, sour orange, key lime, persian lime, sunquat and calamondin.

So this likes moist rotting material? If you want to ship it over I could use several hundreds pounds of innoculant to help break down a dump truck load of cucumbers I'm composting.

I don't have those seeds or a source for them but realize they require a warm growing season of 8-9 months minimum which most likely won't be possible in Maryland. The vine is also probably too large to fit inside all but a huge greenhouse. Good luck trying it.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Re: To Mulch or Not to Mulch (Fruit Trees)
« on: April 14, 2019, 01:39:06 PM »
Update on neighbor's avocado. She said the tree was trimmed, and trimmings from the tree were used to mulch. Tree was dead within a week. Sounds like combo of stress from trimming combined with over-mulching/choking the tree out.
I actually doubt pruning the tree would produce so much mulch to damage the tree. I just did that to a tree and had no ill effects, and have done it before. Last year I pruned, laid wood logs side by side to cover the 10 ft wide bed and mulched over the logs till the logs could not be seen and fertilized with compost, biochar and slow release fertilizer all at the same time, then installed sprinkler irrigation. The result was strong growth and a complete rebuilding of the canopy of some severely stunted avocado trees. This was on a 100 ft long bed of avocado trees about 20 trees total. It was done last July during the rainy seson. They flowered and set lots of fruit this year and have held fruit to 1" size so far it looks like the row is now in full production for the season. I have also interplanted a dozen papaya trees and two Sabara Jaboticaba, several Monstera, many Jack bean and pigeon pea support plants in the same bed. All are growing fine so I think that mulching avocado is the absolute best thing you could do. They are known to have a superficial surface feeder root system which will only benefit from mulch. The biggest fault avocado has is a susceptibility to root and trunk rot from standing water. Please have a look at the amount of mulch being used in avocado in Australia and all the cautions but note the mounds they are planted on.

Similar results in California:

such a beautiful orchard, that is at least before they butchered them in those last pics.  Their starfruit is really growing.. sadly my starfruit tree always has fruit flies, Several fruit fly bottle traps right on the tree, somehow they still get in.

Also I chop the leading branch, and then a year later, I got 1 new leader, no crown, not even threes.  I'll keep at it, but the growth sure has been slow.

It is not butchering it is pruning. They irrigate and fertilize the trees very well including fogging with foliar feeding. The heavy pruning stimulates vegetative growth so you might want to try it because clearly it works.

I may have a solution for you. First, is the tree getting enough sun? Under low light conditions a tree will exhibit apical dominance trying to reach light. If light levels are good there may be a solution. Have another look at the pruned trees in the picture. You will see some branches which bend down sharply then head back up. Probably that happened naturally from heavy fruit load drooping the branch downwards. When that happens it breaks the apical dominance and stilulates branching. The long branches of starfruit are very supple, so you may try bending the leader down over time with a weight or string attached to a stake, also trim the tip of the branch. This will probably result in fruiting followed by branching along the curved leader.

Actually there is a trick to make starfruit bloom. Just take the branches and bend them. You will hear an slightly audible 'cracking' sound just before the branch breaks. Do this along the length of the branch and you will find it will begin to curve. Trim the tip of the branch. This "torture" will stimulate flowering.

here is a demonstration:

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Re: To Mulch or Not to Mulch (Fruit Trees)
« on: April 13, 2019, 07:33:50 PM »
I'll add a few points of fact, opinion and some documentation. Like wine and many things mulch gets better over time. I started using mulch in the early 1980s and all I had was guinea grass, a tall panicum found all over the tropics. During the 90's I farmed in Arkansas and found a derelict sawmill site which had a 20 year old mountain of sawdust/bark which had almost turned to something like chocolate cake. I worked on that for years till somebody playing around set the newer stuff on fire and it burned down deep underground.
So most recently 1-1/2 years ago I managed to get 2000 cubic yards of Hurricane Irma debris delivered. here is a video showing it:

There is a big difference between mulches, usually folks speak of carbon/nitrogen ratio comparing grasses, vegetable matter, leaves and wood chips but really it comes down to the amount of carbon it contains. No organic matter except charcoal contains more carbon per volume than wood.

So far I've covered about 2 acres with it at the rate of about 1000 yards/acre. The decomposition in that time is close to 75% such that one foot turns into 3-4 inches. What I really want to show is how that happens so today I took a few pictures. In my case, in southwest Florida with 50 inches rain per year mostly in the summer and a very poor sandy soil with low organic matter the best agent of decompostion are millipedes both the long and short pill-bugs but mostly the former. These arthropods are primary decomposers of woody material worldwide but especially in tropical conditions where earthworms seem a little soft and maybe vulnerable the arthropods dominate.

Here are photos of the mulch pile once about 10 feet tall in the video above and after 1-1/2 years now about 5 feet. The millipede shown is one of thousands, millions or hundreds of millions across the property which have turned a foot of the mulch into 3-4 inches of feces technically called 'frass'.

Close-up showing the black granular frass.

These guys work day and night for me, all they want is food.

Usually the most rich ecosystems form at the interface edges between radically different systems. Examples would be estuaries where fresh meets salt water, field edges, stream edges, rocks and structures in water. All of these particular edges serve as habitats for species which can co-exist in either system but find the edge to be the best. Hunters and fishermen know this and it's true on the micro as well and the macro level.

When you put mulch on soil you create a brand new ecosystem directly at the interface of soil and air. It is cool enough, dark enough and moist enough for organisms dwelling both in and outside the soil to coexist. It is where fungi can send out their fruiting bodies called mushrooms and breed.
Here are some photos of what you can see happening at the surface of well mulched soil:
millipede working on dead banana leaves:

Millipede working on fallen avocado fruitlets:

Mushrooms on mulched seedling Pitomba tree on top of decomposing papaya tree trunks:

Mango tree prunings skeletonized by millipedes:

Mushrooms on logs which have been covered by mulch under avocado tree dripline:

So when millipedes eat the mulch they are consuming lignins and cellulose but derive most benefit from the bacteria and fungi already on that material. They are being predators on the primary micro-saprophytes which are already there. Within the millipede gut there is a population of lignin-digesting microorganisms which further digest the matter and thus as it is expelled as frass the material contains innoculum of bacteri, fungi and higher order creatures.

The frass has actually entered national commerce from south Florida, with the trade name "milli-poo". The sale price is $60 USD per cubic foot with the intended use as an ingredient in compost tea. An acre 3 inches deep with frass is 10,000 cubic feet so I'm almost a millionaire.

Yes there's probably some hype there  but they did get the stuff analyzed and found it highly enriched in fungal and less in bacteria.

If you like journal papers this one took dried leaves in vitro with millipedes and found they do a good job generating nitrogen and calcium and can modify soil ph.

Last night we hit the lottery. A 1/4 inch rain fell across our 2 acres, it equalled 13,000 gallons of milli-poo tea!

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Re: To Mulch or Not to Mulch (Fruit Trees)
« on: April 12, 2019, 07:20:38 PM »
I heard the same thing from a citrus nursery. "The trees will die from phytophthora."

This is the same farm they have started annual pruning. I think they stagger the pruning dates to help stagger the harvest date.
The prunings are dropped between the trees and shredded in place later using a Flail mower which can handle fairly large material and holds it inside to reduce it down in size.

Pay extra attention to the westward side of the tree which gets the most intense afternoon sun. Also horizontal branches exposed to noonday sun. I have some older trees which had been neglected in the past and can easily see the trunk bark burned on those specific areas.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Re: 50 mango tree orchard- 1 year update
« on: April 09, 2019, 04:31:21 PM »
Looks great! Noob question. Do the veggies around the tree bases do much to sap nutrition from the mangos or banana/papaya? Or do they make no difference/ actually help the soil ecosystem?

 I know some of the plants like legumes actually return nitrogen to the soil but figured tomatos and peppers would suck it all out if given the chance.
I do give the vegetables some fertilizer to take care of them. Yes, I'm sure they share nutrients and water with the others in the system, but they also give back to me! The banana and papaya have roots up to 10 feet in diameter so they are well beyond the extent of mango roots at this time. However, eventually they will leave the system and when they do their network of roots can provide pathways of at least some organic matter running through the soil. There's no question that nature abhors a vacuum and in typical orchards this would be mowed grass. My plan is long term and I am looking through to the future and how things will eventually be. So the idea is a management of succession mimicking how nature runs it's course from bare ground through brushy growth and towards forest. During that time the mix of plants and trees changes and offers opportunities which can be directed in a positive way. There is a train of thought that believes plants actually do cooperate in the root zone and definitely share photosynthesis spatially. I'm trying to maximize use of the existing solar energy to benefit the land in a systematic way.
For example, over the past year I've picked papaya, peppers, eggplants, beans, yams, cassava, herbs, greens and thanks to the garlic chives I've altogether stopped buying onion and garlic, those are perennial and just keep coming. I've sold hundreds of $ sweet potato, cassava, yams and papayas. Hundreds of guavas are now on the trees, they are marketable. The bananas and plantains are starting to come in and they are being sold. I've added turmeric to the system this year and probably will also add ginger.
Ordinarily, a row of mango trees might be planted and grass mowed between the rows. Yes, a lot less work but a lot less productivity for several years. It really comes down to how much time and effort you want to expend and how much you want to manage things like that. I love planting things and have the time, the effort is good exercise for me and watching the whole thing feeds more than my belly it feeds my soul.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Re: 50 mango tree orchard- 1 year update
« on: April 08, 2019, 06:35:37 PM »
Thanks PI 8) I made the mistake of running east to west.
Really, having a challenge like that ought to be taken as an opportunity. There are lots of shade loving things which can be planted within that space. Many folk on sloping ground have no other options but to run on countour east/west for example. To the north of each of my trees there is a shadow in the dry season which I can exploit and to the south side of each tree there is an area of higher sunshine.

Quote from: hawkfish007
How big is the lot? Would you or your friend be willing to sell a few bamboo stem cuttings and ship.
The lot is approximately 1/2 acre.
I'm letting them grow for a few more years. I know they are expensive to buy and that is because it takes time effort and some luck to propagate. I'd suggest going to a farmer's market frequented by asian sellers where someone is selling sprouts, and asking them.
The best material I got was as described before, lower branches with adventitious roots. Cut sections of culm with the branches on them and plant in pots burying the adventitious roots.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Re: Can I save my coffee plant?
« on: April 08, 2019, 08:17:10 AM »
Sounds like it was treated roughly maybe cold, heat, sun wet or dryness. Plants grown in greenhouses/shadehouses become very pampered and sellers seldom harden them off by slow exposure to sun, wind, cold, elements etc. I recall you wanted to grow coffee in Florida in full afternoon sun. Coffee can grow in full sun but is usually a shade lover. Good luck with your plant. Maybe consider buying local plants where you can have better control and choices.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Re: 50 mango tree orchard- 1 year update
« on: April 06, 2019, 09:31:59 PM »
Excellent system PI!! A couple questions since I have been copying you!
1. What direction are your rows facing?
2. What species is that timber bamboo and where did you get them?
3. Did you make mounds of strait mulch or did you mound sand a bit and then lay on the mulch?
1. I put the tree rows north/south. Generally, this gives the best distribution of light. If the site is difficult for that like due to slope and it's only possible for rows to run east west you might find tall species to the south cast shade on their north side. In that case you could use it for advantage by placing shade lovers or tolerant species in those positions, or putting tall ones to the north with shorter to to the south.
2. I don't know the exact species of timber bamboo. I took stem cuttings from a friend who has a stand. The cuttings were lower sections which had branches that had already begun adventitious roots. He has already been cutting and selling bamboo shoots to the asian markets and says it is a non-bitter variety very good for eating, and he will buy anything I can produce. I planted 50 in pots and got them established for about a year and they have been in the ground for one year. I ended up with 30 viable clumps. They are a north windbreak so they don't cast shade and block frosty wind and a nuisance view of an industrial type building.
3. I used a box scraper on my small tractor to pull sandy soil over into rough form then hand shaped the beds using a rake. To keep them straight I ran strings 5'- 4" apart down each side. I topped each bed with 4 inches of compost then mulched on top. when planting I used a minimal amount of good Nutricote Total 18-6-8 fertilizer with micronutrients, it is 100% time release 180 days. Compost was from a local supplier who sells in bulk. I mulched in between the beds with a heavy application nearly 1 ft.
This shows what the first bed looked like one year ago.
This is what it looks like when I shape a bed. It takes about a day for me to do this on a 120 ft. bed.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / 50 mango tree orchard- 1 year update
« on: April 06, 2019, 01:51:06 PM »
here's a one year update on my orchard.

I haven't ever transplanteed a fruiting pineapple but expect it would be hard on the fruit. If I had the situation I would probably let it continue growing until harvest before moving. The existing plant should make some offsets which can be moved in a few months.

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