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Author Topic: Organic Orchard Floor Management  (Read 614 times)

Frog Valley Farm

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Organic Orchard Floor Management
« on: December 02, 2019, 06:41:06 AM »
Compacted white sand with a cut lawn cover was the single biggest problem we had to overcome when starting our Florida Farm 4 years ago.  We had compacted soil, standing water and low ph acidic soil all of which are not conducive for microbial life.  I ended up taking a whole bunch (190 credits) of soil science and microbiology classes to try and understand how to fix this problem. We farm using biodynamic practices which means we are a closed loop system. In organic farming 90 percent of a plants nutrients come from microbial life so it made sense to provide habitat for the microbes.  I learned the compaction was caused from the constant mowing along with the short grass that did not protect the  soil from heavy rain.  Much to the horror of my neighbors we stopped mowing.  We quickly noticed different Florida natives/weeds and a variety of legumes start to show up in our tallish grass. Thankfully most of our cover stays about 1’ tall.  Within 6 mos. our standing water mostly came to a stop.  During this time I also did different foliar sprays almost daily.  Some were humus, biodynamic compost, indigenous microorganism, yeast,  steeped weeds, lactobacillus.  I would mix all the teas and I sprayed continuously for a year.  It was sooo boring but important. The tall grass mix provides a perfect habitat for microbial life and has an almost ideal (brown grass/green grass) carbon to nitrogen ratio which is what you need to make the perfect organic growing medium, stable organic matter, this shows in the form of aggregates or humus and is now between 1” and 4” deep.  Some areas have humus and some areas have aggregates.  The humus seems to develop in the areas where the water used to pool.  Fortunately all of our compaction, standing water and soil PH problems have been corrected. 

I see so much misinformation out there that states grass and weeds compete for water and nutrients with the trees. This is not true when your growing perennial trees crops in a properly managed organic system.  Putting a thick layer of wood chips down actually causes the microbial life to steal nitrogen from the soil in order to break the carbon down which is why you then need to add some nutrients like nitrogen because the carbon to nitrogen ratio is out of whack.  The trees only have a problem if they are smothered by the grass which some oversized grasses could do but most seedlings overcome this.  Thankfully our farm doesn’t have this problem.  Root hairs with bacteria can maintain moist conditions in the rhizosphere during severe drought conditions.  In this part of Florida where the weather is conducive for maximum microbial life year round this builds soil continuously.  At this point I do not do anything but plant tree seeds and move carbon around from trimmings, palm fronds etc..

Fortunately we had too much land for us to resort to covering everything with wood chips and had to find an alternative for our orchard floor management.  I do like wood chips but adding too many wood chips changes the carbon to nitrogen ratio and hinders microbial life from doing their job of cycling nutrients and make stable organic matter.

Unfortunately most people cannot implement this management style as it does not work with Florida’s aesthetic of mowed cut lawns.

 This is an approved organic farm system for orchard floor management by the USDA.  If we changed it we would have to get permission or lose our USDA Organic Certification.




Under the tall grass we have at least an inch of stable organic matter either in aggregate form like this.

Or humus form like this.  In some areas we have 4 inches of humus under the tall grass system.  This stable organic matter can last for 40 years and is a perfect fertilizer for orchids and other potted plants when made into a tea.  I put it in a paint strainer bag and squeeze it into water which makes a dark soil solution. Since it’s stable it does not break down or disintegrate and is just like a dirt sponge.





Since we are trying to sell. 
https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/6380-12th-St-Vero-Beach-FL-32966/45240365_zpid    I had to put a trail system thru the farm which meant mowing a trail.  I am pleasantly surprised that due to the increase in organic matter due to the biodiverse mix of roots in our sand.  Mychorizal fungi has colonized the soil which can be seen in the bare spots of the soil that are exposed by mowing.  This isn’t just mychorizal fungi growing in wood chips which is very easy to do but is growing in the soil.


« Last Edit: December 04, 2019, 06:29:56 AM by Frog Valley Farm »

pineislander

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Re: Organic Orchard Floor Management
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2019, 08:30:21 AM »
I'd love to see a video showing the details it would help a lot of people. How many thousands of acres citrus do we have mowed or sprayed at great expense? Let me know if you need an online host for the video I could do that.

Frog Valley Farm

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Re: Organic Orchard Floor Management
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2019, 08:39:55 AM »
I'd love to see a video showing the details it would help a lot of people. How many thousands of acres citrus do we have mowed or sprayed at great expense? Let me know if you need an online host for the video I could do that.

Pete Kanaris was interested in doing that but he’s busy doing all his other stuff.  I feel the wood chips as mulch thing gets way too much credit and is actually unsustainable and can create a nutrient imbalance.  The tall grass prairies in the Midwest created some of the richest soil on earth which we’ve almost depleted.  Mowing on wet sand is the single most damaging thing that is being done to our Florida soils.  If Floridians haven’t realized it the Florida Citrus industry doesn’t know what they are doing.  Except when it comes to polluting.  I have no problem growing disease free citrus from seed in the tall grass with phenomenal 1 year growth up to 6’ x 5’ with no inputs including no supplemental watering.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2019, 08:50:59 AM by Frog Valley Farm »

Pokeweed

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Re: Organic Orchard Floor Management
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2019, 08:55:59 AM »
When we bought our place it was all pasture, all overgrazed. The soil was compacted and didn't have earthworms in it.
We started fencing areas off to keep the cattle out and reduced the number of cattle. We knocked over a bunch of mesquite and burned them. We then dozed the remains and pushed soil over the piles. I had not heard of hugelkultur, but what happened is similar. In the places where we did this it has created a deep soil that grows anything I have tried in it.
Other places where we just excluded the cattle have done almost as well. One paddock of about 5 acres keeps the cattle fed for a couple of weeks now when we open it up after a few months growth. I can't dig a hole without finding earthworms. We have not planted any grasses, but have a mix of many types from fairly low to waist high. So even without all the inputs of tea, mulch, chips etc. Just letting the soil heal works.

Frog Valley Farm

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Re: Organic Orchard Floor Management
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2019, 09:01:58 AM »
When we bought our place it was all pasture, all overgrazed. The soil was compacted and didn't have earthworms in it.
We started fencing areas off to keep the cattle out and reduced the number of cattle. We knocked over a bunch of mesquite and burned them. We then dozed the remains and pushed soil over the piles. I had not heard of hugelkultur, but what happened is similar. In the places where we did this it has created a deep soil that grows anything I have tried in it.
Other places where we just excluded the cattle have done almost as well. One paddock of about 5 acres keeps the cattle fed for a couple of weeks now when we open it up after a few months growth. I can't dig a hole without finding earthworms. We have not planted any grasses, but have a mix of many types from fairly low to waist high. So even without all the inputs of tea, mulch, chips etc. Just letting the soil heal works.

Since we are a biodynamically managed farm we have to incorporate animals into our system.  We have donkeys and mules on pasture that we rotate every five days six pastures total.  5 days per month with animals and 25 days of rest.  We are not allowed to worm (except in emergency) or buy any outside feed.  Thankfully they were all wild when I bought them so they have been very healthy under this managed system.

Alejandro45

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Re: Organic Orchard Floor Management
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2019, 09:09:29 AM »
While I personally agree with letting the grass grow unchecked.  It's mostly because I like having grasshoppers and lizards roaming my property.  I kinda have done what you did out of sheer laziness. I planted my trees and laid logs all around them. I can't get my mower in there anymore and I am just too lazy to take a weed whacker to it. I haven't seen any really healthy growth compared to my trees in pots.

Frog Valley Farm

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Re: Organic Orchard Floor Management
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2019, 09:26:04 AM »
While I personally agree with letting the grass grow unchecked.  It's mostly because I like having grasshoppers and lizards roaming my property.  I kinda have done what you did out of sheer laziness. I planted my trees and laid logs all around them. I can't get my mower in there anymore and I am just too lazy to take a weed whacker to it. I haven't seen any really healthy growth compared to my trees in pots.

Another reason was to satisfy the 10% wild space organic growers are required to provide.  The tall grass is that wild space.  I too like adding carbon but if the carbon to nitrogen ratio is not perfect 8c to 1n, which tall grass creates, brown grass green grass.  The wood you add will leach nitrogen from the soil/plant and of course hinder plant growth.  If you haven’t already done so plant some legume seeds like Dutch Clover to your lawn this will provide the nitrogen needed to break down the wood. Preferably more than 1 type of legume would be ideal.   I also add logs and whatever carbon I can find.  Fortunately at this point my nitrogen pool in the stable organic matter provides the necessary nitrogen needed to break down wood and cycle nutrients.  Before we got to this level of fertility I had slow growing trees that sometimes were showing nutritional deficiencies which they eventually out grew once the biology was in place.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2019, 09:36:29 AM by Frog Valley Farm »

nattyfroootz

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Re: Organic Orchard Floor Management
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2019, 10:28:37 AM »
Really awesome to see what you did and I hope that whoever purchases your property will have the desire to uphold a natural and wild sustained system!  I'm trying to put something similar to this in action in my small scale yard (1/4 acre).  I have removed all signs of what was a flat barron lawn landscape and added texture and definition to the landscape to help move water. I have then used native bunch grasses and annual wildflowers to create a living green manure that supports native organisms and my rad subtropical fruits.

Frog Valley Farm

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Re: Organic Orchard Floor Management
« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2019, 06:16:52 AM »
Is it just left brain or right brain thinking or can diet awaken the right brain?   Psychological compatibility with diversity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIApfhIcKKk
« Last Edit: December 03, 2019, 06:25:13 AM by Frog Valley Farm »

Frog Valley Farm

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Re: Organic Orchard Floor Management
« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2019, 06:45:52 AM »
Really awesome to see what you did and I hope that whoever purchases your property will have the desire to uphold a natural and wild sustained system!  I'm trying to put something similar to this in action in my small scale yard (1/4 acre).  I have removed all signs of what was a flat barron lawn landscape and added texture and definition to the landscape to help move water. I have then used native bunch grasses and annual wildflowers to create a living green manure that supports native organisms and my rad subtropical fruits.

It is good to hear of others who are into regenerative agriculture as here in Florida it feels like I’m an island.  Unfortunately here in Florida most people, even some of the permaculture/organic people are into killing and controlling their environment and don’t understand how to regenerate soils and natural systems.  Fortunately because of what is considered locally as extremely radical crazy farming practices (“not maintained”) will not translate into a buyer.  I do love my vibrant full of life low maintenance, low cost natural thriving ecosystem we have created here in Vero Beach Florida. Even the torpedo grass and fire ants have a purpose.  The 264 Mango trees and 100s of other thriving fruit trees also help.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=regenerative+agriculture&sp=EgIIAw%253D%253D
« Last Edit: December 04, 2019, 07:42:13 AM by Frog Valley Farm »

 

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