Soil Health: A Permaculture Approach


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No Till systems, sheet mulching, permaculture and soil health. FInd out the basics what soil is, where it came from and things you can do to bring back healthy soil.

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Soil Health: A Permaculture Approach

  1. 1. Soil Health a permaculture approach Thursday, March 17, 2011
  2. 2. “When the earth is rich it bids defiance to droughts, yields in abundance, and of the best quality. I suspect that the insects which have harassed you have been encouraged by the feebleness of your plants, and that has been produced by the lean state of your soil.” Thomas Jefferson, in an 1793 letter to his daughter advising her on pest problems Thursday, March 17, 2011
  3. 3. Where does soil come from? Thursday, March 17, 2011
  4. 4. What is soil? Soil is composed of the following: mineral solids- sand, silt, and clay water- main source of water for plants (contains dissolved nutrients) air- provides roots with oxygen and helps remove excess carbon dioxide from respiring root cells organic matter- composed of living organisms (living), fresh residues (dead), and well decomposed residues (very dead) Thursday, March 17, 2011
  5. 5. Major Soil Nutrients Nitrogen (N)- Promotes plant growth Phosphorus (P)- Helps plant transfer energy from sunlight to the plant Potassium (K)- Thickens cell walls helps plant fight diseases and pests Thursday, March 17, 2011
  6. 6. Secondary Nutrients Calcium (Ca)- for cell division, root tip growth, genetic coding, and neutralizing imbalances of other nutrients Magnesium (Mg)- for chlorophyll Sulphur (S)- production of flavor and odor compounds and protein Thursday, March 17, 2011
  7. 7. Trace Elements Iron, Zinc, Boron, Copper, Manganes and 40 others Thursday, March 17, 2011
  8. 8. Organic Matter Living contains a wide variety of microrganisms including bacteria, fungi, protozoa, algae, insects, earthworms, moles. They help break down crop residues, manures and mix them with the minerals in the soil. In doing so they recycle plant nutrients. Worms and fungi stabilize soil by producing channels to allow water to infiltrate. Dead organic matter provides food to living organisms. The Very Dead is also called humus: it stores water and nutrients for plant life. Thursday, March 17, 2011
  9. 9. The soil food web maps out the web of symbiotic relationships of soil organisms. Not only do these organisms help break down organic matter and transform it to humus, they also act as food for each other. Thursday, March 17, 2011
  10. 10. What does healthy soil do? Stores and recharges groundwater- prevents flo Retains nutrients that feed plants Cleans toxins Stores carbon Can be used as a building material Thursday, March 17, 2011
  11. 11. What is the problem? Thursday, March 17, 2011
  12. 12. Eutrification and Soil Compaction: Thursday, March 17, 2011
  14. 14. Strategies for building healthy soil No or low till methods of food production- Sheet mulching, double digging, keyline plow. Feed the Soil-Non chemical fertilizers- compost, compost teas, other plant based fertilizers Rotational animal grazing Add organic matter in soil Cover bare soil- cover crops, organic mulch or low growing groundcover plants Depave Thursday, March 17, 2011
  15. 15. No and Low till methods Sheet Mulching- Building soil up mimics the way the forest builds soil by dropping leaves. Also called lasagna gardening. A process of laying down a barrier layer (often newspaper or cardboard) and alternating layers of carbon (browns) and nitrogen (greens) Double Digging- To double dig is to remove a layer of topsoil to "spade depth" - 8 in. to 12 in., roughly the length of a spade's blade--and set it aside. Then, the next 8-in. to 12-in. layer of soil, the subsoil, is loosened, aerated. Finally, the top layer is put back in place. Thursday, March 17, 2011
  16. 16. Sheet Mulching Thursday, March 17, 2011
  17. 17. Sheet Mulching-Multiple Functions Rapidly increases topsoil growth Removes organic material from landfill Provides habitat for worms Slow yielding of nutrients over time Human energy intensive (opportunity for building community) Absorbs, stores and slowly releases water Thursday, March 17, 2011
  18. 18. Rotational Grazing SHEEP ARE ROTATED AROUND FIELD Thursday, March 17, 2011 NEXT CHICKENS FOLLOW SHEEP
  19. 19. Rotational Grazing Sheep (or other ruminent), graze pasture and are moved before they have damaged forage. (see image above) Chickens follow, spread sheep manure and eat harmful parasites that may be living in manure. Process is repeated once pasture has grown back. Thursday, March 17, 2011
  20. 20. Example of nonchemical fertilizers Feeds the soil microrganisms! Liquid Fertilizers Compost Rock dust and other sources of macro and micro nutrients See reading, “Make your own liquid garden fertilizers,” by Mark Krawcyk Thursday, March 17, 2011
  21. 21. Depaving Transforms urban spaces into community assets Increases water infiltration Decreases Combined Sewer Overflow events See depave video Thursday, March 17, 2011