Mark explaining the life of soils under the Bamboo Pergola at Pegasus Farm
After more than a year we met again at Pegasus Farm where for some of us the journey into the Permaculture adventure started. Tanya and Gede were our hosts and invited us to sit under a lovely shaded bamboo pergola. As usual Beate guided us through the gathering not losing the red thread. We were quite a croud, 5 people from Gaia Oasis, Beate with her gardener, Burgel, Burkhard, Anne with her son Jens and Wayan with his wife, Susanne and Marylin, Klaus, Gina from Sananda Center, Annette and Nyoman, Conchita from Lovina Pages and myself with my gardener Kadek and last but not least Mark Garrett from Australia who offered to join us and share his knowledge about Permaculture Design with us. Everybody was very interested to learn more about soils, the different qualities, its life and how it can be built, taken care of and improved.
Some facts about soil to keep in mind:
- In the tropics 80% of the plant nutrients are held in the foliage. Therefore crops can only be sustainable if these nutrients are used from tree leaf-drop and root mass.
- We are not feeding the plant, but the beneficial biota and microorganisms in the soil which later release the nutrients in plant usable form. Grow your soil! Encourage soil life!
- Bare soil is damaged soil. Always cover soil with mulch. Grow the mulch you need around the gardenbeds and chop and drop. Good mulching plants are lemon grass, vetiver grass, comfrey, canna lillies and legumes such as pinto beans (ask Beate for seeds).
- Grass and fruit trees compete with each other for nitrogen. Prevent the grass within the area of the trees drip line by mulching or planting a ground cover such as marigolds or pinto beans.
- Why is it important to know the pH of your soil? The pH is a measurement for the acidity - alkalinity of the soil. It ranges from 1, very acid, to 14, very alkaline, with 7 as its neutral point. The pH-Level influences the availability of nutrients to the plants. At pH 7 all nutrients are available. At a lower pH, which means more acidic soil, some nutrients such as phosphorus, calcium and magnesium become less available and can manifest in plant deficiencies. The same happens with a more alkaline soil. Usually in the tropics you find acidic soils.
- How to test the pH of your soil? There are easy test kits available in Australia. If anybody knows a provider here in Bali, please let us know.
- How to bring your soil towards pH 7? As a general rule mix in compost and mulch heavily. For specific situations analyze your soil well and observe the plants if they show any diseases or deficiencies. As a fast cure use foliar spray of seaweed extract or liquid manure.
Some questions were raised regarding treatment for pests and diseases. Try not only to treat the symptoms but also to find the cause, very often an imbalance in the system. Nobody knows all the answers. Go and try, come back and tell!
Beate's red tiger compost worms from Temesi have been very busy and turned all the cow manure and food scraps into worm castings. What to do next with them? Just put everything on a plastic sheet into the sun. The worms will retreat to the coolest spot. Take away the worm castings and put the worms back to their container with new cow manure. Worm castings are excellent for seedlings.
Conchita will write an article about our group and the meeting in the october issue of the Lovina Pages.
Marylin offered 2 DVD's about Permaculture to the group. She will also take orders for things that are only available in Australia.
There will be another meeting in August at Warung Bambu to discuss and organize an organic market in Lovina.
The meeting in September will be an excursion to design the new site of Beate in the village of Manuksesa.
Detailed information and dates of the events will be sent by email.
THANK YOU Mark and all the participants for contributing time, interest and sharing knowledge!