[permaculture] arid soil building

lbsaltzman at aol.com lbsaltzman at aol.com
Sun Dec 6 09:40:21 EST 2009

Something that has been successful for us in low effort mulching in a mediterranean climate has been the use of nasturtium and oxalis.  There was some nasturtium present on our property already and the oxalis rapidly seeded on its' own.  Both plants come up when the winter rains start and die back in the summer.  They leave a nice layer of straw like mulch in place. The nasturtium of course is a decent food source. The cooked leaves, as most of you probably know, are a good cooked green, and the flowers are tasty in salads.

We  have other winter and spring annuals as well as bulbs that help as well. A variety of flowers we chop back in place after flowering.


-----Original Message-----
From: Robyn Francis <erda at nor.com.au>
To: permaculture <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Fri, Dec 4, 2009 6:49 pm
Subject: Re: [permaculture] arid soil building

I came up with a technique for a similar climate in southern NSW, where they
lso dealt with incredible winds that would simply blow mulch away. We put
own a mulch layer and covered the mulch with a thin layer of soil - this
topped the mulch from being blown away and improved moisture retention in
he topsoil. I would have preferred to use rocks on the mulch, as rock mulch
ondenses moisture escaping from the soil back into the soil, but there were
o rocks in this particular landscape so we used soil.
The straw/soil mulch insulated the topsoil which increased biological
ctivity, the soil-straw mulch accepted water well when dry. Also, there's
ess crusting when the humus and organic matter levels are restored to the
opsoil and it has some form of protective mulch or litter layer.
In Cuba where many have a reticence to use mulch, I recommended laying palm
eaves down between the rows to provide share and help reduce soil
emperature and evaporation. Others warmed to the suggestion of a deep mulch
n their paths as an initial experiment. The soil life really gets hammered
y the heat from direct sun on bare earth, so any form of shade is critical.
There's also occasions where different types of mulch may be appropriate. In
he dry tropics (& humid tropics dry season) rice hulls, coffee hulls, nut
hells and other such crop residues are spread on the soil as an open or
cattered litter. At least providing some shade and protection.
Leaving the stubble from winter grain crops (e.g. Between fruit trees,
inyard rows etc) is another beneficial strategy to build organic matter and
rotect the soil more effectively than bare earth.
Its good to experiment, adapt and explore alternative strategies to counter
he issues. Understanding the rationale behind the local dirt mulch
echnique (thanks for your explanation Dieter), exploring the why's, is
ssential for developing other ways of resolving the problems that
egenerate soil health and productivity.

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