[permaculture] deep mulch in Mediterannean climates. more on Jean Pain

Michael Pilarski friendsofthetrees at yahoo.com
Thu Dec 10 21:26:39 EST 2009

A little more detail on Jean Pain's mulch system.  Pain created deep
beds of biomass compost and then did deep mulching on top of the beds. 
He built a pole structure around the garden with chicken wire (I think)
roof and sides to keep out critters and allow the throwing of branches
on top of the porous roof during the hottest part of the year to cast some shade
below.  This shade (and I believe some of the mulch) was removed during
the rainy season so that all the rain could be absorbed into the
compost beds and stored there to carry crop through the 9-month dry
season.  This worked well for Pain.

Another way to create biomass beds in a hot, dry ecosystem is to
dig in shallow
trenches (on the contour) and fill them with branches, rotting trunks, biomass compost, organic matter and grow crops on them.  A
hugelkultur in a trench.  In rainy cool climates we build hugelkulturs
on top of the ground. but they are better in trenches in dry hot

The problems with deep mulch that Toby mentions are certainly valid. "instances where pastures, orchards, and other less-managed (non-irrigated) areas in Med climates were mulched blindly, and the result was wildfire in the dry season with loss of trees (mulch 
is flammable), loss of native forb species that could no longer come up through the mulch,"

These must have been rich people to broadscale mulch a zone 3 area. Deep mulch is a zone 1 or sometimes zone 2 strategy.  For one thing mulch is expensive (money and/or time). For another thing it is relatively scarce in most dryland systems.  So you concentrate it in intensive zone systems where wildfire issues, native forbs etc are not an issue.  

I know of a property in a dry area of Hawaii where they broadscale mulched acres with cardboard (and little else) and a neighbor set a fire which torched the whole lot with loss of trees, almost the house, etc.  So it is a real danger if followed blindly. 

No cookie cutter formulas in permaculture.  
Permaculture is site specific, client specific and culture specific. 

Michael Pilarski

--- On Thu, 12/10/09, Toby Hemenway <toby at patternliteracy.com> wrote:

From: Toby Hemenway <toby at patternliteracy.com>
Subject: [permaculture] deep mulch in Mediterannean climates. don't forget Jean Pain
To: "permaculture" <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org>
Date: Thursday, December 10, 2009, 9:41 AM

gavinraders at gmail.com wrote:
> But care to say why you think applying deep mulch is a "mistake" in 
> mediterranean climates? I live and practice permaculture in california 
> and I have watched deep mulches do wonders for buidling soil and 
> productivity. Especially when partnered with urine fertilizers, 
> compost teas, and comfrey/nettle extracts. 
Okay, can't resist, so forgive me but (heh-heh), if you are irrigating 
and fertilizing, then it's not a Mediterranean climate any more, right?

I've seen several instances where pastures, orchards, and other 
less-managed (non-irrigated) areas in Med climates were mulched blindly, 
and the result was wildfire in the dry season with loss of trees (mulch 
is flammable), loss of native forb species that could no longer come up 
through the mulch, and loss of ants as soil decomposers, greatly slowing 
return of organic matter to the soil. Often in drier Med climates ants 
replace worms as principal decomposers. Mulch favors worms over ants, 
and can actually interfere with dryland soil building. Sometimes. There 
are times when mulch works, and Jean Pain's method appears to be one of 
them. The cookie cutter is not a permacultural tool, and YMMV.

I was irritated at the following


where the author claimed that permaculture didn't work as well as 
holistic management, because, they said, Pc recommended mulch and other 
temperate/humid tropic methods in Med climates, while HM had much better 
techniques for brittle landscapes. They even admit using temperate and 
tropic strategies, calling that permaculture (the DM says: "permaculture 
designs for specific sites and climates") I don't know whether these 
folks ever took a PDC, but they had a weird idea of what permaculture 
is. There is nothing in HM that conflicts with permaculture, but they 
operate on different levels.

I agree with Skeeter about clear subject headings. However, there is an 
awkward transition period between threads (which I think my last post 
falls in; I thought about it) where if you are segueing between topics, 
changing the heading moves the post to a new slot in the archives, and 
just where that should occur is hard to say. People following the old 
thread won't see the new one.


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