Life in Syntropy
One of the most inspiring videos we’ve seen was a video “Life in Syntropy” posted on Youtube in December 2015. Back then we were on our way with Permaculture principles, slowly implementing what we read in books from Masanobu Fukuoka and Mark Shepard, not realy sure what will happen. This video about Ernst Gotch’s work, gave us a visual confirmation that what we are doing, will work.
As said in my previous post, two of our challenges here on our new farm is sandy soil and low annual rainfall. When we first planted our orchard about 7 months ago, we had all this information in mind, although we didn’t execute it from the start, because of time constraints and too few hands on farm and all the other things that needed to get in place.
We however planted the orchard with as little as possible soil disturbance. We thought that because we can’t plant extra plants at that stage, we would leave the natural vegetation in place and let everything grow together. We spaced the tree rows about 10m apart. We planted a variety of trees (pecan nuts, almonds, olives, pomegranates) abot 2m to 3m apart. When visitors drove past the orchard, they couldn’t even see it.
Yesterday we began changing all of this. We applied a layer of activated biochar on the soil to increase the carbon and water holding capacity. Ontop of the biochar, we applied a layer of wood shavings.
One thing that conventional farmers believe is that all competition should be eliminated – that your crop should be able to get all the water supplied. What we experienced in the past is that a variety of plants can occupy the same space, sharing the resources. We also learned that a diversity of plants, not only increase the above ground diversity in terms of things like insects and birds, but it also increase the below ground microbe population and activity. Instead of watering just a tree, we use the same amount of water that is used for the tree, to water all the plants around it as well.
With this in mind we intercropped asparagus and strawberries in the section we worked on yesterday. We will also bring in other cool season plants like radishes, beans, clovers and oats in the next few days, before moving on to the nexts section. Importantly we want to plant nitrogen fixing plant to increase the soil nitrogen levels by means of microbe activity.
In what we are doing in the orchard, we are trying to mimic nature as best we can, or as Ernst Gotch says it:
“ The laws (of nature) are given, it isn’t up to us to create or modify any of them. We need to act in a beneficial way for all participants, for all the affected ones, in order to be considered useful and welcomed beings in the system.”