Category Archives: weeds

Simplest Crop Rotation on Earth contracted me to write an article on crop rotation. I suggested a four-year rotation, but they thought three years would be easier for beginner gardeners to understand.

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With the word limit I was working to, this is the best I could do, although the editors added sections on nutrient cycling and carbon cycling.

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FYI, here is what a stirrup hoe looks like.

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Here is the link to the article: Here is the cool infographic they made. <a href=””><img src=”; border=”0″ /></a><br />Source: <a href=””></a&gt;     Peace, Estwing

Seeding an Herbal Ley Around Fruit Trees

I have been rushing to get our fruit trees planted before the cool, rainy weather gives way to long, hot, dry days. With 74 trees planted so far I am nearing the end of the job.

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But essential to the process is getting an herbal ley seeded around each tree while the rain will still provide the irrigation. This is important because most fruit trees are shallow-rooted and they compete directly with grasses for nutrients and water. An herbal ley is a diverse mix of plants that are meant to provide a range of services in an orchard that grass does not.

Obviously the first step is to kill off the grass. The easy organic way to do this is to smother it with cardboard and/or newspaper.

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I then mulched this with copious amounts of rotted horse manure while being careful not to mulch against the trunk.

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The seed mix I got from friends of ours so I cannot tell you exactly what it contains. You can easily Google recipes for different regions and different climates.

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Sprinkle lightly over the top of the rotted manure.

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Then lightly cover with more mulch and pat it down.

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With a bit of rain it will start to germinate.

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As the grass dies beneath the mulch it turns into food for the fruit trees and the herbal ley.

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Easy-peasy. Now repeat 73 more times.


Peace, Estwing

International Permaculture Day

Kia ora koutou. This may be the first blog post on the planet celebrating International Permaculture Day. (Please note it is Sunday the 4th in New Zealand.) There are good waves this morning, so I’ll make it short and sweet.

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In my practice of permaculture, the principles take a back seat. In other words, I never consciously think about the permaculture principles (Mollison’s or Holmgren’s) when designing and building systems. Instead, I engage what I call permaculture habits of mind, which can also be described as systems thinking.

All that said, one of Mollison’s principles is almost always on my mind: multiple functions. In brief, elements of a system should serve as many functions as possible. Mollison uses chickens as his example. I’ll use ducks, and specifically our duck tractor.

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For six months – from autumn equinox to spring equinox – we tractor our ducks in our ‘back yard. They mow and fertilize the lawn for us.

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I move them everyday. It takes 22 days to bring them back to square one. This is a small-scale of what may be called “rotational grazing” or “holistic land management.” Running the ducks on the lawn has improved the mix of grasses and decreased the unpalatable ‘weeds’.  In other words, the ducks have improved the health of the lawn, and in return the lawn is producing healthier grasses for the ducks to eat.

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During the six months from spring to autumn equinox, I scythe the grass and use it to mulch the garden. In this way, the ducks are indirectly feeding the garden. Over time, vegetable scraps from the garden feed the ducks.

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Additionally, one day when I was in a hurry to hang the nappies, I found that the duck tractor came in very handy as an airing rack.

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Our first intern, John, built this tractor over three years ago from scrap wood. That’s when our ducks we still fuzzy.

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Keeping ‘multiple functions’ on your mind as much as possible is a great way to practice systems thinking and to develop good permaculture habits of mind. Give it a go.

Peace, Estwing

Brains Not Brawn in the Garden

At the ECO School, we believe in making the highest quality sustainability education affordable. Money should never be a barrier to getting top notch information to people of moderate means, and delivering that information expertly by making it logical, practical, relevant, easy to understand, and teaching to multiple intelligences.
We reach the world through the Web, and we reach out in our community (and those communities where we are invited) by working with teachers in schools, presenting to community groups, running workshops and offering consulting services. Most of our local initiatives are payable 100% in REBS, our local currency, meaning anyone can join that network and attend a workshop “on credit” and “pay” for it later by offering their own talents to the REBS network. And on top of that, all of our workshops and consulting services are designed to help people save money. In most cases, the cost of the education pays for itself in a matter of months, and after that it is all savings. Compare that to the average US or NZ university degree!
By far our most popular and most successful workshop has been “Organic Weed Control: Human Scale Design and Management” aka, “Low-Maintenance / High-Productivity Gardening.” We’ve trained over 300 people over the last four years in Australia, USA and New Zealand with excellent feedback. We will be offering this workshop on Sunday, November 13th from 1 to 5 pm here on Arawa Place. Some aspects of the programme include:
• Designing garden beds with the mantra, “Tools, Timing, Technique.”
• Improving germination rates in chunky soils.

• Tips for transplanting, spacing, staking, propagating and pruning tomatoes.
• The judicial use of mulch, and growing great garlic and onions.

• Super lazy, super productive pumpkin patches.
• Eco-thrifty compost making. For more details, click here.
And while you’re here, check out the rest of or eco-thrifty landscaping…
… including our almost finished brick patio. (John and Amy, Come back and help us complete it!)
And, most importantly, someone tell me the name of this plant. It has a thick, perennial woody root but the foliage dies back in winter. It grows everywhere in our sandy section.

Pre-registration required. Contact us through the ECO School. As always, discounted rate for our neighbors in Castlecliff.
Peace, Estwing