Duncan Stewart, Managing Director
PO Box 11934, Dorpspruit, 3206
Tel:033-3429043 Fax: 033-3942691
Email: Duncan@lima.org.za
COMPOSTING AND MANURE
UTILIZATION MANUAL
NATURAL METHODS FOR IMPROVING SOIL
HEALTH AND FERTILITY
September 2011
2
Produced by the Empowerment for Food Security Programme, KwaZulu Natal
Department of Agriculture, environmental Affairs and Rural Development
With financial support provided by FICA (Flemish International Cooperation Agency
By Lima Rural development Foundation
Acknowledgements
To the following people and organisations for assistance in researching, writing,
graphics and filming
-Erna Kruger: Mahlathini Organics, PO Box 8o7, Richmond, Cell: 0828732289 Email:
erna@mahlathiniorganics.co.za
-Jessica Wigley: Email: jessicadreamtime@gmail.com
- Gavin Eichler; Zululand Centre for Sustainable Development, Email gavin@zcsd.org.za
- Meyer Productions
-Lima RDF staff including; Kathy PitoutEmail; Kathy@lima.org.za, , Minse Modi Email:
minse@lima.org.za, Kamukota Kaluwa and Zinhle Ngubane
- EFSP staff including; Mlindi Linda Email: Mlindi.Linda@kzndae.gov.za, Mzi Dlamini
Email: Mzi.Dlamini@kzndae.org.za and Quaraishia Merzouk Email:
Quraishia.Merzouuk@kzndae.gvoz.za.
© KZNDAE&RD September 2011
3
Contents
COMPOSTING AND MANURE UTILIZATION MANUAL........................................................................1
NATURAL METHODS FOR IMPROVING SOIL HEALTH AND FERTILITY...................................1
Contents ................................................................................................................................................................2
INTRODUCTION...............................................................................................................................................7
CHAPTER 1 ...........................................................................................................................................................8
LIVING SOIL......................................................................................................................................................8
Living soil ..........................................................................................................................................................8
Soil types ..........................................................................................................................................................9
Characteristics of soils ............................................................................................................................9
How to tell your soil type .........................................................................................................................9
Soil structure ................................................................................................................................................12
Soil fertility ...................................................................................................................................................16
Nitrogen .....................................................................................................................................................16
Phosphorous ...............................................................................................................................................17
Potassium ...................................................................................................................................................18
Soil acidity .................................................................................................................................................19
Advantages and disadvantages of Liming...........................................................................................21
Photosynthesis..........................................................................................................................................21
Nutrient cycling........................................................................................................................................21
Improving soil health...............................................................................................................................23
CHAPTER 2 .........................................................................................................................................................25
COMPOSTING ...................................................................................................................................................25
Compost Piles.................................................................................................................................................25
Building a compost pile ............................................................................................................................25
Advantages and disadvantages of making compost..........................................................................27
Pit Compost ....................................................................................................................................................28
Resources required..................................................................................................................................28
Making a compost pit...............................................................................................................................28
Advantages and disadvantages of pit compost..................................................................................28
CHAPTER 3 .........................................................................................................................................................29
SOIL ENRICHING METHODS.....................................................................................................................29
4
Trench beds ...................................................................................................................................................29
Introduction ..............................................................................................................................................29
The method ...............................................................................................................................................29
Advantages and disadvantages of trench beds.................................................................................32
Shallow trench..............................................................................................................................................32
Advantages and disadvantages of shallow trenches........................................................................32
Eco-circles .....................................................................................................................................................32
What you will need to make an eco-circle: .........................................................................................33
How to make an eco-circle: ....................................................................................................................33
Practical notes and tips: .........................................................................................................................33
Advantages and disadvantages of eco-circles ...................................................................................34
Tree planting .................................................................................................................................................34
Choosing a site..........................................................................................................................................34
Choosing a variety....................................................................................................................................35
Planting fruit trees ..................................................................................................................................38
Feeding your fruit trees .........................................................................................................................42
Caring for your trees ..............................................................................................................................43
Planting trees for wind protection.......................................................................................................46
Useful plant species to inter plant as wind breaks..........................................................................47
Mulching ..........................................................................................................................................................50
What is Mulch?.........................................................................................................................................50
Why mulch?...............................................................................................................................................50
Advantages and disadvantages of mulching.......................................................................................51
CHAPTER 4 .........................................................................................................................................................54
LIQUID MANURES........................................................................................................................................54
Brews for plant nutrition ............................................................................................................................54
How to make liquid manures from plants............................................................................................54
How to make a foliar spray ....................................................................................................................55
Advantages and disadvantages of foliar sprays................................................................................55
Good plants for liquid manures..............................................................................................................55
Advantages and disadvantages of plant brews..................................................................................56
How to make liquid manure from animal manure...............................................................................57
Good sources for animal liquid manures..............................................................................................58
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Advantages and disadvantages of animal liquid manures................................................................59
A few more recipes for liquid manures...............................................................................................59
Effective micro organisms .........................................................................................................................60
Advantages and disadvantages of Effective micro-organisms ......................................................60
CHAPTER 5 .........................................................................................................................................................61
MANURE .............................................................................................................................................................61
Manure ............................................................................................................................................................61
Manure as a natural fertilizer...................................................................................................................62
Nutrient availability and manure application..........................................................................................63
Rates of Manure for Nitrogen Needs ................................................................................................. 63
Advantages and disadvantages of using manure...............................................................................64
CHAPTER 6 .........................................................................................................................................................65
GREEN MANURES............................................................................................................................................65
How does green manuring work?...............................................................................................................65
Green manure plants....................................................................................................................................65
Nitrogen Fixing examples .......................................................................................................................66
Grains ..........................................................................................................................................................67
When is the crop ready? ........................................................................................................................68
How to use green manure crops............................................................................................................68
Advantages and disadvantages of green manuring...........................................................................68
CHAPTER 7 .........................................................................................................................................................69
AGRO-FORESTRY............................................................................................................................................69
What is the aim of agro-forestry? ..........................................................................................................69
Planting trees for soil fertility.................................................................................................................69
Systems for inclusion of trees .............................................................................................................71
Advantages and disadvantages of Agroforestry..............................................................................72
CHAPTER 8 .........................................................................................................................................................73
MIXED CROPPING...........................................................................................................................................73
Inter-planting................................................................................................................................................73
Examples of inter-cropping in a vegetable garden...........................................................................74
Some plants which grow well together:...............................................................................................75
Plants that do not grow well together: ...............................................................................................75
Advantages and disadvantages of inter-planting ..............................................................................76
6
Crop rotation .................................................................................................................................................76
Effects of crop rotation ........................................................................................................................76
Advantages and disadvantages of crop rotation...............................................................................79
CHAPTER 9 .........................................................................................................................................................80
WORMERIES.....................................................................................................................................................80
Earthworms ....................................................................................................................................................80
How can worms help improve soil quality?..........................................................................................81
To start a worm farm you will need:....................................................................................................81
Where should the worm farm be placed?...........................................................................................81
Golden rules for worm farmers............................................................................................................81
Benefits of working with worms...........................................................................................................83
CHAPTER 10 .......................................................................................................................................................84
CONSERVATION AGRICULTURE................................................................................................................84
Basic principles of conservation tillage...................................................................................................84
Minimum Soil disturbance...........................................................................................................................84
Soil cover........................................................................................................................................................85
Mix and rotate crops ...................................................................................................................................86
Cover Crops ................................................................................................................................................86
How to implement Conservation tillage....................................................................................................86
Timely Preparation and Planting............................................................................................................86
Land preparation......................................................................................................................................87
Hand- hoe options....................................................................................................................................87
Shallow planting furrows ........................................................................................................................88
Use of fertilizer and manure.....................................................................................................................88
Benefits of conservation tillage................................................................................................................88
BIBLIOGRAPHY ................................................................................................................................................91
7
INTRODUCTION
Soil health and fertility is vital to healthy living. Without healthy soil there cannot be
healthy plants or people.
Improving the condition of soil naturally calls for a holistic, integrated approach. This
means that we need to look at more than just the soil and use more than one method.
Farmers and gardeners who use natural farming methods can learn a lot by observing
and working with nature. From investigating the way nature works we learn about water
conservation, recycling, nutrient and energy cycling. These methods are helpful in
gardening and farming because they save time, energy, money and increase biodiversity
(life), fertility, production and yield.
This training manual gives you practical (hands on) information on how to improve soil
structure (the look, the feeling and water holding capacity), fertility (nutrient levels)
and soil life (the useful micro-organisms living in the soil). There are a number of
different methods to choose and use. Enjoy the reading.
Happy Gardening!
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CHAPTER 1
LIVING SOIL
Living soil
Healthy soil is living soil. It contains many living organisms. It is deep, loose, and easy to
dig and full of air and water.
Living soil is a mixture of many thngs:
Bits of sand, silt and
clay, which are types
of soil;
Bits of organic
matter, like leaves,
grass, manure;
Inorganic matter, like
rocks and silica;
Minerals such as
potassium;
Air and water;
Micro-organisms: Also known as microbes; are tiny
bugs or creatures that are too small to see and live in
the soil. They make the soil fertile by eating organic
matter and changing it into rich plant food or humus.
Small creatures like earthworms, other worms and
beetles also live in the soil. Without microbes the
roots of plants cannot dissolve nutrients from the soil
particles.
From:WHC Manual, WRC,
2010)
From:WHC Manual, WRC, 2010)
9
Soil types
Soil is made through the breaking up of the basic elements or minerals of the earth.
These are initially found in the form of rocks. Over a very long time, these rocks are
broken down into small particles through rain, wind and sun and mixed with air and
water. This becomes soil that can support plants and micro-organisms to grow. Like
people, plants cannot live and grow without water, air and food.
oSand makes the soil loose.
oSilt is very fine sand. It holds water and plant food better than rough sand, but
it is easily washed out of the soil.
oClay is the sticky part of the soil that holds it together. It holds water like a
sponge.
The best soils are called loams and they are an equal mixture of sand, silt and clay.
Characteristics of soils
Sandy soil
Bad things about this type of soil
It gets dry quickly
It does not keep much fertility
It does not hold water well
Loam soil (Mixture of sand and clay)
Bad things about this type of soil
This soil can be hard when dry
Clay soil
Bad things about this type of soil
Hard to work; heavy
Slow to warm up in spring
Sticky when wet
Hard when dry
How to tell your soil type
You can tell how much sand, silt or clay is in your soil by how it feels. Wet some soil and
roll it into a ball between your hands. Then roll this little ball into a sausage. You can tell
what kind of soil it is by looking at the table below.
10
It is important to know which soil type you have. Crumbly and loose soil holds the most
water and the most air, which is what plants need to grow. To make your soil more
crumbly (whether it is sandy, loam or clay) you need to keep adding lots of manure,
compost and mulch. Never walk on the planted areas, especially if they are wet.
Sandy soil needs to be given organic matter to increase its ability to hold water and
plant food. Clay soil needs to be given organic matter to increase its ability to hold air in
the soil and to release the plant foods that are there.
All types of soil need organic matter to increase their fertility, or plant food.
What soil
looks like
What soil
feels like
When rolled into a sausage
The soil is
Very sandy
Very rough
Cannot be rolled
into a sausage
Very sandy
Quite sandy
Rough
Can be rolled
into a sausage
but it cannot
bend
Sandy
Half sandy &
half smooth
Rough
Sausage can
bend a little
Sandy loam
Mostly smooth
A little sandy,
quite smooth
but not sticky
Sausage can
bend about half
way around
Loam or silt
loam
Mostly smooth
A little sand
quite smooth
and sticky
Sausage can be
bent more than
half way round
Clay loam or
sandy clay
Smooth
Smooth and
sticky
Sausage can
bend into a ring
Clay
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Another method of identifying the proportion
of soil separates in a soil is to conduct a
“bottle test”. To do this, take a bottle and fill
a third of it with soil. Pour water into the
bottle until it is almost full, place a lid on and
shake it vigorously for a few minutes in order
to separate the soil particles. Leave the
bottle to settle, and note what happens over
the next few hours.
You will see that the substances settle in
layers, the heaviest at the bottom and the
lightest on top.
Heavy particles such as gravel, pebbles and
sand fall quickly to the bottom of the bottle.
The finer elements then accumulate first
the silt, followed by humus and then the fine
and very fine clay. These layers vary in colour
and consistency.
The layer of water above the settled material
remains cloudy for a long time because it
contains clay particles which are so small that
they stay suspended in the water. Substances
which are lighter than water (organic matter
like leaves, seeds, spores, and insect and animal
waste) float on the surface.
Below: Using the bottle test to estimate the proportion of soil separates in a sample
Above: Bottle test showing proportion of soil
separates (From: WHC Manual, WRC, 2010)
12
Why are nutrients and soil so important?
Nutrients are important to plants for health and survival. They are equally important to
animals and human health. This is because we get our nutrients from plants who take up
essential nutrients from the soil. If our soil is healthy our plants benefit by being
healthy and we intern benefit from the variety of nutrients available. Soil is important
to human survival, health and vitality.
Soil structure
Soil structure describes the grouping or arrangement of primary particles (sand, silt,
clay and organic matter) into larger, secondary particles called aggregates or peds. In
other words, soil structure is the shape that soil takes, determined by the way in which
individual soil particles clump or bind together.
Soil structure affects the movement of water and air in the soil, as well as root
penetration and biological activity. For example, a dense structure greatly reduces the
amount of air and water that can move freely through the soil, and it is difficult for
roots to penetrate such soil.
There are five major classes of soil structure: granular, blocky, prismatic, columnar,
platy. There are also soils which lack structure, such as sandy soils, and these are
referred to as “structureless”.
Table: Soil Structure( From: Wikipedia. Soil. [Online]. Available from: http:// en. wikipedia.
org/wiki/Soil [Accessed 16 September 2009].
Granular: Resembles
cookie crumbs and is
usually less than 0.5
cm in diameter.
Commonly found in
surface horizons
where roots have been
growing.
Blocky: Irregular
blocks that are usually
1.5 - 5.0 cm in
diameter.
13
Prismatic: Vertical
columns of soil that
might be a number of
cm long. Usually found
in lower horizons.
Columnar: Vertical
columns of soil that
have a salt "cap" at
the top. Found in soils
of arid climates.
Platy: Thin, flat plates
of soil that lie
horizontally. Usually
found in compacted
soil.
Single Grained: Soil is
broken into individual
particles that do not
stick together. Always
has a loose
consistency. Commonly
found in sandy soils.
Massive: Soil has no
visible structure, is
hard to break apart
and appears in very
large clods
The structure of the soil is influenced by how it is managed some practices are
harmful, while others are beneficial. Harmful practices break down the structure of the
soil, making it a lot harder to work with and for plants to grow well in. Beneficial
Soil structure photographs courtesy of Dr. Elissa Levine, NASA/Goddard
Space Flight Center
14
practices build up the structure as well as the quality of the soil, making it easier to
work with and for plants to grow in well.
Some examples of harmful practices:
oWatering too much and too often. Result:The soil organisms and plants get
choked because they lack air.
oAdding chemical products such as pesticides and fertilizers. Result:Causes
unnecessary poisoning of the soil.
oHeating of the soil surface through fire or prolonged sunlight.Result:The
ground dries up and micro-organisms are killed.
oCompaction of the soil through tillage and walking result:: the soil crusts or caps
(From: WHC
Manual, WRC,
2010)
Some examples of beneficial practices:
oControlling soil erosion and rainwater run-off. Result:Minimises damage to soil
and crops (eg. valuable topsoildoes not get blown or washed away).
oAllowing fallow intervals (periods where fields/plots are rested and not used for
production). Result:The soil has time to recover its structure and fertility
before planting takes place.
oCultivating soil-enriching crops species high in biomass or green manures.
Result:Species high in biomass add a lot of organic matter to the environment
and soil, while those high in green manures add nutrients such as nitrogen to the
soil.
oIncorporating animal manure or compost into the soil.Result: Improves the soil
structure and increases the soil life; helps create a well-balanced soil that is
alive and can support plant growth.
oMixed cropping; The soil structure benefits when the soil is occupied by the
roots of many different plants, because:
othe roots move the soil;
oThe roots create a network of living matter which dies and rots to create humus;
oWhen the roots die they leave tunnels which improve the porosity and drainage;
and
oThe roots are a living store of plant nutrients.
15
FIGURE: Making good soil in family food gardens.
16
Soil fertility
All living things are composed of the basic elements of the earth. Plants consist mainly
of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and smaller quantities of
magnesium, sulphur and calcium as well as many other elements in very small amounts
(these are called trace elements).
Plants need three main kinds of nutrients:
Nitrogen (N) for healthy leaf and stem growth;
Phosphorus (P)for healthy roots and fruit formation;
Potassium (K)for general health and healthy flowers and fruit.
The capital letters in brackets (N, P, and K) are called the chemical symbols. If you buy
fertilizer or other chemicals, they may use these letters instead of writing out the
name in full.
All three of these foods are found in good compost or manure. You can also increase the
amount of these foods in the soil by mulching with leguminous leaves like beans, peas,
pigeon peas and Acacia (thorn tree leaves) or comfrey, using liquid manures, earthworm
castings and effective micro-organisms. You will need to make the earthworm castings
and effective microorganism brews and add them to your soil.
These are different ways of improving fertility that you will need to be shown.
Nitrogen
How do you know if your soil needs more nitrogen?
You will know your plants need nitrogen when the leaves are
turning yellowish, instead of a strong bright green.
How can you add nitrogen to your soil?
This element is found in most manures (cattle, sheep, pig, goat,
chicken and rabbit). There is more nitrogen in chicken and goat
manure. These must be dried before being used in the garden.
Otherwise they can be too strong and „burn‟ the plants.
Nitrogen is also found in legumes
These are plants that form nodules or little knots on their roots. These nodules „fix‟
nitrogen from the air, so that the plant can take it up through its roots. There are
Nodules on the roots
that fix nitrogen
17
microorganisms (bacteria) in the roots that help to „fix‟
the nitrogen. After the roots of the plant die the
nitrogen is released into the soil and can be used by
surrounding plants.
Examples of legumes that we often grow:
oGround nuts
oCow-peas
oBeans (including soya beans)
oPeas
There are less common crops and also many long living plants
and small trees that also fix nitrogen. Some examples are
chickpeas, mung beans, lentils, pigeon peas and tree lucerne.
Some legumes are grown only as green manures, and are not
used for food. These include lucerne, clover, hairy vetch and
lupins. These give a lot more nitrogen to the soil than our food
plants, because we dig them into the soil when they are still
green. This is why we call them green manures. We can also
plant our food crops in between these legumes.
Phosphorous
How do you know if your soil needs more phosphorous?
You will know your plants need more phosphorous when they do not grow fast, as they
should. The leaves may also start to show unusual red or pinkish colours, especially
around the edges. If your plants are small and will not grow, even when compost is
added, then you almost certainly have a severe phosphorous deficiency. This can also be
caused by acidity in the soil.
How can you add phosphorous to your soil?
Many soils are poor in phosphorous. It is also a bit difficult to add phosphorous to the
soil in an organic way, as most of the sources of phosphorous are tricky to work with.
They include urine, bones, hair, feathers and blood. Usually we add these as ingredients
to compost.
Natural rock phosphate can be added directly to the soil. This is also not easily available.
Another good source of phosphorous is bone meal. You can usually buy this from an
agricultural supply store but it is not cheap.
One other way of adding phosphorous is to place bones in a fire, for a few hours. You
can then grind them into a powder more easily. This powder can be spread on your
garden beds or your compost heap.
The bacteria in the root knots binds free
nitrogen from air in the soil and release nitrogen
after the plant dies
Soya
beans
18
The manure from animals grazing in areas where there is not much phosphorous will also
have little phosphorous. You may need to bring in phosphorous in the form of chemical
fertilizer. The usual source is called Superphosphate. Another chemical fertilizer known
as DAP (Di-ammonium Phosphate) can also be used.
Potassium
How do you know if your soil needs more potassium?
You will know your plants need potassium when the plants become brittle and the leaf
edges become brown and dry. When fruit do not form properly, you should also suspect
a lack of potassium. Other signs can be hard to distinguish. One of these is a yellowing
around the veins of the leaves. This could also be caused by diseases so it is difficult
to know.
How can you add potassium to your soil?
Good sources of potassium are chicken manure
and fresh woodash. Never use ash from coal,
as this is very poisonous to the soil and plants.
Another good source of potassium is a plant
known as comfrey. This plant has large hairy
leaves and grows in wet shady places. The
leaves contain a lot of potassium. These can be
used to mulch your vegetable beds and also to
make liquid feeds for your plants (We will look
at liquid feeds later in this section).
The other elements or minerals needed in
smaller quantities, such as Magnesium, Zinc and Iron, are found in most manure and in
compost.
From: Useful Plants for
Land Design, Pelum
Comfrey
19
Comfrey is also a good medicine. A tea made from the leaves is good for high blood
pressure and arthritis.
Other important nutrients:
Calcium (Ca) Promotes plant lifer and strong plant tissue, promotes early root formation
and seedling growth, aids in the uptake of nutrients, balances pH
Magnesium (Mg) Essential for the formation of Chlorophyll and formation of sugars, a
carrier of phosphate and starches through the plant, promotes the formation of fats
and oils, vital for healthy growth.
Sulphur (S) Increases root development, helps maintain the dark green colour,
stimulates seed production, necessary for protein production, flavor and odour in many
fruits and vegetables.
Micro or trace elements (nutrients needed in smaller quantities)
Iron (Fe) Is an oxygen carrier, enhances chlorophyll formation, metabolizes RNA,
enhances green color of produce
Boron (Bo) Promotes early root formation and growth, improves health and sturdiness,
increases yield and improves quality of fruits and vegetables.
Zinc (Zn) Essential for enzymatic reactions in cells and promotes plant growth.
Copper (Cu) Is needed for Chlorophyll production, catalyzes several plant reactions and
necessary for making protein.
Manganese (Mn) Activates many metabolic reactions, increases absorption of calcium,
magnesium and phosphorus, speeds germination and plant maturity.
Molybdenum (Mo) Enhances absorption of nitrogen by plants
Chlorine (Cl) Involved in photosynthesis and chlorophyll production, stimulates enzyme
activity, helps control water loss and moisture stress.
Cobalt (C) Is needed in nodules of legumes for nitrogen fixing bacteria
Sodium (Na) Helps in water regulation and photosynthesis
These nutrients are important to plants for health and survival. They are equally
important to animals and human health. This is because we get our nutrients from plants
who take up essential nutrients from the soil. If our soil is healthy our plants benefit by
being healthy and we in turn benefit from the variety of nutrients available.
Soil acidity
What is soil acidity?
Soil acidity is can influence plant growth and limit crop yield. Minerals or nutrients
needed by plants to grow are dissolved in the water inside the soil. This is a bit like salt
or sugar dissolved in a glass of water.
Soil acidity is when the soil is sour. It is a bit like a glass of water that has vinegar
dissolved in it. In places where it rains a lot, some of the minerals can be washed out of
the soil. The soil then becomes acidic. The use of chemical fertilizers over a long period
of time, can also make the soil acidic.
20
If there is too much acid in the soil, some minerals or plant food will dissolve too quickly
and the plants cannot use them. Other minerals will not dissolve at all, so again, the
plants cannot use them. Phosphorus is one of the minerals that cannot be used by plants
when the soil is acidic even if it is in the soil.
What causes of acidity?
Acidic parent rock material, high rainfall and leaching elements like calcium (Ca),
magnesium (Mg), and phosphorous (K), decay of organic matter leading to release of
organic acids into the soil, harvesting high yields (therefore removing plenty of Ca, Mg
and K from the soil), widespread use of nitrogen (N) fertilizers.
How do you know if your soil is acidic?
You will know your soil is acidic if you provide compost or manure and water for your
plants, but they do not grow. The plants remain small and stunted. This is a common
problem.
How will you solve the problem of acidity?
The only practical way of dealing with soil acidity is to add lime to the soil. Lime can be
bought and is a white powder, or grey granules.
It needs to be dug into your soil, at least as deep as the roots of the crop you are
growing. For vegetables this is between 30 - 60 cm. This is the width of 1 or 2 spades.
You will need to add 1 kg of lime for every square metre of soil. 1 Kilogram of lime is a
spade full. It needs to be heaped high.
For field crops like maize and sorghum that have deep roots this is from 60 cm to 1
meter deep. 1 meter is the length of a spade.
Usually Lime is added 2 or 3 months before planting, as it is slow acting in the soil. If
you add Lime at the same time as you are planting your crop, you will only see the main
effect of the Lime in the next season.
30 cm
Two meters
One meter
21
Advantages and disadvantages of Liming
Advantages
Disadvantages
It is easy to apply, stays in the soil for a
few years, combats soil acidity by
reducing metals toxicity, makes P more
soluble and microbes more active,
supplies Ca, Mg to plants, improves soil
structure and water infiltration (reduces
energy needed by roots to penetrate the
soil), improves harvest
It is not easy to determine soil pH,
might not be easy to get, costs
money,
Other (easily available) ways of naturally improving soil quality and balancing pH: bone
meal, dried and crushed egg shells, finely crushed sea shells
Photosynthesis
Plants and animals need nutrients to keep alive and healthy. Plants also have a special
green colour (given to them by a substance called chlorophyll). They use energy from
the sun, carbon dioxide from the air, water and minerals from the soil to make up their
food. Food is usually made in the green parts (often the plants leaves).The process of
making food using chlorophyll and sunlight is called photosynthesis.
The type of food made by
photosynthesis is starch. This
starch is used by the plant to
grow and stay alive. Plants also
store food to be able to grow
after the cold seasons or for
when their seeds need to grow.
Besides the starch, the plants
also produce oxygen. Oxygen is a
gas that all living things need to
live.
(from Agriseta NQF 3, LG:Plant anatomy and physiology,2008)
Nutrient cycling
In nature nutrients are always being recycled. Plants take up nutrients from the soil to
grow big, strong and healthy. When they grow they produce flowers that attract
beneficial insects. These insects like bees and butterflies help with pollination
(fertilization of the flower). The flower then turns into a fruit which is food for insects,
22
birds, animals and or humans. These animals take the fruit (with seed inside) and spread
the seed where ever they go. This ensures that the plants will grow in other places.
Manure is returned to the soil
(From: WHC Manual, WRC, 2010)
During the autumn and winter months plants may drop their leaves. These leaves and
other organic matter are broken down by micro-organisms, earth worms and other
insects so that it can dissolve into the soil and become humus. Humus gives the soil a
dark colour, it holds a lot of nutrients and improves soil fertility. That is why soil life is
so important.
To summarize this - all the goodness (nutrients) from fruits, leaves, branches, whole
plants, animal dung and dead animals decompose and go back into the soil. The nutrients
are taken up by plants in the soil and in this way are recycled (used again and again). The
life of a plant is therefore a cycle and nothing is ever wasted. Nutrients are cycled
through the soil and plants. Below is an example of the nitrogen cycle
23
(From: WRC; Homestead Water Management Manual, 2009)
Improving soil health
Chemical fertilizers can restore soil fertility quickly because the nutrients are available
to the plants as soon as they dissolve in the soil. However they do not improve soil
structure and there are other disadvantages to using them.
There are many natural ways of improving soil health and fertility. Composting and
manuring are common examples. This is where manure (dung) from animals and compost
(humus) is ploughed or worked back into the soil.Other examples include the use of
liquid manures and brews, green manuring, nitrogen fixing trees, crop rotation, mixed
cropping and worm farming.
A comparison between chemical fertilizers and natural compost methods
Chemical Fertilizers: Disadvantages
Natural soil fertility methods:
Advantages
* Chemical fertilizers are quick-acting, short-
term plant boosters.
* They can negatively impact on soil structure
and organic matters
*We are working with nature and natural laws
*Natural methods of improving soil fertility
endeavor to address the issue as a whole -by
increasing a variety of nutrient levels,
24
*Beneficial life in soil including earthworms are
negatively impacted
*Chemical fertilizers alter vitamin and protein
content of certain crops making them more
vulnerable to diseases.
*Growing plants often take up a lot of nitrates
which makes growth soft and sappy and this is
what pests love
* Over time essential elements can be “locked
up” and are therefore not available to plants.
This reduces the fertility of the soil and plants
can be more susceptible to disease and pest
attack.
*The activity of many soil organisms is
inhibited.
*The soil tends to become acidic
*Fertilizers meet the basic nutrient needs of
soil NPK but what about all the other
elements?
*Fertilizers are inorganic. They are
manufactured in factories and this is not
sustainable
*Fertilizers are expensive to produce and buy
*Chemical fertilizers are easily leached out.
This can lead to pollution of water sources
improving soil structure, water holding capacity
and microbial activity (improving and
encouraging life in the soil)
*When we make our own compost we are in
charge, we don‟t have to rely on anybody
*It is sustainable because we can keep making
compost/use natural methods
*Nothing goes to waste
*We use what we have
*We don‟t have to pay money. Why pay for
fertilizers when you can make your own?
*It takes a while for organic matter to
decompose into humus and before the
nutrients are released but on the other hand it
continues to improve soil fertility and soil
structure for a long time.
*Nutrients are not as easily lost or leached out
*Crops produced in healthy soils are naturally
healthy and show more resistance to disease
and pests
*An increase in organic matter reduces the
likelihood of erosion
25
CHAPTER 2
COMPOSTING
Compost Piles
Compost is decayed organic matter (plant and or animal), used as a fertilizer. It is the
decomposed organic material called humus. Composting is therefore the art of making
and using compost.
Nature maintains soil fertility by cycling and re using all dead animal and plant matter.
Compost provides most the nutritional needs of a plant. It encourages beneficial
microbial activity, improves water holding capacity and soil structure. It feeds and
replenishes soil which in turn assists healthy, disease free plants to grow.
Building a compost pile
You will need:
Air and water, nitrogen rich materials (animal manure, green plant material, vegetable
waste, green weeds), carbon rich material such as (thin branches, leaves, dried grass,
dried maize, ground nut shells)
Not essential but helpful:lime, bone meal (reduces acidity), seaweed (full of nutrients),
mushroom compost, urine (diluted in water)
Creating your compost heap
Chose a suitable site (near water, in your garden, preferably under a bit of shade to
prevent moisture loss)
Collect all the materials you will need. Mark the area where you are making the pile. 1m
by 1.5m is advisable or 2 spades by 2 spades. The size depends on the amount of organic
matter available.
Hoe the area you have marked out, removing all grass and plants.
Arrange the branches and sticks on the area you hoed. Lay the coarse material like
dried maize, twigs etc. on top (about 30cm thick) and water.
26
The second layer will be of dry materials such of leaves and grass. About 20cm thick.
Again moisten with a fine spray of water.
The third layer, of green materials is laid on top, about 1cm thick. Repeat the process
(keeping the flat rectangular shape of the heap) until about 1.5m high. Cover the pile
with a 5cm layer of manure.
Cover the heap with big banana leaves, old sacks or plastic to conserve the moisture and
to keep nutrients from leaching out if you are experiencing a lot of rain.
Optional: Before you cover the pile, take a long sharp pointed stick and drive it into the
middle of the compost pile at an angle. Within 2 or 3 days decomposition will have
started and the pile should be hot inside. The stick helps you check the condition of the
pile by showing you if it is wet or dry or warm. It should be checked regularly. If the
pile is too wet it will rot and if to dry the pile will not decompose properly.
27
After a week or two the pile will cool, this is the time to mix the layers together. Turn
the pile once a week from here on. Turning is done by putting top layers at the bottom
and side material inward towards the center. This mixes materials and air which is
essential for good decomposition. Spray water as you turn the heap.
The compost should be ready after the fourth turning or 6-8 weeks. How will you know
its ready? It will be dark in colour, crumbly, soft, light, soil like and smell like rich soil.
Practical notes and tips:
A compost pile needs water and air for it to work properly. This is so that the micro-
organisms can do their work. Moisture speeds up the decomposition process and oxygen
ensures the pile does not smell. It should not smell.
Bacteria and fungi digest organic matter, they release organic acids which lowers the
pH. The lower pH encourages the growth of fungi and the breakdown of lignin and cell
walls. A certain amount of warmth is needed for quick effective decomposition and for
the destruction of weed seeds. To get active heat generating compost piles you will
need the correct proportion of carbon as to nitrogen in the starting material (30:1). If
you do not have animal dung (especially in the dry season when grasses are very low in
Nitrogen content) add green tree leaves. The green tree leaves keep their high nitrogen
content throughout the year. Carbon provides both an energy source and the basic
building block making up about 50 % of the mass of microbial cells.
Application of compost
Compost is applied directly onto the soil. There can never be too much compost. Apply
at any time of the plants growth as it is a complete fertilizer, full of nutrients. The
best time to apply compost is just before planting your seed and a few weeks after the
seeds emerge. Vegetable gardens and nurseries need compost all year round. Well
matured (well decomposed) compost can be dug in (never dig in immature compost) apply
approximately 5-10tons /ha.
Advantages and disadvantages of making compost
Advantages
Disadvantages
Easy to make, easy to find all the plant matter, can
be made at any time of the year
Uses a lot of water at first, takes a
few months to mature, takes a bit of
effort
28
Pit Compost
The pit composting method is similar to that of a trench bed or eco-circle. Organic
material is layered in a pit and heaped up into a dome shape about 1m high and left to
decompose.
Resources required
Composting materials; organic matter (nitrogenrich greens and carbon rich browns), soil,
wood ash, water and farm tools (wheel barrow, watering can, spade, machete)
Making a compost pit
Step 1. Dig a pit 1-1.5mwide by a 1-1.5m (in semi shade and in an area that is not water
logged)
Step 2. Put the dry materials in first (about 20-
25cm thick), water (moist not wet), add greens
(20-25cm thick), then add manure, soil and ash
(10-15cm thick)
Right: A pit being filled with compost materials visible
is a layer of manure
Step 3. Repeat step two until the pit is filled.
Step 4. Place a sharp stick or sticks into the
material in the pit, vertically to allow air to
circulate through the various layers.
Step 5. Cover with dried grass, banana leaves
(whatever you have)
Right: An example of a compost pit that has been
covered with an old feedbag.
Step 6. Turn every 2 weeks. The compost will be ready in 3-4months
Advantages and disadvantages of pit compost
Advantages
Disadvantages
Easy, doesn‟t require much time
Cannot be destroyed by livestock
Remains moist for longer
Could smell if it‟s not done properly, need
to dig the pit and look after the compost
29
CHAPTER 3
SOIL ENRICHING METHODS
Trench beds
Introduction
A trench bed is a way to increase soil fertility and water holding in your beds and
garden. It is an intensive way of providing good soil for vegetables production on a small
scale. It involves digging a hole and filling it with organic matter, so that your bed can
be fertile for a long time (around 5 years).
You will need:
A spade, water, tins, old bones, plastic (if your soils are
sandy), dried grass, wood ash, manure and organic
matter.
The method
1. Dig a hole 60cm or deeper. It is usually about 1m wide
(to provide easy access, without having to step on the
bed) and can be as long as one likes.
2. Separate the topsoil and subsoil in piles while you are
digging.
If your sub-soil is very in fertile it is not used in the
trench. Spread this soil around the garden to help
channel water towards your bed.
3. Place a layer of tins or branches at the bottom of
the trench to help with aeration and also with supply of
some nutrients.
The tins need to be squashed before putting
them in the hole. Make a layer of tins about 3
tins deep.If there are no tins use thin branches
instead.
4. Fill the trench with a range of organic
materials and topsoil.
- First add dry grass or weeds (about 10 cm
deep)
Mandla (in Phuthadjithaba) is digging
his trench bed and placing the topsoil
on one pile (darker soil with more
organic matter) and the subsoil on
another (usually lighter soil with little
or no organic matter).
Layer of tins at bottom of trench
30
- Then add manure (about 2 cm deep)
- Add also some wood ash (a thin layer, less than
1cm deep).
- Then add a layer of sop soil (about 5cm deep)
Mix these layers with a fork
Stamp them down by walking on them
WATER the mixture well!
Then start the process again.
You can also add other organic matter like green
and dry weeds and vegetable peelings, card
board, paper and bones.
5. Continue to place the organic materials into
the trench until it has reached ground level
again.
6. Now build up the trench bed to about 10-15cm
above soil level. Use a good mixture of topsoil
and manure and or compost.
The organic material in the trench needs to
decompose for about 2-3 months before planting.
7. The other option is to use your trench bed as
a seed bed. In this way, when your seedlings are
ready to be transplanted, the trench bed will be
ready to be planted.
Growing seedlings from seed needs a well
prepared bed. The roots of the small plants
do not go down too deep. The materials in
the trench can decompose while the
seedlings grow on top.
A trench bed in Potshini being filled and
mixed. Here the top soil is being added
back into the trench Notice the yellow
subsoil on the one side. It is not being
used.
A trench bed in Phutaditjhaba being filled,
mixed and stamped down. Notice the
mixture of manure, grass and soil.
Above, Carrot and onions seeds are being planted
in a seed bed in Potshini. This trench has just
been prepared.
Note; Fine soil is being used to cover the seeds in
the rows. This is because the seeds are small and
in this way they can germinate better.
31
8. It is very important that the trenches are watered well while they are being made
and afterwards. The organic material in the trench cannot decompose if it is dry.
Different ways of watering are possible; as long as a lot of water is given!
In this picture carrot seeds were
planted in the smaller trench bed in the
far corner. There are also two tubs of
seedlings being produced.In the
foreground is a recently completed
trench bed into which bought cabbage
seedlings have been planted. Again these
grew well and did not show any negative
effects from the decomposing material
in the trench.
In this picture a number of trench beds have
been prepared in a garden in Potshini. The
owner has used two of his trenches as seed
beds. They are covered with grass to hold the
moisture in the soil while the seeds are
germinating. This grass will be removed when
the seeds come up.
The middle bed is shaped like a horse shoe.
This is a nice design that makes it easy to
reach all sides of the bed. It also allows run-
off water to run into the middle of the shoe
and soak into your bed. Here the owner has
planted swiss chard seedlings. They grew well;
despite our fears that the decomposition of
the organic matter in the trench bed may
interfere with their growth.
In this picture, drip irrigation is going to be used to water a trench
bed.
32
Advantages and disadvantages of trench beds
Shallow trench
Shallow trench beds are shallower version of the deep trenches. This trench is dug to
about 30cm deep. The bottom of the trench is filled with sticks and branches. This is
covered by a layer of dead leaves or green leaves and grass (depending on what is
available). Then the rest of the hole is filled with compost and finally it is covered with
the topsoil that was dug out.
(from WRC; Homestead water Management Manual, 2009)
Advantages and disadvantages of shallow trenches
Advantages
Disadvantages
Easy to make, takes less energy than a deep
trench, it also takes a shorter amount of
time to create
This is a difficult method if you live in an
area with hard soils and many rocks
Eco-circles
An Eco-circle is a unique, productive way of gardening. Eco-circles are (small) raised,
circular garden pits beds.
Advantages
Disadvantages
This method really works as the soil is rich
in nutrients, it is a good method for sandy
soils (low in nutrients)
Difficult to dig trench beds in hard soils, it
takes time and effort, some people are
scared of this method because the trench
looks like a grave.
33
What you will need to make an eco-circle:
String and a stick, a spade, compost and mulch, seedlings or seed to plant, a candle and
matches , a piece of wire and used 2l bottle with a lid.
How to make an eco-circle:
Mark out a circle (using a stick and some string) on
the ground where you intend growing food. Remove
the first 20-30cm of topsoil and put it in a pile next
to the circle. Remove another 20-30cm and put it in a
separate pile, next to the circle. The hole should
be knee deep now (about 50cm)
Light a candle and heat up the wire (careful not to
burn yourself). When the wire is hot, burn 16 tiny
holes in the sides of the 2l bottle. (4 holes, in 4
vertical rows - going down the side of the bottle).
Place the bottle (upright) in the center of the circle.
Now add a 2cm layer of compost, or decomposed
kraal manure, kitchen waste or dry grass, into the
base of the hole. Cover this with 8cm (4 fingers) of
subsoil. Water the 2 layers well. Continue replacing
the subsoil layering it with compost (grass and or
whatever organic material you have) watering each
layer as you go. Having added all the subsoil
replace the top soil. The surface of the bed will be
higher than the surrounding ground. Scoop the soil
from the center of the circle to the outside to
create a basin with the top of the bottle in the
center. The basin shape funnels water into the
center where it sinks into the soil. So it can‟t run
off carrying precious topsoil with it. Mulch and plant.
Fill the bottle with water once a week. The water will slowly drip out the bottle into the
soil.
Practical notes and tips:
The compost creates a sponge which retains water and the mulching prevents
evaporation. In areas of high rainfall the surface of the bed should be flat to prevent
water-logging.
You can make the eco circle bigger for example 1m by 1m
34
Advantages and disadvantages of eco-circles
Advantages
Disadvantages
Easy to make, effective method, small
enough to maintain, saves labour once the
circle has been dug, simple method, not
much space needed, can grow lots of food in
the small space, low tech, water saving
method of gardening (there is a saving of up
to 70% in water usage), A good method to
use in dry areas
Could be hard to dig in hard soils
Tree planting
It is possible to grow many different types of fruit trees around your homestead. You
can acquire your trees by growing them from seeds or cuttings or buying grafted trees
from nurseries.
Choosing a site
Different trees grow better in different climates. The table below will give you some
ideas of which trees will grow in your area.
VERY COLD AREAS:
Has frost often in winter and
sometimes snow
NOT SO COLD AREAS:
Has frost sometimes in winter and
rarely snow
Apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, plums,
almonds, grapes, cherries, apricots, pecan
nuts and walnuts
Apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, plums,
almonds, grapes, cherries, apricots, pecan
nuts and walnuts
Also: figs, granadillas and citrus fruit
(lemons, oranges, naartjies and grapefruit)
Your trees will grow for a long time; so it is important to choose the right place.
35
You need an area with well
drained and deep soil that has
enough sun (preferably a
north facing slope) where
fruit trees can be protected
from wind.
As it becomes colder in
Autumn deciduous trees and
vines shed their leaves and go
into a state of rest. They all
need a certain period of cold
weather to break this rest.
The degree of coldness needed varies for different
varieties of trees. In some cases when the
temperatures in June/July are not low enough the
rest periods are insufficiently broken, which results
in a state called “delayed foliation”. In spring some
buds and leaf blossoms drop of and some branches
remain dormant and die back. The trees do not grow
or produce well. It is thus important in warmer areas
to choose varieties that do not need very cold
winters.
Choosing a variety
Each type of tree has many different varieties and
you will need to choose a variety that is suited to
your area and climate.
Some varieties grow better in very cold areas and others in warmer areas.
Warm North
facing slope
Frost Zone
Rows of trees can trap
cold air and should be
removed
Cold air flows down slope
without causing damage
to blossoms
Cool cold
South facing
slope
Cold air in valley bottom in winter
It is also important to
know when a tree flowers.
Late frost will kill early
blossoms on a tree and
badly damage the fruit
production for that tree.
You will need to choose a
tree that flowers after
the threat of frost has
passed.
36
Another consideration for choosing a variety: Pollinators
Here you will need two different varieties of the same type of tree (and two specific
ones!) For example; you will need to plant both Granny Smith and Golden Delicious
varieties of apples.
They will help each other bear fruit, as they pollinate each other. The blossom of the
one cultivar/variety will need to be fertilized by the pollen of the other cultivar/variety.
They need to flower/blossom at the same time and they need to be compatible, so that
both types can bear fruit.
These trees must not be planted more than 30metres apart, so that the pollen can be
transported from tree to tree with the help of bees and the wind.
You can plant 1 tree of one type (cultivar/variety) and 4-5 of the other; depending on
which variety you prefer. This means that you can have more of one variety of trees,
than another.
Which trees need pollinators?
YES
APPLES
PEARS
PECANS
SOME PLUMS
PAWPAWS
NO
CITRUS
MANGOES
GRAPES
Different varieties/cultivars you can choose from
There are many, many varieties and cultivars and new ones are always being produced.
It may help to ask the nurseries in your area which varieties are suitable. In the table
below some varieties are mentioned to give you an idea.
CULTIVARS FOR VERY COLD AREAS
CULTIVARS FOR NOT SO COLD
AREA
NAME
POLLINATOR
FRUIT
RIPENS
NAME
POLLINATOR
FRUIT
RIPENS
APPLES
Granny
Smith;
green apple
Yes: Golden
Delicious or
Starking /Top
Red
April
Granny
Smith;
green apple
Yes: Golden
Delicious or
Starking /Top
Red
April
Golden
Delicious;
yellow
Yes: Granny
Smith or
Starking /Top
Red
15
February
Golden
Delicious;
yellow
Yes: Granny
Smith or
Starking /Top
Red
15
February
37
Starking/Top
Red:
Red
Yes; Golden
Delicious or
Granny Smith
March
Starking/Top
Red:
Red
Yes; Golden
Delicious or
Granny Smith
March
PEARS
Packhams;
Light green
Bon Chretion
and Forelle
Mid
February
Packhams;
Light green
Clapp's
Favourite
Mid
February
Bon
Chretion;
Yellow
Self
pollinator
March
Forelle;
yellow with
red blush
Packhams and
Bon
Chretion
Early April
PLUMS
Santa Rosa:
red skin and
flesh
Self
pollinating
15
December
Begin
January
Pioneer;
red skin and
flesh
Self
pollinating
20
November
Songold:
yellow skin
and flesh
Santa Rosa,
Laetitia
15
February
Songold:
yellow skin
and flesh
Santa Rosa,
Laetitia
15
February
Laetitia;
red skin and
flesh
Songold
30
January
Laetitia;
red skin and
flesh
Songold
30
January
PEACHES
Elberta;
yellow
freestone
Self
Pollinating
25 August
1 February
De Wet;
yellow
freestone
Self
pollinating
25 July
25
October
Kakamas;
yellow
clingstone
Self
Pollinating
15 August
15 January
Oom
Sarel:
yellow cling
Self
pollinating
5 August
15
December
Early Dawn:
white
freestone
Self
Pollinating
15 August
20
November
Boland;
White
Freestone
Self
pollinating
15 August
15
December
NECTARINES
Flavortop;
dark red kin,
yellow flesh
Self
pollinating
20 August
5 January
Sunlite;
dark red
skin, yellow
flesh
Self
pollinating
5 August
5
December
APRICOTS
Peeka;
Dark orange
Self
pollinating
15
September
25
December
Palsteyn;
dark orange
Self
pollinating
30
August
30
November
38
Planting fruit trees
It is a good idea to prepare the planting site/hole a few weeks before you want to plant
the tree. The soil will settle in the hole that you dug and the manure will not be too
strong for the roots.
Preparing the hole
1. Dig a square hole that is at least
80 cm wide and 80 cm deep. A big hole
means a good tree. Put the top soil in
one pile and the subsoil in a separate pile.
2.Now put 1 bucket (10 litres) of
manure in the hole. Mix it with a few
buckets of subsoil.
3.Mix in 500 g of superphosphate or
1kg of crushed bone.
4.Next, put in two more buckets of
manure and some topsoil and mix them
together.
5.Now fill up the rest of the hole with
topsoil. You may need to dig up some topsoil
from somewhere else.
Planting the tree
Caring for the little tree before you
plant it
If it is in a plastic bag, water it every few
days.
If it has bare roots, put moist sandy soil over the roots and
wrap it in a wet sack until you are ready to plant it. You can
place the trees in a bucket of water for 2-3 hours before
planting them.
manure
Measure it in an
old tin
Place bare-rooted
trees in a bucket
for two hours
before planting
39
Planting a tree that is in a plastic bag
These trees are usually planted in spring and will have leaves on the trees when you
plant them. (September-November)
1. Water the tree in the bag without breaking the soil bundle
2. Make a hole in your planting hole (which you prepared earlier) the same size as
the plastic bag
3. Take the tree out of the plastic bag
4. Plant the tree and make sure the roots are covered with soil. The planted tree
should be the same depth as it was in the bag.
5. The join or graft/union on your tree must be 10cm above the soil level
NOTE: Graft union must be 10 cm (hand width) above the soil level
Keep trees in a
shady place before
planting
Cover the roots
with grass,
sawdust, or moist
sandy soil
Water trees every
2 3 days
Water roots at
least once per day
Bagged trees Bare-root trees
Rootstock
Scion
Graft
Union
10 cm
Dig the hole the
same size as the
bag.
Carefully cut
the bag and
remove it
without
disturbing the
soil around the
roots.
40
Graft unions:
Wild fruit trees grow in many different soils and climates and have very strong roots.
But the fruits from these trees are not very big or tasty. Other trees that are not so
strong may bear good, tasty fruit. To obtain a tree with both strong roots and good
fruit the roots of the wild tree are joined to the branches of the tree with tasty fruit.
The process is called grafting; this is done by cutting the stem just above the roots of
a wild tree and binding a branch that has been cut from a good fruit bearing tree. The
two trees grow together to form a single tree.
The graft union can be seen as a large lump just above the roots. It should always be
above the ground when the tree is planted.
Planting a tree with bare roots
These trees are usually planted in the middle of or towards the end of winter (July-
August).
1. Make a hole in the soil you have prepared for planting.
It should be a bit bigger than the roots of the tree.
2. Cut cleanly any broken roots to avoid disease.
3.Hold the tree in the hole so that it is a little
bit higher out of the ground than it was before.
4.Carefully place the soil around the roots.
Make sure the soil gets right in between the
roots so that there are no air spaces left. The
planted tree should be the same depth it was before
in the soil.
5. The join (bud union) must be at least 10 cm
above the soil.
10 cm
41
6. Once the tree is
planted (bagged or bare
rooted),you should prune it.
Trees are weak after you plant
them, because their roots take
time to get used to the new
place. It helps the roots to
grow strong if you prune the
tree after planting. You need
to cut off the top and all the
side branches.
7. To help the tree grow straight, tie it to a
strong stick pushed into the ground. As the trees
grow, they will take up more and more space.
It is important to plant them far enough apart.
Peaches, plums and apricots should be planted 3
paces (metres) apart in the rows and rows should be
5 paces (metres) apart. Pears, apples and citrus
trees need to be 5 paces (metres) apart in and between rows.
Watering your newly planted tree
1. Press down on the soil gently all around the young
tree.
2. Make a small dam around the tree to hold water.
3. Give the tree 4 buckets (10 L) of water.
4. Mulch around the tree with dry grass or
newspaper or rocks, keeping the mulch away
from the trunk of the tree. This will save
water for the tree. It will also stop weeds
from growing.
5. Water that runs off the roofs and bare
ground around the houses can be directed by
means of small furrows to the trees, so that
when it rains the trees will get a good soaking.
60 cm
(knee height)
Graft union
must be 10 cm
above the soil
42
6.Use the following guidelines to water your trees.
Year
Spring and Summer
Winter
1
2 Bucket (20 L) every
7 days during dry weather
1 Bucket (10 L) every
14-21 days
2
3 Buckets (30 L) every
7 days
1 Bucket (10 L) every
14-21 days
Year 3 onwards
3-4 Buckets (30-40 L) every
7 days
2 Buckets (20 L) every
14-21 days
Feeding your fruit trees
Using kraal manure
Spread the manure on the ground, as far as the branches reach. Do not let the manure
touch the stem of the tree. Then cover the manure with mulch, otherwise it will lose its
strength.
Age of tree
September
December
Year 1
1 (10 litre) bucket
1 (10 litre) bucket
Year 2
2 buckets
2 buckets
Year 3
3 buckets
3 buckets
Year 4
4 buckets
4 buckets
Year 5
5 buckets
5 buckets
From 5 years onwards, you should apply the same amount of manure each year.
43
Caring for your trees
Inter planting
It is more natural for trees and other plants
to grow together rather than to stand alone.
If you only plant one crop, insects will have a
feast. Growing vegetables and other crops
between your trees encourages “good” insects
that control the “bad” ones and a better
balance is maintained.
It is also possible to grow a mixture of other
ANNUAL crops such a grasses (oats, annual
rye grass) and legumes (vetch, lupins). These
grow through winter and die down in early summer to provide mulch
and compost.
OR it is possible to grow PERMANENT crops between your rows of trees. Here you
would mix grasses (rye grass, fescue), legumes (clover, lucerne) and herbs (comfrey,
chicory). These plants can be regularly cut short and the cuttings can be used as mulch,
compost or animal feed. A variety of species always attracts a variety of organisms that
may help in pest and disease control.
Pest and disease control for fruit trees
Growing healthy trees is a good starting point. They are stronger and more resistant to
insects and diseases. Use lots of compost, manure and mulch and weed your trees
regularly.
Other ways to grow strong healthy trees include:
Growing marigolds,
leeks and comfrey
nearby deters insects.
Promote the presence of bees. Bees help to
pollinate the flowers of the fruit trees and
thus to bear fruit.
Promote the presence of insect predators
(good insects); these insects live off other
insects and provide a natural way to control
pests (bad insects). These include ladybirds,
lacewings, wasps, praying mantis, dragonflies
and frogs.
Inter-
planting
Marigold
s
Bees
44
Make up simple mixtures or brews that will get rid of insects and diseases
Garlic and onions sprays (deter most insects): Chop up 1 whole garlic or onion
bulb. Soak it for 1 day in two teaspoons of paraffin. Add 0.5 litres of water and strain
off the onion or garlic from the liquid. Add a medium bar of green sunlight soap and mix
it in until it has completely dissolved. This will help to stick the mixture to the leaves of
the trees. Dilute this mixture 1:10 with water and splash or spray on the tree.
Tobacco mixture: This should be used carefully as it is a strong poison and can
kill bees and useful insects as well. Boil up 0.5 cup of cigarette ends or tobacco in 1 litre
Praying mantis eat many kinds of insects
Ladybirds eat lots of
aphids and other bugs
Dragonflies eat flies, aphids
and mosquitoes
Wasps lay their eggs in living worms and
caterpillars. When the young hatch they
feed off these worms
Lacewings eat aphids
Frogs eat worms, caterpillars, slugs and
even snails
45
of water. Strain off the liquid and mix with 2 litres of water. Splash or spray on the
tree.
Fruit fly traps: Fruit flies spoil fruit later in the
season by stinging them and laying eggs inside the fruit.
Small worms hatch in the fruit and make them rotten. Fruit
flies like eating ripe fruit like plums, grapes and oranges. You
can fill a trap with some water mixed with fruit (you can use
any sweet smelling fruit), water and sugar. The fruit flies
will fly into the traps to feed and will not find a way out
again.
Another fruit fly trap consists of making up a mixture of
Bovril or Marmite and mixing in some poison such as the
tobacco mixture above.
Fruit flies can also be controlled by picking up fallen and rotten
fruit beneath the trees EVERY day. The fruit is collected in
buckets of water, which will drown the small worms.
The fruit can also be fed to chickens and pigs. It is
important that the small worms do not make contact
with the ground. They burrow out of the fruit into
the soil and rest there to start a new cycle of fruit
flies.
Wrap a band of paper or cloth
covered in grease around the
trunk of each tree. The grease should not touch the bark as it is
poisonous to the trees. Any pests, ants and other insects walking up
the trees will get stuck on the grease and die.
Diseases such as mildew (a white powdery fungus on the leaves, mostly on apples, pears
and vines), black spot (little black spots on leaves and fruit)
and leaf curl (mostly on peaches and nectarines) can all be
controlled by dusting the trees and fruit with sulphur or
copper-oxychloride. These chemicals can only be obtained
from gardening shops and some hardware stores.
Leaf spot
Peach leaf curl
46
Planting trees for wind protection
The movement of air is important to plants. It prevents diseases caused by too much
moisture/wetness and lack of air. It also helps to spread pollen (which is necessary for
fruit production on some trees and plants) and helps plants to seed themselves.
Wind can affect your plants in
negative ways:
Strong winds can blow over or break your
crops and trees
Dry winds cause the soil and plants to dry
out.
Very hot or cold winds can destroy crops.
Dust carried by the wind scratches plants
like sandpaper.
Wind can also cause soil erosion, especially
in the dry months. Your topsoil can be blown
away by the wind, leaving you with the less
fertile subsoil.
Where to place a windbreak
Windbreaks are planted across the path of the main hot, cold and dry winds in your area.
Windbreaks are good around homesteads. They can also be planted along roads and
paths and also as boundaries around your fields and gardens.
How to make a windbreak
It consists of rows of trees and shrubs, usually of various kinds and heights. They are
planted as a semi-solid barrier. This means that some air can still move through the
windbreak, but it will be slowed down. The best windbreaks consist of at least three
rows of shrubs and trees of different heights.
The trees and shrubs can also be planted in 1 or 2 rows. If you can, make sure that
branches and leaves still grow close to the ground. With tall trees only, the lower
branches die back over time. The wind will then "tunnel" past these bare stems and
damage your crops. The shorter shrubs and plants can be planted on the side the wind is
coming from as well.
A Windbreak
Some extra advantages of
windbreaks
Can provide firewood
Can provide fruit
Can be thorny for protection
Can provide fodder for animals
Can provide medicine
47
Useful plant species to inter plant as wind breaks
More about some of the suggested small plants, shrubs and trees
Aloe
These are good for protection as they often are thorny. They also provide some
protection against fire, as the leaves are fleshy and hold a lot of water. They can be
used for medicine. A good kind to use is Aloe maculata. This is a low growing aloe with
white speckles on the leaves. The gel in the leaves is very good as a medicine for
constipation and contains a trace element known as selenium. Selenium is a very
important supplement for your immune system.
The aloe often grown around homesteads, Aloe striatula, which has long, thin leaves, can
be a bit invasive.
Marigolds and Fennel
These are small strong smelling plants that help to protect your
garden from insect attack. The white umbrella-like flowers of
fennel help to attract insects (predatory wasps) that eat the
pests in your garden (worms and aphids). Marigolds can be used
to make a poison that will kill small worms (nematodes) in your
soil.
Napier fodder
This is a tough, hardy fodder grass that can be used for hay and
silage. It is also good for mulching. It grows fast.It is propagated
by taking small rooted clumps from a "mother" plant. It is also
possible to lay the canes/grass stems in shallow furrows. These
will grow from the nodes/notches in the stem. In cold areas the
plants will die back in winter (the dry leaves remain as a
windbreak). They will re-shoot in spring.
Small shrubs and trees
Medium Shrubs and
trees
Large shrubs and
trees
Aloes
Comfrey
Wormwood
Herbs;rosemary, thyme, lavender,
etc.
Marigolds
Fennel
Runner beans
Vines; grapes, granadilla
Napier fodder
Pigeon pea
Buddleja or Sagewood
Halleria or Tree Fuchsia
Dovyalis or Kei-Apple
Carrissa or Num-Num
Euclea or Blue Guarri
Casuarina or Beefwood
Acacia or Sweet thorn
Mulberry
48
Buddleja salvifolia; Sagewood; Lelothwane
These are tough, fast growing, evergreen shrubs. This means they
do not lose their leaves in winter. They are frost resistant. They
will need to be protected when young, but are robust when older.
The flowers attract birds and bees. The leaves can be used as tea
or as a medicine for eye complaints.
Halleria lucida; Tree fuchsia; Lebetsa
This is a shrub, but can also grow into a small tree. It grows up to
about 3-10metres high. It has multiple stems that can be cut for
firewood, garden stakes and fencing. It has tubular orange/red
flowers that attract birds and bees. The fruit is edible.
Euclea crispa; Blue guarri; Mohlakolo, Motsoetla
This is a shrub or bushy evergreen tree that grows between 1
and 5 metres high. It has small, black pea-like berries that
are edible. It grows wild in some places.
Carissa bispinosa; Num-num
This is a branched, spiny evergreen shrub. The leaves are small,
shiny and thick. Fruit are small oblong red berries that are good to
eat and for making jams.
Cajanus cajan; Pigeon Pea
This is a small tree that is native to Africa. It fixes nitrogen in the
soil and has deep roots. It can be used for firewood. It is frost
tolerant, but needs to be protected when young. The young leaves can
be eaten as spinach and the seeds are eaten as beans or "dahl". The
leaves are also good fodder for animals; especially cattle and goats.
Dovyalis caffra; Kei Apple
This is a very thorny small tree with fleshy leaves. It makes a good
protective hedge. It grows a bit slowly. It is resistant to drought and
frost. It needs to be protected from frost when young. The fruit is
good to eat and can be made into jams and jellies. The flesh needs to be
washed off the seed before planting.
Mulberry
These are large deciduous trees. This means they lose their leaves in
winter. The leaves are good animal fodder. The small black berries are
49
very sweet and can also be used for making jam. Mulberries are easy to grow from
cuttings. They can be pruned and these branches can be used for fences, stakes and
firewood.
It is possible to plant fruit trees together
with some of the trees and plants mentioned
here. This helps to protect your fruit from pest
attack and wind and frost damage. On the right is
an example of a peach tree planted with runner
beans, marigolds, fennel and Pigeon Peas.
Different combinations of plants can be used.
Casuarina Cunningham; Beefwood
This tree originally comes from Asia and Australia. It is a large shady tree
with leaves that look like pine needles. It grows very fast and can grow in
poor soil. It provides good timber and firewood. It can be planted easily
from seed. It is moderately frost resistant and should be protected when
young.
Acacia karroo; Sweet Thorn
These are very hardy, fast growing, very
thorny trees. They are frost and drought resistant.
They fix nitrogen into the soil. The tree provides
good firewood. Leaves, flowers and pods are good
animal fodder.
Advantages
Disadvantages
Trees are multi-functional, they provide:
oxygen,, shade, food, medicine, furniture,
trees can be used as wind breaks, places to
sit and enjoy nature, we can climb them, they
are low maintenance, we can use the dead
branches and leaves in our compost heaps and
we can mulch with them, increases
biodiversity, is a place for beneficial insects
and animals to live
It‟s a long term investment
Fennel
Marigold
Pigeon pea
Peach
Runner
beans
50
Mulching
What is Mulch?
Mulch is dried organic matter (for example grass). Mulching is the action of spreading
of a layer of mulch (dried organic material) over the surface of the soil, amongst
vegetables and plants in the garden or field.
Why mulch?
Mulching saves water, because it will stop the sun and wind from drying out the soil.
That means that you will need to give less water to your plants, because it is not lost
through the effects of sun and wind.
The effect of sun and wind on bare soil
It keeps the soil temperature more even. Mulching reduces too much heating and too
much cooling of the soil. This makes it easier for plants to grow.
Bare soil
Transpiration
Evaporation
Damp soil
Calm air
Sun and wind takes water
Wilting
More
transpiration
More
evaporation
Wind
Wind speeds
up wilting
process
Dehydrated soil
less moisture
Run off
High
evaporation
Very low
infiltration
Weeds
Dry, hot and
capped soil
No soil organisms
Bad soil structure
51
Mulched soil
Advantages and disadvantages of mulching
Disadvantages
Advantages
It is sometimes hard to find enough
material to mulch with
Sometimes mulching on seed beds
can affect the growth of carrot
seedlings. They can become spindly
and weak
Some people think it looks untidy
Mulch can encourage slugs and snails
It stops loss of minerals/nutrients from the soil
It encourages soil organisms
It reduces weed growth
It prevents capping: that is the formation of a
hard layer of soil on the surface.
A stronger root system develops closer to the
soil surface. This makes more nutrients and air
available to the roots
Break down of mulch will add to soil fertility
Breaks the impact of heavy rains and splashing of
soil on plants - that can spread diseases
What to use as mulch?
Usually we use:
Crop residues (stalks and leaves of harvested crops). NEVER use diseased crop residue.
You will infect the soil and your new crops!
Weeds that have been pulled out and left to dry out
Little
evaporation
High
infiltration
Weed control
Soil organisms
Good soil structure
From: Production without Destruction. Natural Farming Network, Zimbabwe
Organic dry material
From: Production without Destruction.
Natural FarmingNetwork, Zimbabwe
All reduce
evaporation
Stones
Sheets of paper
52
Grasses from the veld. Make sure to use DRY grass. GREEN grass will take nutrients
from your soil and your crops will have fewer nutrients.
Flat stones. These will cover but will not add nutrients. They are good around larger
plants and fruit trees.
Newspaper. This will cover and add a little bit of nutrients/ plant food to the soil. Wet
the newspaper when you put it on the soil, so that it does not blow away.
Manure; use DRY or OLD manure for this.
Leaves collected under trees.
Old thatch grass.
Black plastic sheeting.
How do we mulch?
It is best to chop up your mulching material (weeds and grass) to
be about the length of your hand (10-20 centimeters)
Use a thin layer of mulch for seedlings and small plants about one
finger width deep (1.5 cm)
For larger plants use much thicker mulch about 2-3 finger widths
(3-4 cm)
For trees, a really thick layer, one whole hand or more (10-20 cm)
can be added
When the mulch has broken down, you need to add more! You will
be amazed how quickly this happens. Usually mulch is added at
least once a season, or once every 3 months. In areas with extremely cold winters, it
may be an idea to make sure your mulch is compact or squashed down once the frosts
are heavy and the ground starts to freeze. Loose mulch can make the effects of frost
more severe.
Problems with improper mulching
Piling mulch against the trunk or stems of plants can stress stem tissues and may lead
to insect and disease problems.
Mulch piled high against the trunks of young trees may create habitats for rodents that
chew the bark and can girdle the trees.
Thick blankets of fine mulch can become matted and may prevent the penetration of
water and air.
Anaerobic “sour” mulch may give off pungent odors, and the alcohols and organic acids
that build up may be toxic to young plants
Proper Mulching
One hand =
10 20 cm
One finger = 1.5 cm
Two fingers = 3 4 cm
53
Inspect plants and soil in the area to be mulched. Determine whether drainage is
adequate. Do not mulch in waterlogged areas.
If mulch is piled against the stems or tree trunks, pull it back several inches so that
the base of the trunk and the root crown are exposed.
Organic mulch should be well aerated and, preferably, composted. Avoid sour-smelling
mulch.
Avoid using non composted wood chips that have been piled deeply without exposure to
oxygen.
Avoid placing mulch against the tree trunks. Place mulch out to the tree‟s drip line or
beyond.
54
CHAPTER 4
LIQUIDMANURES
Brews for plant nutrition
One way of improving plant nutrition is to make liquid teas or brews that will add
fertility to the soil. In this method nutrients (from plant matter or animal dung) are
leached out (drawn out) into water and applied to the soil. This should be used as an
additional soil fertility technique rather than the only one. Brews provide extra
nutrients in case of small deficiencies, but cannot rectify major nutrient deficiencies.
Liquid manures/brews/ teas are a simple way of giving your plants a boost. The aim is to
provide plants with natural plant foods quickly during their growing season. It is useful
for heavy feeders like cabbages and to give seedlings a boost.
How to make liquid manures from plants
A good plant for liquid manure is comfrey. Most soft green leaves and stems can also be
used and weeds are ideal. Avoid plants which are very strong smelling. Plants are made
of different quantities of nutrients and take up different nutrients from the soil. It is
best to use a range of plant materials to make your liquid. Make sure you only use
healthy plants.
Make sure your container is clean before you use it.
Collect the plant material and fill up the container. You must keep on adding material to
the container every week
Place a rock on top of the plant material in the container and put the lid on. Do not add
water. The plant material will make its own liquid. If you are only using weeds, and no
comfrey or banana stems, you may need to add a little water, to just cover the
compressed plant material.
Place it in a sunny position and two weeks later check to see if the leaves have turned
black. If you tilt the container you should find a black juice. This is the concentrated
plant liquid manure.
This liquid is very strong and should be diluted as follows:
Seedlings: 1 tin of liquid manure for every 4 tins of water.
Bigger plants:1 tin of liquid manure to 2 tins water. If you make the mixture too strong
it can burn the leaves of plants.
Every two weeks pour the mixture on the soil around your plants, after you have
watered them. You should pour at least one tin of this diluted mixture around each
seedling or plant. The tin should be the size of a big jam tin.
55
How to make a foliar spray
This is brew made from a mixture of plant and animal material. It is used by spraying
onto the leaves of plants from where it is absorbed. This brew contains antibiotics,
microbes and plant hormones as well as plant nutrients (potassium, phosphate and trace
elements). (from :EMBRAPA; Brazilian Agriculture Research Institute)
Place the following ingredients in a container with a lid:
30kg of fresh cow manure
50-60liters of water
5litres of milk (without salt)
5liters of sugar cane juice/ 15kg of chopped sugar cane/2kg of brown sugar (personal
variation)
4kg of wood ash (not coal ash!!)
4kg crushed bones or bone meal (fish bones are ideal if available. If possible do not use
chicken bones) (We use bone meal bought from a gardening shop)
3-5x 20l buckets of chopped weeds
2-3kg of agricultural lime/ crushed eggshells
Leave this mixture for 10-15 days
Dilute 2-10litres of this mixture in 100 liters of water.
This spray is highly effective. It is possible to keep the brew going for a period of time,
by adding more weeds and manure and fermenting the mixture again for about 10 days.
Advantages and disadvantages of foliar sprays
Advantages
Disadvantages
Foliar sprays are very effective and act
quickly in the plants.
If diluted properly, these foliar sprays
do not harm plants
Foliar sprays increase disease resistance
in crops
Foliar sprays provide a quick and cheap
plant booster food
Plant hormones and antibiotics are also
supplied through the fermentation
process in the making of foliar sprays
Some inputs for foliar sprays need to be
bought; such as agricultural lime and
potentially wood ash, sugar and milk
This mixture is exceptionally smelly while
it is fermenting
Foliar sprays can “burn” plants if they are
too strong
Good plants for liquid manures
Comfrey
This plant has large hairy leaves and grows in wet shady places. The leaves contain a lot
of potassium. These can be used to mulch your vegetable beds and also to make liquid
56
A brew made from comfrey leaves can be
diluted as mentioned above and sprayed
on plant leaves to protect against downy
and powdery mildew. Mildews are a
problem mainly on cucurbits, pumpkins
and peas.
A brew made from comfrey and stinging
nettle can be sprayed on plants to
protect against early and late blight,
which attacks tomatoes and potatoes.
In these cases the brews are sprayed
onto the leaves of the plants.
feeds for your plants Comfrey is also a good spinach and medicine. A tea made from the
leaves is good for high blood pressure and arthritis.
Stinging nettle
This is one of the best plants you can
use in plant brews. It contains a wide
variety of nutrients and trace elements and is a well-balanced plant food. It is best to
collect these plants in the natural forests where they occur and plant a few in your
garden. They do not survive frost, but otherwise grow almost anywhere.
Banana stems
These are chopped up and placed in the container with other plants and leaves. The
stems have a high concentration of potassium and water and make a good liquid base for
the brew.
Weeds
Black Jack, Amaranths, Chickweed, Galant Soldier. All fast growing weeds, with soft
dark green leaves are good. Avoid using grasses and sedges.
Advantages and disadvantages of plant brews
Advantages
Disadvantages
Plant brews are easy to prepare and use
If diluted these brews do not harm plants
Plant brews increase disease resistance in crops
Plant brews provide a quick and cheap plant booster
food.
Plant brews provide mainly potassium, phosphorus and
trace elements.
Nitrogen can be provided if the brew is used early in
Resources such as containers
with lids are required
Plant brews can burn plants if
they are too strong
Effects of the brews on plant
growth are only visible after
3-5 days.
It is not possible to know
Comfrey From: Useful Plants for Land
Design, Pelum
57
the fermentation cycle (after 1 week) and care is
taken to avoid it‟s evaporation by keeping the
containers closed and cool
Plants drink their nutrients so nutrients immediately
available, easy quick method.
These teas are excellent to use on newly transplanted
seedlings to help them recover from transplanting
shock.
Useful method for rainy season when there is lots of
leaching. You can prepare fertilizer teas from animal
manure, plant trees from parts of plants.
exactly which nutrients these
brews contain.
Some people do not like the
smell of these brews, which
can smell very rotten
Nitrogen is volatile and is lost
from the brews quite early in
the fermentation cycle
How to make liquid manure from animal manure
Manure can be used from chickens, rabbits, cows, goats and sheep. A mixture of
manures is best.
Put your fresh manure mixture into an orange packet and tie the top of the bag.
Put the bag in the container and attach it to a stick or a rope. Then fill the container
with water. For every 1kilogram of manure you will need 5 liters of water. This means an
orange sack full of manure in a large bucket (50l), or half the bag in a normal sized
household bucket (20l). This is a way of keeping the manure and the water separate,
because you should not put the wet manure on your plants.
Cover the container with a lid. Stir every few days.
After two weeks the mixture will be ready to be used. It should look like weak tea.
Before using the liquid, stir the mixture well.
This liquid will be very strong and should be diluted:
Seedlings: 1 tin of liquid to 8
tons of water (or buckets or
bottles)
Bigger plants:1 tin liquid to 4
tins of water
If you make the mixture too
strong it can burn the leaves
of plants.
Every two weeks pour the
mixture on the soil around your
plants, after you have watered
them. Again, use at least one
big jam tin full for each
Plastic cover
Stick to stir
Sack with ± 40 kg
manure and/or
plants
200 litre drum
filled with
water
Nutrients
dissolve into
water
58
seedling or plant. Avoid applying your mixture in the middle of the day or on very hot
days.
Good sources for animal liquid manures
Kraal manure (cattle)
Either use fresh manure or use manure that has been collected in a kraal. In this way
you can ensure that the manure contains as many nutrients as possible and that the
nutrients have not been lost into the air through baking in the sun and drying out. This
is especially important if you need your liquid manure to contain some Nitrogen.
Chicken manure
With chicken manure it is important to collect the
droppings while they are fresh. Again this keeps the
nitrogen and other plant food concentrated in the dry
droppings. It is possible to collect the droppings daily
and keep them in a sack in a cool dark place, until you
have enough to make a brew.
Liquid manure made from chicken manure can burn plants, as it can contain a high level
of Nitrogen. It is important to dilute this brew properly before use. If you are unsure,
test the brew on a few plants only and come back the next day. If the edges of the
leaves have gone brown and crinkly overnight, the brew is too strong and has “burnt”
your plants.
Goat manure
This is very mild manure and is well balanced. It is unlikely to “burn” plants, but may also
be a little low in phosphorus, depending on the diet of the goats.
Other manures
Manure from rabbits can also be safely used. It is suggested not to use the manure
from pigs, due to the possibility of carrying worm eggs that can infect people. Do not
use manure from dogs and cats for the same reason.
Urine
Human urine is an excellent garden tonic. Urine (from healthy people who are not on
medication) is collected, diluted and watered onto the soil around plants. Like plant
based liquid manure, it should be diluted to a weak tea colour. Avoid using it in the same
place regularly.
59
Advantages and disadvantages of animal liquid manures
Advantages
Disadvantages
Liquid manures are easy to prepare
and use
If diluted properly, these liquid
manures do not harm plants
Liquid manures increase disease
resistance in crops
Liquid manures provide a quick and
cheap plant booster food
Liquid manures provide mainly
potassium, phosphorus and trace
elements.
Nitrogen can be provided if the liquid
manure is used early in the
fermentation cycle (after 1 week) and
care is taken to avoid it‟s evaporation
by keeping the containers closed and
cool
The liquid manure is only as good as the
manure of origin. If the animals are suffering
from deficiencies these will be transferred
into the manures. As an example, there is
likely to be a lack of phosphorus in cattle
manure, where cattle have only been grazed
on veld. This means the liquid manure made
from this source will also lack phosphorus.
Liquid manures are generally low in nitrogen.
Using chicken manure drastically increases
the nitrogen content.
The source manures have to be handled well
to retain their nutrients before using as
liquid manures.
Effects of the liquid manures on plant growth
are only visible after 3-5 days.
It is not possible to know exactly which
nutrients these brews contain.
Some people do not like the smell of these
liquid manures, which can smell very rotten
A few more recipes for liquid manures
Fermented Plant Extract (FPE) Recipe from the PELUM Conservation Farming
course in Zambia
This liquid manure is high in micro-organisms and is a good mixture for boosting
immunity of plants (and people) and assisting against attack from fungal diseases.
You will need: 1kg brown sugar, chopped up green plant matter - bamboo shoots, banana
leaves, comfrey leaves, weeds (use only vigorous growing, nutrient rich healthy plants.
No flower heads)
Instructions: Cut up the plants (small), add the sugar, mix well, put in bucket (push it all
to the bottom, tightly) and put a rock on top of it to keep the air out.Cover the bucket
with newspaper (tie the newspaper on with string)
The newspaper will let air in and keep fruit flies out. Keep at a stable temperature for
14-21 days. This is when the juice will be drawn out and the microbes active. The juice
is ready to use on plants, in the soil, in toilets and is also suitable for human
consumption.
60
Agroforestry Leaf tea Recipe
This is an excellent nitrogen boosting liquid manure.
Collect fresh leaves from trees such as Leucaena, thorn trees and wattle. Put about 30-
40kg in a sack and tie securely. Suspend the sack from a stick across the top of a 200l
drum filled with water. Cover the drum with a lid. Stir every 2-3 days by moving the
stick gently up and down. This will release the nutrients into the water. Soak the leaves
for about 2 weeks and be sure the sack is kept underwater the whole time. Remove the
sack of leaves (add the leaves to the compost or use as a mulch) then dilute the tea by
mixing 4parts of water with one part of the tea. It should look like weak tea. Apply by
pouring it on to the soil around the plants or sprinkling over the leaves of plants.
Effective micro organisms
Effective mirco-organisms are produced and sold by commercial company and the name
Effective Micro organisms (EM) belongs to these companies. Effective micro-organisms
are a mixture of 3 or more types of predominantly anaerobic micro-organisms.
This mix of micro-organisms are grown in a laboratory and sold as a product that can be
applied to soil to increase soil life, balance micro-organism activity and thereby increase
the soils „immunity‟ and prevent plant and soil disease. Examples are
oEM•1® Microbial Inoculant; which accelerates the soil building process and
promotes beneficial soil microbe communities. This product is diluted and
sprayed directly onto the soil.
oBoKashi; Kitchen scraps are inoculated (sprayed with) Bokashi mix EM and sealed
in an airtight container. The effective micro-organisms act as a microbe
community in the kitchen waste. They ferment and accelerate the breakdown of
organic matter. Liquid compost tea is drained 1 or 2x a week. This is diluted
1:100 and applied as fertilizer.
Advantages and disadvantages of Effective micro-organisms
Advantages
Disadvantages
Takes away smells, keeps living things
healthy, controls germs, EM can improve the
chemical, physical, biological and microbial
aspects of the soil. It is readily available,
cost effective, easy to use and is
environmentally safe. Once Bokashi culture is
made it can be used to extend the culture
indefinitely (like yoghurt)
Results not scientifically proven,
not easy to prove that it works,
you have to rely on a supplier and
pay for it
61
CHAPTER 5
MANURE
Manure
The manure of animals grazing on natural veld (rangeland) on infertile acid soils and
sandy soils will be particularly poor in plant nutrients. The older manure becomes the
less plant nutrients it will have. Old manure always contains less nitrogen than fresh
manure due to the evaporation of some of the nitrogen. If manure is subject to
leaching by rains, and/or if the liquid manure is allowed to flow or drain away, the
manure will have much lower amounts of plant nutrients than the original fresh manure.
Straw, dry hay and dry grass are excellent bedding materials for kraals and sheds
where animals are kept. Various types of shrubs can be used where these materials are
not available. Manure should be well mixed with bedding material and stored in piles
that remain wet, but are not open to being leached by rain. Some form of cover for the
pile is a good idea.
For vegetable production, at least 20 tons farmyard manure should be applied per
hectare. This means that at least 2 kilograms (one 5 litre bucket) of manure must be
applied per square metre. In South Africa, farmyard manure is relatively poor in
phosphorus (P). Natural South African soils are also very poor in phosphorus. Thus,
additional phosphorus must be applied together with manure. This can be in the form of
superphosphate or bone meal
In rural areas where chickens roam freely, their manure is often not available, or may
be difficult to collect due to the small size of the droppings. However, chicken manure
is an excellent source of plant food. Chicken manure contains high concentrations of
nitrogen and phosphorus and is therefore a good source of these nutrients. It is a
“sharp” fertilizer that will damage (“burn”) the crop if applied in too large quantities.
Application of chicken manure to a crop should never exceed 2 tons per hectare. Two
tons chicken manure per hectare is the same as 200 g (about 500 ml) per square metre.
Thus, for the application of chicken manure to small areas of land or to beds, the
following measuring method can be used: Cut the neck off a 500 ml plastic soft drink
bottle, at the “shoulder” of the bottle. Apply one such bottle full of chicken manure for
every one square meter.
62
Manure as a natural fertilizer
Manure is an excellent fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other
nutrients. It also adds organic matter to the soil which may improve soil structure,
aeration, soil moisture-holding capacity, and water infiltration.
Crop typeNPK
kg/ha kg/ha kg/ha
CowHorseGoatSheepPigChicken RabbitKraalCompostAmadumbe 100 100 150
N (Nitrogen)56 14 7 5 1318 7 5
P (Phosphorous) 23 2 3 4 1113 1 2
K (Potassium)36 6 4 6 20 6 78Beans80 40 50
Nitrogen Beetroot 68 60 80
Promotes vegetative growth, i.e.
stems and leavesBrinjal (Egg fruit)100 6080
Cabbage 18080 100
Chillies& Sweet Peppers100 6080
Phosphorous Carrot 7575 100
Promotes rootdevelopment,
needed for flowersand seedsLettuce10075 100
Maize (green/sweetcorn)100 2080
Onion 10075 100
Potassium Peas 40 40 50
Strengthensplant,givesresistance to
heat,cold, disease andpestsPotatoes160 100 130
Pumpkin &Hubbard squash100 6080
Spinach 10075 100
Sweetpotato100 6080
Tomatoes 16075 100
Nutrients in animal manures (average): Kg/ton
Purchased
63
Nutrient content of manure varies depending on source, moisture content, storage, and
handling methods. The management of manure can also affect its value. For example;
nitrogen is present in manure and gradually converts to ammonium and nitrate nitrogen.
The ammonium form can be lost to the air if not contained and the nitrates can be
leached by rainfall.
Nutrient availability and manure application
Table : Nutrient availability in different types of manure
Nitrogen
Phosphorus
Potassium
Calcium
Magnesium
Organic
matter
Moisture
content
(N)
(P2O5)
(K2O)
(Ca)
(Mg)
FRESH
MANURE
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
Cattle
0.5
0.3
0.5
0.3
0.1
16.7
81.3
Sheep
0.9
0.5
0.8
0.2
0.3
30.7
64.8
Poultry
0.9
0.5
0.8
0.4
02
30.7
64.8
Horse
0.5
0.3
0.6
0.3
0.12
7.0
68.8
Swine
0.6
0.5
0.4
0.2
0.03
15.5
77.6
TREATED
DRIED MANURE
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
Cattle
2.0
1.5
2.2
2.9
0.7
69.9
7.9
Sheep
1.9
1.4
2.9
3.3
0.8
53.9
11.4
Poultry
4.5
2.7
1.4
2.9
0.6
58.6
9.2
Rates of Manure for Nitrogen Needs
Nitrogen compounds in manure eventually convert a nitrate form. Nitrate is soluble
(dissolvable) and is moved into the root zone with water. It is then available to plants in
same form as commercial nitrogen fertilizers.
The release of available nitrogen from the complete organic compounds during manure
decomposition is very slow. This is important as it extends nitrogen availability and
reduces leaching. This is especially important if your soils are sandy.
The idea is to first apply enough manure to meet the first year's need of available
nitrogen. Decreasing amounts are then applied in following years because of the carry-
over organic nitrogen that will be released from previous applications. If the same rate
of manure is applied each year, it is possible for a field originally low in nitrogen to
accumulate unnecessarily high levels in successive years.
64
The nitrogen in poultry manure is in released fastest, about 90% is released in the first
year. Fresh manure which contains both the urine and solid portions and has a large
amount of urea or uric acid provides a somewhat slower release rate, with
approximately 75% of the total nitrogen released the first year. An even more gradual
nitrogen release can be expected from dry feedlot steer manure, with only 35% of the
total nitrogen released the first year.
Every so often, the garden needs a tonic to revitalize and revivify. Making liquid manure
from “found” ingredients provides a cheap and effective way of increasing and
maintaining garden fertility and capturing minerals from deep within your soil.
Advantages and disadvantages of using manure
Advantages
Disadvantages
Manure helps to maintain the organic
matter content of the soil, improves soil
structure and water infiltration.
However, manure is quickly decomposed
under warm, moist soil conditions.
Composting and stockpiling manure can
reduce the number of viable weed seeds.
Composting manure increases the nutrient
content and safety for use considerably.
Manure is cheap and readily available in
rural areas.
Weed seeds are common in some manure..
Poultry droppings typically have fewer
weed seeds surviving the digestive
processes..
With the manure rates used for most
crops, organic matter content in soil is only
temporarily increased.
Manure can cause a build up of salts in
soils that are already highly saline or very
badly drained.
Fresh manure can burn young plants.
Zinc deficiency can be induced or
increased with repeated high rates of
manure, especially on sandy soils.
65
CHAPTER 6
GREEN MANURES
How does green manuring work?
Green manure crops are sown and allowed to grow, either until the land is needed again
or until the plants have reached a certain growth stage usually just before flowering.
At this point, they are cut down, dug in to the soil and are left to decompose, releasing
vital plant nutrients back into the soil which are then used by the next crop.
If you don't want to dig in the plants, then green manure crops can also be composted
or used as a mulching material instead. This is how nutrients are recycled in nature so
we are repeating nature‟s effective system.
Green manure plants
There are many plants suitable as a green manure crops.
Some examples are given in the table below.Plants marked * are nitrogen fixers
Table: Examples of good green manure plants
Name
Latin
name
Sowing
time
Characteristics
Growing
time
Alfalfa/
Lucerne
Medicago
sativa
Sept- Nov
Bee plant. Very deep rooting,
long living good animal fodder
1-2months or
5-10 years
*Winter
Field Beans
Vicia faba
April- June
Bee plant, similar to broad
beans.
overwinter
Buckwheat
Fagopyru
m
esculentu
m
Sept-Dec
Bee plant, deep rooting, very
frost sensitive, but can resist
cold. High protein grain
up to 2-3
mths
*Clover, red
and white
Trifolium
spp
Sept Dec
Bee plant, adds nitrogen and
boron to the soil
1-2 mths or
a few yrs
*Fenugreek
Trigonella
foenum
graecum
Sept- Dec
Butterfly nectar, looks similar
to clover
2-3 mths
*Lupin,
bitter
Lupinus
angustifol
ius
Sept-Nov
Bee plant, very deep rooting
2-3 mths
Mustard
Sinapis
alba
March-Sept
Fast growing, good biomass
2-8 wks
Rye, grazing
Secale
March-May
Bee/caterpillar food. Deep
autumn-
66
cereale
roots good for soil structure
spring
*Trefoil
Medicago
lupulina
Sept-Dec
Bee/butterfly nectar.
Tolerates some shade and
drought
up to a few
yrs
*Tares,
winter
(annual
vetch)
Vicia
sativa
March- May,
Sept-Nov
Bee/butterfly nectar. For
alkaline, heavy soils not
drought tolerant
2-3 mths or
overwinter
Nitrogen Fixing examples
When using legumes as green manures it is important not to try and grow them to term
and harvest seed. If this happens a lot of the useful nutrients that would have been
incorporated into the soil is then used by the plant
for producing seed and many of the benefits are
reduced.
Lucerne
Lucerne is a legume that helps to enrich your soil.
Lucerne can be chopped up and cooked as spinach.
Lucerne is also a good food for cattle, sheep, pig and
chickens. You only have to plant lucerne once every
5-10 years. You can harvest it every summer.
Right; above close up view of a lurcerne plant; below; a bed
planted to lucerne.
Planting: Lucerne is planted during the summer
months. Prepare the land well. Add compost/manure
and ash. Work into the soil. Lucerne needs a lot of
potassium (K) and phosphate (P). The seed is quite
small. Seed can be scattered over the land and
covered using a hoe or a rake. Seed can also be
planted in little furrows like carrots.
It can also be planted as small
patches or beds in the garden
and left for 3-5 seasons before
digging over the bed to plant
vegetables again. Lucerne can
also be planted as a ground cover and intercrop with vegetables.
Harvesting: Lucerne can be cut and used green. It is cut down to
around 5-10cm above the ground at about the height of one‟s
ankle. Lucerne can also be dried to be stored as winter food for
animals.
67
Dry lucerne in flat piles in the sun. Keep on turning these piles over. Otherwise the hay
at the bottom may rot. Drying takes about 3 days.
Clover (white and red)
Clover is most well known as a fodder crop
grown in irrigated pastures for livestock. It is a
cool season plant.
In the garden, the creeping growth habit means
they can be planted on paths and between beds.
It works very well when cut and used as a mulch
and works well in compost heaps.
Right: Red clover
Field beans/ broad beans
Winter field beans are one of the few winter green
manures, as it is a cool season crop. These beans can even
be sown in between rows of vegetables in your raised bed
system if you are short of space.
Right: Winter field beans
Mixtures of green manure plants can also be used. For
example: field beans/mustard; or vetch/clover/rye.
Right: grazing rye
Grains
Buckwheat
Buckwheat is used as a grain. It is high in protein, iron,
calcium and magnesium. It is a hardy creeper that can be
cut back and used repeatedly before being left to seed.
It is a perfect green manure crop as it stores calcium,
potassium and magnesium in its leaves and will
immediately enrich and sweeten soil once dug in.
Right: Buckwheat flowering
Buckwheat is a good companion to other grains such as
oats and barley.
(Pics fromP. Pears. HDRA, )
68
Selecting green manures:
- Choose a quick or a slow-growing
crop - to fit in with the time that
the land will be left vacant and
whether you will cut and use or dig
in the crop.
- The season of the year. (Not all
varieties will survive the winter.)
- Whether you want your crop to
fix nitrogen or not.
- Your soil type and how much
drainage it offers
When is the crop ready?
It is better not to leave your green manure crop
in the ground for too long, as land occupied in
this way cannot be used for growing other crops.
Also, if green manure plants get too old, then
they can become tough and will take longer to
decompose and be incorporated into the soil by
soil organisms. For most green manure crops, it
is usually recommended that they are cut and
used just before they flower.
How to use green manure crops
1. Usually, green manure crops are cut down and
dug into the top 15-20 cm of soil with a spade.
The beds are left for several weeks to allow
decomposition of the material in the soil, before
planting.
2. Or, simply hoe off young plants (or chop down older ones) and leave them on the soil
surface as a mulch. If plants are chopped down, then to prevent any re-growth of the
stubble, cover the ground with a light-excluding mulch (e.g. black polythene/newspaper)
until you are sure that the green manure crop is dead. If you are in a hurry to start
replanting the ground, then you can of course simply plant through the mulch. You will
need to allow several weeks before planting the next crop in the mulched area, in order
to give the mulch some time to decompose and release its nutrients back into the soil.
3. Cut the green manure and use the leaves for making compost. Composting is also a
very good way of using any crops which have been allowed to get too old and tough to
dig straight into the soil.
Advantages and disadvantages of green manuring
Advantages
Disadvantages
Cheap and easy to grow, they can increase soil fertility,
they improve soil structure and help prevent soil erosion,
they encourage efficient use of land.
Most green manure crops are very attractive to wildlife.
Green manures keep weeds in check (bare soil
encourages weed growth).
By taking up nutrients from the soil, green manure crops
prevent them from being washed away when it rains.
Some green manure plants (legumes) are nitrogen fixers.
Green manuring increases the humus content of the soil.
Might need a tractor if you
plan to plant a large field.
It takes time and effort.
Green manure crops mostly
can not be used as food
crops.
69
CHAPTER 7
AGRO-FORESTRY
What is the aim of agro-forestry?
Agro-forestry combines or integrates trees and or shrubs with other crops and or
animals in a farming system. Trees and shrubs may be grown at the same time alongside
crops or in rotation with crops.
Agro-forestry imitates a natural ecosystem, in which a great variety of living and non-
living creatures interact in a highly productive and sustainable fashion. The same land is
used more productively to yield a variety of crops and maintain fertile conditions. It can
mitigate against environmental degradation and has the potential to ensure food
security and fodder supplies for livestock consumption.
Planting trees for soil fertility
Trees in a farming system have a number of functions and advantages:
They add substantial amounts of organic matter to the soil from leaf litter and
root decay,
They absorb nutrients from deep soil layers. They begin the cycling of nutrients
by mining and accumulating available nutrients. As more nutrients enter the
biological system and vegetative cover is established, conditions for other non-
pioneering species become favorable.
They reduce erosion and promote recycling of nutrients,
They can improve the physical properties of soils, including water holding
capacity and break up hard layers.
Pioneers like nitrogen fixing trees tend to benefit other forms of life by
boosting fertility and moderating harsh conditions
Constant leaf drop nourishes soil life, which in turn can support more plant life.
The extensive root systems stabilize soil, while constantly growing and
atrophying, adding organic matter to the soil and creating channels for aeration.
They also provide numerous useful products and functions, including food, wind
protection, shade, animal fodder, fuel wood, living fences, and timber
There are a number of fast growing leguminous trees that are used commonly in
agroforestry systems. These include for exampleSesbaniasesban. Leaucena spp,
Cajanus ss (Pigeon Pea), Acacia spp and Moringa oliefea (Drumstick tree) Below is a
reasonably comprehensive list of species that can be tried.
70
Nitrogen Fixing Trees
Acacia leucophloea - shade and fodder for livestock in arid environments
Acacia mearnsii - multipurpose highland legume tree
Acacia nilotica - pioneer for dry lands
Acacia karroo - for dryland fodder and soil stabilization
Acacia tortilis- fodder tree for desert sands
Albizia lebbeck - a promising fodder tree for semi-arid regions
Albizia odoratissima - Tea Shade Tree
Albizia procera - white Siris for reforestation and agro forestry
Albizia saman - pasture improvement, shade, timber and more
Azadirachta indica - neem, a versatile tree for the tropics and subtropics
Cajanus cajan - it's more than just a pulse crop
Casuarina cunninghamiana - the river she-oak
Casuarina equisetifolia- an old-timer with a new future
Casuarina glauca - a hardy tree with many attributes
Chamaecytisus palmensis - hardy, productive fodder shrub
Dalbergia latifolia - the high-valued Indian rosewood
Dalbergia melanoxylon - valuable wood from a neglected tree
Dalbergia sissoo - the versatile rosewood
Erythrina edulis - multipurpose tree for the tropical highlands
Erythrina poeppigiana - shade tree gains new perspectives
Faidherbia albida - inverted phenology supports dryzone agro forestry
Flemingia macrophyla - a valuable species in soil conservation
Gleditsia triacanthos- honeylocust, widely adapted temperate zone fodder tree
Gliricidia sepium - the quintessential agro forestry species
Grevillea robusta - a versatile and popular tree for farm forestry
Guazuma ulmifolia - widely adapted tree for fodder and more
Hippophaë rhamnoides - an NFT valued for centuries
Honey Mesquite - a multipurpose tree for arid lands
Hymenaea courbaril - the flour tree
Leucaena diversifolia - fast growing highland NFT species
Leucaena leucocephala - a versatile nitrogen fixing tree
Moringa oleifera - a perfect tree for home gardens
Myroxylon - balsam and much more
Pongamia pinnata - a nitrogen fixing tree for oilseed
Prosopis alba and Prosopis chilensis- subtropical semiarid fuel and fodder trees
Prosopis pallida - pioneer species for dry, saline shores
Pterocarpus erinaceus - an important legume tree in African savannas
Pterocarpus indicus - the majestic N-fixing tree
Robinia pseudoacacia- temperate legume tree with worldwide potential
Senna siamea - a widely used legume tree
Sesbania grandiflora - NFT for beauty, food, fodder and soil improvement
Sesbania sesban - widely distributed multipurpose NFT
Ziziphus mauritiana - a valuable tree for arid and semi-arid lands
71
Systems for inclusion of trees
Alley cropping
This is a system where food crops are grown in alleys in
between rows of trees or shrubs, preferably nitrogen
fixing. When trees are pruned or cut the plant material
can be turned into the soil as a green manure,
composted, or left on the surface as a mulch.
Right: A field with a row of trees planted long the edge and
further in lines within the field. Crops are planted in the
‘alleys between the trees
Resources required: space,trees, shrubs and or seed
of suitable plants (refer to list)
Method: Investigate where the wind comes from, what nitrogen fixing trees are
available to you, where you can get them from etc. Plan and design your garden well so
that it works for you. Plant the trees and crops.
Practical considerations for implementation: Green tree leaves keep their high
nitrogen content throughout the year. This means it makes a good green manure and
good material for compost heaps.
Improved fallow
The trees can be densely planted in an area with poor soil fertility and left to grow for
1-3 years. The trees are then cut (green material, leaves and small stems are left on
the soil as plant residue) and rain fed crops grown. This has a considerable effect on
soil fertility and structure, but is labour intensive and
problematic if land is at a premium.
Contour hedgerows, shelter belts and clump
plantings
Here trees are planted along contours but are
interspersed in the cropping landscape as hedges and
windbreaks. This system is less intensive and does not
interfere with the field crops, but the potential
advantages in soil fertility are also reduced. The trees now have
the additional function of creating suitable micro-climates for
crops and animals in terms of shading and cooling effects on the
one hand, or in terms of creating sun trapping, warm microclimates
in colder areas. Another function is for these trees to serve as
living fences.
Right top: Shelterbelts planted on contour in between rows of crops. And
Right bottom: clumps of trees planted as shelter for livestock and to
improve veld condition. (From: www.agf.gov.bc.ca/ resmgmt/ agroforestry/)
72
The diagrams below show some examples of possible layout using the NTF (Nitrogen
Fixing trees) species in a cropping system.
1. In the first diagram NTFs are planted in between tree crops such as citrus, coffee, nuts and
other food and fruit trees.
2. In the 2nd diagram clumps of trees are interspersed in cropping fields; mainly to accumulate
biomass and provide mulching material for the crops.
3. In the 3rd diagram tress are planted on the contour in hedge rows meaning that they form
hedges that help with protection against wind and creating favourable micro-climates for crops.
Biomass Accumulation
This refers to the accumulation of organic material to work with. If you have many
trees and plants in your garden you will have lots of organic matter (leaves, twigs, etc.)
to make compost and mulch and improve soil health. It is always good to increase
biomass (organic matter) supplies.
Advantages and disadvantages of Agroforestry
Advantages
Disadvantages
Indigenous species can be used, tree roots
penetrate soil deeply, grow without irrigation
in the dry season, take nutrients up from deep
in the soil and accumulate biomass Provides a
source of wood and energy, fodder, food, oils in
seed and other products year round, improve
soil fertility (by fixing nitrogen), can provide a
source of income and increased natural
diversity. Used aswindbreaks, assists in pest
and disease control (integrated pest
management), pollinator forage, prevents soil
erosion, living fences, medicine, green manure
and liquid manures, habitat, noise reduction,
Trees release oxygen and shelter animals.
Long term investment, long term
results, need lots of land/space. Most
will not thrive in shade or fertile
conditions. Because of their ability to
thrive under poor conditions, they
can easily become weedy. Therefore,
if possible, use only NFTs which are
already established in your area, or
that have a history of not becoming
weeds. NFTs can also become
competitive for available soil
nutrients, especially in arid areas.
73
CHAPTER 8
MIXED CROPPING
Diversity in our gardens is important for family nutrition and for continuity. We also
want to create as much diversity n pour gardens as possible to ensure a natural balance
in the garden. We want to create a living soil, use water efficiently and minimize pest
and disease attack on our crops.
To attain mixed cropping, corps can either be inter-planted (different crops in the
same bed at the same time), or crops can be rotated (different crops are planted in the
same place at different times). Using both practices in your garden is a good idea.
Inter-planting
When planting a number of different crops together we need to consider the following:
Nutrient consumption: We mix crops together that consume different amounts of
nutrients. Some plants are heavy feeders and need a lot of nutrients. Other plants are
light feeders and some even add nitrogen to the soil. A good example is the traditional
practice of planting maize and beans together. Maize is a heavy feeder, while beans are
light feeders as well as fixing nitrogen in the soil.
Root depth: Plant deep and shallow rooted plants together to ensure that they do not
compete for nutrients and water. A good example is planting maize and pumpkins
together. Maize is an upright plant that has a deep rooting system and pumpkin is a
creeping plant with a shallow rooting system. They do not compete for space either
below or above the ground.
Insect repellent plants:There are some crops which have a unique smell that repels
some kinds of insects. For example, onion has a specific smell that butterflies dislike. If
onions are inter planted with cabbage, this will reduce the attack from insects (worms).
Combinations like onion and cabbage are called companion plants. Companion planting is
an effective pest prevention measure.
Timing: Some crops have a longer life cycle than others. It is possible to plant crops
that mature quickly in-between crops that take longer to mature. In this way one crop
can be harvested while the other crop is still growing and competition is reduced. An
example is planting radish, mustard spinach and potatoes together. Radish matures
quickly and is harvested within 6 weeks of planting. The leaves of the mustard spinach
are harvested for 2-3 months. This reduces competition with the potato plants that are
now growing large. Potatoes are harvested after 3.5-4 months. A combination such as
74
this also includes that aspect of rooting depth, nutrient consumption and insect
repellent properties.
Shade tolerance: This becomes important when tall crops and perennial plants are also
grown in the garden. These include fruit trees. Some crops such as comfrey, lettuce and
strawberries are shade tolerant.
Examples of inter-cropping in a vegetable garden
The following combinations work well together in the same bed:
oPlant carrots and onions together: Carrots protect against onion fly and onions
protect against carrot fly. Carrots root more deeply than onions and are
harvested earlier; giving the onions the space they need to mature.
oPlant cauliflower or cabbage, lettuce, fennel and onion together:
This combination gives complete control of aphids and
diamondback moth (shown on the right) on the cauliflower. It
takes into account nutrient consumption, rooting depth, insect
repellent properties (onion and fennel), timing and shade tolerance.
oPlant tomatoes, onion or garlic and carrots together: This combines insect
repellent properties, nutrient consumption, rooting depth, timing and disease
control. Tomato plants are scattered so that they do not touch each other,
which reduces the incidence of early and late blight.
oPlant swiss chard (spinach) and beans together:this combination takes into
account nutrient consumption, rooting depth and disease control on the chard.
Planting the chard in alternate rows with beans reduces the incidence of
bacterial spot on the chard.
Many different combinations are possible. Below are two more examples:
Left: Swiss chard
inter-planted with
fennel and garlic chives
Right: A bed with
onions, cabbage,
lettuce and swiss chard
planted together.
75
There are a number of crops that grow well together and some that do not. When
planting a bed, use the diagrams below to choose combinations of crops that suite each
other.
Some plants which grow well together:
Beetroot - onions
Carrots - peas, lettuce, onions, tomatoes
Onions - beetroot, strawberries, tomatoes,
lettuce
Eggplant - beans
Cabbage - potatoes, beetroot, onions
Green Pepper - all vegetables
Lettuce - carrots, radishes, strawberries,
cucumbers
Pumpkin - mealies
Swiss Chard - strawberries
Tomatoes - onions, carrots
Mealies - peanuts, peas, beans, cucumber, pumpkins,
potatoes
Sunflowers - cucumbers
Beans - potatoes, carrots, cabbage, most other vegetables
Plants that do not grow well together:
There are some plants which do not grow well together. Try to avoid putting them in the
same beds. Try and experiment for yourself.
Beetroot - pole beans
Onion - peas and beans
Cabbage - strawberries
Pumpkin - potatoes
Tomatoes - potatoes and cabbage
Beans - onions
Sunflowers - potatoes
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Advantages and disadvantages of inter-planting
Advantages
Disadvantages
Efficient use of space below and above
ground
Looks “untidy”
Reduces and avoids pest and disease build-
up in the soil and in the garden
Can make harvesting of crops more time-
consuming
Reduces weeds. Covers the soil and uses
nutrients in an effective manner. Building
of a healthy, living soil is possible.
Weeding can be more time consuming
initially, as crops may be scattered, rather
than being planted in rows
Plants support each other in a synergistic
relationship that protects against pest
and disease attack and increases vigour
and growth
Some shading may occur if plants are not
spaced well
Efficient use of water
Some plants may be over or under watered
depending on their life cycle. For example,
some plants may be seeding while others
are still growing.
Crop rotation
The same crops are not planted in the same areas, fields or beds season after season.
Different crops are planted in a 2-4 year rotation. These crops are chosen to have a
mutually beneficial effect.
Effects of crop rotation
It prevents or stops the accumulation of insects and diseases. If the same crop
is planted some insects and diseases will become more every year!
Different crops use different nutrients or plant food stored in the soil. In this
way you do not overuse some of the plant foods, while not using others.
The soil can be covered all year round.
Some crops add nutrients or nitrogen to the soil. Examples are beans, peas,
broad beans, soya beans, peanuts, cowpeas, lucerne and clover.
It prevents the soil from building up bad or negative reactions to specific plants.
An example here is nematodes on tomatoes and swiss chard. Nematodes are very
small worms that we cannot see with our eyes. They live in the soil and feed on
the roots of your plants.
There is no buildup of specific weeds.
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There are a number of different crop rotation systems that can be used.
Below is an example of a system that is easy to use and remember.
A 3 year rotation for vegetable and field crops:
1.In the first season after applying compost and or manure heavy feeders or
nitrogen consumers are planted.
2.In the second season light feeders are planted and
3.In the third season legumes are planted. This is followed by another application
of compost or manure and the cycle is repeated.
In trench beds, where the organic matter is decaying slowly in the soil, you may want to
start with legumes, move on to heavy feeders or nitrogen consumers and then move on
to light feeders. This is because during the decaying process plant nutrients will take a
while to become available for use by plants. The legumes can fix most of their own
nitrogen and are thus a better starting point.
Nitrogen fixers
E.g.: Beans, broad
beans, soyabeans,
peas, cowpeas,
lucerne, vetch
Light feeders
Examples:
beetroot, carrots,
parsnips, onions,
leeks
Heavy feeders
Examples: Potato,
maize, pumpkin,
tomato
Nitrogen consumers
Examples: cabbage,
cauliflower, broccoli and
mustard
1
1
3
2
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A 4 year rotation for vegetables.
This alternative system is presented below:
Prepare the land or bed well. Put a lot of compost or
manure in your bed (4 full spades/ square meter). Then:
1.Start by planting a fruiting crop. These plants
need the most food.
2.Leaf crops need less and can follow fruit crops.
3.Then root crops can follow leaf crops without
much addition of plant food. Root crops like
fertile soil, but do not like fresh manure or
compost. It has to be well rotted.
4.Then, nitrogen fixers can follow, with addition
of little or no plant food. Then you need to
Preparing the bed well:
This would mean trenching, or
double digging or addition of a
lot of compost/manure forked
into the top 40cm of soil. You will
need at least 4 full spades for
every square meter.
A general recommendation is to
place 30 tons of compost to a
hectare of land. This comes to
about one half of a wheelbarrow
load for everysquare meter
(which is about the same as 4
full spades!)
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prepare the land well again. Start once more with fruiting crops.
Advantages and disadvantages of crop rotation
Advantages
Disadvantages
No build up of pest and diseases
Soil nutrients are used effectively
Soil moisture is used effectively
A healthy living soil can be built up over
time
Without a plan, either drawn or written on
paper, it is difficult to remember which
crop is to follow
It can be tricky to decide which rotation
to follow when inter-planting is also used
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CHAPTER 9
WORMERIES
Earthworms
There are many different types of worms living in the soil.
Many of these types of worm have a role to play in
decomposing (breaking down) organic waste. When worms
help decompose organic matter they disperse nutrients
into the soil, increase the population of microbes
beneficial to plants and soil, and help develop the soil
structure.
Right: An earthworm in it’ natural habitat, borrowing into the
soil. (from: www.ecocharlie.co.uk)
The earthworms that break down organic waste are
commonly known as red worms (also known as brandling
worms, red wrigglers or tiger worms).The red worm eats a
lot and is naturally found in the organically rich surface
layer of the soil. This is where they feed. The common
garden earthworm is a burrower. It is found deeper down
and needs lots of soil to survive.
Right: Red wrigglers; these are thin, smallish earthworms with an
obvious red colouration
Earthworms breathe through their skin so they need a moist environment for the
exchange of air to take place. The worms are most active within the temperature range
of 13 to 24 oC
A red worm lives for about a year. They reach maturity in six weeks and can reproduce
up to three times a week for up to one year. Red worms are capable of consuming more
than their own weight in organic matter each day from the moment they hatch.
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How can worms help improve soil quality?
Earthworms are nature‟s recyclers. They break up dead organic material and turn it into
nutrient rich compost. This makes them the best diggers and fertilisers around. The
rich compost they produce is called vermi-compost. The manure from an earth worm is
called a casting.
To start a worm farm you will need:
- A container with a hole at
the bottom
- A healthy breeding stock of
red worms
- Stones for the bottom layer,
- Newspaper for the bedding
- Green waste, dried leaves,
kitchen waste,
- A bit of soil
- Water
Right: An example of a worm
farm using stacks of tyres.
These have been placed in the
shade of a large tree (From
www.earthworms.co.za)
Put a layer of stones at the bottom of the tub or container, layer newspaper, greens,
dried leaves (whatever organic matter you have) and soil in layers. Moisten each layer as
it is added. Then add the worms and more green waste. There you have it; a worm farm!
Where should the worm farm be placed?
Place your worm farm in a convenient shady and protected place close to where you
eat/cook or work so that you can keep an eye on it. Avoid direct sunlight, as worms do
not like light and can not get too hot.
If you live in an area which gets very cold, the worms will need to be protected by
insulating the container or placing it indoors.
Golden rules for worm farmers
The worm farm must be kept moist (too much water and the worms will drown and die.
Too little water and they will dry out and die).
The worms need to be fed the correct foods regularly.
Adding a bit of lime or crushed egg shells can assist in neutralising soil that is acid.
82
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Worms eat:
Vegetable off-cuts, waste fruits, waste paper (cardboard, newspaper, paper towels, etc.
Be careful not to put too much paper in), kitchen wastes ( fruit, vegetables, pasta,
coffee grinds with filters, tea bags and leaves, manures ( chicken, horse, rabbits, cows),
compost and garden clippings (needs to be shredded first).
NOTE: Cooked food takes longer to digest and decompose. It is better not to feed
them cooked food.
Worms do not eat:
Peels of citrus fruits, onion and banana skins (this will make the earthworm‟s
environment too acidic and worms prefer neutral soil), meat (this attacks flies,
cockroaches and rodents), perennial weed roots and seeds (these may grow inside the
compost), dairy products, oils (oils stick to their skin and prevent them from breathing),
bones (they cannot chew and break down bones), soapy water and poisons.
Tips
While the worms are building up their population‟s decomposition will be slow. If the bin
starts to smell then the vegetable waste is being added to fast, reduce feeding. After
12 -24 weeks the compost should be rich and fertile and ready to use.
Benefits of working with worms
Energy and nutrients are returned back into the soil
Vermi-Composting reduces waste
It improves soil and its nutrient value
Vermi-compost contains growth regulators that help the germination of roots and seed
development.
Worm castings are richer in nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and calcium
than good compost.
Wormeries can be big or small, they are low maintenance, economical to run and easy to
operate.
Interesting facts about Worms:
*2000 adult worms can be accommodated in an area of 1 m2
*Worm casts are rich in nitrates, potassium, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium and
offer a good substitute for chemical fertilisers
*Red worms are able to convert 25 100% of their own body weight into vermi-compost
and gain a body mass of 18mg/day.
84
CHAPTER 10
CONSERVATION AGRICULTURE
Basic principles of conservation tillage
Conservation agriculture aims to:
Conserve,
Improve and
Make more efficient use of soil, water and biological (e.g. earthworms)
resources.
Conventional tillage has led to severe erosion problems and extreme soil degradation
because of rapid organic matter depletion. Experience in different parts of the world
has shown that extremely degraded soils (which on average production only 600 kg of
maize per hectare) can recuperate in about 3 to 4 years by using appropriate
management measures (yields increase to 3-4 tons of maize per hectare).
Conservation agriculture is based on the three basic principles:
Minimum disturbance: the soil is not ploughed! The seeds are planted directly
into the mulch covered field
Soil cover: The crop residue is left on the field, or a cover crop is planted.
Mix and rotate crops: It is important to rotate the crops so as to reduce weeds
and control pests and diseases, and improve fertility.
Minimum Soil disturbance
The idea is to disturb the soil as little as possible, that is, till the soil only where the
seed and fertility amendments are to be placed.
The pictures below show some minimum soil disturbance options for smallholder farmers.
On the left are planting basins prepared using a hand hoe and on the right are rip lines
prepared using a ripper tine attached to the beam of the standard animal drawn plough
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Note: The area between the planting basins and rip lines is not disturbed.
Disturbing the soil as little as possible has the following benefits:
It ensures minimum destruction of the soil structure,
It does not expose soil to wind and water erosion
It allows slower mineralization of organic matter, hence organic matter build-up.
It causes little disruption to the life of organisms that reside in the soil, which
improve the soil structure
It saves on time, energy and money as less land is tilled and fewer animals are
needed for ripping!
Soil cover
This is a fundamental principle of Conservation Agriculture and probably the most
significant departure from conventional approaches that have in the past advocated for
„clean‟ fields – devoid of crop residues or other organic materials. The organic materials
were said to cause poor germination, harbour pests and diseases and interfere with
operations like planting and weeding. These adverse effects of crop residue cover will
also occur in Conservation
Agriculture approaches if the crop
residues are badly managed. The
residues should be properly placed in
both space and time as shown in the
picture below where the residues
where placed in the dry season
between the planting rows.
Right: Crop residues placed between the
rows of planting basins
When properly managed soil cover has the following benefits:
It helps in reducing direct raindrop impact thus reducing soil erosion
It reduces evaporation thus conserving moisture for the crop
It helps suppress weeds
In the long term, the organic residues will improve organic matter content of the
soil and replenish soil nutrients
It provides a conducive environment for soil organism that are important for
biological tillage e.g. worms, millipedes etc
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Mix and rotate crops
The benefits of rotating or mixing, usually cereal with legume/cash crops, have been
well articulated. The main benefits are:
Soil fertility replenishment; N-fixing legumes add „top-dressing fertilizer‟ to the soil.
Crops better use the nutrients in the soil; different crops have different feeding
zones and will therefore not compete for nutrients. The exploitation of different soil
layers by different crops also helps prevent formation of a hard pan.
Rotating crops help control
diseases and pestsas the
life cycles of these pests and
diseases are broken by the
introduction of a different
crop
Right:A maize and legume
intercrop.
Cover Crops
Grown during fallow periods Cover crops are crops planted close to harvesting of the
main crop, so as to keep the soil covered during the fallow period.
Reduce the need for herbicides and pesticides Crop rotation and cover crops are
planted to brake the life cycle of weeds, pests and diseases
Protect the soil as a living or dead cover By keeping the soil covered, living or dead
cover the soil is protected.
Conserve soil moisture The soil is shaded which means there will be less evaporation
from the soil surface.
Prevent soil erosion Due the soil being covered there will be less run-off.
Enhance organic matter content of the soil Improved water infiltration, water
retention and soil fertility.
How to implement Conservation tillage
Timely Preparation and Planting
Timely operation is one of the most important factors.
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What operation?
When?
Land Preparation (digging basins,
ripping, digging furrows)
July - October
Application of basal fertility
amendments (manure, compost,
compound fertilizer)
July - October
Planting
October - December
First weeding
As soon as weeds appear
Second weeding
December-January, just before top
dressing
Application of top dress fertilizer
December- January
Post-harvest management
June-July
Land preparation
These can be hand-powered tillage or animal powered options. Hand-powered options
include the planting basin and the furrow. Farmers with draft power can make use of a
ripper tine or more complicated direct planting techniques, which are beyond the scope
of this manual.
Hand- hoe options
Planting basins
Here planting basins are used. Seeds are planted not along the usual furrow but in small
basins small pits that can be dug with hand hoes without having to plough the whole
field.
Planting basins, aligned along the contour,
are prepared from July to October with
dimensions of 15cm width, 15cm depth
and 15 cm length (an adult‟s hand length
is approximately 15 cm).
These are prepared with an inter-row
spacing of 90cm and intra-row spacing of
60 cm and they should be prepared in the
same positions every year. Spacings of
75cm X 75cm can also be used.
Right: making planting basins using a hand hoe
and planting lines
Available soil fertility amendments are precisely applied into the planting basin prior to
planting.
88
Mulching is applied in the planting
basins and on the whole field.
Right: planting basins with leaf litter
mulch still to be applied
Shallow planting furrows
These are created using a hand hoe and
again you do not have to plough the
field. Like the planting basins, land
preparation is done before the onset
of the rainy season from July to
October. The furrows are 5 10 cm
wide and approximately 2 to 5cm deep. Fertility amendments are dribbled along the
furrow. This option is suitable for small grains and legumes, which are traditionally
dribbled along plough furrows and then thinned to appropriate spacings.
Use of fertilizer and manure
The difference is on how you use the soil amendments in Conservation Agriculture
approaches compared to conventional systems.
In conventional systems manure/compost are spread in the field before planting, while
in Conservation Agriculture approaches they are placed near the planting station where
they are needed. Basal and top dressing fertilizer are placed close to the planting
station/plant; ensuring the efficient use of these resources.
The result of this precise application of soil amendments is higher use efficiency,
higher yields and huge savings on these costly inputs. For example you require 10-40t
manure per hectare in conventional systems. In Conservation Agriculture approaches,
you need a minimum of 1.6t. The same can be said of basal and top dressing fertilizer:
200-350 kg/ha basal in conventional compared to 100kg/ha in Conservation Agriculture
approaches; 100-150 kg/ha top dress compared to 80kg/ha in Conservation Agriculture
approaches
Benefits of conservation tillage
These benefits take a wile to accumulate and the full extent of change can usually only
be seen after 3-7 years.
89
It improves the soil physical, biological and chemical properties; Conservation
Agriculture principles such as application of soil cover, cereal-legume associations and
application of organic and inorganic fertilizers help improve soil fertility and soil
structure. Soil cover results in organic matter build up, which has a large influence on
the population and activity of micro-organisms. This results in more humus formation,
and hence a dark coloured soil.
It stabilizes yields; Conservation agriculture systems achieve high yield levels with
fewer fluctuations than conventional plough even in poor seasons. Conservation
Agriculture therefore contributes to food security at household and national level. Crop
rotations and mixes produce a range of crops. They reduce the risk of ruin if one crop
fails, and provide a more diverse diet.
It reduces of weeds; Reduced tillage disturbs the soil less and so brings fewer buried
weed seeds to the surface where they can germinate. Weed seeds and or weed
seedlings on the soil surface are suppressed by the presence of mulch.
Left: More
weeds appear
because there
is no
suppression and
shade effect
Right: Fewer
weeds because
of mulch
effects
In addition, rotating crops prevents certain types of weeds from multiplying. During the
course of the season, timely weeding ensures weeds are destroyed before they can
90
produce any seeds. In this way, the seed bank is reduced and fewer weeds appear in
subsequent seasons.
It conserves soil moisture; The build up of organic matter and improvement of soil
structure leads to better water infiltration into the soil through pores and cracks. This
improves the availability of moisture to crops.
It reduces land degradation; Improved management of soil and water resources on
farm implies less erosion, less desertification, raises water table and reduces siltation
effects on rivers.
It reduces production costs; With reduction in tillage, less expensive equipment is
required and therefore, less wear on equipment because area tilled is less than in
conventional ploughing. Less energy is used in tilling the land. Less work is needed for
weeding as weeds are expected to reduce in the long term.
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