Tag Archives: Organic gardening

The Skin of the Earth pt. one

Soil is the skin of our planet Earth. It is the skin where vegetation roots in, the skin that stores nutrients as well as water. Food production for ourselves but also for millions of other animal species is depending on the health of this small layer (average depth of 15 cm). If the soil and soil management is good, food production and farming will also be good. The health of the earth and life on earth as well as the human society are all depending on the soil. If we manage to keep the soil fertile, production increases and the local economy will also in the future be strong and safe. Many problems in the world come from modern farming practices that are not taking care of the soil.

The main five soil forming factors are the parent material (which is rock, deposits from sea, rivers and wind or volcanic ash), climate, topography (relief), organisms and time. Nowadays, human activity is often named as a sixth one.

To protect and improve the soil we need to understand its needs. The main ingredients that are present in all soils to greater or lesser amount are the following four. The right mixture (given in %) of these equals natural fertility.

  • mineral particles (sand, silt clay) 45%
  • air 25%
  • moisture or water 25%
  • organic matter 5% (visible and microscopic organisms 10%; roots and living plants 10%; humus, which is dead animals and plants that are broken down, 80%)

All these ingredients are necessary for healthy soil; of major importance are however the invisible organisms, bacteria and fungi, who break down the organic matter and produce detritus and other break down products that can be taken up by other organisms like earthworms. We can find 2 billion organisms in one tablespoon of fertile forest soil. The natural conditions are usually best for them, human activity mostly disturbs them.

We can however also provide them their needs and they will work for us for free: the right food, biomass, and the right working place, temperature, moisture, aeration and a lack of disturbance. For information on how to make compost and let micro-organisms work for you, click here.

Another post on understanding the needs of our soil is coming soon … .

The Panya Projection

The Panya Project in northernThailand,60 km from Chiang Mai, is a permaculture community consisting of a few long-term members and a changing group of volunteers. It is a field for experimentation for permaculture apprentices and a best practice example for travellers who want are interested in alternative eco-friendly ways of living.

Most of the work here happens in the fields of natural building with cob and adobe bricks, in the vegetable garden rich on diversity and in the huge food forest which is still in the beginning stages of development. Besides that there are courses on permaculture and community aspects as well as visits from international schools.

The long-term members mostly don t live here permanently. They come from all over the world, often with one foot in the project and the other in their country of origin. This makes policy decisions, which theoretically happen on consensus, difficult; the same is true for new designs half implemented by one group, left to another.

Despite these complications, it seems as if the Panya Project has developed a system that manages day-to-day operational decisions and tasks effectively and coordinates volunteers to quickly integrate into the system. A turning wheel where everyone’s name is on is turning every day to distribute the main daily tasks like cooking, dish washing or sweeping and tidying. Other tasks, like checking the waterpump, feeding the chicken or watering the garden are executed by the long-termers; however quickly explained to a short-termer when nessecary. Short-termers are supposed to not stay less than a week, often stay longer though and are thus able to give a tour to new short-termers which takes work load of the long-termers.

The Panya Project stays in one way a little island of strangers in a foreign country (one long-termer is Thai), slowly however developing a connection to the Thai community around and participating in village activities.