Holzer Sepp - Raised beds and ridges

Author : Holzer Sepp
Title : Raised beds and ridges
Year : 2012

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This alternative form of farming that is of great importance in my kind of permaculture can be implemented anywhere on earth, especially in exposed areas where it can be connected with terrace and platform farming. This type of farming has also proved particularly successful even in the tropics. Allow me to describe some personal experiences. For many years, taking potato furrows as a basis, I have created smaller and larger raised beds. Based on my own personal feelings I included various materials such as dry leaves, straw and branches in these raised beds. I always achieved results and success, so that I conducted ever more new experiments. I pushed ahead with raised beds into the spruce forests and cultivated the poorest soils. Even at these so-called boundary locations I was still able to grow attractive cultures on ridge beds. Initially I shredded the branches and trees before mixing them under the soil. I did it like this. Using an excavator I drew furrows about 0.5 to 1m deep in the forest soil and placed the grass turf with the chopped material in this. Then the bed was covered with fine soil material if this was available. Any stones were placed on the raised bed, since they regulate heat and moisture. Water of condensation forms under the stones and this is where the worms make their home. Worms help to convert the rotting inner material and thus bring nutrients to the plants. I created raised beds in this way and farmed them successfully for many years. Quite by chance I have now modified this practice. One day we had an excavator on the farm to excavate the bed foundations. My wife and I were shredding brushwood and spruce trees with the tractor, which the excavator was then to bury. Since the large machine was working faster than Vroni and I, we were under pressure of time with our chopping and shredding. Finally I said to the excavator operator who was waiting impatiently that he should bury the whole shrubs and trees. It wouldn't be so bad if the few beds still awaiting completion were not shaped as nicely as the others. Enough said! The entire arrangement was then planted and seeds were sown in the same way. Already in the course of the summer I ascertained that the vegetation on the raised beds that were about half a meter higher than the others, in other words the beds containing the whole spruce trees with a trunk diameter of 20 to 25 cm, was flourishing more than on the other beds. When it came to the harvest in autumn I was able to harvest considerably more potatoes and vegetables from these raised beds than from the others. I soon found out why this was the case. The earth was much looser in the beds with the whole trees or trunks, which resulted in better growth. If conventional beds are not created carefully and if the chopped material is compacted too much, then the bio-substance acidifies, since it does not receive enough air. This doesn't happen as easily when whole trunks or trees are buried. The whole trees with their branches move comparatively more strongly in the bed, since they warp as a result of dryness and moisture. The swelling and shrinking of the branches create movement and this loosens the soil. I also placed homemade worm substrate in the beds. This contains various kinds of worms with soil and worm eggs. The different kinds of worms process the soil and make the natural nutrients accessible for the plants. Microclimate zones can be created in terrace farming with raised beds. However the beds must be set out against the wind, and solar radiation must be used to the full. The capillary effect of the raised beds and terraces balances the moisture. So nothing can dry out, but nothing can drown either. This can be of great advantage in plane areas subject to flooding. ...

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