dinsdag 29 juni 2021

Building up Nature.

 While clearing the land of vegetation, which I have written about before, I noticed that not only was the grass clippings there, but also a lot of leaves, and the stones.

Now that I have moved on, and come to look around and compare things, I see that nature is literally preparing to grow plants, in the most wonderful way and in shapes that I had not previously seen. could have imagined.

Firstly, by giving shrubs a leaf that falls off after drying out, covering the ground, and thus making soil life possible. Here in Portugal we have a shrub ''Cistos Ladaníferos'', or flore de estava, and it grows in many places, and I already called that a pioneer, but it is true. It grows in rocky places, where the seed comes from (birds maybe?) is not yet clear to me, but on those rocky places it grows overwhelmingly, drops the leaves, when is not clear to me either, but that will take care of it that a form of litter layer is formed, which can lead to soil life. By shade, against the heat, retaining moisture during the night, taking in moisture that condenses along the trunk of the plant, and drips down, and holds it there during the day, when the heat is there, (35 degrees). The leaves are sticky, perhaps also to retain moisture better, striking green, in May the flowers are white, with a yellow heart in the middle, five or six leaves, with purple dots. This plant is the first to be present on the rock, but also where soil has already formed. Especially on the rock she is the pioneer who penetrates the rock into the crevices, and thus, with her growth habit, prepares the soil layer, which then forms itself for subsequent plants.

I came up here because, next to the hill I had already "cleaned" (read-impaired), I went to take a closer look at an adjacent hill, and saw a lot more bushes and trees there, which actually reminded me to a kind of primeval forest, but not yet as ancient as a primeval forest is.

On this hill everything is still growing together and the ''Cistos Ladaníferas'' have already disappeared and have been replaced by a kind of heather and lichens, which also grow on stones, and trees that provide shade. Other Lichens grow on those trees and these can then grow into a small branching shrub, as if it has leaves. Mosses grow on the ground that are dying, but are also taken over by other mosses, which in turn make use of the first type of moss and grow over it. I now see the place where this all grows with different eyes than before. I have noticed that there are several types of holm oaks. That the leaves of those holm oaks can also differ in shape, are sometimes smoother, sometimes larger and have more or less projections. They are small in shape, but can cling well to the soil, thus helping to create a layer of litter to cover the soil. And some have spines that can sting you quite a bit if you hold them. All this together means that nature always aims to achieve with growth, and everything works together to achieve that. In fact, this is self-protection and a kind of feedback, as if nature knows that it needs the litter layer, to protect roots, so that soil life can arise, to serve everything.

The pioneer shrubs make a layer of litter, under that layer of litter bacteria occurs, not because it has to be, but because it is possible. These break down the litter layer again, creating a rudimentary form of humus, containing carbon. The carbon is an energy form for a subsequent bacterial species, to break down minerals for the construction and maintenance of that bacterial species, and these can then be used for absorption by the plant. So only a layer of litter does not have a bacterial effect, which only occurs when moisture penetrates it, but that bacterial effect only breaks down the litter layer into rudimentary humus. Only in that humus can carbon be formed to initiate soil life, to break down minerals for the plant.

It is also striking that this hill faces north, the southern side has regularly been tried to do something with it, perhaps gardening? But there are mainly the ''Cistos Ladaníferas''. They are doing well, but they are still in the stage of building up a litter layer and there are no trees to provide shade yet. Attempts have also been made to plow strips to allow grass to grow for sheep, but that now looks poor, also because in the summer the grass dies and helps to form a layer of bedding, but when in the In the autumn the grass starts to grow, it is eaten by sheep again, and the natural process cannot take place.

At the bottom of the spot I have now discovered, there are also all kinds of mosses growing over and under small twigs, low shrubbery, and larger branches that have not yet broken off on their way to humus and carbon. Over it again leaves and bushes, and all this is at rest, because it is summer and lack of water in the form of rain. The trees are also locked, as it were, so as not to lose moisture, so no growth, but wait until the rain comes again in the autumn. However, all this can be accelerated by making compost and adding it to the soil if we want to grow vegetables. But vegetables are not a natural form of plant growth. It is culture, and originated because human growth in an environment increased too much. The pressure became too great, so farming had to be practiced. The original plants, which were also forest plants, have grown through selection and care into the crops we normally eat today, but originally grew in the wild and in the primary forests.

The piece of nature that is still present nearby is of a rare value that it must be cherished. This can be done by extracting it from grazing livestock. The litter layer that is then created guarantees that the whole can develop into a piece of nature at its best.


dinsdag 22 juni 2021

The rates of nitrogen accumulation

 1. Nature stacks nitrogen

As ecosystems evolve, from bare ground or rock, through some pioneer plants, to grassland, shrubbery, and finally forest, vegetation grows. Through this plant growth, the ecosystem fixes carbon and nitrogen – first in plant material, and then in the soil, via dead plant roots and above-ground plant parts. Stable organic matter in the soil is formed because micro-organisms process plant material, after which the remains thereof bind to soil particles. An old ecosystem therefore usually has much more soil organic matter than a young ecosystem. If this development has taken place on bare ground, we call this process primary succession. If it takes place on land that has already been vegetated, for example agricultural land that has been abandoned, we call this process secondary succession.

food log.

This is in short how the discussion about soil and nitrogen in particular is conducted. Were it not that plant growth in general, fixes both nitrogen and carbon, plus minerals are in their plant. They can't do otherwise. They grow because these substances are present, in other words, they simply do not grow due to lack. But that says nothing, or everything, about the human being who also plays an important role in this, viz. by the emission of nitrogen, but that cannot be done otherwise. Because where humans are, there is also nitrogen and more chemicals. The moment man entered the natural world, he was no longer an animal, but, through his cleverness and insight into technology, he brought his (un)natural waste with him, precisely because of that cleverness and that technology. A simple spoon, to stir something, is already technique. But making that spoon, which is an extension of his hand, is labor and that entails technology and waste.

So technology entered with humanity, and nature was unprepared for it, had no answer for it. And these two things are now intertwined. Nature has no answer to man, and man does not know what to do with the changes that are now taking place in nature. The soil is analyzed and an increase of nitrogen takes place, and as a result plants grow faster (but a one-sided growth, based on nitrogen, the plant does not have more minerals at its disposal, because the soil life is not adapted to it) , displacing the vegetation that would normally grow there. So the natural habitat cannot respond to this. So there is a lot going on, more than just an excess of nitrogen. Because nitrogen also has its effect in the soil. And not, because nitrogen is only too much, but it also disturbs the soil life, which in the form of bacterial action must provide the plants with minerals and use the food with carbon to do this. So there is a clear displacement effect by the nitrogen, but the plant growth that would normally be there is also disturbed. An enrichment thus takes place (by nitrogen) and e.g. the heath, is displaced by plants that people do not want there. Man is the culprit, but not because he is directly guilty of it right now, but because he is smart and technical, and can't deal with nature, and nature doesn't have the ability to take man into account. . What to do? If all goes well it will resolve itself, but how, is the question?


zondag 20 juni 2021

Worms and their food.

 A worm looking for friends as she crawls through her corridors, snacking on a morsel of soil every now and then. The need arose to make a new course. All she had to do was dig herself in her own hallway. And that was not so difficult. She took a big bite out of the wall, and gulped it down, that's how worms do it............... They also ingest very small animals with every bite of soil, and that's where they grow good on. Soil is also tasty for worms. They live in their own food, as it were. They dig tunnels in it by swallowing, digesting and leaving what is in front of their mouths. In that soil are tiny creatures, which also eat, reproduce by dividing, sometimes die, or are eaten by the worm, along with soil. The more creatures, or bacteria, there are in the soil, the better the worm likes it.

Sometimes they pull leaves in their corridors to have them pre-digested by the same bacteria. They can also handle vegetables, fruit, garden waste, but then the same bacteria have to do the pre-work, viz. predigest, which means that the bacterium bonds with vegetables, fruits and garden waste, it clings to it, to make it soft and absorbable for itself, just like we put in our mouth, by chewing, processing the food with us saliva, and then swallow it. So, just as we do it with our teeth, and saliva, the worm does it with bacteria. Only then can the worm swallow the food processed by bacteria, with bacteria, it then ingests bacteria, and starts digesting it.

The worm's duct then serves as a pre-digested stomach, in which bacteria live freely in the soil, but are eventually swallowed by the worm. A worm has no teeth, so it cannot chew leaves or green waste, it can pull leaves in its corridor, but only to have it digested by the same bacteria. It is a misconception to think that worms can digest waste. Bacteria can only do that, and that's what the worm makes use of. Both in the ground, in its corridor system, and in a vegetable, fruit and garden waste hotel :-). Those bacteria live on what is present in organic matter, and use the minerals for their construction. The worm eats bacteria again and thus gains its minerals, and defecates, which is unnecessary, again. That is why worm manure is so valuable for the plant, but that is another story.

To learn more about worms, go to google, and type in, worms and their food.


Observation in Portugal.

Last and this week I had the land around the house  cleaned of grass, stones and bushes. This is to prevent a fire from occurring, so fire prevention. The shrubs give the most effort, they can reach 3m high, with side branches. The name is Cistus Ladanífera or rock rose family. It is a pioneer plant that almost always thrives, growing on rocks and finding its way into crevices with its roots. The flowers are white and five or sixfold, with a dark purple dot on each petal with a yellow center. They really stand out with their dark green leaves, which are covered at the top with a sticky substance that is used to make amber-like perfume. It is a pioneer and covers the ground with its leaves and after a while, with its dead wood, resulting in a litter layer, on which grass can grow. And so the soil layer builds up, together with the worn-out rock, into a real soil layer. That will take some years, but that's how nature works, without haste, uncontrollably and purposefully. So if you have to observe nature, here in Portugal, it starts with these shrubs, which are the pioneers of the first life that takes place on the rocks, and from there build up the soil, on a larger scale than the small plants, which are there, but do not manifest themselves as conspicuously. I get there through the film I posted earlier, and the permaculture movement. These assume that you should observe first, then make a plan, not the other way around. The problem I'm running into here is the fact that most people who come here to Portugal usually have their ideas ready, as well as their plans. They throw themselves into gardening, with a Northern European background, without knowing Portugal, that is, the country. From in fact a boiled vision. But first, back to why I'm cleaning the land. That's not just fire prevention, it's even more because I myself want to clean the land, to better reflect the slope and shape of the hill on which the house stands. In the winter grasses grow from October to May and now with June the desiccation sets in, and that lasts again until September, so 4 months to go in terms of appearance. The hill slopes downwards, with here and there clear rock formations. These are sometimes at right angles to the slope, giving you a clear view and insight into how the rocks are built up from layers of rock, ie slate. There are stones and pieces of stone everywhere, and very often also flat slate, with the colors from yellow to dark brown, but not black, but again with red in it. So it is a kaleidoscope of colours, but you have to have an eye for it, the dark predominates. And I want this to come into its own. That takes a lot of work, but for the view and appearance I'm willing to pay for it. This is about the design of the environment. The government has determined that 50 m around the house, the ground must be free of vegetation, this is one hectare plus the house. Trees should be pruned to 4 m height and 10 m apart. I don't know which landscape architect came up with this, but in my case, this is impossible. It's not flat land, so I come across the hills that make and shape the landscape to clean it up, if the government wants it. But also the soil, which has formed itself in the course of time, as nature has indicated. This now, is thwarted by the decision of the government. It must be clean. So I do this, but with it I impoverish the soil, and eventually there will be no more grass and no more shrubs. Now to come back to garden in Portugal, the garden must be 50 m from the house, and the soil must be impoverished, in order to maintain fire prevention, and this is how you manage the garden, with composting of the cleared soil of grass, herbs and shrubs. This is the reality, right now in Portugal. So make plans in N.L. how to set up a garden is at odds with reality, here in Portugal. So it is also a reality to take into account the situation as prescribed by the government, to observe the environment and what is possible, to use what is compostable to at least build up organic material in the construction for, and to know well what is possible from a soil point of view, before the plant knowledge runs off with you. Soil, moisture, air, minerals and the sun are your friends, but can also become your enemies if you don't use them properly. This does not yet go into a shade vegetation, for plants against the sun, in the summer time. This is thought from the winter time, so from October to May.


zaterdag 19 juni 2021

Mulching in Portugal.

 Mulching in Portugal.

I read on Yggdrasil's blog, and this time it focuses on mulching the garden, but we don't have good experiences with that in Portugal. I know the method of Ruth Stoute, who worked a lot with hay, thus feeding the soil. But we have found another method for that. We feed the soil with compost, and not with a layer of litter. Here in Portugal you immediately get a lot of snails, ants and beetles in your garden, because it offers them a lot of protection by crawling under it against the sun. Especially in the end of May and the beginning of June, these animals make their move and eat themselves in the round. In fact, the spring growth that is just starting in Belgium and the Netherlands has already ended here. Also in the months of October / up to and including April it is not advisable to use mulch, as at/at this time, the weed seed is shooting.

What may seem common in the Netherlands and Belgium, here in Portugal is another direction that can work against, to put it mildly. There in N.L. and B. it rains a lot, and here in P. we are happy that there is rain. The soil here is also completely different, more rock flour, (stone dust) and counteracts snails, ants and beetles in their development, precisely because the sun shines and the soil gets hotter, which they can't handle well. This, while in N.L. and B. you can be happy that the ground is warming. It is an incomparable world, and that, while the distance is not so great now, 3000 km.

Also with the application of the compost, a layer of litter would be quite counteracting, mixing with the soil. The rock flour reacts particularly well to the compost, it is a precondition for the bacteria to do their work of decomposition, for the benefit of the plant growth, and that is what it went and continues to do.

What is possible here, to grow vegetable plants in the summer, is a greenhouse with shadow effect. It can generate its own power, if the shadow effect is used for power generation, by turning the sun. A technical solution, but with many advantages. This about having shade for plant growth in general, and especially for Portugal. Summers here are hot and long. 32 degrees today.