“A major issue in sustaining vegetable production is maintaining high soil quality in the face of common practices that work against it. Vegetable growing often involves intensive tillage, cultivation, exposure of almost-bare soil to the sun and rain for long periods, and heavy traffic from people and equipment. All of these practices tend to destroy soil organic matter and soil structure while increasing soil compaction.
This reduces yield over the long run because it creates a poor environment for root growth and function; also the soil biological community is adversely affected. Soils with poor quality cannot retain sufficient nutrients and moisture. Fruit trees also grow better when organic matter in the soil is increased, both from mulch as well as compost mixed into the soil.
A great solution to the soil building problem is utilizing the vast amount of wood chips available in urban areas from tree trimming companies. Wood chip trench-composting conserves water, controls weeds and builds long-term soil fertility. When it comes to building soil, nature relies heavily on trees — fallen limbs, leaves, cones, seeds and, eventually, the massive trunks. Adapting this natural process to urban agriculture by using free wood mulch from local tree trimming companies as soil-building material is a cost-effective and efficient strategy that promises huge, long-term returns.
When properly managed, an army of fungi, molds, and microorganisms feed on chipped wood mulches and dramatically increase levels of organic matter and beneficial biota in soil, vastly improving fertility, tilth, and productivity. This is beneficial on urban sites that require high — sustainable — returns due to land values and other inputs and costs that are generally much higher for urban agriculture operations. This method also addresses issues on some sites that have residual elements in the soil that may be toxic. Finally, this system generates large quantities of new topsoil – unlike many systems that just add enough fertility to feed the plants.”
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Image credit: Wolfram Alderson
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A friend of mine is planning to use this system on a moringa food forest. Commercially viable plants will be arranged in synergistic guilds.