Fertilising on our permaculture farm.
Its ALL about fertilizer and it has to be sustainable.
Over the 15 years we have been building up our permaculture farm, the biggest cost we found was buying in fertiliser for our hundreds of fruit, nut, berry trees, and shrubs. At first we bought organic pellets, we spread preparation 500, blood and bone, seaweed, fish emulsions and local sheep poo buy the trailer load.
All these things were great start-ups though just not economically sustainable when we are talking large scale. So of course we started up our worm farms and composts, still there wasn’t enough to go around. We cut the tussocks and mulched though again it wasn’t enough to go around so we had to buy in hay.
Finally we have fertilizing nailed with two systems.
System 1: In the orchard, we have Muscovy ducks that love a bath (though aren’t water-bound), so we were able to set up a cow trough and harvest their liquid fertilizer via gravity feed down the hill through a poly pipe and feed the trees. The ducks also have very large poop that is high in nitrogen and feeds the trees well. They eat the grass and the fallen fruit, this system has very little input from us now, we just empty the duck bath once a week and give them grain in the morning. In fact we have chairs in the orchard that we sit and just enjoy watching them potter around while we munch on apples. We now have a goat and two sheep that eat the tussocks and keep blackberry under control.
System 2: Outside the main fruit orchard we grow comfrey under all other fruit trees, this way the comfrey leaves die and compost under the trees, keep the weeds down and they fertilise them with potash, magnesium, and calcium. We also give each 1/2 a wheel barrow of pony poo just once a year, so under the trees are teeming with worms creating little ecosystems that feed the tree with very little input from us.
It took a while to get it right with poo. At first we had the little mini ponies, though they couldn’t be let out in the large paddock because they would founder so we had to lock them up and buy in dry hay, not sustainable. Then we tried a couple of big horses, they soon stripped the place and feed had to bought in, again unsustainable. We finally found that 2 x 10h ponies work for our land, they can be let out into the big paddock and we haven’t needed to buy in hay for a few years now. All our beds only get pony poo, straight on, no composting, we have a great poo picker upper that goes on the back of the mower that picks up poo, we pile it up and wheelbarrow it in the garden with ease. YAY!!!! Sustainable at last.