Dry Farming

    Anyone in the NG have experience with so-called "dry farming"? If I'm correctly understanding what I'm reading on the W3, there exist two basic practices, both called "dry" farming: Simply put, one relies totally on "naturally" available water while the other provides supplemental irrigation until fruit set, after which, water supply is reduced severely. The benefits touted are water conservation, hardier plants and concentrated flavor. Anything to it?     My interest was piqued by the offering of a few varieties of tomato seeds obtained from so-called "dry farmed" parents which, to me, implies some degree of hardiness and drought tolerance that might perform well and reduce irrigation requirements in my locale's spring season with its limited rainfall and frequent dense overnight or early morning fog. FWIW, averages for nearest town may be found here: <http://www.weatherbase.com/weather/weather.php3?s4980&cityname=Spring-Hill-Florida-United-States-of-America
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<http://sustainableseedco.com/dry-farmed-tomatoes/
Derald
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As a boy out in Utah I saw lot of wheat "dry farmed" . Thousands of acres of winter wheat is planted in the fall , sprouts then goes dormant as winter sets in . Sprng rains are what the farmers rely on to water the crop . Seems to work for wheat , dunno about any other crops .
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The Early Girl tomato is a medium globe type F1 hybrid popular with home gardeners because of its early fruit ripening. Early Girl VF hybrid is verticillium and fusarium wilt (strain I) resistant.
Early Girl is well suited to a technique known as "dry farming".
Researchers at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California, Santa Cruz, are among those who have described the technique: not watering tomatoes after transplanting, forcing the roots to grow deeper to seek out moisture, producing more "concentrated flavor," and saving water.
Dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes are popular in farmers markets in the San Francisco Bay Area. The variety is also popular with home gardeners in that region, where it thrives despite the area's cool and often overcast summers.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_farming> Winter wheat is the typical crop although skilled dryland farmers sometimes grow corn, beans or even watermelons. Successful dryland farming is possible with as little as 9 inches (230 mm) of precipitation a year; higher rainfall increases the variety of crops. Native American tribes in the arid Southwest survived for hundreds of years on dryland farming in areas with less than 10 inches (250 mm) of rain. (At 51.8 in./year in Spring Hill, FL, it's a wonder that you would ever dry out.)
Dryland farming has evolved as a set of techniques and management practices used by farmers to continually adapt to the presence or lack of moisture in a given crop cycle. In marginal regions, a farmer should be financially able to survive occasional crop failures, perhaps for several years in succession. Survival as a dryland farmer requires careful husbandry of the moisture available for the crop and aggressive management of expenses to minimize losses in poor years.
Dryland farming is uniquely dependent on natural rainfall, which can leave the ground vulnerable to dust storms, particularly if poor farming techniques are used or if the storms strike at a particularly vulnerable time. The fact that a fallow period must be included in the crop rotation means that fields cannot always be protected by a cover crop, which might otherwise offer protection against erosion.
The above sounds similar to the "Milpa" system of farming. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milpa> Milpa is a crop-growing system used throughout Mesoamerica. Based on the ancient agricultural methods of Maya peoples and other Mesoamerican people, milpa agriculture produces maize, beans, and squash. The milpa cycle calls for 2 years of cultivation and eight years of letting the area lie fallow. Agronomists point out that the system is designed to create relatively large yields of food crops without the use of artificial pesticides or fertilizers, and they point out that while it is self-sustaining at current levels of consumption, there is a danger that at more intensive levels of cultivation the milpa system can become unsustainable.
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attention to heirloom varieties that are better suited to this climate's long hot season. In my reading, though, I did notice that a number of smaller California market growers are having good success with it.

or an extremely wet one can cause the average not to reflect day-to-day reality. Tropical storms and hurricanes, for example, drop enormous volumes of water that may be relatively localized. Consider, too that Florida, for the most part, is either swamp or porous sand over a limestone base. Add to that 50 years of over-"development" and over-pumping of ground water and sending it from central counties to be flushed down the sewers of urban areas in coastal areas that basically are unfit for human habitation because of the absence of potable water. Well, you get the picture....     As I read more, I am doubtful about the practicality of adapting the technique (if it's even reasonable in this climate with this native soil) to my intensive gardening methods in raised beds. For example, at first glance, it would seem that the necessity for frequent tilling to maintain the desired "dust mulch" texture of the upper few inches would require some redesign of my tried-and-true block planting methods and would result in far less efficient use of space. However, I'm still far too ignorant to reach any conclusions.     Interesting reading here: <http://www.winesandvines.com/template.cfm?section ώatures&contentQ150> and here: <http://www.cuesa.org/article/farming-without-water . The experiences recounted in these documents may be unique to California but I suspect the principles are universal. Definitely more reading required.
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Derald
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You are talking about gardening, yet the sites you offer are about farming. Grapes have prodigious tap roots which can extent to 40 ft., if they don't encounter hard pan. I suspect that olives and apples can go deeper. The thing is, if you grow for yourself, you want to grow for quality. If you grow to sell, the temptation is there to grow for weight.
Old wine makers will tell you that if you want good wine, you have to crucify the vine. Hillside vineyards are naturally drier, producing smaller crops than their cousins on the valley floor. Yet, hillside crops make better wine, and are the backbone for some of the better wine$ that are sold.
It's the same with tomatoes. Pamper them until they start setting fruit, then cut back on the water. How much to cut back will be the art of it, because it depends on the soil.
I don't know how many years you have left, but I sugget that you start throwing the remains of your lump charcoal BBQs into your beds, and stop turning the soil over. Terra preta was made for soil like yours, and turning the soil only hastens the decay of the organic material which holds water.
<(Amazon.com product link shortened) 32059/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid96839060&sr=1-1> GIFT FROM THE PAST p.344
"Landscape," in this case, is meant exactly--Amazonian Indians literally created the ground beneath their feet. According to Susanna Hecht, a geographer at the University of California at Los Angeles, researchers into upland Amazonia took most of their soil samples along the region's highways, which indeed passed through areas with awful soil--some regions were so saturated with toxic aluminum that they are now being mined for bauxite. A few scientists, though, found patches of something better. "In part because of the empty-Amazon model," Hecht told me, these were "seen as anomalous and insignificant." But in the 1990s researchers began studying these unusual regions of terra preta do Indio--rich, fertile "Indian dark earth" that anthropologists believe was made by human beings.
Throughout Amazonia, farmers prize terra preta for its great productivity; some have worked it for years with minimal fertilization. Among them are the owners of the papaya orchard I visited, who have happily grown crops on their terra, preta for two decades. More surprising still, the ceramics in the farm's terra preta indicate that the soil has retained its nutrients for as much as a millennium. On a local level, terra preta is valuable enough for locals to dig it up and sell as potting soil, an activity that, alas, has already destroyed countless arti-facts. To the consternation of archaeologists, long planters full of ancient terra preta, complete with pre-Columbian potsherds, greet vistors to the Santarem airport. Because terra preta is subject to the same punishing conditions as the surrounding bad soils, "its existence is very surprising," according to Bruno Glaser, a chemist at the Institute of Soil Science and Soil Geography at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. "If you read the textbooks, it shouldn't be there."*
*Terra preta exists in two forms: terra preta itself, a black soil thick with pottery, and terra mulata, a lighter dark brown soil with much less pottery. A number of researchers believe that although Indians made both, they deliberately created only the terra mulata. Terra preta was the soil created directly around homes by charcoal kitchen fires and organic refuse of various types. I use terra preta loosely to cover both.
Most big terra preta sites are on low bluffs at the edge of the flood-plain. Typically, they cover five to fifteen acres, but some encompass seven hundred or more. The layer of black soil is generally one to two feet deep but can reach more than six feet. According to a recent study led by Dirse Kern, of the Museu Goeldi in Belem, terra preta is "not associated with a particular parent soil type or environmental condition," suggesting that it was not produced by natural processes. Another clue to its human origin is the broken ceramics with which it is usually mixed. "They practiced agriculture here for centuries," Glaser told me. "But instead of destroying the soil, they improved it, and that is something we don't know how to do today" in tropical soils.
As a rule, terra preta has more "plant-available" phosphorus, calcium, sulfur, and nitrogen than is common in the rain forest; it also has much more organic matter, better retains moisture and nutrients, and is not rapidly exhausted by agricultural use when managed well. The key to terra preta's long-term fertility, Glaser says, is charcoal: terra preta contains up to sixty-four times more of it than surrounding red earth. Organic matter "sticks" to charcoal, rather than being washed away or attaching to other, nonavailable compounds. "Over time, it
p.346
partly oxidizes, which keeps providing sites for nutrients to bind to." But simply mixing charcoal into the ground is not enough to create terra preta. Because charcoal contains few nutrients, Glaser argued, "high-nutrient inputs--excrement and waste such as turtle, fish, and animal bones--are necessary." Special soil microorganisms are also likely to play a role in its persistent fertility, in the view of Janice Thies, a soil ecologist who is part of a Cornell University team studying terra preta. "There are indications that microbial biomass is higher in terra preta than in other forest soils," she told me, which raises the possibility that scientists might be able to create a "package" of charcoal, nutrients, and microfauna that could be used to transform bad tropical soil into terra preta.
In a preliminary test run at creating terra preta, Steiner, Wenceslau Teixeira of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Enterprise, and Wol-fang Zech of the University of Bayreuth applied a variety of treatments involving charcoal and fertilizers for three years to rice and sorghum plots outside Manaus. In the first year, there was little difference among the treatments (except for the control plots, in which almost nothing grew). By the second year, Steiner said, "the charcoal was really making a difference." Plots with charcoal alone grew little, but those treated with a combination of charcoal and fertilizer yielded as much as 880 percent more than plots with fertilizer alone. His "terra preta" was this productive, Steiner told me, despite making no attempt to re-create the ancient microbial balance. (cont.)

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for cooking and absolutely detest cooking and, especially, eating outdoors. Don't know what "terra preta" is but unless it removes active and invasive roots of native magnolia, pine, and white oak (Q. alba), I shall continue tilling with hand tools, of necessity. I'm a proponent of no-till gardening and have used it successfully in a urban setting.
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Derald
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I don't know how many years you have left, but I sugget that you start throwing the remains of your lump charcoal BBQs into your beds, and stop turning the soil over. Terra preta was made for soil like yours, and turning the soil only hastens the decay of the organic material which holds water.
If you don't barbecue over lump charcoal, or have a wood burning stove, then I suggest that you employ whatever charcoal (not briquettes) that comes your way. If you can burn garden trash, extinguish it before it gets completely consumed, and add that to your garden.
<(Amazon.com product link shortened) 32059/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid96839060&sr=1-1> GIFT FROM THE PAST p.344
"Landscape," in this case, is meant exactly--Amazonian Indians literally created the ground beneath their feet. According to Susanna Hecht, a geographer at the University of California at Los Angeles, researchers into upland Amazonia took most of their soil samples along the region's highways, which indeed passed through areas with awful soil--some regions were so saturated with toxic aluminum that they are now being mined for bauxite. A few scientists, though, found patches of something better. "In part because of the empty-Amazon model," Hecht told me, these were "seen as anomalous and insignificant." But in the 1990s researchers began studying these unusual regions of terra preta do Indio--rich, fertile "Indian dark earth" that anthropologists believe was made by human beings.
Throughout Amazonia, farmers prize terra preta for its great productivity; some have worked it for years with minimal fertilization. Among them are the owners of the papaya orchard I visited, who have happily grown crops on their terra, preta for two decades. More surprising still, the ceramics in the farm's terra preta indicate that the soil has retained its nutrients for as much as a millennium. On a local level, terra preta is valuable enough for locals to dig it up and sell as potting soil, an activity that, alas, has already destroyed countless arti-facts. To the consternation of archaeologists, long planters full of ancient terra preta, complete with pre-Columbian potsherds, greet vistors to the Santarem airport. Because terra preta is subject to the same punishing conditions as the surrounding bad soils, "its existence is very surprising," according to Bruno Glaser, a chemist at the Institute of Soil Science and Soil Geography at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. "If you read the textbooks, it shouldn't be there."*
*Terra preta exists in two forms: terra preta itself, a black soil thick with pottery, and terra mulata, a lighter dark brown soil with much less pottery. A number of researchers believe that although Indians made both, they deliberately created only the terra mulata. Terra preta was the soil created directly around homes by charcoal kitchen fires and organic refuse of various types. I use terra preta loosely to cover both.
Most big terra preta sites are on low bluffs at the edge of the flood-plain. Typically, they cover five to fifteen acres, but some encompass seven hundred or more. The layer of black soil is generally one to two feet deep but can reach more than six feet. According to a recent study led by Dirse Kern, of the Museu Goeldi in Belem, terra preta is "not associated with a particular parent soil type or environmental condition," suggesting that it was not produced by natural processes. Another clue to its human origin is the broken ceramics with which it is usually mixed. "They practiced agriculture here for centuries," Glaser told me. "But instead of destroying the soil, they improved it, and that is something we don't know how to do today" in tropical soils.
As a rule, terra preta has more "plant-available" phosphorus, calcium, sulfur, and nitrogen than is common in the rain forest; it also has much more organic matter, better retains moisture and nutrients, and is not rapidly exhausted by agricultural use when managed well. The key to terra preta's long-term fertility, Glaser says, is charcoal: terra preta contains up to sixty-four times more of it than surrounding red earth. Organic matter "sticks" to charcoal, rather than being washed away or attaching to other, nonavailable compounds. "Over time, it
p.346
partly oxidizes, which keeps providing sites for nutrients to bind to." But simply mixing charcoal into the ground is not enough to create terra preta. Because charcoal contains few nutrients, Glaser argued, "high-nutrient inputs--excrement and waste such as turtle, fish, and animal bones--are necessary." Special soil microorganisms are also likely to play a role in its persistent fertility, in the view of Janice Thies, a soil ecologist who is part of a Cornell University team studying terra preta. "There are indications that microbial biomass is higher in terra preta than in other forest soils," she told me, which raises the possibility that scientists might be able to create a "package" of charcoal, nutrients, and microfauna that could be used to transform bad tropical soil into terra preta.
In a preliminary test run at creating terra preta, Steiner, Wenceslau Teixeira of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Enterprise, and Wol-fang Zech of the University of Bayreuth applied a variety of treatments involving charcoal and fertilizers for three years to rice and sorghum plots outside Manaus. In the first year, there was little difference among the treatments (except for the control plots, in which almost nothing grew). By the second year, Steiner said, "the charcoal was really making a difference." Plots with charcoal alone grew little, but those treated with a combination of charcoal and fertilizer yielded as much as 880 percent more than plots with fertilizer alone. His "terra preta" was this productive, Steiner told me, despite making no attempt to re-create the ancient microbial balance. (cont.)

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communicate with a Chatty Cathy. Do a little more reading to learn about the correlation between ashes and high pH, which I definitely do not need in this sand on a _limestone_ substrate and with "soft" well water. Nobody in his right mind and who is gardening in Florida would add ashes to his garden. Ashes are not "charcoal" and I'm neither making nor buying charcoal in order to dig it into my dirt. Who would?     I don't believe that you actually read or comprehend the posts to which you reply. Neither do I believe for a NYM that you actually practice any of the total bullshit that you so often preach. There is not a chance in hell that you actually read or comprehended the pretentious drivel that you posted relevant to "terra preta" and "terra mulata". It is pure, unadulterated academic pap from folks who've never had a productive day in their lives. Who cares what their "studies" "indicate"? Do you actually know someone stupid enough to attempt to copy the agricultural practices of extinct so-called "cultures" that failed because they could not compete? I don't believe that I'll soon be digging in charcoal, shit, and turtle bones just because some supposed "study" --in Brazil, of all places -- "indicates" that some long-dead primitives did so and I seriously doubt that I'll live long enough to see your ass down here helping me remove invasive tree roots. Sheesh!     Did you ever notice how many of the "studies" and "investigations" cited in the crackpot "alternative", "environmental", or "organic" this-that-or-the-other press are done in South America, India, Africa or some such places where they're almost impossible to confirm or verify? Didya ever think there might be a reason for that?
Note to self: Derald, the twit list (aka "killfile" to noobies) is to be treated with respect. Do not ever purge it again.
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Derald
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Your lack of ability to search for "Terra Preta", or "Milpa" is stunning, as is your lack of appreciation for other's time spent in tendering assistance to you, which borders on sociopathic.
You would improve your garden with terra preta (charcoal + kitchen scraps, or clay. I'll leave it to you figure out why.

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says...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terra_preta
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wrote:

I planted Early Girl for a number of years and finally decided that they did not mature but a few days earlier than Better Boy or Carmello, my standbys for slicers. Dry farming here would have failed this year. We have had so much rain that the plants did not develop deep roots and are not producing well at all. A cold Spring made for a late setting out.
I guess "dry farming" works where irrigation is the norm. Around here the "weather man" does not pay any attention to when I want water for the garden. We get a big rain just after we have given up on rain and watered. Then the tomatoes split. And since most of my tomatoes are indeterminate the plants can have everything from new growth, flowers to ripe fruit at the same time. In fact most of the determinants will also keep producing until frost.
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To the west of the Sierra Mountains in California, and probably the Rocky Mountains, and east from the Olympic Mountains to the Rocky Mountains, there is precious little rain from May to September. I've been places where every summer month would get a couple of days of rain, but not here.
My potted determinants were the first to flower, set, and ripen. The Koralic was the first, followed by the larger Glacier. The Koralic that is in the tomato bed has just ripened its first tomato. The other tomatoes are still green, but we are into our salad days with lettuce, and cucumbers also ripening. The climbing zucchini (replicante IIRC) is ready for harvest and its brother is close behind, and the craziness begins.
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February and start producing by late spring and most are done by now. I don't grow nearly as many tomatoes as you do but I have begun adding a couple of cultivars that do better in the long summers. "Early Girl" is not enough earlier than my standby to keep in the mix.

to control sun and rain exposure and this year (so far) have managed to kill a tarragon and a thyme. Pure, unvarnished sloth made for a late setting out here.

done. We have relatively dry autumn and spring with wet winter and summer. In recent years, we've received less than the usual volumes of rain between February and June, which already comprises one of our two "dry" seasons. My thought had been to look into "dry farming" the spring tomatoes. However, I know from experience that the notion of pampering the plants while they're developing and ceasing watering as they set fruit is a pipe dream. By noon of the second day, they'd have wilted down and by the fourth day, they'd be a total loss. However, I'm through trying to explain to northerners what real sunshine is like. No way am I wasting water on so-called "deep" watering or digging holes in the mistaken notion that watering into them will be of some benefit as suggested in some tomes. Methinks some folk spend time writing that might better be spent actually gardening ;-)

on what the weatherman predicts. The exception is whenever the NOAA "probability" is at or over 50% _and_ regional radar shows actual rain heading in our direction; then I'll hold off unless something is showing water stress.

determinate. They're usually done by the end of June and don't survice this late. The indeterminates have stopped producing and this time of year the mission is to get the plants through July, August, and early September. Both bacterial and fungal diseases are rampant this time of year and, most years?Floradale, Homestead, and Heatwave fare far better during the hot season but I don't have any this year.
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