Organic orto course

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Organic orto course

Post by Admin on Sat Apr 05, 2014 4:03 pm

I've just started a 4 part organic orto course run by the local Slow Food organisation. I have to say it is really interesting and perfect timing for us as we planned to get digging for our orto this autumn. I'm happy to give a running commentary if anyone is interested. This week was all about getting your soil into top condition.
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Re: Organic orto course

Post by stevegwmonkseaton on Sat Apr 05, 2014 9:06 pm

Sounds superb Admin, fire away please do!

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Re: Organic orto course

Post by Flip on Mon Apr 07, 2014 8:42 pm

Remember to pooh on your Rhubarb ........
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Re: Organic orto course

Post by stevegwmonkseaton on Mon Apr 07, 2014 9:19 pm

Flip wrote:Remember to pooh on your Rhubarb ........

Explain this cr@p business Flip! Our rhubarb is struggling to survive and you tell us to sh!t on it, now mind or I'll have to report you...  Shocked  Mad  Wink  Wink  Wink

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Re: Organic orto course

Post by L'uomodellaluna on Mon Apr 07, 2014 10:00 pm

We normally put custard on our rhubarb!

8o)
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Re: Organic orto course

Post by stevegwmonkseaton on Mon Apr 07, 2014 10:02 pm

Superb!

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Re: Organic orto course

Post by Admin on Tue Apr 08, 2014 9:49 am

It is in some instances directed at the type of soil here in Western Liguria but I think still useful:

PART 1

Conditioning the soil
An orto requires more work than most other crops like olives or even vines. It has to be attended to daily.
The basis of organic farming is conditioning the soil and we feed the soil and not the plant.
The first step is to find out what kind of soil you have. Make a small dip in the earth and then with your spade take a deep slice of soil so that you can see the stratification of the soil. The darkest soil is the most fertile – think of the soil you would find in the middle of a wood. You would expect to see the following in your sample (NB – this is particularly true in this part of Liguria and your may be different):

• Top layer- plant material e.g. grass, weeds etc
• First soil layer – this should be good and dark and is the most fertile
• Second soil layer – likely to be stoney and look lighter
• Third soil layer – clay
• Final layer – rock

When siting your orto try to choose a position where there are brambles rather than on where you have dry grassy areas. If you have areas of ground cover weeds that never need mowing then this is a bad location for an orto. You are looking for an area where you already have good decomposing material in the soil (humus).
In organic farming we only till the soil down to 30cm maximum. However you would not place an orto where there is flat rock under this first 30cm as the roots cannot penetrate. So we condition the soil to make the first 30cm really good for growing.
The best humus is manure from a source you know has not been treating their animals with chemicals and drugs. Never use peat.

The most important source of humus for the organic orto is the compost heap. When made properly, within 3-4 months you should have good compost you can use on your soil. Kitchen scraps are great for compost but always layer any single source of material with another type of material e.g. kitchen scraps then grass cuttings.

The ideal compost heap

• 1.1m high x 1m deep x as long as you like
• Dampen it between each layer
• Put 30cm soil on top
• Take the temperature 10 days after creation. It should be between 40-60 degrees C.
• After 6 months you will have excellent compost. (This would be 8-9 months for olive cuttings)
• If you have lots of olive cuttings then make a separate heap but expect to wait at least 9 months

It will take 3-4 years for your soil to become ideal for organic gardening but this does not mean you shouldn’t start now. You can buy organic dried manure (“stallitico”) to condition your soil if you do not have a compost heap yet. However, this must be used at least 30 days before you plant anything. A guideline for this type of fertiliser is 30-50kg per hectare (10,000sqm) of orto.
Remember that every plant removes something from the soil so the order that you plant crops becomes very, very important.

It is useful to get an analysis of your soil done. Take a sample at three different depths (at least 0.5kg) and take it for analysis. Local farming consorzio usually offer this service for a fee.

Ash from the fire gives potassium to the soil. Mined natural potassium is also allowed in organic farming.

Bought fertilizers are usually low in nitrogen (“azoto”). The best organic nitrogen givers are meat or blood. You can buy this in the form of dried blood (stains and is smelly and in tests can leave a high level of nitrates in the crop), or an alternative is horn and bone (“cornunghia”) which is also dried. They must be from organic sources. It can also be sprinkled between the rows of salad crops while they are growing.

If you over-fertilize then the plants will run leggy and you will see a bigger than normal gap between each node on the stem and you will therefore get less fruit.
The next attribute of your soil to check is the texture – i.e. how well-draining it is. If it is not very well-draining then it will retain water and plants will turn yellow and disease is encouraged. If you have soil that is too well-draining then obviously the water is not retained and root crops suffer.

Another aid in organic farming is mulch (“pacciamatura”). Chopped olive cuttings are very good for this. We use mulch to stop weeds, preserver water and prevent the soil from going hard and forming a crust. Mulch will need to be re-spread roughly every month as it is taken into the soil. First zappa the remaining mulch into the soil and then re-spread.

Never leave the soil uncovered (especially in summer) as it will form a crust, which stops the water from penetrating. Every 6-10 days you should till the very top of the soil to break this crust. Even when you are planting nothing it is very bad for the soil so cover fallow areas with branches if you have nothing else.
Your soil should have a pH of 6.5-7.5. If it is over or under then your plants will not thrive although there are some plants that prefer alkaline or acid soil.

To test the pH of your soil
• Using litmus paper test the pH of the water you will be using
• Take a slice of your soil with a spade
• Take a sample from the top, middle and bottom
• Put the sample in a glass and add some water
• Mix well and then test with litmus paper
You can buy litmus paper from the chemist.

Another way to condition the soil is to plant nutrient-giving plants. Generally you would plant in November to use the orto in February. Once the plant is dug into the soil using a zappa it should be left for 2 months to decompose. Some examples of nutrient-giving plants often used are:
• alfalfa* (erba medica) – must be sown in September
• lupins (lupino)
• vetch hay (veccia)
• sunflowers (girasole)
• favino* (small-seeded horse bean)
*recommended by our tutor as particularly useful

You should analyse your soil every 3-4 years to keep an eye on it.
So, to begin your orto in February 201 you should start conditioning your soil in November 2014. This is the ideal time to start as the winter rains have time to take the nutrients right into the soil.
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Re: Organic orto course

Post by stevegwmonkseaton on Tue Apr 08, 2014 12:27 pm

Thanks Admin, can't wait for part II - superb information!

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Re: Organic orto course

Post by Cassini on Tue Apr 08, 2014 10:07 pm

That's great. Wish I was going to the course!
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Re: Organic orto course

Post by Carciofo on Wed Apr 09, 2014 11:32 am

Thanks to Admin, you are now  Smile 

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Re: Organic orto course

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