Apr 13, 2011
Permaculture At The Farm II
Here are more examples of permaculture (permanent agriculture) at the farm:
Mulching to reduce water loss. Previously we advocated sheet mulching (to reduce weeds, etc ) with cardboard and other cellulose based material. DON'T DO IT! Termites love these heavy cellulose material. Mulching in humid Malaysia should be light to avoid termites and fungal problems. Leguminous cover crop as living mulch is a better idea.
Multi-crop and companion planting of gingers, chilies, sweet potatoes, water melon and passion fruits on raised beds. Permaculture is antithetical to mono-cropping (think oil palm, or think dragon fruit farms; organic or otherwise). On a small farm level, mono-cropping often leads to increasing dependence on chemicals and crops are often decimated suddenly by disease. The recent demise of many dragon fruit farms, both conventional and organic, is one example.
Serai or lemon grass on raised beds with sweet potato as living mulch and companion. Once the sweet potatoes are harvested, leguminous cover crop will be planted to revitalise the soil.
A low maintenance food garden grown entirely on used tires on low yield soggy, clayey soil. Practically no weeding is needed and monthly dressing of compost is all that's needed to produce sweet potatoes, curcuma mangga, lempoyang, kunyit and common ginger.
A 3000 sq ft food forest with very low maintenance, fed by a grey water treatment pond, producing taro, banana, papaya, pegaga, lengkuas, pandan, misai kucing, geranggau and other herbs. It provides a rich habitat for wild birds, eels, haruan, sepat, frogs, butterflies, insects, snakes, etc. It is one of our favorite spots in the farm. However, not everybody likes the overly 'friendly' snakes ( we counted 7 species so far ).
Under the traditional Asian chicken coop (on stilts), in-situ composting ( with the aid of farm-brewed IMOs ). This reduces human energy ( in having to remove the dung after every cycle). Removal of the composted material is done once every 8 months or so, and goes straight to the durian trees.
More examples of sun shading using plants - passionfruit, banana ( sematu, as it can reach 20 feet or more, high) and gliricidia septum.
Integrating animal husbandry with fruits - here, free range chickens with bananas. There is no necessity to fertilise the fruit trees at all. Do not integrate durians with chickens.
Sematu is best - it has large leaves providing good shade, grows fast and is more hardy than 'improved' bananas like mas or berangan. The sematu above are young trees, barely three months old.
Free range chickens with mangosteen - here, hiding from the mid-day sun under the mangosteen fruit trees.
Symbiotic Relationships - Ant-Hill Mushrooms
Now here's a sight for sore eyes, cendawan busut or ant-hill mushroom, termitomyces albuminosa.
The mushroom grows to the surface from the termite nest (above photo), which can be a foot (30cm) up. The entire stalk is edible and delicious.
It is one of the most delicious mushrooms, and leave ALL cultivated mushrooms miles behind in terms of taste and texture.
Unfortunately it is still not possible to cultivate this mushroom commercially. It is symbiotic with a certain termite, odontotermes spp.
The termites cultivate the mushroom by breaking down wooden material that the mushroom needs to grown on. There is speculation that the mushroom needs the dung of the termites too to grow. The termites in turn use the material decomposted by the mushroom as food.
This is called, Living Together.
Apr 11, 2011
Oddity In The Forest
Came across this oddity hanging down from a vine in the forest.
A foot across and about 6 to 8 inches thick
It's leaves. Sorry about the focussing, it was quite windy.
Apr 08, 2011
We generally have good root formation in around 30 to 45 days for lemon trees and other limau-type trees.
Saw off, and dap some iodine on the cut
Wrap vermicast around the root ball
Plant in a polybag with a light, friable and loose soil mix. We like to add some sand and vermicast to our farm soil. Loose, light soil will encourage the roots to grow deeper.
Cover the plant with a plastic bag to prevent drying out. Remove when new leaves and branch shoots are noticeable. Once the new leaves and shoots are established, plant to soil.
The area where we are planting these citruses have heavy laterite soil. We generally dig a hole and then mix the laterite with sand and compost.
We mix the laterite with sand and vermicast or compost
Place the plant half inside the hole
A planted marcotted guava
We generally place an used tire over the spot and top up the soil mix as need be. The tire reduces weeds, and prevent leachate of compost and vermicast.
Support the young tree. Marcotted trees tend to be shallow rooted and care must be taken during windy monsoon seasons.
5 year old marcotted lemon tree falling over after a night of heavy rain and strong winds. Marcotted trees have no tap root so should be supported even when matured in windy zones.
Mar 21, 2011
Marcotting or air layering is used in our farm to propagate fruit trees such as limau nipis, limau purut and lemon. We also use it to increase the numbers of any endangered tree we come across.
Matured lemon tree from marcotting
We have high success rates with the following method:
Have a clean cut on the chosen branch from the side of the tree facing the morning sun
Dusting with rooting powder helps speed up the process
Wrap with areca nut fiber that has been pre-soaked for an hour or so with boiled water
Wrap well with cling wrap
Finally wrap with aluminum foil
Keep the areca nut fiber continuously moist by injecting in boiled water once a week. Use a syringe. Inspect for root formation progress once a month.
Making areca nut fiber is easy.
Areca Palm ( areca catechu ) at the farm
Ripe areca nuts
Dry areca nuts
Peel open to expose the fiber
Fine areca nut fiber
Sterilise the fiber by soaking in a light iodine solution for an hour and then sun drying. The fiber will keep for months. The fiber can also be used to make ropes, be woven, etc. Remember to soak thoroughly when using for marcotting.
Next, how to poly bag it, and how to plant it in Marcotting II.
Mar 14, 2011
Permaculture At The Farm I
Here's some permanent agriculture (permaculture) features at the farm:
Alley cropping of napia grasses to reduce pressure on arable land for ruminants. By cultivating grasses we can raise up to 200 goats per acre of land versus around 15 here in Malaysia. We alley crop with nitrogen-fixing leguminous gliricidia septum. It may be necessary to fallow with leguminous cover crops after a couple of years. At the moment, we ferment chicken discards such as feathers, guts, etc. to produce a liquid fertiliser, and fertilise twice a year. So far, production of grass has been maintained, a good example of sustainability.
Passion (fruit) vines grow fast, and produce sufficient foliage to impart noticeable cooling. Sun-shading using plants is efficient, easy, with little maintenance needed, and have practically no running costs. Next, passiflora shades in the chicken fields; side effects - more insects and vitamin Cs for the chickens!
Earth drains permit infiltration of water and generally slows down run-offs. However, in our heavy monsoon downpours, earth drains need regular maintenance and may contribute to erosion.
A judicious mix of earth and concrete drains may be necessary, in addition to other water retention and diversion strategies.
Earth drains increase available planting spaces in small farms. Earth drains at our farm are income generating, producing a variety of crops - watercress, edible ferns, pandan leaves, arrowroots, and various edible taro tubers.
The picture shows the laying of low stone barriers across earth drains to slow down water flow and hence reducing erosion. They also allow for deeper, slower flowing sections enabling feeding and hence increasing the population of wild eels which are harvested.
Shaping of land to create catchment areas to retain water, to slow down flow of rain water, and in the case in this picture, to reduce water-logged areas. In the process planting spaces are created for growing water loving vegetables - here, just planted watercress and arrowroot.
After a down pour, the land used to get soggy and difficult to work for days. With these catchment areas, the soggy areas are gone and the catchment area retains water for weeks (due to high water table) - good for planting income generating water loving vegetables.
Mar 11, 2011
Organic Watermelon At Fine
Officers from FAMA say we are the only organic watermelon producer in the country. They should know, since they visit almost all farms in Malaysia in efforts to upgrade farming methods to meet international marketing requirements.
We sell our watermelon at only one shop, Fine Organic Gallery at No. 103, Jalan Aminuddin Baki, Taman Tun Dr. Ismail, 60000 Kuala Lumpur.
The owner is Mr. Ng (picture below), and the phone number is 03 7727 6044
Here's his shop:
watermelon on raised beds made of old tires
We collect thrown plastic bottles to use to protect young watermelon seedlings
Proud farmer, Pak Cik Razaly, manager at the farm
Here are our previous posts on how we grow our watermelon:
Feb 23, 2011
Home Organic Vegetable Growing
One of our passion is to teach people to grow chemical free vegetables at home; yes, in your terrace link house smack in the heart of P.J. or Subang Jaya.
Recently we held an 8 hour home organic vegetable gardening course for U3A students over 4 weekends during their second semester for 2010. U3A is located at Universiti Putra Malaysia.
We roped in Wong Tar Huei (TH), an Electrical Engineer by training but an organic gardening enthusiast for the past 12 years.
These are pictures of vegetables that TH have grown in his corner link house in P.J. whenever he has spare time and during weekends:
Making use of free vertical spaces - the fence, to grow bitter gourd
Cabbages in pots
Close up of home-grown cabbage, grown in a pot
TH sharing his experiences
Section of the class
40 U3A students signed up for the course.
Feb 17, 2011
Four Year Old Lempoyang ( zingiber zerumbet )
These are four to five year old lempoyang from our farm. You can call Suria if you wish to purchase them:
Farm manager, Haji Razaly with a bunch of 4 year old lempoyang rhizomes
Younger rhizomes (above picture) similar to those sold in the markets are used by us for replanting. Older rhizomes are used by us for health supplementation purposes.
Here's a research paper on the anti-inflammatory effect of lempoyang :
The aqueous extract is as effective as reference NSAIDs.
We use the lempoyang as part of our anti-inflammation diet at a dosage of 5 to 10 grams twice a week.
Here's a Bernama report on the effects of lempoyang on cervical cancer:
Readers of this blog please note that the report refers to laboratory results on laboratory animals. Results on humans may differ significantly. Extracts from many plants of the ginger family have been found to have cytotoxic effects on cancer cells in the laboratory but these does not necessarily translate to a cure.
Jan 31, 2011
Starting Free Range Chickens in Malaysia
Fixed houses (reban) where the chickens come out to range and go back in at night is not a good solution to free-ranging slow growing breeds in our wet, humid climate. As the chickens can take up to 100 days to reach marketable size, the area around the house would be foul in no time.
The solution is a movable tent, and fenced fields to keep moving the chickens onto fresh grounds.
These are how the fields look like in our farm:
These are the steps:
1. Fence up the area:
To save costs, make your own concrete posts. If you don't know how, learn. It's a skill worth learning. Wooden posts in Malaysia means cutting of jungle trees, termite problems, wood rot, etc. Concrete the bottom of the fence to keep out pigs. You can lose up to 30 chickens per night from a small family of pigs.
2. Make your own field feeders and drinkers:
You can't be a farmer without basic bar-bending and welding skills.
3. Have a stationary seine-net like area for catching the chickens:
We generally can have an area up and running for 1000 chickens within 10 days - two hoop houses, 30 field feeders, water tank and self-made line drinkers, and fencing and posts for an area that's equal to half an acre ( the grass will last about 20 days, then you have to shift the chickens to the next field. If you don't, the chickens will start having health problems).