The old books are inspiring gardening material

Since I was a kid producing food was always part of my families life. Naturally through the years I was inspired by a few authors that not to many people have heard of nowadays that you might enjoy. Ruth Stout was the first author who comes to mind I liked her personality and her unique at the time gardening method. Many of us still use deviations of her method to this day. She was a composter and used a method of applying organic materials such as hay to smother weeds and add nutrients to the soil. Louis Bromfield you can read more about here Louis Bromfield - Wikipedia he wrote many books such as Malabar farm and many others Before biochar was called biochar or terra preta Bromfield spoke of it in his books. He mentioned hundreds of years after the land was cleared you could still see the rich deposits left behind by burning the woods that once stood. Biochar made since to me many years later when experts brought it up I already knew about it because of Bromfield. The Have more plan by Ed and Carolyn Robinson was a very good book for me because it inspired me to work hard growing things so I will have more. What are your old favorite gardening books? The books I have read and people I have learned from were very good garden resources though this forum has the best and most gardening and fruit growing experts I’ve ever seen in one place. If you want to step back in time and look through the books I mentioned you will be reading the materials popular from my childhood.

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This method is generally condemned as damaging to soil by reducing organic matter amongst other issues. How much biochar created would probably depend on the heat of the fire. Are you sure this isn’t just one of those anecdotal pronouncements some garden writers and pretty much all popular writers often rattle off without scientific basis?.

Native Americans also intentionally did some forest burning, but they didn’t destroy the forests. I’m sure they left some charcoal, however.

Here’s a couple of papers on the affects of slash and burn.


I agree with you Alan that organic matter is important. Fire is also important here and perhaps other places to but your right to question it. Burning is something we do in our gardens to reduce insect eggs which presumably are not much of a problem everywhere. Grasshoppers seem like more of a Kansas, Texas , Oklahoma type problem. If the rodents are bad here mowing or burning may be the only solutions. Annual burnings are done yearly in the nearby flint hills to rejuvenate grass land. I think authors do try to sell books and I’m not going to slash and burn my entire property on their say so. I don’t think that was Bromfields intention I think he observed something and noted it. I always have some diseased wood, scrub trees, and prunings though so I will always make some biochar. I’m glad you brought the point up though because it did need an explanation. Free wood chips are also available at all times here because we don’t let diseased or problem trees the county or power company removed go to the landfill. I hope I didn’t give the impression I wanted all woods destroyed I meant burns had been done at one time to make farm land. The resulting biochar made the ground very rich which is an observation and not advice to do that on that scale as I’m very much against the ideal. We have old growth woods in the family that are hundreds of years old or perhaps older. Ruth stouts books actual support the ideas of organic rich ground by continually adding old hay. We all burn branches so why not use them? The benefit to our era is we have learned by others mistakes. Pictures tell 1000 words so here is a combination of the two methods

I forgot in the early morning I wrote you how burning is standard management of prairie land and has been way before Europeans came and destroyed your native ecosystem there- even before the aboriginals showed up.

I was raised in chaparral country in CA where some of the brush species actually rely on brush fires to germinate the seeds. The brush turns into molotov cocktails during the dry season just waiting for the dry desert winds to create a life renewing inferno, so I’ve no excuse for forgetting the same need in your environment.

I know gardeners here who burn out there vegetable gardens every season, but I was always taught to compost that garden waste. I’d like to see research on the efficacy of burning to help control the pests you mention compared to moving everything to the compost pile. My unproven assumption it that most pests here would reenter the burned area without delay, once food became available.

I know your heart is in the right place and you have an open mind. You never leave me with anything but positive impressions, especially because you are such a good sport when I do my debate thing.

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This is a little explanation from Kansas State University of why some burns are done and to explain how important it is here in Kansas. Grass lands here are very important The majority of my ground is grass land currently. This is a link on grasshopper eggs as an example being in the top two inches so you can imagine what a fire on top does to those as is rolls over We don’t till so our problem is not just fencerows. This documents the insects overwintering strategy "Many other insects spend the winter hiding as adults in leaf litter or thick meadow thatch. " The mantids here lay there eggs in my pear trees and on the sides of walls. I try to watch spraying to build their numbers at certain times. I always learn things from you Alan so I never take offense to your debates they benefit everyone. We all become better gardeners as a result and walk away with different perspectives. Below are pictures of my good insects aka Mantis overwintering in my pear trees.

Note the picture below above the mantis nest is a nasty 17 year cicada egg slit which my trees are covered with because some of my land is relatively undisturbed
There are hundreds of those nests on my property. Here are some I tolerate on the North side of my house. Why the north side? I don’t know but there are at least half a dozen a year on the north side

Just taking a part of this to ask a question I can not find an answer to.

Can I used diseased (fireblight\B. Canker) wood to make my biochar? I would think ones removed from the tree and burned, the disease causing bacteria \ fungus would be destroyed and therefore no longer an issue, correct?


Yes fire/heat destroys the bacteria i have done it many times.


Awesome. Thank you very much for the clarification. :+1:

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