Think of it as rewarding the soil microbes for growing anything on your land in the first place. You can do this by using livestock, recycling plant material through their dung. Or you can use the plant material itself. Never remove from your landscape, what it had the wherewithal to produce. That's like robbing your own bank account. You'll eventually spend the land itself.
Orange blossoms - looks to be an abundant harvest
Which is what carbon pathways are all about. It's a permaculture term, which plans to design excess carbon into the landscape, and recycles it back into the soil. Being cyclical in nature, it's designed to continue giving, indefinitely.
I'm constantly dealing with carbon in our garden, and I probably haven't given it as much credence as I should. At least from it's point of origin. You see, we have an abundance of eucalyptus, acacias and ironbark trees, which David and I are constantly having to deal with. We should have put them to work as a resource, a lot sooner than we have. At least now though, we see it's an asset to be utilised.
When David was taking down the old trellis recently, for example, I did some more mulching of our Lane's Late Navel. It's a different tree to the Washington Navel, I gave the same treatment to a few months ago.
Lane's Late Navel
We always have branches and twigs to spare, and using them up as mulch, really protects the soil from drying out, under the orange tree. It also stops the brush turkeys from digging up the roots. I just break up the branches and it's quite a calming activity, despite it's physical requirements.
It still needed a finer mulching material on top however, which came in the way, of another tree. Actually, it lived just next to the orange itself.
Lane's Late Navel (centre) Hilltop chicken coop (right)
It's a casurina tree, and it was planted roughly the same time as the orange. It's better suited to our dry climate, than the orange tree was, and it's sole purpose was to protect the citrus, from the intense afternoon sun. Which it has done a successful job of doing. This orange tree is a lot bigger than it's sister Washington Navel, planted at the same time.
But now the casurina is dwarfing it's citrus companion. Left unchecked, it could become a sooty mould problem. We've already seen some of the branches die on the side that receives the most shade.
So out came the chainsaw, and the safety equipment. In a matter of minutes, the casurina tree came down. With spring just around the corner though, we're hoping it will re-shoot, or coppice. That way, we will have more mulching material to place around the tree in another year's time.
Taking out the tree, is only the first step ~
now what to do with it?
That casurina was about 8 years old, so it had a lot of carbon material to give. And use it, we did! Casurina can sequester nitrogen from the atmosphere, so it's need-like leaves, are high in nitrogen. It can also reduce pH in alkaline soils, making them more acid for things like blueberries and strawberries.
I actually used most of it's trunk as garden edging/hugelkultur, for a nearby rose bed. It had provided beautiful flowers in the past, but now it was being overtaken by grass. So I'm in the process of using most of the Casurina trunk, and some eucalyptus trunks we have laying around, for that project. It will then be covered in casurina leaves. I hope to report on my roses at a later date.
Mulched with casurina leaves
Of course, I also used a lot of leaves and branches under the orange tree. There was so much material to use up, I had enough to put around both orange trees, and a carob tree too. Not to mention the rose bed.
In the image above and below, you can see the Lane's Late Navel, now has access to full sun.
A balance of sunlight
Those bare branches should fill up nicely with new leaves, and there's enough thick mulch around the tree, the ground shouldn't be exposed to intense summer heat. If the casurina stump doesn't re-shoot, I have plans to grow pigeon peas and lemon grass, to replace as mulching plants.
Actually, this area will soon be filled with a range of new mulching plants. As we want to continue feeding the trees, which feed us.
Just below the recently felled, casurina tree, is a new banana pit. I look forward to sharing more on that project, as it develops further. We're hoping it will become quite a productive area.
The theme to take away from this post however, is to think more about using all the plants on your property. Whether they be growing wild and you're forever having to deal with them (native trees in our case) or those plants you propagate, with the intention to chop and drop as perpetual mulch, to feed the soil - start thinking how diverse you can make the carbon pathways, across your landscape. How can you increase it, by using it up and increasing it again?
The more carbon materials you can sequester back into the soil, the more resilient your soil will become. Plus, you won't have to rely exclusively on bales bought from the store, to protect your soil. Remember the bank account analogy. By making more deposits than withdrawals, you will soon be richer in abundance.