Pharmacy Paddock

The pharmacy pasture


A pharmacy paddock is a relatively small area of land no less than 1000 square meters and no more than 20,000 square meters . Anything larger is too hard to maintain.


This 1000meter area was originally my horse’s forage paddock consisting of very sparse couch grasses, lotus, spindly willows, wild roses and oregano. She did well on it and rarely demonstrated sugar affected behaviour. She is now no longer with us so I have decided to experiment a bit with it creating tidy rows of pharmacy plants. This area could be grazed for short periods for if and when I get another horse. Ever hopeful.

Let me describe. The land was stripped of its humus layer and taken off site . We were left with fragile sands that were networked with fine fungal hyphae that increased water tension so water sat on the surface and evaporated never to fully soak in. To improve surface tension we burned piles of scrub and spread the ash which acts like a surfactant ( this reduces surface tension by spreading the two H atoms with the oxygen holding it from the axis thereby allowing water to soak in)

We then the planted a series of green crops that produced sufficient biomass to turn under to increase humus content.  There were some large mature gums that were dropped and used for firewood with branches mulched, piled up them spread around the area. Bear in mind fresh bark and wood chips will absorb nitrogen so always rot it down so nitrogen is not robbed from surrounding crops.

We allowed various weeds to self generate. The most prolific were fathen and amaranth. Both are  excellent for EMS prone horses. We noticed as the soil improved the distribution of species changed and yes we did get white clover. Again this did not affect my horse so maybe she self medicated on fathen and convulvulus. Who knows? We didn’t attempt to alter soil pH as that occurs naturally as the microbiome increases which hold calcium carbonate in suspension within the beneficial hyphae that had now developed.

Over a few seasons we strip-cleared approximately 3 meters in from the fence lines having learned that it is better to keep all plants an minimum of 800mm from the fences so I can walk unhindered around the perimeters and yes I admit to occasionally using a herbicide but we are working on mechanical methods hence the cleared strip.

The 3m strip is now ready to plant which involved the species as described on the photo layout. We were harrassed by rabbits and birds but found that certain species seemed to hinder them . I found if I planted poppies and beans at the base of the yarrow they would not be touched so when I harvest yarrow flowers I can pick beans at the same time. We also planted cayuga which is a vine that produces cucumber like fruit that lower blood sugar. I would like to see if horses will eat this as it is related to bitter gourd. This plant produces a huge amount of biomass.

While we were still plagued with couch, we found that as the soil improved other species out-competed it.

This winter I hope to sow the centre of the paddock in brown top and over-sow with flanders poppies just for their aesthetic value though the plants can be fed to horses as a sedative.

Later I will introduce hazy swathes of gossamer grass and leptocarpus .


Gossamer Grass


The Southwest boundary will have a combination of topiaried ginkgo and vitex agnus.

Further Progress

This image shows some further  progress on the bare 1000m3 sandy paddock that a few years ago only grew couch grass, cape daisies, cats-ear  the odd lupin and a few gorse plants, with just one very large gum tree that used to stand to the right of this picture. It sucked any remaining moisture from the already parched land that resisted rainwater from soaking into. This tree was dropped with larger branches used as firewood. Smaller branches were stacked neatly and chipped using a domestic chipper. These were stockpiled for a year and then spread over and between rows. They break down more slowly and provide greater moisture holding capacity than grass clippings alone. When I had my horse, Sweetie,  I mixed the grass clippings with horse manure which was thermal composted and spread over the garden. The cape daisies are all but gone. However removing catsear has been more difficult but we are almost on top of it now. Each morning when the yellow flowers emerge I remove the head and spot spray the crown. Around 20 minutes each morning for three months. We are almost there. Fortunately these plants did not affect Sweetie.This area, though still sandy, is now able to be planted with the more drought tolerant species, all of which are palatable to horses.

These include Calendula, while just an annual, will throw up new seedlings all over the place. I collect those, pot them into small pots simply to give them a chance to establish before being transplanted. Picking the flowers keep a steady supply of petals that are used for extracts and oils. The calendula have been paired in the rows along with St John’s Wort as both flowers when combined make a soothing anti-irritant spray for pets and livestock.

Those of you who want to make up you won sprays and oils watch for updates on our website. The calendula plants at the end of summer are pulled up and composted. The centre of the paddock is mown and clippings spread between rows. This is essential in conserving soil moisture and nutrient cycling.

The oil seed pumpkins will be ready for harvest at the end of February. The seeds make wonderful stock feed and oil but we harvest them for ourselves and this row will provide all our needs for the year. Each year more are grown as the land improves.

The yarrow flowers are picked daily and dried indoors on racks. These flowers are used in our yarrow extract which is used in the treatment of sarcoids. The flowers and tops can be harvested to make up a speciality chaff for those who want to experiment a bit. Grown along side oregano these two pair up well as they form a compact and dense foliage mat that out-competes any other plants. Both can be grazed on and are tough pasture plants capable of taking a fair amount of animal traffic and browsing.

To the back of the paddock are a row of gums that are coppice for biofuels, a few Pinus pinea (Pine nut trees) and ginkgo, all of which are surprisingly hardy. Oddly that while horses love the ginkgo leaves in chaff and blends, do not nibble at any of the leaves making these trees ideal shade and specimen trees.

In front of these trees is a row of Anemanthele lessioniana Gossamer grass. These will provide as seed source for more to be propagated for the property.

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