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nutrient acumulators and guerilla gardening?

 
Anna Carter
Posts: 66
Location: Lacey, Wa
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First question:

I've got a compost pile that all my animal manure goes into and decomposes before I apply it to my garden. It rains a lot here, and I'm concerned that a lot of the nutrients (nitrogen not the least) are getting leached out by the rain water. Since the compost pile is also in my chicken pen, I thought that planting some comfrey around the edges might be a good idea- the comfrey eats up the nutrients, feeds the chickens, and what ever gets past the chickens I can cut and use as mulch. But now I'm also wondering if there is some other plant that might do the same thing, and add more diversity to my system? Any ideas? I live in Zone 7.


Second question:

The city recently put in a bike trail, mulched down both sides with wood chips, and then planted various native plants. Now, this was two years ago, and the plants they planted are plants that do far better in at least partial shade and they are currently in full sun as the trees they planted haven't gotten very tall yet. Currently, it's miserable to walk or bike down the path in summer because it's just so dang hot, the plants look sad and miserable and are barely growing, and it just seems like the wood chips magnify the heat along with the asphalt trail. I've been thinking about doing a little guerrilla gardening, and planting something that would thrive in the bright light and then die away as the natives started growing, preferably something edible? And ideas for that?

Thank you!
 
Marianne West
Posts: 131
Location: Lemon Grove, CA
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In her book Food not Lawns H.C. Flores writes about doing this in Oregon. If you have enough rain to support whatever you plant, I would do it. Squashes are pretty, melons would cover the wood chips, edible flowers such as nasturtium look good.
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3360
Location: woodland, washington
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on the compost leaching: starting with a nice, thick layer of wood chips or sawdust or other woody stuff on the bottom should help capture a lot of the goodness despite the rain. planting greedy things (the comfrey you mentioned) around it is also a good idea, though I'm not sure it would survive your chickens long-term if it wasn't protected. a plastic layer to collect and channel the liquid would work, too, but plastic is no fun.
 
Toby Hemenway
author
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Compost piles should almost always be covered: rain will leach nutrients, sun will dry the pile.

I'm not a big fan of guerrilla gardening unless there is a gardener to take care of the plants. I've seen the vast majority of guerrilla projects fail, because people think they can just sow and go, and it doesn't work that way. Gardens need gardeners; if the natives are struggling, then food plants would do even worse. And if your city has a natives-only policy, they will hit the plants with herbicide, which would then be your fault. I've seen them do it. It would be far more useful to everyone, and more successful, if you went to the proper city office with a proposal about how the natives are doing poorly, the people who walk the trail would love some shade and some food, so why not plant some things for the principal species using the trail: people.
 
Anna Carter
Posts: 66
Location: Lacey, Wa
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The thing with the city is that part of the area they tend has become over grown with tall grass and weeds. I go by the path multiple times per week, so I should be able to do some tending. It's just so sickening to bike down the trail and see the poor struggling plants that have barely grown at all in the two years they've been there. Thanks for the advice.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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I may be a little bit out of place here, but one thing that will grow tall enough to make shade, will come back every single year no matter how much you dig it up to eat it, and grows faster than anything else I can think of is Jerusalem Artichokes..

I love the quick windbreak, hedge, security fence they make very early on in the summer...however, it might be frowned upon by some people.
 
Nicholas Mason
Posts: 91
Location: Colton Or
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I am going to second what Toby said, they will just kill whatever you plant with herbicide. I used to work for a reforestation doing projects like that, they don't really care about the best way to grow them. You plant, put mulch around them then come back latter in the year weed-whack around them and finally spray them with some random mixture of horrible chemicals that supposedly just go away after three to six months. (I have seen places that we have sprayed that are still just bare soil multiple years latter, of course we respray even the bare soil every year. Which makes you wonder if you want any sort of food plant anywhere near those plants.
 
nancy sutton
gardener
Posts: 624
Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
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Just an fyi - decades ago I read a short report in Organic Gardening on how the (non-organic) Calif DOT planted road & free -ways. They dug a deep hole, filled with wood chips, (there may have been a handful of Miracle Gro tossed in), planted, watered, and then did no more 'gardening'... and had a very low failure rate. I know that the type of plant makes a big difference, but I was impressed ;) It was/ is an early form of hugelkultur, I'm thinking.
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