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Gardening ideas: need criticism  RSS feed

 
Matt Dunne
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Hey guys, posted this on PRI for those of you on both. Apologies!

Hey guys,

Recently moved to a new town (Mildura - similar climate to Tuscon AZ, dry, hot, not much frost, lots of sun) and am in the process of trying to fix the backyard. Currently just dry earth with some weeds, so we'll see how we go.

Basically, before I can start growing vegetables, the soil needs some much needed TLC. Quite dry, quite nutrient poor, quite compacted. I don't have a lot laying around to use (grass clippings), so I thought about using some green manure to get things started.

I was thinking of doing this:
mowing the few weeds down, covering with a few layers of wet newspaper.
Over that put a layer of manure (cows/chicken mix probably), then mushroom compost.
Sow in a mixture of green manure (I was thinking millet and soya bean because of the heat here).
A layer of lucrene over that, nothing too thick, but otherwise things will just dry out here!

My purpose here is to start some stuff decomposing, while providing the green manure some nutrients to get started, and after a few months add the green manure and some other soil building stuff (cow's manure) and sow in some broadbeans, few different herbs and plants, and flowers.

I'm not in a rush, but it's important that I get started sooner rather than later.

Water is of key concern to me here. I don't want to waste it (a lot of people do here), hence the mulch on top of a seeded area! I have the option of using grey water from my washing machine later, once things are established, but for the moment trying to keep things relatively simple.

So, what am I thinking about that's wrong? What have I overlooked? What might be a better way of achieving injecting some life back into the soil, and getting some garden going?

I don't want to compost food scraps because of mice!
There are a lot of ants in the back yard.
I haven't tried planting anything yet (it might grow really well!?)

At the moment my priority is building the soil so I can start to plant more things. My old garden at my previous place had great rich soil, and as long as there was some mulch on top, and I added the occasional bag of manure, it was pretty happy and productive and moist. Don't think that'll work here!
Let me have it!
 
George Lee
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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I would absolutely use/re-use food scraps. Here's what I've done on a few projects for some of my clients...
I sheetmulch in segments.. I'll drop the cardstock down, foodscraps/coffee grounds and consult the local municipality and get compost (roadkill, community food scraps) and top sections with it...I've found this will keep pests out. If the soil is barren, I'd sheetmulch the hell out of the area bro...

http://youtu.be/Zkep02089NY

Here's a clip I shot a few weeks ago. I've covered areas gradually. I live out a ways and have to haul in incrementally.

Hope this helps -
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3725
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
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I think Gai's Garden has a makeover just like your situation. Check it out.
 
Matt Dunne
Posts: 3
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George Lee wrote:I would absolutely use/re-use food scraps. Here's what I've done on a few projects for some of my clients...
I sheetmulch in segments.. I'll drop the cardstock down, foodscraps/coffee grounds and consult the local municipality and get compost (roadkill, community food scraps) and top sections with it...I've found this will keep pests out. If the soil is barren, I'd sheetmulch the hell out of the area bro...

http://youtu.be/Zkep02089NY

Here's a clip I shot a few weeks ago. I've covered areas gradually. I live out a ways and have to haul in incrementally.

Hope this helps -


Definitely will sheet mulch the hell out of it, just was considering the best approach to getting the soil started. I don't think Ill be planting plants for food for awhile (hence the green manure idea to hold some moisture in and provide some nitrogen and organic mass).

Mice are endemic here, and can get quite bad - even though I live in a town. I'm really hesitant (even though that's basically my only source of organic waste right now) just because I can't stand mice and don't want to have to deal with them at all!!

Cj Verde wrote:I think Gai's Garden has a makeover just like your situation. Check it out.


Gai's Garden? gaia's garden?
 
George Lee
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Matt -
Think nature controls. Hire a cat. Adopt a cat. Seriously. You'd be surprised how many mice those lil fuckers can go through in a weeks time.

Gaia's Garden is by Toby Hemengway. A pretty good permaculture resource. I've read better more complete works.

Enjoy the ride -
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Matt, we'll have to work out a way to use your food waste without a mousemare! Trench composting or bokashi could be an option,
I haven't dealt with many mice. Any idea what's attracting them/causing a population explosion? I think they grow lots of heavily irrigated crops in your area don't they? That sounds mice-friendly The only time I've had mice in the compost was when I let it dry out into a lovely warm nest.
Cats aren't an option for me in my environment. The cat thing got some people pretty excited here recently: http://www.permies.com/forums/posts/list/40/12591
I saw your thread on PRI...one thing I'd be wary of is using paper/card on soil that's any less than saturated as it will just repel water forever. In your area, I'd probably wait till after the autumn rains. Do you get autumn rains in Mildura?
Can you save rainwater? I know 'they've' ditched some tank subsidies, but you can get an astonishiong amount of water off a roof. Do you have downpipes going straight into the stormwater? Maybe you could jerry-rig hoses and direct water into your garden areas. Greywater...
Do you have tree-chipping guys around? I've finally found a contractor who'll drop off truckloads for free. I was starting to think it was an "only in America" thing. Chipped tree mulch ROCKS. I wouldn't use it on vege gardens though: if that carbon ends up in the soil it can cause some problems.
I don't know your climate so I won't start recommending cover crops... This link might help:
http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/agriculture/farming-management/organic-farming/soil-management/green-manures-for-vegetable-cropping
 
Andy Sprinkle
Posts: 46
Location: Lexington, Kentucky Zone 6
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George Lee wrote:I would absolutely use/re-use food scraps. Here's what I've done on a few projects for some of my clients...
I sheetmulch in segments.. I'll drop the cardstock down, foodscraps/coffee grounds and consult the local municipality and get compost (roadkill, community food scraps) and top sections with it...I've found this will keep pests out. If the soil is barren, I'd sheetmulch the hell out of the area bro...
-


I would be leary about using cardstock/cardboard/thick layers of printed paper in your environment. With low humidity and not much annual rainfall I would expect it to take YEARs for that stuff to break down...and it will act as a water/nutrient barrier between the upper layers and the existing soil until it decomposes which defeats your intentions of improving soil quality. If you have access to is my preferred sheet mulch method would be a modified Hugelkulture/sheet mulch approach. I would cover ground surface with as much logs/branches/stumps as I good get my hands on (for your purposes forget mound building, can work in sheet layer too), them cover with wood chips/mulch/smaller branches (available potentially free from tree removal services), then cover with compost/leave mulch/animal manure, then a 4-6 layer of topsoil. The first year I would use nutrient building cover crops (legumes, etc).
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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I agree with everything above but esp the Gaia's garden read...(can get it at a library, author is toby hemenway)..

What the lady in the book did was not only to build the soil but use all kinds of wind protection and water gathering techiques..around each plant.

you can find just about anything to provide wind or sun protection to a plant..say..something like this: feed the soil and make a shallow depression where the plant goes..put some rocks or pebbles around the plant that will catch dew and drop it into the depression, put up a shingle or shard or something to shade the baby plant and behind it put something to defer the wind..but preferably something that will also not reflect heat onto the plant....and use your waste water from your home to water these areas..also consider water catchment if it is legal off of your roof..

a lot of the wast materials from your home can be used for things like shade, windbreaks or water distribution..(something like a milk jug with a couple drip holes near a plant could be shade and water?)

once you get some plants established they will begin to provide nurse situations for other plants (shade, feed, windbreak, etc.)..so start around one area first somewhat near the house..and work out from there..depending on how much you think you can deal with at a time...but get some plants established first..and do read the book
 
Matt Dunne
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Hey guys,

There's been some rain, so I started small.

I broke up the ground (highly compacted) and built two small beds, and put some grass on top to hold the water in better.

This weekend I will go buy manure, seedlings, broad bean seeds and some green manure seeds. My plan is to put Green Manure between the beds, and use it as a mulch, and maybe in 6-10 months start planting in where the green manure was.
 
Alan Stuart
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Matt Dunne wrote:
Over that put a layer of manure (cows/chicken mix probably), then mushroom compost.


What is mushroom composting? it sounds interesting
 
Seren Manda
Posts: 62
Location: Northern Cali, USA -zone 9-
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Chickens eat mice and provide fertilizer... are they a possibility for your setup? Their nitrogen applications could help break things down more for you.
 
Raven Sutherland
Posts: 163
Location: MAINE
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you need to figure out what your soil PH is first
because out west it tends to be alkaline or the water is...

an agriculture extension agent near to you can tell you more.

also i highly advise getting a drip irrigation system installed
they have kits online or at supply houses.
 
David Miller
Posts: 286
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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Seren Manda wrote:Chickens eat mice and provide fertilizer... are they a possibility for your setup? Their nitrogen applications could help break things down more for you.



Chickens eat mice? I had no idea! To the question about mushroom soil, it is usually horse manure that has been composted and then used to raise mushrooms. Its wonderful stuff, plus you often get volunteer mushrooms as a side benefit.
 
Alan Stuart
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David Miller wrote:Chickens eat mice? I had no idea!


My chicken ate a snake once
 
Mark Garden
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How come a chicken can eat a snake?
Well in my opinion, I think the snake is already dead and it is a small one.
If a snake is a big one, then it is expected that the chicken will be eaten by the snake.
 
Alan Stuart
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it saw small but not dead
 
Nick Garbarino
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
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You may need to buy some earthworms in order to get them going. I had to do that in Phoenix
 
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