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Overgrown garden

 
Posts: 6
Location: Slocan Valley, BC, Canada, Zone 6b
kids medical herbs homestead
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Going to be taking on the grand task of a reviving a large garden (1000 sq/ft) which has been left to grow over for 6 years. Containing well rooted grasses, horsetail, clover etc.  I know there are no easy answers here but what are people's experiences with this? My plan is to keep 2 pigs this summer, rotating them in small areas with water to loosen the soil and hope they root some of it up... cover crop with peas or rye and till under, and replant or cover. At this point a tractor tilling would have difficulty so I have been advised to loosen first or hand dig areas. I am not adverse to hard work, I know there will still be much hand digging in there but any tips are welcome! I would prefer not to "cover for 2 years with plastic" instead to get this project rolling this summer so that it will be somewhat usable in 2021. I am in the Kootenays, BC, so ground will be frozen till mid April. Thanks!
 
pollinator
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Hi Simone, and welcome to permies! I haven't had to deal directly with horsetail, so I don't know how effective my suggestions will be for that stuff. But in general, the way I start a new bed over existing ground, whether it's pasture or "weeds," is to mow it short, lay cardboard or heavy paper over it, then cover with lots of woodchips. If the chips are already well into the decay stage I will sometimes plant directly into them, but usually I make a hole, put in a bit of compost, and stick a plant or seed in there. This method saves a lot of digging work, keeps your soil life in good shape, and keeps down just about everything that gets covered (I still get the occasional dock or convolvulus shooting to the surface, and have to yank those out on my own).

You could do some parts this way, run the pigs on the remainder and follow with a cover crop, and see how the different areas fare.
 
Simone Schlich
Posts: 6
Location: Slocan Valley, BC, Canada, Zone 6b
kids medical herbs homestead
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Thanks Phil, I could see this being useful for some areas of the garden for sure, and potentially even let me get something planted there this season! If it still needs further help under the cardboard/chips next year... well, this is a multi year project so :)
 
pollinator
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I think you can totally get some stuff planted this year. I would probably till or put the pigs to work, then rake out the leftover vegetation & root masses and pile them in the sun until they're dry & dead. Then I'd sheet mulch with a primary layer of cardboard or a thick layer of paper, which I'd cover with the piled up dead weeds, along with things like wood chips, leaves, weeds, hay, straw, or whatever plant-based matter you can get.
Then, as mentioned, just clear a spot in the mulch when you get ready to plant by, either, digging down to plant in the soil, or filling a pocket with soil/compost (though it might be good to still put a hold on the cardboard layer to let the baby roots get through it).
Just keep an eye out for any weeds trying to gr through the mulch, and cut/pull them when you see them so they don't get out of hand; and toss them on the surface as mulch.
Each year the soil will get better and the weeds will be less of a threat. Just try to keep something growing all the time or put a thick layer of mulch down when the space is empty of live plants.
Good luck and let us know how it goes!
 
Simone Schlich
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Location: Slocan Valley, BC, Canada, Zone 6b
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Thank you KC, I am liking what I am hearing! I'll post a couple pics in summer :)
 
pollinator
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How much horsetail? It's basically impossible to get rid of it laughs at mulch and even if you cover the area in black plastic for 2 years you'll find as soon as you pull it off, the roots which have been supported by plants in the neighbours garden will spring back to life.  most grasses and clover will die if you plough or dig them under, couch grass is a nasty exception and I am sure there are others.

The fact that you have enough horsetail to notice it probably means that your soil is wet and doesn't drain well, (not necessarily there are horsetail types that like dry sand) you may need to look into drainage before you do anything else. Pigs do not losen soil they are very good at compacting it, there's several threads on here on how to use them to seal a pond! Going back to the horsetail, keeping it chopped off will weaken it and constantly chopping it down seems to kill it in about 3-5 years but if it is outside your garden you will never win that fight entirely. I have some in the lawn it copes with constant mowing and being walked on, but as it doesn't bother me I don't bother it there.

Oh I just re read your post 1000sqr ft is there a 0 missing? that is very very little room for 2 pigs. in fact it is so little room it would be illegal here, not on a welfare standpoint but on the grounds ability to absorb effluent. 2 pigs in 1000ft is going to stink and seriously pollute, I wouldn't expect to be able to grow anything on that land the year after a pair of pigs had been confined there. Now I see what a small area you are talking about, just dig the entire thing and fish out all the roots by hand, once it thaws of course.
 
Simone Schlich
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Location: Slocan Valley, BC, Canada, Zone 6b
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Good evening Skandi,
Doing drainage testing referring to horsetail is a great idea, could be why they are fond of one area of the garden. I bet there could be some specific soil remediation there to help with that.
As for the pigs, here is the suggested or legal square feet/ pig "The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine recommends a minimum of 10 square feet per pig for those over 250 pounds. In a well-drained lot with sandy soil pigs this size need a pen with a minimum size of 10-feet-by-10-feet each."  
I would never even dream of keeping pigs in such a tight space! Instead giving them 500 sq/ft each (or 1000sq/ft together) for running full speed, so they will be just fine in a space bigger than my current house :) I think this is just a misunderstanding in measurements! Anyways, I do assure you my animals are always under good care, but I appreciate your concern for them and the ground beneath.
 
Skandi Rogers
pollinator
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[quote=Simone Schlich] Good evening Skandi,

I would never even dream of keeping pigs in such a tight space! Instead giving them 500 sq/ft each (or 1000sq/ft together) for running full speed, so they will be just fine in a space bigger than my current house :) I think this is just a misunderstanding in measurements! Anyways, I do assure you my animals are always under good care, but I appreciate your concern for them and the ground beneath. [/quote]

I'm not meaning from a welfare point of view, It's a perfectly large enough area from that side of things I'm talking about the gounds ability to absorb all of the pee and poo from 2 pigs, the figures you quote are for places where the waste is removed, and I would assume you will not be removing waste. with such a small area they will pollute the ground so badly you won't be able to plant anything there until the salts and nitrates have been washed out.
 
Simone Schlich
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Location: Slocan Valley, BC, Canada, Zone 6b
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Hello Skandi!  Aha I see what you are referring to, sorry I misunderstood and I will look more into this. I can make a manure compost pile if necessary, this would also assure enough time for potential pathogens etc to leave the manure and speed up what I can plant in the following years. Thanks.  
 
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