Hey there, i'm new here as you can see by this being my first post. Very cool forum you have here, I'm glad to have found it.
I live in the Pacific Northwest, my only experience in the garden is helping my dad out on odds and ends, and i'm interested in permaculture after reading Gaia's Garden and starting in on One-Straw Revolution.
My questions are:
It's mid-March right now, is it possible for me to sheet mulch over a large lawn space and plant all of the components of a tree guild right now? If not, what would be best to go in now?
Also, one of the priorities of my father on this lot is to grow some wine grapes, and looking at what our yard, is like I think the south facing wall, which under the easement seems to stay relatively dry, I think would be a good placement for this. I don't know about mulch and grape vine simultaneously, but it seems like a cover crop would be better. If money doesn't permit buying a vine this year, would just mulching then planting some cover crop and nutrient accumulators be the best choice to prep the spot for next year's vine planting?
Welcome... in general I prefer to have the ground moist before sheetmulching, so now works great. Time is ticking for woody planting... when buds break and shoots start growing, transplant shock increases and summer requires more irrigation for strong growth. This says nothing about your local soil conditions which might affect you strategy. If you are short materials or time, you could till and plant a covercrop. That could also be the pathway towards your perennial garden, in lieu of sheet mulch, particularly if you are short on materials.
Hey, thank you Paul. That was really helpful. I think I might do as you suggested and till or flip the sod and plant cover crops. Not sure yet though, if I can find enough free material I will lay mulch, even if it is not perfect combination of layers.
Bobby, do you know what grass is in the lawn? Some varieties are a real PITA to kill, while others are easy and that would have quite an influence over my decisions. Is it seperate plants with fine roots, or are there roots running evereywhere? Yip, number two's PITA...
Without knowing your climate, I'd leave major planting till next season as I imagine things will be breaking dormancy about now.
Here's a rough sketch of what I'd do:
I wouldn't till at all, especially if the grass is PITA. Aside from other stuff, tilling chops up those stolons and new grass sprouts from every piece.
If grass is PITA, I'd water the area deeply if it's not really moist and lay thick carboard or entire sections of newspaper, pre-soaked and seriously overlapping.
Some people are very much against using newspaper/card like this; I'm not and it's your call!
If the grass isn't PITA, I'd skip the paper/card and go straight to mulching.
My mulch of choice would be many, many cubic feet of chipped trees. I'm hearing some stuff about chip spreading tree disease/pests in the US, so there's another caveat
Dump it on the lawn, say four inches thick at least.
Leave it till next year.
I haven't tried cover crops in new chip, and if it's PITA grass I'd very much avoid puncturing the card layer. If it's not, favas could maybe handle the conditions. Comfrey's a good one to get going, in permanent spots. It's wonderful stuff, but once it's there, it's there...
Solution #1 (What we did with the backyard): Fence the area and let chickens and goats on it for ten or twenty minutes (your time may vary). You'll be left with a well fertilized, ready to plant dirt lot. This will take two seasons.
Solution #2 (Plan for our front yard): I'm building mounds and beds over the grass and just planting them. My local building supplier sells 1500# of topsoil for $20. I mix it with some DG and make 2' high N-S rows right over the grass. This way I don't even have to dig holes, just sit the trees down, pile the dirt around them and mulch. No problems with root rot. No plastic sheeting. No waiting. EZ. If you have PITA grass, you can put down some water permeable sheeting or a few inches of DG first.
Just my 2¢,
'Science is the father of knowledge, but opinion breeds ignorance.' - Hippocrates
Now is a good time to sheet mulch and plant fruit trees. As for what else to plant...make sure that whatever you do plant is considered a cold weather plant. Seed packets should list germination temperatures. Look for plants that are ok germinating in the 50 F to 60 F range, or if the packet says "plant as soon as the soil can be worked"
Grapes: Make sure wherever you plant em has good airflow, which may exclude the spot you mentioned. It may be dry but if the air is stagnant that could mean powdery mildew
I'd reinforce what Leila said... it is worth a dig. Our PITA grass is a wheat relative often called 'crab grass'. White rhizomes at 0-6" depth. In my experience you need LOTS of mulch to kill, and even then, mulching favors rhizomatous plants which are adapted to surviving this kind of disturbance... I suspect that tillage before mulching might actually help, as then each individual rhizome segment has less network and reserve to survive the event. Walters of Acres USA fame, http://www.amazon.com/Weeds-Control-Without-Charles-Walters/dp/0911311580, points to cation, and specifically calcium depleation as supporting rhizomatous grasses.
Paul Cereghino- Stewardship Institute Maritime Temperate Coniferous Rainforest - Mild Wet Winter, Dry Summer
awesome. Thanks everyone for the suggestions and things to take into consideration. I think the grass could definitely be suppressed with mulch alone because the spot that my mom put a temporary pull last year has barely re-grown. Mostly, it's still bare soil. Unfortunately her loved pull is so big! I'll have to keep her desire for a body of water to hang out in during the summer in consideration. Because I have no money, the trees might have to wait until next year, and I might just go ahead and do an annual bed heavy on nutrient accumulators and n-fixers. If I can afford a tree though, the nurseries are just starting to advertise on craiglist and some affordable deals are showing up.
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