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Vege Beds

 
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Hello permies,
                   I am wanting to put in permanent beds to grow vegetables.
I am confused on sizing & no til .

I see most market garden beds seem to be 30’ ( 75cm ) ? I can’t get a good measur on pathways in between some say 18’ ,12’ even 10 ‘.
Pathways leave as dirt,cover with mulch or grow clover ?
Rotary hoe first round then build beds ?
Bring in load of compost & build the beds ?
2 wheel tractor (expensive ) or no tractor

I have just 3 acres my first intention was to cut the grass & cover in plastic until grass dies.
I then thought do one shallow run with a rotary hoe .
Then fence add some compost & let the  chickens run over it fir a while ?
Then build the beds ?

Can some experienced permies out there tell me what is working fir them & what won’t work?
Any advice appreciated.

I love the internet & books however sometimes the more you read the more confused you can get.

dAZ

 
Posts: 315
Location: North Coast Dominican Republic
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Darren Halloran wrote:Hello permies,
                   I am wanting to put in permanent beds to grow vegetables.
I am confused on sizing & no til .



No till usually means you lay down thick layers of sheet mulch. Over time, this kills off sod and weeds, so that tilling is unnecessary. You then plant your plants by pulling aside the sheet mulch at that spot.


Pathways leave as dirt,cover with mulch or grow clover ?



That will depend on your conditions and needs. Wherever people repeatedly walk, the soil gets trampled and hardened. Bare dirt can work in some situations, where it is hardened enough not to erode. Mulch and clover are both meant to protect the soil from erosion. And choosing one or the other is in part a matter of what kind of maintenance you can do: mulch decomposes and will need periodic topping up; clover may require watering if your climate is dry.

Rotary hoe first round then build beds ?
Bring in load of compost & build the beds ?
2 wheel tractor (expensive ) or no tractor



I have not found rotary hoe necessary if I am filling the beds with soil and compost. A deep enough layer will allow most plant roots to stay above the original ground level, and as the deepest ones penetrate, they help to break it up. I would definitely bring in a load of compost if you can.

I have just 3 acres my first intention was to cut the grass & cover in plastic until grass dies.
I then thought do one shallow run with a rotary hoe .
Then fence add some compost & let the  chickens run over it fir a while ?
Then build the beds ?



That depends on how soon you need them. Any of these techniques will work, but with some, you are doing your soil building while your plants are growing, whereas others, you build the soil first and then plant. With chicken tractors, you will need to be sure the chicken manure ages long enough to mellow and not burn your plants.
 
pollinator
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Hi Darren, there are many options and opinions. Like Jason said...utilizing a chicken tractor or rotational chicken pastures, will assist with removing some grass/weeds, fertilizing and of course eggs.

If I were going to plant (veggies/fruits) in an area that was a grass pasture. During the winter (we are a zone 6b), I'd layer cardboard, hay, wood chips and any other organic matter I could. At the first of the year. I'd stop adding manure. Let it sit for a few months before planting.

While our grass/pasture is rather robust, it dies easily when covered.
The distance between the rows depends on the crop and how you plant to use the space. We allowed wider paths with the though of pushing a chart of mower between the beds.

Best of luck. I'm sure you'll receive lots of solid advice.  

 
gardener
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the grass is the hardest part of the equation.  If the ground is soft enough chickens may help you out, but you will probably need more.  Cardboard is good, but water doesn't go through very well in the beginning, so I don't think I would plant on top of it.  I used weed cloth and made raised beds.  Now I'm slowly converting them to hugelbeets.  When I remove the weed cloth there is a network of Johnson grass roots.  I removed as many as I could, but I know some will pop up.  
If your just starting out I would wait on buying a bunch of expensive equipment.  Start with the basics, and get what you need as you need it.  A lot of times you think you need something you just don't.  
As far as size goes It's what makes you happy.  If you are doing rows, or beds of what ever shape the one thing I would suggest is to be able to reach the center from at least two sides, it makes it so much easier to plant, and care for and harvest if you can reach everything without getting into your garden.  
When deciding how big to make the path consider what you will want on that path.  I didn't think of this when I set my garden up, and I have to carry everything in because I can't get my wheelbarrow between the rows.
Enjoy planning your new garden and don't stress to much, it's extra work, but what you don't like, you can always redo.  Good luck.
 
pollinator
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You can break it all up with a plow, tiller etc, then go no till. You dont have to start with sheet mulch in order to be no till. I've been no till for 7 years and the one time I tried sheet mulch (my second year) it almost ruined my whole season and I almost gave up on farming, because of the millions of slugs and voles that moved into the layers of mulch.

People fail to mention the downsides of sheet mulch, or its many have never actually done it, just read about it or saw videos. I actually did it, and it was a near total failure that year. There are many ways to do things. Every location will be different.

I'm 31 now, and we made our whole garden 24" beds, 50' long. 12" path between beds, with a 4-6' path every 8 beds. We did this because we started with 4' wide beds and it was too much for us, it really helps to be able to straddle a bed comfortably, without stepping or cleaning on it.

If you want to start growing next year, cover with mulch, compost, manure etc, and fence then let chickens go. That will work just fine, but absolutely not necessary. If you want to grow this year, I suggest the following: if you have native rhizome grass, then you really should de sod the plot, rent a de sodder and take up the top 2 inches, this will remove most of the rhizomes, which will become the bane of your existence, trust me.... then you can break it up however you choose, I paid a neighbor to till it up that first time.
If you dont have the bad rhizome plants in your plot, you can break it up with grass still there, but this will definitely cause weed issues later. I've seen our rhizome grass grow through 2' of woodchips in little time.

Hands down the single most important thing you can do, long before mulching, compost, bed layout, till or no till, is to test your soil! Test it with a good, reputable source. I like Michigan State University myself. It's simple and cheap and tells me what I need. Then, go to a farm and feed supply store, call ahead, and find out what natural products they have to get your macro and micro elements in the PROPER RATIO. No amount of chickens or compost will fix natural nutrient deficiencies,  at least not for a very long time. Or, by getting a test, and amending with the proper amendments, you can have a totally phenomenal garden right now, this year, then follow those same amendment amounts for the next 2 or 3 years before having it tested again.

Just remember, there is very little right or wrong, just what works for YOU and YOUR system. You have to figure that out yourself through trial and error. We changed garden layouts twice, and are finally happy with what we have.

I have never changed the method of soil testing and proper amending. People ask how we have such amazing produce week after week, and year after year, and the magic is in a balanced soil, that comes from fixing deficiencies, not just letting chickens go on the plot.


That is 20 year landscape fabric, which is recycled at the end of its life. I do not care what anyone thinks about it, it's my system. I have a very healthy no till garden, and this super productive half acre has paid for the planting of 500 trees, and installation of several swales on the property. It is not a one use plastic, it does not break down in the sun, and it is the only thing that actually stops the native rhizomes from growing through, stealing water and nutrients and making an unproductive garden.

It is just my wife and I doing this, and we have managed to make an actual living out of a half acre, while making enough extra after bills to pay for trees and permaculture projects. No grants, no loans, no debt. The long slow grow to success has worked great for us.
IMG_20190602_130923_602.jpg
Plastic doesnt take away from the health of my garden
Plastic doesnt take away from the health of my garden
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8 worms in 1 handful of soil
8 worms in 1 handful of soil
 
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Darren Halloran wrote:Hello permies,
                   I am wanting to put in permanent beds to grow vegetables.
I am confused on sizing & no til .

I see most market garden beds seem to be 30’ ( 75cm ) ? I can’t get a good measur on pathways in between some say 18’ ,12’ even 10 ‘.
Pathways should be as wide as you want, if space is no issue go for something wide, remember to allow access at least every few paths for wheelbarrows etc.
Pathways leave as dirt,cover with mulch or grow clover ?
Dirt will grow 1001 weeds each year mulch depends on your climate and weed membrane is expensive, pick whichever you wish, remember you can change later!
Rotary hoe first round then build beds ?
If you want to make raised beds, but remember raised beds are for specific places, if you are warm and dry they will work against not for you.
Bring in load of compost & build the beds ?
2 wheel tractor (expensive ) or no tractor
If this is for personal consumption then you don't need one.

I have just 3 acres my first intention was to cut the grass & cover in plastic until grass dies.
3 Acres! If you're going to turn that into raised beds you'll need around 12 people to manage it, start with 1/4 acre max
I then thought do one shallow run with a rotary hoe .
Then fence add some compost & let the  chickens run over it fir a while ?
Then build the beds ?
In my experience that will do nothing for the weed load. chickens take a long long time to kill anything, they knock it back fast but don't kill much for months.




Depending on what your grass looks like I would get someone in to plough it under (I just had mine done for the year) if you have lots of couch grass, canada thistles, docks etc then you'll need to do more work that that. The only way to get rid of them is to dig out the roots or use chemicals.
the photo is from last year which was our first year in this house,

these are 1m wide beds with 50cm paths (ish) the weeds in the paths became a big issue and I would love to be able to cover everything like the previous picture posted, but money! we now have grass/clover in between the strawberries which works ok, but the clover tends to run over the strawberries and try to take over. This year I think I will try narrower beds, but I will keep the 50cm paths, we have plenty of space and ease of moving around counts for a lot. this is a commercial garden we sell from this and do make money off of it. Time is a huge issue when trying to turn a profit and everything you do now to reduce weeds will repay itself at least 100 times down the road. this garden is 1/2 acre which I feel is about the maximum in this style for one person.
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