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market garden site: boggy areas, rushes  RSS feed

 
leanna jones
Posts: 38
Location: Pennines, northern England, zone 7b, avg annual rainfall 50"
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i'm particularly interested in hearing from anyone who has worked with soft rushes (juncus effusus) which are all over wet, boggy areas of the uk - i've seen them mentioned by uk people here but i think they deserve their own discussion as they are so ubiquitous! how can we work with them and their boggy patches in permaculture?

we are beginning a market garden on fairly wet land (esp after this terribly wet summer). an old farmer tells us that the field used to be much drier during the 20th century but has been neglected for a decade or two. therefore it feels justified to work with it to make it drier again rather than feel we have to simply embrace the wetland. we have cleared out the existing ditches and this is already helping.

there are clumps of rushes taking up potentially useful growing space - though perhaps still damp-ish growing space. i have started chopping them with a hand-sickle, and dropping them where they are, for now. is it best to drop them to build up the soil (they are really quite bulky)? or is this preventing sun and wind getting to the ground, which would also help it dry?

i have seen soft rushes used as veg bed top-mulch by permaculturists in ireland (ie around growing plants) - but i didn't get a chance to talk to anyone about how well it worked, whether they harbour slugs, whether they needed removing eventually rather than leaving to rot in place. has anyone here tried this?

another option would be to bring them over to where we are making no-dig veg beds - so far out of mouldy hay (bottom layer) and manure (top layer). i imagine the rushes would make a reasonable substitute for the hay? would they take longer to decompose as they seem waxy? (incidentally, where we have laid 6"s or so of combined hay and manure on top of solitary clumps of soft rushes (treading them down first)- they have not penetrated through this mulch so far (2 months))

i feel like i'll be an expert on these things in a couple of years - is anyone ahead of me who can save me some learning time?

also, re growing in boggy areas - i have a fantasy of laying down blocks of bales of hay/straw, with manure/compost on top to create raised beds. i'm thinking that the extra foot of height will make it dry enough? realistic? how many years would the height remain before the process needed repeating?
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Welcome to permies Leanna
I'm familiar with the theory, but not the practice of dealing with waterlogged areas, so anything I say is not based on personal experience!
These ideas describe a pretty labour-intensive, but relatively permanent solution...
I've seen boggy areas dramatically dried by digging out extra-low-lying spots on contour for ponds and proper wetlands, so that water is concentrated rather than the whole place being a bit of a bog.
There's a reasonable land % 'sacrificed', but short of building up the entire area...
Also, can you grow watercress there? There's lots of valuable crops that need a swamp to grow.
There's amazing scope for encouraging all sorts of wildlife, and if mosquitoes are a problem, frogs, fish and ducks are multi-purpose solutions
Aside from the rushes, do you have access to chipped trees from the local council? I'd start dumping loads of carbon onto the 'dry' spots to build up organic matter and aerobic microorganisms.
Boggy areas are generally anaerobic and very acidic. Have you had a soil test?It would be really interesting to see what happened as changes were made.
Your soil is probably acidic, and is quite possibly very low in phosphorus. Can you get dry wood ash? I'd be mixing a bit of that in with my organic matter if the test says both levels are low
 
Eric Thompson
Posts: 371
Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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duck food preservation solar trees
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Rushes are really tough to dig out, but they wither pretty quickly when mown to the ground: if you can mow every time they reach 30cm, you should be able to defeat them in 3-6 passes... but if you let them over-winter, they will gain back that strength... I really think a small amount of work 5 times a year beats one big yearly effort for these guys, kind of like blackberries...

 
John Derry
Posts: 20
Location: County Kerry, Ireland
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A few years on, may I ask what success you had Leanna dealing with rushea? I have a 3 acre field here in Ireland that is full of 4ft high rushes. I am half way through brush cutting them but they are already growing back! A few sources have said you need to just keep weakening them. I also have plans to improve drainage, but need to fell them first.
 
Skandi Rogers
Posts: 3
Location: Denmark 57N
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John Derry wrote:A few years on, may I ask what success you had Leanna dealing with rushea? I have a 3 acre field here in Ireland that is full of 4ft high rushes. I am half way through brush cutting them but they are already growing back! A few sources have said you need to just keep weakening them. I also have plans to improve drainage, but need to fell them first.


I'm  not leanna.. but I my land sounds very similar. The "lawn" had been unmown for 3 years when I bought the place, and had plenty of rushes in it. I found that less than 2 months of mowing murdered the rushes completely. They were probably mown down to 2-3 inches 4 times and that was enough to kill them. Two years on and it is a rush free patch of grassed wasted space.. but that's another matter
 
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