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Horrors of sheet mulching

 
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travis, would a chicken tractor custom fit to the size of your beds and pathways make any sense? ... just wondering. but it might be difficult to maneuver it inbetween other beds that are still full. maybe something like a mobile chicken hut and a coop/fence/frame-structure that is light enough so that two persons can easily lift it and carry it...
 
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Tobias Ber wrote:travis, would a chicken tractor custom fit to the size of your beds and pathways make any sense? ... just wondering. but it might be difficult to maneuver it inbetween other beds that are still full. maybe something like a mobile chicken hut and a coop/fence/frame-structure that is light enough so that two persons can easily lift it and carry it...



That was the first idea I played with, and I made a tractor to fit the bed. But I have raised beds, and it's almost impossible to move it around. I hate chicken tractors. I just gave them a big fenced in area so I don't have to move anything. HATE CHICKEN TRACTORS! lol

I'm getting away from chickens and ducks now, as much as I love the eggs, it's just not worth the added chores to own chickens. I am however looking into the rabbit thing a lot lately, not for rabbit tractors, just a rabbit cage system right next to my house, they are quiet, yield quick meat, iv been dressing rabbits my whole life so it's a quick easy kill and cleaning. Unlike a chicken that takes a long ass time to process. I love my birds, but not worth the time anymore. And I question how much ducks would help the slug problem if they were confined to small areas at a time, and couldn't get under the sheet mulch to get to the slugs during the day anyway.
 
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I think stacking functions with rabbits is a good option for your situation. Weeds and unsaleable greens then become an asset. drop then is a V manger between two cages on each trip back to the house. Scoop up a bucket of rabbit berries on the way back to the garden beds and put some in the bottom of each transplant hole. Work some of the worm compost that develops under the cages into each rotation of the microgreens beds. Make wire stretchers for the hides and you can make lots of gloves and mittens for Michigan winters.
I learned to butcher rabbits when I was six Then I remember presenting a freshly plucked chicken to my mother and being told you will have to gut it yourself I have to go to town for a delivery. You will figure it out. I did but that was a lot harder than a rabbit. Our fryer cages were basically a chicken tractor on stilts with a hardware fabric floor and a V manger dividing it in half. When we were in california where it was to hot in the summer we just put them in the crawl space under a building and let them do there thing. We could shut the entrance when they came out into the feeding pen and sort them out. Might be an option for you to winter over a buck and a couple does and a buck during the winter.
 
Tobias Ber
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travis ... yay. but perhaps there could be a movable structure that would fit your beds.

ok... eggs are a nice plus. but what if (just wondering), chicken on your beds might improve health, quality, production of your plants by maybe 10-15%. that might be the real gain there.

what if (still wondering) through the help of the chicken in pest control and working the ground, you might save some time (like slug hunting or weeding). maybe that might offset the time spent caring for the chicken. maybe, if the device is really adapted to your specific situation.
 
Travis Schulert
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Hans Quistorff wrote:I think stacking functions with rabbits is a good option for your situation. Weeds and unsaleable greens then become an asset. drop then is a V manger between two cages on each trip back to the house. Scoop up a bucket of rabbit berries on the way back to the garden beds and put some in the bottom of each transplant hole. Work some of the worm compost that develops under the cages into each rotation of the microgreens beds. Make wire stretchers for the hides and you can make lots of gloves and mittens for Michigan winters.
I learned to butcher rabbits when I was six Then I remember presenting a freshly plucked chicken to my mother and being told you will have to gut it yourself I have to go to town for a delivery. You will figure it out. I did but that was a lot harder than a rabbit. Our fryer cages were basically a chicken tractor on stilts with a hardware fabric floor and a V manger dividing it in half. When we were in california where it was to hot in the summer we just put them in the crawl space under a building and let them do there thing. We could shut the entrance when they came out into the feeding pen and sort them out. Might be an option for you to winter over a buck and a couple does and a buck during the winter.



I have been wondering if they mate in winter or not, haven't been able to find the answer. Do you know how many times a year you can mate them? I would have no problem keeping a couple overwinter, they are tough and it's easy for me to store hay.
 
Travis Schulert
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Tobias Ber wrote:travis ... yay. but perhaps there could be a movable structure that would fit your beds.

ok... eggs are a nice plus. but what if (just wondering), chicken on your beds might improve health, quality, production of your plants by maybe 10-15%. that might be the real gain there.

what if (still wondering) through the help of the chicken in pest control and working the ground, you might save some time (like slug hunting or weeding). maybe that might offset the time spent caring for the chicken. maybe, if the device is really adapted to your specific situation.



I have 40- 5x20 ft beds in one garden, and 8- 5x100 foot beds in another garden. The first garden I will not even consider the idea because there's no room with trellising, crop rotations, etc to be able to move them much at all, this is also surrounded by a fence with only 2 ft paths between beds, and a 4 ft path around the border. Only 1 big gate to get into the garden.

Garden 2 would be a better fit, here's the problem though; I have to mobilize my coop and the little tractor, the hens and rooster need the coop fir the nest boxes and I don't have any interest in doing broilers. So that's more time, money, alterations to the coop and garden to make it possible, but why? All that time and money.. in my location for $200 can have 10 yards of local worm castings delivered right where I want it. And it takes a day to spread it once a year, and I just took away part of the job of the chicken in a small system.

Now for creating a new garden, if I have the time to plan it out ahead, I am totally down with running chickens, pigs, goats, sheet mulch, you name it. Anything that will prep the ground for me, but when that need is not there, it's only taking away from the profit of the garden to waste time on animals. Animals seem to cause me time, money, and unhappy chores (yes moving a coop once a day, once a week, once a month, is a chore to me), yet I love working with my plants, they are always healthy and doing good for the most part. I understand plant biology, botany, and how nutrients are absorbed through the plant cell. I love all these things. And some animals in my personal system I want to create just don't fit permanently. It's not a problem for me to not keep chickens, just like keeping chickens is not a problem for you.

Also, sheet mulching, is not going to work if your also running chickens, and if the chicken tractor is primarily for slugs. Because then you have to remove the mulch and in doing so you solve your slug problem. So then it cancels out the job you got the chickens to do in the first place.
 
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I'm going to encourage the rabbit idea also, if only for your own complete diet - in researching complete homegrown diet, it looks like rabbit is about the best meat you can raise for complete nutrition - it is far higher in B12 than other common animals. (Unfortunately I kind of hate it. )
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I'm going to encourage the rabbit idea also, if only for your own complete diet - in researching complete homegrown diet, it looks like rabbit is about the best meat you can raise for complete nutrition - it is far higher in B12 than other common animals. (Unfortunately I kind of hate it. )



I've loved rabbit my whole life, my only problem with it is it doesn't have any fat content, and with Paleo I will still need the good fats. But with rabbits, that means goodbye having to buy steaks, and other lean meats.
 
Hans Quistorff
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I have been wondering if they mate in winter or not, haven't been able to find the answer. Do you know how many times a year you can mate them? I would have no problem keeping a couple overwinter, they are tough and it's easy for me to store hay.


I will have to type this again because when I submitted it i got an error has occurred message.
As near as I can remember they come in heat every third day as long as they have plenty of food water and lack predator stress. In other words persistent attention from your dog is more apt to prevent them from conceiving or cause them to eat the litter than cold weather
I have not experienced raising them in your conditions. Here wee get 2 or 3 separate weeks equivalent to a mild week of your winter. They seem to prefer hay in cold weather. Understand that they will chew the cud more when on hay. This is not the same as with ruminants. The cud passes all the way through the digestive tract where it is partially broken down by the gut bacteria. Then the resulting soft pellet is rechewed and comes out as the normal black firm pellet. Many raisers have been confused by finding the soft pellets stored in the hutch. This is not a problem unless the the doe is not a tidy house keeper and they spoil.
Rabbits will get fat. They usually don't because the concentration is on protein production. If the cost of feed is not a concern because it is a byproduct of your other production them let them get older while well fed. This will be better for your and their winter survival. I can remember two older rabbits from under the previously mentioned school house that when roasted in a slow cooker oven yielded as rich a broth as if it had been two fat stewing hens.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Travis Schultz wrote:

I've loved rabbit my whole life, my only problem with it is it doesn't have any fat content, and with Paleo I will still need the good fats. But with rabbits, that means goodbye having to buy steaks, and other lean meats.



Yes, I think it could be eaten alternately with fattier meat such as chicken which is low in B12. My ideal diet has the largest possible variety of plants and critters.

 
Travis Schulert
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Travis Schultz wrote:

I've loved rabbit my whole life, my only problem with it is it doesn't have any fat content, and with Paleo I will still need the good fats. But with rabbits, that means goodbye having to buy steaks, and other lean meats.



Yes, I think it could be eaten alternately with fattier meat such as chicken which is low in B12. My ideal diet has the largest possible variety of plants and critters.



Yeah exactly. I don't raise a ton of meat myself for a few reasons, but the main one is chores, and being tied down. I like to go fishing and hunting, camping once or twice a year, anniversary "up north" (anyone from Michigan knows that term). The souther half of the mitten here in Michigan is a lot of suburbs, towns and cities, but the further north you get, it consistently gets more rural, until you get to the u.p, then it's like Canada,or northern Main. Thank God I'm a Michigan man.

But anyway, I love seeing my state and all the rivers, lakes and shoreline, I love travelling around seeing the beauty Michigan has to offer, and I could never do that if I had more than a small flock of chickens or rabbits. I have consistently opened and closed my up north deer season in a couple hours every year. Last year by 830am I shot 3 deer and was done for the season. I process my own game, make fertilizer out of any fish I catch. And again I couldn't do that if I had animals. But I can literally fill the freezer with a few bullets and a little peaceful leisure time in the woods, and that way I don't get attached to an animal and then have to kill it. Just all around for me I love the freedom of hunting the majority of my meat rather than raise it.

 
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I thought chicken was lean though? Leaner than beef or pork or lamb. I'm almost positive. I'm sure chicken is fattier than a rabbit, iv heard Les Stroud say you could die from protein poisoning if all you ate was rabbit.
 
Tobias Ber
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i think, chicken breast is very lean, it almost tastes very dry. but skins (and probably wings, legs) are very fatty.
in an old survival book i read, that if a person lives on (wild-) rabbit meat, it will die, as i remember of hunger. i think, that comes from lack of fat. there are weight-loss diets focusing on high protein while limiting carbohydrates (starch, sugar) and sometimes fat.



i remember that my parents fed jerusalem artichoke greens to the rabbits.
i ve seen videos of paul gautschi (back to eden gardening), he feeds his chicken with kale.


i remember that people over here have grown certain kale for their livestock (especially for rabbits). kale has been a good source of greens in winter.

will chicken and rabbits eat comfrey? there are perennial tree kales. what about growing some of these and some jerusalem artichokes in otherwise unused pieces of land?
i remember that feeding animals with jerusalem artichokes was so easy, because you can get a huge bunch of greens with a few cuts. and it grows like weed and will yield tubers.
stacking functions.

comfrey will help to deal with slugs, because when you chop n drop it will wilt and attract them. yesterday was very rainy, so slugs were out in daylight. i got 100+. what i discovered: i had pulled dandelion and dropped it on a certain area. it had already gone brown. but there gathered 15+ slugs in that place.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Travis Schultz wrote:I thought chicken was lean though? Leaner than beef or pork or lamb. I'm almost positive. I'm sure chicken is fattier than a rabbit, iv heard Les Stroud say you could die from protein poisoning if all you ate was rabbit.



Mature chickens accumulate large amounts of fat in the body cavity. Keeping a good number of older laying hens and taking them out of production regularly could help provide fat in the diet. I think other birds such as ducks and geese are also supposed to accumulate fat, but I don't have experience with those.

I brought up the rabbit starvation thing here on permies once and someone said it only had to do with wild rabbits, not domestic ones. But again I don't have personal experience with that. Photos I've seen of rabbit carcasses look lean to me, compared to the chickens I've butchered.
 
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Thought someone might find this link on ducks and slugs/snails of interest.

ducks and slugs.
 
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Glenn Darman wrote:Travis I have the #1 system for you with out a doubt...at least for the slugs.Flat Beer ,just get a plastic ice cream container cut off 1/2 of the height and bury it up to the rim height that's left(About 3") and just pour in enough beer to fill 1/2 of that.WE did it 1 year and by the morning they were filled with slugs of all description.Don't just believe what I say...experiment with it.You could put several out randomly seeing you have a big size to deal with.,oh and don't forget to refill with beer.



The best way to deal with slugs is to go buy a flat of beer and invite people over and let everyone drink 22 of the 24 cans. Fill all of the empties with a little bit of beer and lay them sideways with the opening on the bottom. The slugs cannot resist the beer and will be drinking it while you go and collect all of the cans the next day and take them to be recycled. I have seen this be the most effective.....yet unintentional trap of slugs ever. I went camping and got 8 slugs in one can once.

If you drink it, slugs will come.
 
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I'm deep into the book Gardening West of the Cascades by Steve Solomon b/c I live, well, west of the Cascades.
He strongly urges us in the area of misty, cool weather to not sheet mulch, as it does drive those huge populations of slugs and also sow bugs and earwigs. Those critters aren't bad in small populations but sheet mulching creates that crazy awesome habitat for them and they become endemic and eat everything in sight.

I have had the same experience. 3 years of sheet mulching and by the 3rd year the slugs and snails were so bad I finally pulled all the mulch away, lined the beds with rosemary boughs and coffee grounds and egg shells and stale beer and Sluggo and tears and heartache and swore never to sheet mulch again.

This year, I'll be adding lot's of mulch around plants in the form of coffee grounds, compost, worm castings and also planting uber-intensively to naturally shade out weeds. Also, the stirrup hoe will be my new bestie in some of my beds. And, I'm going to experiment with a living green manure in the form of clover and/or another cultivar. Still contemplating that. Also setting up a drip irrigation system in some of the beds and clay water pots sunk at intervals where I plant the squash and other heavy feeders.

I think my goal is to have the whole garden just a sea of beneficial ground cover that I then till under in spots to plant. I want it to look unruly and wild and splendid. Enough with straight beds.

By the by - I haven't had any luck with DE and slugs. I was under the impression that DE works well for anything with an exoskeleton so that the dust can pierce their skeletons and slowly desiccate them to death. In that line of thinking, slugs wouldn't much be affected by DE. But sow bugs and earwigs, for sure.
 
Hans Quistorff
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I haven't had any luck with DE and slugs.


Rough and sharp surfaces are only possible deterrent to slugs crossing. Apparently because they have to make additional slime to do so.
Alternatively they love smooth surfaces that they can travel along without making much slime.
To paraphrase Jesus 'smooth is the road leading off into destruction'. Therefore If you can keep the surface of your planting beds dry and rough they will look for smooth surfaces to travel and if it shades them from the sun even better.
If you can lay sections of old hose or plastic pipe or even bottles in your beds as roads to slug traps or bate you can leade them off into destruction.
 
Travis Schulert
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Just wanted to update that for me, sluggo was a hands down winner.

For roughly 40 or 50 bucks in sluggo I destroyed the slug population and had almost no damage the rest of the season. I bought a giant bag for 200 bucks, but that should last me years, at least 2 or 3.

This now allows me to sheet mulch where I want and get all the obvious benefits.

Remember to find what works for you!! And there is no one right way to do anything, only techniques that favor your system.

Furthermore I cannot stress enough the importance of testing different methods before telling others to do things "your way". Far too many people out there telling people how they need to do something just because they read it in a book somewhere. As a farmer, it's funny the amount of silly or just plain wrong garden information that comes out of books and magazines. Most of it is meant for someone with a couple garden beds, not a farm.
 
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Paul Gurnsey wrote:

Glenn Darman wrote:Travis I have the #1 system for you with out a doubt...at least for the slugs.Flat Beer ,just get a plastic ice cream container cut off 1/2 of the height and bury it up to the rim height that's left(About 3") and just pour in enough beer to fill 1/2 of that.WE did it 1 year and by the morning they were filled with slugs of all description.Don't just believe what I say...experiment with it.You could put several out randomly seeing you have a big size to deal with.,oh and don't forget to refill with beer.



The best way to deal with slugs is to go buy a flat of beer and invite people over and let everyone drink 22 of the 24 cans. Fill all of the empties with a little bit of beer and lay them sideways with the opening on the bottom. The slugs cannot resist the beer and will be drinking it while you go and collect all of the cans the next day and take them to be recycled. I have seen this be the most effective.....yet unintentional trap of slugs ever. I went camping and got 8 slugs in one can once.

If you drink it, slugs will come.



Beer vats are a great way for slugs.

The other thing that would work well is making seedling tables using copper pipe as your table legs. It's a bit more expensive, but is cheaper than sluggo. You could have it way worse... even without sheet mulching, the PNW is inundated with slugs. I however use sheet mulching for my orchard and put wood chips over the top. The benefit it has on soil conditions due to the extra worms, and lack of weeds allows me to concentrate on the weeds (blackberries and salmonberries) that don't respond to cardboard coverings.
 
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There's too much to read through everybody's replies, so if someone already suggested this I apologize, but you could try sprinkling DE only on the surface of the soil. Some will get into the soil, can't be helped, (poor worms) but it's worth the aggravation you're going through. It'll rip those little devils to ribbons. Can't help with the voles...Is there a plant they hate? Circle your bed with them? But ducks??? People always ask me if I have goats...I reply "have you ever had goats??"
 
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Hi Leslie.

The first page of this thread has pictures from the OPs garden of slugs crawling through plants and ground dusted with DE to get to the tasties. He said he only found one slug casualty, but many dead beetles, which sucks, because he ended up killing mostly that which eats slugs.

As to the previous post, instead of making a planting table with copper pipe, why not just make planting trays with short pieces of copper pipe for feet? That would be much cheaper.

-CK
 
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Speculating out loud here.  Would it help to put a ring of copper wire on top of the mulch around the seedlings?
 
Leslie Russell
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Thank you, CK. The photos wouldn't load for me so I didn't get to see them. Maybe stick some slugs with toothpicks and stand them up all around the garden as a warning to all who may venture beyond...
 
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My friend insists that if she puts cheap peppermint candies in Vole holes, it chases them off. This assumes you can see where the voles are entering and exiting.
 
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Amanda Montgomery wrote:I'm having some issues with slugs as well but really my big problem (other than voles) are ANTS. My goodness, so many ants. I've sheet mulched other areas of my yard on a smaller scale and not noticed an issue but now it's a real problem.

Something else I've been trying to figure out but haven't seen is an issue of soil compaction. I started with cardboard, then a layer of straw, leaves, then compost. My plants have been yellowing and have stopped growing. I aerated and the compost layer was solid. There are lots of worms and once you dig a little deeper things look pretty nice. We've had a ton of rain here in Central VA so I'm sure that has something to do with it but it's really frustrating!

What you are dealing with is clorosis... The plant's roots are not getting enough oxygen and therefore cannot metabolize nitrogen and iron, become deficient, and turn yellow and don't thrive. Usually caused by too much rain or watering, and the resulting soil compaction. It is especially common in heavy clay soils without a lot of organic matter. In your case, the heavy cardboard takes time to break down, so it is creating a barrier that is preventing adequate evaporation, and also blocking air flow into the soil. The best treatment is, unfortunately a lot of work- aerate the soil by forking it up around the plants and making air pockets to get to the roots, without damaging them. Adding some organic matter and sand to improve drainage is good. Also, trying to slope the beds so they drain better can be helpful for the coming season. If you have a slight slope to your garden area, place the rows to run with the slope so they can drain. If you go perpendicular to the slope, the moisture will be trapped and stay. This is a good thing in arid climates or where water is limited, but in moist climates it is a liability. It is dramatic how quicky plants will perk back up and get healthy green again when this issue is resolved. It's a fair ammount of work, but so worth it! Another thing is allowing weeds with deep taproots to grow among the plants (within reason, not too many). They will suck up the excess moisture, and also draw up nutrients from deep in the soil to help the crop plants to thrive. It is synnergy!... weeds are not always "the enemy". The funny thing bout Permaculture... I'm learning that nature is the way it is for a reason! All my conventional gardening wisdom has been turned on it's head.
 
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Anyone tried this?
DIY Slug Nemitodes
 
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I know this is an old thread but I feel like I need to add in my two cents. I have been a no till gardener for many years and never had any bug problems mulch gardening. After moving to a new state and buying a home I started a new garden with permanent mulch beds. After couple of years, we started getting hit bad with squash beetles and earwigs. One day watering, I noticed the hundreds if not thousands of squash beetles and other critters coming out of the mulch when I was hand watering. It was very sad to know that I was building nice homes for them to thrive under my mulch. I was mulching with horse manure, grass clippings, compost and leaves primarily. Very course material.

I have since started sifting mulch before it goes onto the garden. At this point, the only thing that goes in my grow beds is what will fit through a 1/4" screen trammel. Pretty much the only thing I add to my garden beds is screened horse manure and screened compost. Everything else goes through the compost pile first.

So every spring the beds get a nice layer of sifted compost then topped with sifted horse manure that is packed down nice and flat and tight. The bugs do not like it. I grow my entire garden vertical and try to keep the lower part of the plants trimmed up to help keep them from hiding under leaves near the ground. My beds now almost look like sheets of particle board. When you water, the water flows right through it. It is a beautiful sight. No more bug hotel. Last year I did not see any squash beetles and allot less earwigs.

I built a screener out of an old dryer to make my first sifter, this year I have a continues feed rotating screener (trommel) that I used from the old dryer sifter parts. It screens faster then I can shovel the compost and manure in. I will post some pics once this little snow storm we got today melts off of my grow beds.

No more course mulch in my grow beds......
 
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Thanks Mike I think I will try your trick in my garden this year! I don't have an over run of slugs but the beetles are a different story. I am hoping this helps

I'm not sure if this has been said in this thread as I couldn't read it all. I saw someone saying more than once though that DE (Diatomaceous Earth) kills worms and in my experience that is simply not true. I raise two types of earthworms as well as red wigglers and routinely feed them FOOD GRADE DE. I am not sure about the non food grade sort but that isn't something I would put in my worm bins or garden. I have repeatedly seen on forums (not just here) that DE kills worms but I use it both alone sprinkled on the top of the bin as well as mixed in their food scraps as a grit and soil amendment with no issues at all and at the levels I use it if it was harmful I would notice for sure. All my worms are fat and happily reproducing at expected levels. In case anyone is wondering the earthworms are African and European night crawlers.
 
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It depends on situation.

I use a large green greenhouse breathing plastic in rows where my 4 feet wide bed will be. I place compost or green grass under it. Late witer or end summer is best.
After 4 weeks i remove the plastic and used it again somewhere.
Then plant.
Mulch with om but thin. Some weeds come through. I don t bather too much.
As you keep mulching fungies will dominate and the bad weeds will go. The new ones i just cut...no pulling out.
Slugs? Yes.part of the game.
Make shure to go daily in May and June. That s when they reproduce for next year.
It works better every year.
Patience.
Farming is a school. That s all.
 
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Glenn Darman wrote:Travis I have the #1 system for you with out a doubt...at least for the slugs.Flat Beer ,just get a plastic ice cream container cut off 1/2 of the height and bury it up to the rim height that's left(About 3") and just pour in enough beer to fill 1/2 of that.WE did it 1 year and by the morning they were filled with slugs of all description.Don't just believe what I say...experiment with it.You could put several out randomly seeing you have a big size to deal with.,oh and don't forget to refill with beer.



Soy sauce and oil works as well. Earwigs, slugs, pillbugs--it seems to catch them all.
 
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