I rent a house with a nice little garden patch in the back yard. While it's not ideally situated from a permaculture perspective (it's about as far from the back door as you can get) ... I figure I might as well make the most of it. It's about 20'x30', there's a mature apple tree to the north, which overhangs part of it. According to the landlord, it's been an organic garden for at least 10 years. When we moved in last fall, the tenants said they hadn't touched it during the year they were there.
I wanted to do something with it last spring, and I did spend a couple days clearing part of it and digging a bed, but didn't follow through and finish the project. I'd like to do something with it this year.
Thing is, it's entirely overgrown with these ungodly 4' tall weeds with cast iron roots ... and strawberries. Last year we got a few quarts of berries out of it, but I'm not familiar with strawberries particularly so I don't know how to tell which sections of the vines are old enough to be dug out and which ones are new and will bearfruit.
I'm also not sure what the best approach is for dealing with the weeds. My initial thought is to bury the whole mess under thick layers of sheet mulch and plant on top of them, but they're very thick and tough, and I'm wondering if tilling them under before sheet mulching might keep them in check and give my veggies, herbs, and flowers a better root space.
In case you're curious, what I'd like to do with the plot is experiment with different combinations of companion plantings focusing on about a dozen of my family's favorite fruits and veggies. I had each of my step sons and my husband pick a fruit and veggie they liked, and we're going to plan around these.
What I'd love to hear from you guys is ... what should I do to prepare the plot for planting? I'm in Southeast Iowa which is a slightly warm zone 5. I've already started seeds indoors.
My first thought when I imagined your garden space is to put either a big Hugel bed or raised bed longways through the area or multiple beds all spread out
You could even have raised beds staggered like a step pyramid.
Adding texture and height gives you more areas and niches to plant your companions and observe which do best in which areas, not to mention all the Hugel benefits:
Less bending over, covering your difficult plants, less irrigation, etc.
When I was helping Stacy on the farm there in Fairfield, we had good luck with ordinary sheet mulch over all kinds of horrible weeds. The only one it didn't help with was hairy vetch (which had been planted intentionally to fix nitrogen, but got out of control).
But I agree with Nicholas that building upward is a plus with strawberries. It makes them easier to harvest, easier to weed, and easier to distinguish generations. (If you use a terraced planter, the runners will only go down, not up.) Plus you will get microclimates that will help protect your harvest against extremes of weather. The hard part is keeping mulch on a raised planter in the wind, but a layer of floating rowcover with a few bricks on the edges will keep both wind and robins off, while letting the sun in. I've recently read that mulch will reduce a strawberry crop if left on in warm weather, so maybe letting it blow away is not such a bad thing, but you will have to water more without it.
Location: Fairfield, IA
posted 6 years ago
Yes, I was also thinking of doing several raised beds in order to better observe the separate companion areas.
Thing is, and I should have mentioned this, I would like to keep at least some of the strawberries and of course they're RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of the plot.
Hmm. It would be easier for me to just make a diagram and show you:
Hey Briggs, I have transplanted/moved strawberrys for years. From one home to another. I loose a few but most usually make it.
They should put out young plants like a vine or runner along the ground. Each new plant then roots itself and lives off of the parent plant while it is getting rooted. Have you seen any of that?
So I would say dig up some plants and try to replant them, seems a shame to loose such yummy goodness!
So, did you till or fork the ground at all before sheet mulching over these weeds? What kind of sheet mulch recipe did you use? I've got access to free newspaper, wood chips and *possibly* free compost, but not sure about getting more top soil. How deep did you mulch?
Wyomiles: Yes I can see the basic structure of the vines spreading along the ground, and see where they send down roots ... but they're so tangled together with themselves and the weeds it's pretty difficult to tell which vines are new and which are old. I suppose I'll just dig them up in (how big?) sections and replant them and hope for the best.
Thanks so much, guys!
Location: Emporia, KS
posted 6 years ago
Briggs Burnham wrote:So, did you till or fork the ground at all before sheet mulching over these weeds? What kind of sheet mulch recipe did you use? I've got access to free newspaper, wood chips and *possibly* free compost, but not sure about getting more top soil. How deep did you mulch?
As I recall, yes, we did fork the ground, then sprinkled compost and greensand (which Stacy had brought in by the truckload), added 4-8 layers of newspaper, enough compost to hold down the paper in the Iowa wind, and 2-4" of rotted organic straw (also brought in by the truckload) before watering thoroughly.
In my own gardens I use cardboard, 3-6" of green matter (hard to find this time of year), and enough dead leaves (stockpiled from autumn) to bring the total up to the 1' mark on a ring of 2' poultry netting (chicken wire). The poultry netting not only keeps the leaves from blowing away, it provides a gauge of how much of the total has rotted away, which tells me how ready it is for planting. Because green matter is usually only available in bulk from June-October, that's my sheet mulching season. At this time of year you would need to find some hot manure or food scraps to serve the purpose.
Ya it is a little bit of work to untangle them. If you are going to fork up the ground to mulch it, you can just dig some out as you go. It should be fairly easy to identify each plant as you go along. Just shake the dirt off and seperate them and throw them in a pile in the shade or in a bucket. Like I said you will loose some but the strongest will survive. I have even planted them into small pots and given them away or sold them.