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Edible garden on spontaneous herbs meadow

 
Fruttorti Parma
Posts: 2
Location: Italy
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Hello there,

We started an edible garden in an urban green area. The starting point was a meadow characterized by a high diversity of spontaneous common herbs (plantain, dandelion, Bellis perennis, Crepis sp, various Gramineae and many others.
The idea is not to disturb the soil (like by plowing or hoeing) thus we started planting other edible plants (aromatic herbs, annual and perennial veggies) by simply making "a small hole" for the seeds or the seedlings in the areas around the fruit trees we planted (trying to develop some sort of fruit tree guilds).
To your opinion, is this a meaningful permacultural approach in such a context to start an edible garden?

The spontaneous plants grow very fast and some become quite tall so we produce quite a bit of green mulching (we use scissors and a hand mower for the cutting). Is it ok to leave it all on the ground as is, once cut? Is there the risk that we get overwhelmed by more aggressive spontaneous gramineae or even mud as we continue somehow disturbing the “original” meadow by cutting, mulching and stepping?
The areas planted are quite wide (1.5 to 2.5m radius around each tree).
Thank you for your suggestions!
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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First, Welcome to permies.

A meadow such as you described, probably already has a well balanced 'soil food web' (SFW) - all the tiny microbes who add life to a soil. The more plant varieties, the greater the SFW. This is key to keeping a 'nutritious' soil for the health of all plants. They all 'give and take' a little from each other.

If your chopping and dropping creates too much green manure (you do need to allow sufficient sunlight to your seedlings), the excess can be removed to a compost pile, and redistributed once it is finished.

Meadow soils are primarily built with bacteria breaking down the foliage, whereas forest soils are built more by fungus doing the same thing. Since you are planting trees, you may wish to build some fungi soils. If you have access to some soil from a deciduous forest, you could mix it (10% volume) into your compost. This would help inoculate the compost into a form that would help your trees thrive in that location.

Good luck with your project.
 
Fruttorti Parma
Posts: 2
Location: Italy
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Thank you John for your valuable suggestions, especially the one about inoculating some fungi soil.

We are getting a bit overwhelmed from the grasses growth. It looks like if we leave it up to them the system will be too high maintenance requiring very regular and extensive hand cutting especially if we want to grow things like aromatic herbs, strawberries, beans and salads around the trees.

Maybe we shall treat the fruit tree guilds as vegetable gardens and use hay to mulch and suppress grasses.
If we only use the meadow cuttings as mulch, might the mulch start fermenting/rotting in an "unhealthy" way?

Very likely is just matter of time (so that we slowly replace spontaneous herbs with other plants)

It seems that in a way or another we have to kiss goodbye to the original meadow...





 
Erica Wisner
gardener
Posts: 1130
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
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One of the things that is supposed to suppress grass is shade. But fruit trees take a long time to grow big enough that grass isn't happy under them.
Grass is also one of the hardiest plants for responding to mowing (aka chop and drop) by growing back. So while you will probably eliminate many other volunteers / weeds by this method, grass usually has to be pulled or shaded out.

I think your mulch idea is the way to go.
As the ground gets covered with mulch, seed propagation should slow down except where you poke your holes for your chosen seeds. I think some very dense shade mulch (such as is produced by 6" of organic matter, or a layer of cardboard under 2-3" of other stiff if you don't mind the glues) is the best bet for suppressing the grass quickly.

Another tool might be to deliberately cultivate the other groundcovers. For example, rosette taproots like dandelion and plantain seem to out-compete grasses on a localized basis. A thick bed of flowers such as heather, thyme, or clover seem to do this too.

-Erica
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