I have hard compacted clay soil in postage stamp garden space with a 80+ year old olive tree growing in the middle of it. This yard has been roto tilled every spring, grass planted, & mowed super short until we moved in. This past spring, the Wild Things (grasses, dandelions) where luch, green, & taller than us!) The dandelions & wild grasses were doing great, but I wanted to grow veggies, herbs, and alternative lawn (roman chamomile, creeping thyme, coriscan mint). My Italian farmer neighbors think I'm a total nut job for not roto tilling, etc., but are casting a softer eye now that my 4 tomato plants ( which I was told I could never grow where I placed them, but heavy mulching did the trick) are unbelievable fruitful!
So, I mooshed down all the green stuff, covered it completely with wet cardboard boxes, covered that with moderately composted cow poop.
Here's what I'm thinking of doing & wonder if you have advice.....
Mix the kinda hot poo with shredded office paper (we have an unlimited supply)
Seed the alternative lawn mix in a week or so into the paper/poo mix. Re-seed any bare spots in the Spring.
Open up a a few bags of potting soil & mix with poo & paper where I'd like to have my winter garden, direct seed some kale & friends for the winter.
Ok to Mulch with Shredded paper (it's Free!)?
I'm starting a worm bin & a compost pile with material from the neighbors' cow & saw dust from another neighbor's mill... but that won't be ready to use until next year....
With kitchen scraps - until I make the worm bin, I'm just digging holes under the cardboard & burying it......
Any thoughts would be much appreciated!
The only caution I would give is that fresh manure could be too hot, and actually kill your seeds.
Seeds do not need to be fertilized to germinate. Viable seed stores enough fertilizer to germinate, and sprout.
There are mixed opinions about the use of paper in compost. The biggest objection seems to be concerns about the inks that are on them. Here in the U.S., most inks are soy based (but can widely vary on other ingredients). I don't know about European inks. The one issue that almost everybody agrees on is that 'glossy' paper should not be used.
Now, if you're into the 18 day Berkeley method that works, or if you'd prefer to compost things a little slower that's fine. When the compost is done seed the ground, spread the compost over it and water it in.
As John says, many seeds can't handle it.
I've never grown chamomile, but I've always heard it can be hard to grow. Mint and thyme, not a problem though...
How about growing plants that like 'lean' soil in the lawn area: mints, thymes, clover, oregano etc?
If you can get them, I'd try and source plant 'runners' ratther than seed: locals may well have plants they can give you bits of. It would nearly certainly help soften their attitudes
I'd loosten the whole area (not turn it over) with a fork as a one-time decompaction misssion .
Just dig the fork right in and lever the soil up a bit. Much better after a bit of rain. Not heaps mind you!
If it's coming into your winter, maybe lay the poo-paper mix where you want your gardens and leave it for a bit if it heats.
After it's cooled, I'd seed brassicas and lettuces which seem to be pretty resistant to freshish manure.
Be aware of warnings about manure and leafy greens though.
Maybe fava beans too? They won't need the nitrogen and you might get more plant than beans , but you'll get a load of stems and leaves for compost/mulch.
Mulching is really important generally, but especially to avoid manure 'splashback'
I find paper blows everywhere and would not use it as mulch.
About now, my farmer neighbors REALLY think I am crazy!! I so want this to work, because many are convinced that roto tilling every season &/or nylon to block "weeds" are the best options.... so, here I come along, crazy American lady with my unattractive cardboard & paper mulch, not taking the advice from wonderful old farmer men (being a Man is a big deal in Italy) and creating havoc in an otherwise very beautiful postage stamp plot.
Regarding Your Posts: Thank so very much, but I dove in & tried a bunch of seat of the pants stuff before the advice came in!! I wish I knew how to post pics - I'd show you the silliness I have going on!!
Here's what I've got today:
Leila: That paper/poo mix got spread yesterday before I received your post! Too late to loosen the soil, because it is all covered now, but honestly - that would have been a truly mind blowing amount of hard labor in that clay without a gas or electric tiller. Thank you for reminding me about the manure & greens!!! Important!!! I can plant fava in the Fall? Sorry! I am SO knew to this & from Southern Cal. originally - no snow in L.A.! I have comfrey & bee balm seeds - I am hoping to grow for green mulch & for breaking up the soil down deep. maybe some tea, as well. Runners? I'd like that, especially for the mint, I think. How do you feel about rooting enzyme?
Mike: Looking into 18 Day Berkeley Method tonight! 18 days from now takes me well into September. I wonder if that is too late. Maybe I can spread a thin layer of potting soil over the paper that is over the compost and seed into that in a week or so? I could try.....
John P: Some of that shredded stuff is white & glossy - too late now, I already mixed it in. Most of it is unshredded brown moving paper just laid on top - not blowing away because it is wet from rain & decomposing into compost already, after less than one day.
John E.: I just got the poo in last Sunday afternoon. I'll watch for mushroom growth - should I just throw in my mushroom salad scraps? I'm guessing that a little of the root system needs to be intact, so not the grocery store, sterile looking shrink wrapped variety, right?
Now I'm worried that all that compost may damage the 80+ year old olive tree in the middle of the yard. Ouch!!!
I didn't want it to die in the sun or fill up with wild grass seed while I'm figuring this thing out, so..... I covered most of it with brown packing paper (unlimited supply, my husband works on an Army base-people moving in all the time) & shredded office paper. It's kind of mooshed into the compost due to the rain every night.
************ I'm currently frightened by the difference between what I thought I was doing & what I am actually in the middle of****************
For the Lawn Area:
Add some sand? From the beach? Is that ok?
Buy some commercial potting soil, spread thinly over the paper (which is over the poop)?
Seed the thyme, chamomile, mint into it? I already have the seeds.... As for oregano, etc,.. I love that Idea. We do get some snow, ice, frost from Winter-ish to May/April-ish. I will see what overwinters well & add it to the mix.
Wait & see what happens?
For the Winter Veggies:
open a few bags of potting soil on top of the cardboard that is on top of the compost?
Seed Kale, etc?
Please don't think I am not into reading/studying etc., I am!! But, with 3 kids in school, in school myself, person with etc., I figured that if I didn't just finally START TRYING, even though the learn as you go plan is full of pitfalls and mishaps, I might not ever get going. The perfect time never seems to come, if I wait for it, if you know what I mean. The language thing has made finding good, cheap resources a little harder & since what I am asking for is out of the norm, people seem to think that they are misunderstanding what I want. For example, Why would I want the tree trimmer to dump his chips in my yard? Most people I talk to seem to think that is just too weird to be true.
Thanks again for your input
PS My cherry tomatoes are getting famous this year! In Italy!! My 2 cherry toms plants are ridiculously prolific and sweeeeet!!! If I can swing that with the rest of this garden, keep giving away delicious fruit & veggies - It will really help us get to know our neighbors, make friends, inspire some sheet mulching & soil cultivation - for home gardeners, at least. Picture me with eyes squeezed shut, fingers, arms, legs crossed, chanting "Please let it grow! Please let it grow! Please Let it grow! Please don't let the Old Olive Tree die because of me! Please!
Vanessa Brockus wrote: I dove in & tried a bunch of seat of the pants stuff
Good. Advice is great, but the only way to learn is to actually do it!
They are local to the Med and apparently traditionally planted on All Soul's day (Nov 2)
Vanessa Brockus wrote:I can plant fava in the Fall?
I plant the seed in Autumn, but no snow...the plants are pretty tough though!
Vanessa Brockus wrote: How do you feel about rooting enzyme?
No opinion really, but it's definitely not 'required'. If you have willow trees locally, they have a strong rooting hormone under the bark: strip some into water and let it soak.
Vanessa Brockus wrote: I'm worried that all that compost may damage the 80+ year old olive tree
It'll be fine. Just leave a decent ring (like a few feet in diameter) around the trunk uncomposted and unmulched to avoid collar rot.
Vanessa Brockus wrote:Add some sand? From the beach? Is that ok?
I'd say no, please don't. Clay is great stuff, it just needs organic matter to make it awesome.
Sand is a nutrient-sucking sieve.
Also, Sand +clay=concrete unless you add enormous quantities of sand
Also, beach sand is salty and...no good!
Do you have seaweed on the beach though? Beautiful stuff...
Vanessa Brockus wrote:Buy some commercial potting soil, spread thinly over the paper
Potting soil is created specifically for growing plants in pots. I'd get some good commercial compost and mix it with a bit of native soil, if you can.
Vanessa Brockus wrote:For the Winter Veggies: open a few bags of potting soil on top of the cardboard that is on top of the compost?
I'd go for compost/soil as above , and make quite deep 'pockets' of it right through the card, which can prevent roots penetrating.
Vanessa Brockus wrote:Why would I want the tree trimmer to dump his chips in my yard?
Because they rock, of course!
Just an aside - I went for a walk yesterday, somebody has a field where they dump the most amazing compost - sweet, black, crumbly.... and just leave it there to be grown over by grass.... That is really the stuff I thought I was having delivered! There must be at least 30 mini-hills.... I wish I could find the owner......
I just got the poo in last Sunday afternoon. I'll watch for mushroom growth - should I just throw in my mushroom salad scraps? I'm guessing that a little of the root system needs to be intact, so not the grocery store, sterile looking shrink wrapped variety, right?
On the contrary, the shrink wrapped stuff from the grocery store is not sterile, but full of viable cells! The key word to know here that describes all mushrooms is -- totipotent. All mushroom cells are capable of regenerating a complete fungal mycelium, of cloning a new colony on their own. When you think about it, they have to be; fungi are at the bottom of the food chain, and the one advantage they can have over plants and animals is to be totipotent.
What I like to do is whiz mushroom scraps up in the blender. That way, I can throw the thin soup over a wide area, inoculating much more area with valuable fungi.
Maybe put a note with your contact info and request for composts in a sealed plastic bag and leave it somewhere visible from the dump area?
Vanessa Brockus wrote:Just an aside - I went for a walk yesterday, somebody has a field where they dump the most amazing compost - sweet, black, crumbly.... and just leave it there to be grown over by grass.... That is really the stuff I thought I was having delivered! There must be at least 30 mini-hills.... I wish I could find the owner......
I would definitely avoid using office paper for food production. The paper itself has some pretty nasty stuff in it from the bleaching process and that is before one gets into the inks which are usually metal based. Newspapers in the US are usually printed with less-toxic soy-based inks but that doesn't apply to office printing inks. You might want to look into Myco-remediation (http://www.permies.com/t/25910/soil/Mycoremediation-fixing-contamination-mushrooms) but dispose of the first several batches of mushrooms to an off-site location that is going to be less effected by metal poisoning.
Your brown packing paper should be fine, unless it is the type with a glossy, plasticy side(s).
The shredded office paper is acting like a McDonald's cheeseburger.... Been sitting out in the sun, rain , & compost for weeks & looks exactly the same as the day I put it out there. I'll never do that again!
Cardboard boxes are my new best friends! If I can figure out how to shred them, that would be wonderful since we have a seemingly unlimited supply at the Eco center. I can't quite figure out how to get wood chips- the kind I need, so I think that shredded cardboard can do the trick as a more aesthetically pleasing mulch (as opposed to the alfalfa I've been using).... I like the alfalfa, I like the way it smells, spreads, looks, and N content. But, I have to buy alfalfa & the cardboard is free. Also, I think our landlord would prefer we use something more home-y and less farm-y in the front yard. Shredded cardboard sort of melts & blends into the landscape
in a way alfalfa doesn't.
Sowing the creeping tyme and chamomile directly tonight....... Also, adding lemon tyme, oregano, & anything else that grows low & smells good........
Just threw some blended mushroom smoothie into the compost... On advice.... Haven't had a chance to read in that direction yet. Thank you for the link, Brian. It is next on my 'To Read' list.
Looking for Corsican Mint- can't find it anywhere!
Thank you to everyone who helped!
I just started reading through my permie books again.... I don't regret diving in first, as the texts make more sense in the light of experience!