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how to start in February

 
Katja van Veen
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Hello,

I am completely new to gardening and love the idea of permaculture. I started to read a book about it but never got to the practical part. We have a large garden with long grass, trees and bushes that mostly takes care of itself . The soil never dries out (we are in The Netherlands, very wet country).
I really want to start to grow vegetables this spring, mostly because of my toddler daughter who is currently very interested in everything that grows. So the results are kind of important, but I do want to move toward permaculture garden finally. Is it too late to mulch now? Should we start with more traditional garden, trench the soil this year and slowly move to permaculture? Or is it still possible to do it from the beginning, starting now (February)? We didn't have real winter this year yet, no snow, almost no frost.

Thanks!
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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When I start a new bed now I no longer bother digging and removing sod. A couple of layers of cardboard topped off with compost and woodchip on top. Leave it 6 weeks or so for the grass to die and start breaking down then you can plant right through the mulch into the soil below. I've mostly been planting perennials recently, but if I was planting annuals I'd consider getting seedlings going indoors in plugs and transplanting them once the grass has broken down.

If you have access to woodchips get loads of them and spread them thickly (call tree surgeons). I'm particularly hopeful for some strawberries that I planted on the chips last year. 4 plants gave me about 20 runners and, on the chips, they look FAR healthier and happier than they ever did in unmulched beds. Great plant for toddlers I would think. Likewise raspberries.

My little boy knows where every single edible plant is in the garden and insists on walking past everyone to see if there is anything to eat! Basil seedlings in the greenhouse, alpine strawberries in the herb bed, raspberry canes, fruit trees, beans and peas... he loves them all straight from the garden. I'd pick easy plants that they will be able to snack on straight from the garden. I'm going to try some outdoor cherry tomatoes this year.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Welcome to permies Katja, You will have to teach me a little more about the weather there. How long is the growing season? How warm does it get?

Good suggestions from Michael. Berries are fun. How about cherry tomatoes, sunflowers and squash?

You could even plant some carrot seeds between two plates of glass with soil between them. So the little one can watch how a seed grows under the ground.

Or just cut off the top of a carrot and place it in a shallow bowl of water and watch the tops start to grow. Then plant it in the garden.
 
Katja van Veen
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Thank you so much for suggestions!

Great tip about strawberries on wood chips, and carrot between glass.
We don't have our own compost, I'd have to buy it, should I look for some special qualities?

I digged into climate information, hope the following makes sense:
- 270 days growing season (above 5 degrees C)
- 23,2 summer days per year (above 25 degrees C)
- 3 to 4 tropical days per year (above 30 degrees C)

The Netherlands has Oceanic climate (like in Seattle?), Wikipedia article seems to be down, here is the link to google cache:
http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:LgO2YI1h2PYJ:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oceanic_climate




 
Ken Peavey
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Anytime is a good time to get started.
 
Matt Smaus
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Location: Minneapolis, MN
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Hi Katja, whatever you grow, and whatever method you use to grow it, I think the single most important thing a new gardener must do is limit what they intend to grow, and just make sure to take care of whatever you plant. If you have a successful year with a single plant, you will find yourself naturally motivated to continue and expand your efforts the following year. If, on the other hand, you plant a whole lot of different things, then forget to water some on time, and let some go too long before harvest, you may feel disappointed by the results, and feel less motivated the following year.

I wrote a blog post with a bit more on this here: http://www.integratedlifeproject.com/2012/02/14/on-becoming-a-gardener/

The most important harvest in Year 1 is MOTIVATION, which comes from experiencing some SUCCESS. Set your sights realistically and hit your target!
 
Katja van Veen
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Thanks for the link. I will take care of what I plant, but I do want to plant a variety of plants for my daughter's enjoyment and for us to learn

Few question about mulching. I did some research and found some quality compost http://www.rhp.nl/en/consumer/keurmerk/ Sounds good isn't it?
Looking at the size of our garden, it will be quite a investment, together with wooden chips. How thick the layers should be?
I also wonder if there are ways to make it less expensive by mixing other things into it? We have lot's of dry oak leaves and pine needles. And maybe some horse manure?
Should we mow the grass before mulching and use it in the mix?
Our neighbor has chickens, can we use them somehow to remove the grass?

Thanks again.
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Few question about mulching. I did some research and found some quality compost http://www.rhp.nl/en/consumer/keurmerk/ Sounds good isn't it?
Looking at the size of our garden, it will be quite a investment, together with wooden chips. How thick the layers should be?
I also wonder if there are ways to make it less expensive by mixing other things into it? We have lot's of dry oak leaves and pine needles. And maybe some horse manure?


Use what you can get - grass clippings, manure is great, wood chips will last a long time. Don't worry about buying compost - start a pile of your own. You can often get wood chips free from local tree surgeons; get the phone book out and call around. Generally I advise mulching smaller areas more deeply, rather than trying to do the whole area with thin mulch. For a good view on mulching look up the 'back to Eden' video.

Should we mow the grass before mulching and use it in the mix?


No need - just squash it flat, put a layer of cardboard on top and layer the mulch on top of that. The grass will all break down under the mulch and release it's nutrients back to the soil.


Our neighbor has chickens, can we use them somehow to remove the grass?

Quite possibly, depending on whether you can pen them properly. Confine them to a small area for a period until they have scratched it bare, then move them on to the next. They will also add a bit of their droppings to the soil.
 
Katja van Veen
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Michael Cox wrote:
Use what you can get - grass clippings, manure is great, wood chips will last a long time. Don't worry about buying compost - start a pile of your own.


Yes I will start it soon, but it will take several months to make compost? I do need ready-to-use-compost to make a "new bed" in a few weeks, right?
 
Paul Cereghino
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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You will find wildly different approaches to gardening in the world, and even among permaculture people. I started as a tillage gardener and am somewhat stuck there. I experiment in my mulch garden, and some plants go there, while others stay in the cultivated beds. Each plant is more or less difficult to grow in different situations. Working from mulch, or working from bare soil will each have its challenges and advantages and disadvantages.

Our climates are similar. Planting goes in waves... earliest starts are grown indoors starting now. I don't bother seeding this early because of slugs. The first wave of field sown seeds may be with the first sunny days of spring.. middle of April for me--mustard family, greens, potatoes, roots. The next big wave is the hot weather plants, in middle of May or June... beans, squash, tomatoes many are started indoors in the middle of April. The last wave is in mid to late summer... more roots and greens that will carry into winter. Everything can be earlier or later if you use plastic or glass.

I would make a tillage garden with compost and ammendments for spring. Invert the grass (unless it has rhizomes), add compost and ammendments and till. Throw some straw or grass clippings down to protect from rain, and start your seedlings indoors... wait a little longer before sowing outside.

Then I would make a mulch garden next to it.

I like the idea of keeping them both small. It is not really about whether you "take care of them" or not. It is just that vegetable gardening is full of lots of subtlety. Good beginnings are everything. There will be things that go bad even if you are fully engaged, just because you weren't yet fully thinking like a plant.. or misfortune strikes... then you keep learning the rest of your life.

Here's an example of a polyculture, from a permaculture guy, on tilled soils.
http://www.chelseagreen.com/content/start-a-polyculture-now-toss-a-salad-tomorrow/
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
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