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Looking for a mentor in Western Montana  RSS feed

 
Sarah Cooper
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Hello!

I live in western Sanders County Montana, and am trying to learn what I can to move our food production away from a 'tilled system and more into the mulch system.

As we keep enlarging our production, I'm having a hard time keeping up with all the weeding! I've watched Back to Eden, and love his ideas, but everywhere I look I see evergreen trees. We only have two deciduous trees on our 4 acres, and I have to drive around in the fall and rake up other people's leaves to get enough leaves to save for my summer compost pile (not very efficient, but does make for some appreciative acquaintances).

Is there anyone you know of who might be willing to answer my questions/mentor me? I am hoping to find someone who is in my area and has figured out this short-season/lack of tons of deciduous mulch thing, and someone who has done this for at least a couple of years.

I've talked with some very enthusiastic people who feel that they know quite a lot (and probably do!), but this is their first year of mulching, and their assurances that just shredding the trees we're thinning around here would work fabulously would be much more reassuring if they had a few years of relative success under their belts. I really can't afford a huge garden fail, and the kids are too young for effective slave labor, umm, I mean weeding.

Thank you for your time.
 
John Saltveit
gardener
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bike books food preservation forest garden fungi trees
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Wood chips are an outstanding free mulch. You can use coniferous wood. It's not as good as hardwood, but it still works. Just make sure you don't till it in. Leave it on the surface and the worms, etc. will bring it down when they're ready. Also most coniferous tree systems have very deep duff in the soil. You can use this as mulch but I would make sure that it has aged a bit. If it's brown it should be good. If its green material you can use it on blueberries, western huckleberries, azaleas, rhododendrons, and things that like really acid soil. Don't put them on things that like alkaline soil.

You can also use reed/ tallgrass/Jerusalem artichoke, etc. material. They produce lots of organic material quickly.
John S
PDX OR
 
Sarah Cooper
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So, when you say wood chips, are you talking wood chips (like the aged barky stuff I can appropriate from the closed log transfer yard), or are you talking about shredded/chipped branches of conifers? Do I have to age them first, or just chip and dump?

I'm in a very rural, forested area. I can get straw, but I have to drive about 100 miles to get it in any quantity, which isn't sustainable. Hay is very available, but I suspect that the weeds would overtake my garden (but maybe I'm wrong). I'll call the power people tomorrow to check on chipped wood. What I do have is lots and lots of conifers around, and I just put a shout out on facebook and found a chipper. Maybe I'll just do a test garden so I don't kill off all of my awesome, multi-year-amended soil on a misstep. I would love a local mentor, but maybe I'm asking too much.

Is there anyone around who has mulched a garden solely with chipped conifers and succeeded?
 
John Saltveit
gardener
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bike books food preservation forest garden fungi trees
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The power company is usually a good source. Growing your own grasses is another good source of mulchable material. If your soil is multiyear amended, you are not in quite as dire a need of mulch as I thought. I would go with grasses and yes, you can just put out fresh chips (shredded trees) on the surface. Don't till it in. Over time it will help the soil. Hay usually has a lot of seeds, so it is somewhat problematic.
John S
PDX OR
 
Leila Rich
steward
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Welcome to permies Sarah
The staff can add the same thread to a various forums.
The 'report' button to the right of the page is really handy-
hit it and suggest other relevant forums such as regional, soil...
All replies will appear in all the forums the thread's posted in.
Of course let the mods know if someone's not being nice somewhere,
or report any posts you think deserve an apple!

Back to mulch...
I don't use chipped trees on my annual gardens: I don't have the space to age mulch, but if I could be sure I was getting Ramial_chipped_wood, I'd go for it!
Can you get spoiled hay/straw/silage? Silage especially makes great mulch-the stuff I've used has no live seeds.

I've never used a scythe, but I fantasise
do you have any areas where grass/weeds could be cut before seeding and dried for mulch?
 
Zach Jones
Posts: 6
Location: Cochise Stronghold AZ
greening the desert
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Micheal Pilarski (Skeeter) is based out of Hot Springs and is an excellent teacher. Also look up 'Place of Gathering' in Dayton. Lots of good people up there to help. Good luck
 
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